fredric jameson

04/09/2015

For I have been arguing that at the very heart of any account of postmodernity or late capitalism, there is to be found the historically strange and unique phenomenon of a volatilization of temporality, a dissolution of past and future alike, a kind of contemporary imprisonment in the present—reduction to the body as I call it elsewhere—an existential but also collective loss of historicity in such a way that the future fades away as unthinkable or unimaginable, while the past itself turns into dusty images and Hollywood-type pictures of actors in wigs and the like.

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One Response to “fredric jameson”

  1. Clearly, this is a political diagnosis as well as an existential or phenomenological one, since it is intended to indict our current political paralysis and inability to imagine, let alone to organize, the future and future change.

    Yet the illustration or symbol or allegory for all this turns out again to be the derivative, that of the old futures markets which did indeed involve bets on the future, the future of meat and cotton and grain. So even though derivatives may be more complex, in the sense that they seem to be bets on bets rather than on real harvests, is there not a dimension of futurity in them which itself contradicts and refutes this temporal and even political diagnosis? It is obvious that the deconstruction of postmodernity in terms of a dominant of space over time cannot ever, for the temporal beings we are, mean the utter abolition of temporality, however melodramatically I may have staged our current temporal situation in the essay referred to above. We have here rather to do with an inquiry into the status of time in a regime of spatiality; and this will mean, not Bergson’s reified or spatialized temporality, but rather something closer to the abolition, or at least the repression, of historicity.

    But what is historicity, or true futurity, anyway? We can be sure it is not some doom-laden anxiety about a dystopian future—those fantasies need to be dealt with in another branch of social psychopathology. Nor does it involve this or that religious or millenarian belief in a future redemption. Still, there exist various existential visions of the future in competition in our current social system. The businessman and the economist try to appropriate the future by means of multiple scenarios constructed out of a combination of human and institutional motivations and tendencies: this is a rather short-term futurity, organized around categories of success or failure which do not seem to me to be particularly relevant for larger human collectivities. For Heidegger, by contrast, history and its future is largely a matter of the generational mission, the calling or vocation of a specific new generation in a given nation: this may not be a particularly relevant notion today, but its very absence is revealing (and has a great deal to do with the disappearance of avant-gardes and vanguards, either artistic or political). I myself feel that, for the moment and in our current historical situation, a sense of history can only be reawakened by a Utopian vision lying beyond the horizon of our current globalized system, which appears too complex for representation in thought. However that may be, it seems clear that a genuine historicity can be detected by its capacity to energize collective action, and that its absence is betrayed by apathy and cynicism, paralysis and depression.

    – the aeshetics of temporality

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