MODES OF PRODUCTION

Here’s a basic idea from materialist history: cultural forms exist to facilitate and expand economic production. There have been several cultural forms in the past, and there could be a new one in the future; each corresponds to a specific mode of production, and each has a floor and a ceiling, so to speak: as soon as the cultural form is no longer useful, it is destroyed.

Now, it seems that humans or groups of humans have the power to produce cultural forms that exist in a kind of purgatory. Their aesthetic worth can be judged independently of their use to the economy, but they have no chance of becoming widespread unless ultimately they are in fact useful.

Humans also have the power to critique prevailing belief systems. Now, in some sense, any new cultural form or aesthetic gesture constitutes a critique of the prevailing belief system, because an original work inherently calls the existing canon into question. But this should be strictly distinguished from an explicit critique, which must elaborate the nature of ideology, its interplay with economics, and so on.

In my view - and in a way this is a commonplace, yet at the same time it is not really widely understood or discussed - the vast majority of what passes for emancipatory politics in the present age is in fact ideology. In other words, even though it appears to challenge the current order, what it really does is sustain it. This is the basic feature of the Armistice of Varizen: a culture of pseudo-resistance that fractures the potential political subject, making its participants more vulnerable to exploitation, satisfying their will-to-autonomy in various forums for empty gesturing, thus nipping it in the bud.

The basic thesis of Perichoresis is that there must be an avenue for genuinely emancipatory culture that would foster a new mode of production, and that the only type of work that could possibly exploit this avenue would have to combine highly elaborated critique with genuinely ground-breaking originality, among other things. As basic and obvious as this point may be, there is hardly any culture in any domain that I’m aware of that actually fulfills these conditions.