This blog post was spawned after mulling over Fredric Jameson’s Cognitive Mapping more and more since we discussed it in section. I realize that the blog post should be in response to this week’s readings; however, since we are not having a section I felt that it would be appropriate to tackle Jameson’s essay a little bit more.
Jameson’s essay revealed to me a revelation about the human condition. The question of life, “why am I here?”, has been replaced by the question “how do I fit in?”. Not in a social sense, but in a positional sense. Jameson recounts that “Althusser’s great formulation of ideology itself,” explains that ideology is understood as “the Imaginary representation of the subject’s relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence,” (Jameson 353). In modern capitalist societies (especially since the human rights movement and the push for true equality that personified the mid-twentieth century), the question that for so long personified the human condition—Why am I here?—was answered.
In the context of this quote from Jameson this is especially engaging:
“I have found even more stimulating and problematical the following propositions about the very nature of society itself: it has been affirmed that, with one signal exception (capitalism itself, which is organized around an economic mechanism), there has never existed a cohesive form of human society that was not based on some form of transcendence or religion” - Frederic Jameson
Religion, in the absence of Capitalism, provided the ideological answer for that question that personified the human condition for so long; however, the ideological framework of modern capitalism elevated the individual’s right to exist for the purpose of existence, to pursue happiness, and to engage life. This new ideological framework changed the position of the individual within their Real conditions of existence as that question why falls to the wayside. At the end of the nineteenth century, monadic relativism grew in popularity and it upheld the notion that each “consciousness is a closed world, so that representation of the social totality now must take the impossible form of a coexistence of those sealed subjective worlds and their peculiar interaction, which is in reality a passage of ships in the night, a centrifugal movement of lines and planes that can never intersect,” (Jameson 350). The notion of a closed world is only relevant in a society where the individual, un-empowered, cannot answer the question why am I here; therefore, the individual, without an answer, is never truly here. They, in their own conditions of existence, are unsure of their purpose; so, instead of searching for what their true purpose in life is, they are concerned with whether or not they have purpose.
In modern capitalist societies, the individual now says, “I am here to engage with life,” now, “where do I fit ?” or rather “where will I engage?”. This corresponds to the “spatial peculiarities of postmodernism as symptoms and expressions of a new and historically original dilemma, one that involves our insertion as individual subjects into a multidimensional set of radically discontinuous realities, whose frames range from the still surviving spaces of bourgeois private life all the way to the unimaginable decentering of global capital itself,” (Jameson 355). Now, the individual must understand that life is inevitable chaotic and composed of overlapping universes of semiotic understanding, in which cultural ideologies can be understood as the layers upon layers of overlap that most define each relative set.
It is here that the internet becomes an especially relevant player in our ideological evolution. The internet functions to open doors for us to other semiotic universes—it opens our eyes to the ways in which other individuals position themselves in relation to their real conditions of existence—without the personal exchange of information. (As an aside, here arises the importance of personal vs. impersonal communication, but I don’t have time to get into that.) The internet is constantly generating information through the action of exchange, rather than the exchange of information itself, sometimes more information is gathered from the action of exchange than the exchange itself. The internet is used to construct relationships that influence our reality, simulations; however, these relations or trends, for the most part, although they are beyond the scope of our individual perceptions are used to make predictions, consciously or unconsciously, explicitly or implicitly. (The cave is interesting here because in many years, there may be a real vs. virtual discrepancy. How are our expectations of a real environment altered after experiencing a simulated environment in three dimensions. If you wanted a discussion of the cave, refer to my earlier blog on my alternate view of the matrix… The cave will eventually evolve into that, let me just call that right now.)
The internet represents one of the many generalizing factors that characterize the new face of capitalism—reproduction. It reinforces “the idea that this society is no longer motored by production but rather reproduction,” (Jameson 354). Unlike Jameson who views this as paradoxical, I disagree. I think that the fact that we “live in the midst of a virtually completely built environment,” is the obvious reason for this reproduction, this focus on generalization to increase the stability of our simulations, inter-relations, and lives. The internet moderates “the fragmented and schizophrenic decentering and dispersion of this,” new ideological framework and the question, “How do I fit in?”.
Finally, what ties all of these arguments together and reveals a new truth is explained best by Jameson’s alternate view of ideology, where “ideology—to give it a somewhat different definition—is a vision of the future that grips the masses,” (Jameson 355). In this context, the internet, with its mass communication of simulation and prediction, must be constantly realigning our ideologies according to information we’ve never experienced as true. Thus, we may never fully understand where we do fit in; however, one may settle for a point at which they are comfortable with their place. All in all, this suggests that the role of capitalism will only change and evolve; however, it cannot and will not be replaced. The reproductive nature of late capitalism—generalization of specification for improved stability—combined with ever shifting ideologies—ever shifting imaginary representations of the subject’s relationship to his or her real conditions of existence—suggests that this process will never end until the question, “how do I fit in?” becomes irrelevant. At that point, humanity will experience the next paradigm shift. I wonder what the next question will be?
-Sorry if this is very jumpy and a little difficult to understand, I only had an hour to write this so its a little stream of consciousness running off of quotes I underlined to explain the general path of understanding I follow. Just finished writing this and realized that I had to write about the cave. The cave was fun, I'll be in there a lot in the future.