Friday, 7 February 2014

Supplement: the crowd were tumblristas

A specific crowd of rationalised protest has in recent years converged with eminently sensible corporate pressures towards structural inclusiveness (i.e. the institutionalised facilitation of commodified egalitarianism and a pragmatics of approved forms for niche individualised differences). Who, but the laughably repressive ancien regimes (comprising out of touch elders terminally unfamiliar with whatsapp and snapchat) could stand against the objective rationalisation of cultural forms? The crowd, and the forces of abstract restructuring to which it gives expression, finds its tone in the caricaturing and ridicule of the slow-footed Establishment. Its argument against the sustainability of the present regime appears savagely, humorously, in the form of instantly circulated internet memes.

Historical process, or at least the flow of capital, is now turned fully against the last man standing dictatorships. The shared values of corporate best practice have become a consistent global phenomenon - and define a historical moment. 

There is a public demand for rationalisation against the once ubiquitous, once requisite, ritualised idiosyncrasies typical to the cult of personality. The form taken by such demands are fully compatibilised with the structurally required model of individualised consumption. The figure of the leader, of the figurehead, the strong man has lately become impossible to represent without ironic quotation marks - he cannot be where capitalised existence must flourish. Facial hair, and peaked caps have become obsolete.

Certainly, the category of the ridiculous was always a necessary component of the cosy and terrible folk narratives inherent to the dictator’s mystique - the tone of such stories dared the populace to smirk and thereby also set aside a space for those so inclined to form an infantilised opposition which had to make do with the inexact science of satire and behind the bikesheds’ caricature. 

The apparatus always recognised that there could be no authority figure who was not also an indisputable buffoon - fear and laughter leak from the same repressive mechanism. But all this has progressively become redundant since the revolution in the manner of power's representation of 1968; whatever purpose the dictatorial form once served, it has been both achieved and surpassed. Putin and Bashar al-Assad belong to the last generation of personalised leaders

It is not a coincidence, I think, that the ritualised overthrow of dictators (they appear only so that they might be usurped) also coincides with a sudden upsurge in the spending power of an internationalised technocratic class. Whatever its ostensible ideology, no matter the exuberant waving of its red and black flags, the bourgeois crowd is always templated onto emergent patterns of objectively given 'acquisitive individualism' and autonomised wealth accumulation. The Beloved Leader's castrating demands become absolutely intolerable at that point where the masses' demands are plugged into easily available credit. Where the dictator once devoured, fastidiously dabbing at his moustaches, the crowd now demands the right to consume on its ‘own’ terms, that is, in accordance with the forces which animate it. 

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