Post Modernisim: The Logic of Late Capitalism


Eric Mayer,Instructor

The Post-Modern World

The Logic of Late Capitalism





In the postmodern world truth is a fiction produced again by the market and the media.


Postmodernism borrows much from Structuralism. Structuralists believe that it is the structure of reality that generates all social phenomena. A social structure is not a web of social relationships, but a model. Further, any set of relationships making up a structure must be transformable by systemic change in the relationships.


Noam Chomsky was one of the originators of structuralism and it is present in his writings. For instance, in the book Year 501 Chomsky essentially argues that while the years and settings have changed, the historical model and its symbols have not.


The symbols include militarism, totalitarianism masquerading as democracy, genocide, exploitation, racism and sexism. The model of 1492 has reproduced itself for 500 years now. In essence the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Finally, Postmodernism also borrows much from semiotics which is the study of symbols. Semiotics argues that language, consumption patterns of people, clothes, music, commodities and advertisements, and propaganda are all just symbols through which people attempt to communicate. Therefore the text of your books are relatively unimportant, what is important is what symbols the text communicate.


The term "Late-Capitalism" implies all of the following which to varying degrees are synonymous such as multinational capitalism, media-capitalism, the modern world system, and post-industrial society.


Politically, post-modernists suggest an ominous model where true politics are impoverished, democracy is a fiction. Politically the postmodern world is defined by two elements: (1), a gigantic web of bureaucratic control which controls all of us; and, (2) the interpenetration of government and big business in the form of state-capitalism so that Nazism and the New Deal in the US are related systems in pursuit of the same objectives.


Nowadays no one notives the expansion of the state sector and bureaucratization for its seems a simple, natural fact of life. But after 1945 there emerge new forms of business organization the MNC and a new vision of the world fundamentally different from the older imperialism.


There was also after 1945 a new international division of labor. Thus after 1945 capitalism entered its third stage which had the effect of reorganizing international relations, decolonizing the colonies, and laying the groundwork for the emergence of a new global economic system.


1945-1973 also saw the Americanization of the globe as well as Americanocentrism in terms of culture. The proliferation of American, postmodern cultural forms is the internal and superstructural expression of a whole new wave of American military and economic domination throughout the world.


The underside to culture and to all this is blood, torture, death and terror.


Captialism and the modern age is a period in which with the extinction of the sacred and the spiritual has occurred to be replaced by the deep underlying materiality of all things. Everything has been turned into a commodity and the system has reproduced itself at all levels of society and in all corners of the world.


In the postmodern world culture endlessly replicates itself. The music is not bad to listen to, or the poetry to read, but the novel is the weakest cultural form and is considerably excelled by its narration in video and film.


Culture is a visual, not a textual culture, a visual culture wired for sound. Even music is visual in the sense of MTV. In such a culture atristry matters little and so called alternative forms of rock are simply old cultural forms replicating themselves for new market (shelf) life. Technology and artifice have become substitutes for innovation and artistry


Some exceptions to this trend are rockers such as the late Frank Zappa, PJ Harvey, Bikini Kill and some of the feminist avant garde rockers who bascially reorient the entire theme and genre, and who reject nostalgia as an art form.


The notion of political culture has also been reoriented by the postmodern world.. The word tyranny used to imply totalitarianism and socialism. Now the new buzz word is, and has been consensus which is used to designate represetnative democracy.


But consensus has little to do with democarcy which functions on the idea of the decision by the majority. Consensus implies a collective decision which is inherently anti-democratic and leans much more towards totalitarian forms of governance.

But postmodern society leads us to a fundamental paradox that will not go away. The problem is that pre-capitalist societies were based on modes of production that repriduced themselves through solidarity and collective unity, the logic of late capitalism, is on the contrary a dispersive and atmostic "individualistic" one.


Late captialist society creates an antisociety rather than a society, whose system and structure, let alone its reproduction of itself is a contradiction in terms.


Through capitalism and individualism the goal is not for individuals to pull together, but rather to compete, to atomize, to attain the gold medal at all costs.


A few are rich, because the many subsidize the wealth of the rich through the poverty of the poor. The system itself is based on economic and social inequality and the maintenance and deepenng of this inequality prepetuates the system.


For this reason we lack and will continue to lack any sense of community or belonging to a formal system. Even the formal western family is an antique in this sense as the children and members of the family don't coordinate, but rather compete among each other.


It no longer functions as a way to hold humans together and despite huge efforts for most people the family is entirely dysfunctional in a systemic sense.


It is also for this reason that gangs and other subgroups have flourished in our society, and will continue to flourish. The system atomizes and splits up people and alienates them from each other. But the human condition is such that there is and will always be a need to belong to some type of system.


But without collective identity or solidarity individuals lack empowerment and autonomy. Only the media and the markret are visible as autonomous entities in our society.


The role of the media is to represent reality and to create the fiction of a community through television viewing, the formation of public opinions, to manufacutre consent for social and politcial policy and in general to create conformity of thought, fashion, taste and perception throughout the public.


In such a postmodern society social groups and political parties lack any function and are in reality powerless, since power is decided by the market and represented through the media as legitimate authority.


Since social groups are represented to be essentially powerless in our postmodern world and at times they do achieve what they set out to do they are usually labeled conspiracies especially when a group of individuals empowers themselves despite the structure. Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra, Bush's Iraqgate, and many others were labeled conspiracies precisly becuase a group of individuals acting as a group manipulated the system to their advanatage and succeeded in doing it.


In this sense the media must turn on them because they acted as nonconformists outside the system and to endorse their actions would deligitmize the need for the system as a whole.


But there are many other contradictions in the postmodern world and immigration to the US which undercuts the wage is another one. Immigrants are driven out of the Third World by our own counterinsurgency wars around the world, and the rest are lured here by our media propganda of a Disneyland world, a heaven of materialism.


The media also reinforces the public meaning of the US for foreigners as a world of Dallas and Dynasty. When they reach the reality of these shores, by the second generation many of their children wind up poor or in gangs.


But like the market system which sows the seeds of its own destruction or contradictions and instablilities at best, the media suffers from the same problems. The media represents reality ahistorically.


News like columns in a newspaper is segemnted and is not linked in any causal process. In fact, there is almost no linkage ever between news stories and events. Events, like people are alienated from each other in our postmodern world


The Alaskan oil spill sits right next to the latest Israeli bombing mission in southern Lebananon in the segmented news cast. But in reality our supoort of Isrealie repression is premised on a stable supply of oil. The Suez War led to the building or larger and larger oil tankers, based on a flawed designed.


Unemployment figures are followed by crime statistics in the same newscast, with no linkage or even editorial connection, which are then followed by a story on the crisis in our schools. But no linkage.


In this sense the media represents an ahistorical reality in the newspapers every morning and on newcasts at night, but all events and reprtage are divorced from causes.


The media due to its segmented structure constructs a false consciousness in its readers or viewers. The style of reportate defuses information, neuters its impotance, descredits political positions, and effectively separates facts from the truth.