Дурбане (ЮАР, 2006)
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    Дурбане (ЮАР, 2006) Дурбане (ЮАР, 2006) Document Transcript

    • Dmitry Ivanov St. Petersburg State University, Russia The Past, Present and Future in the Perspective of Dialectical Theory Paper presented at the joint session of RC07 and RC16 “The Future and Sociological Theory” of the ISA XVI World Congress of Sociology Durban, South Africa July 23 – 29, 2006
    • 2 The conceptualization of social future is very difficult issue for traditional theory. Both structure and agency approaches can provide us only with visions of social present: extrapolation of the present or permanent and all-embracing present. Critical theory as it has been presented in H. Marcuse’s works provides us with model of the future vision through dialectical negation: there are marginal and oppressed radical values and utopian movements contradicting dominant structures of the present society that are sources of development of the established social system. Oppressed anti- social movements of the present are not transforming but are conditioning direction of transformation towards future dominant structures and patterns of agency. The driving forces of dialectical theory – negation and utopia have enabled critical sociology developed by Marcuse to reveal the direction of the modern society change in the mid-20th century. Utopia of ‘Reason’ (rationalized society) formulated in the 1930s was extracted from radical revolutionary movements (Marcuse, 1967). By the 1940s the rationalization thesis had become an affirmative discourse for arising organized capitalism. Utopia of ‘Eros’ (desublimated society) formulated in the 1950s as dialectical antithesis for rationalization was extracted from marginal values and alternative life-styles of esthetic communities and hedonistic subcultures of radical intellectuals (Marcuse, 1973). By the 1960s the concept of desublimation became descriptive and affirmative idea for affluent consumerist capitalism. Utopia of ‘Post-technological rationality’ (open multidimensional society) formulated in the 1960s as dialectical synthesis combining both ‘Reason’ and ‘Eros’ was extracted from movements of difference: antimilitarist, feminist, ecologist, for civil rights of ethnic and sexual minorities (Marcuse, 1964). By the end of the 20 th century the concept of post-technological rationality became affirmative discourse for postindustrial and postmodernist capitalism. The dialectical theory developed by Marcuse was successful in revealing the direction to the future in marginal, socially negative tendencies of the present. But which are negating tendencies now if the social present for critical sociology – reified society is now the social past? Our present is de-reification – virtualization of society (Ivanov, 2000). One may speak about virtualization of society for the human essence is alienated not in the social but in the virtual reality. In a virtual reality of any kind a person deals not with a real object / thing, but with a simulation / image. A person who finds himself/herself in a social reality, takes it seriously, perceives it like something naturally given which he/she has to live in. A person immersed in a virtual reality enthusiastically plays in it, realizing its conventionality, conditionality of its parameters and the possibility of quitting it. Today the virtual reality logic become a paradigmatic one for any human activity and computer technologies as the most efficient simulation tools become the infrastructure of that
    • 3 activity. The virtualization imperative, a “will to virtuality”, is transforming all domains of activities as they gained shape in the process of modernization. Images of consumer values, and not real things, circulate in the Postmodern market. The very economic process, i. e. value production leaves design bureaus and assembly lines and is transferred to marketing departments, agencies, media studios and so on. It is economical predominance of images that provokes an unprecedented expansion of speculative stock market that turns in a self-sufficient industry. The credit system makes solvency not so much a function of possessing real assets as a function of image of financial trustworthiness that both individuals and financial institutions functionaries can simulate. Credit cards owners and banks, even meeting the reserve requirements, are the solvency simulators as they operate by the fictious, virtual 'total money' - monetary aggregate M3. The virtual production, virtual corporation, and virtual money allow to make computer networks the main means and environment for economic activities. Under the Postmodern conditions the struggle for power is more and more waged in the form of TV debates and advertising. Rating and image-makers, press-secretaries, and part-time recruited show business stars put back the political party functionaries. Power becomes a function of political image. The very political process leaves party and government sessions, where programs are developed, administrative functions are assessed and controlled. The politics of today is made at the mass media studios, in PR agencies, and on the show stages. The administrating and politics get divorced. The differentiation of de-politicized professional administrators and public politicians as image carriers is an obvious symptom of a simulation of the mass democracy institutions. Having lost reality, multi-party system is simulated by experts, consultants and image- makers as a comfortable and habitual environment for competing political images. Parties that emerged as representatives of class, ethnic, confessional, regional interests, now turned into brands: emblems and advertising slogans, which attract the electorate. The brand loyalty utilization imperative drives the simulation process of the party’s political struggle. Another symptom of simulation of the mass democracy institutions is a substitution of manipulations with ratings for appeal to the public opinion. Ratings based on a selective polls when respondents are inforced to choose variations of the expert's opinion, are only models of the real public opinion. These models are animated by the respondents, and through the media networks these simulacra become politically effective. The speculative economy of images and mediatized politics of images exemplify current human activities aimed at images rather than at real things / actions. Presented analysis of recent changes allows us to conclude that the society becomes a kind of virtual reality. When the modernist values lose their ability to be means of social integration and mobilization of interests, social institutions lose their power over an individual. Institutions become images taken in the game
    • 4 of images. Now economic, political and other social activities are simulations of institutional norms / roles performance. However, the institutional system of society is simulated rather than eliminated. Preserving attributes of reality, it serves a kind of a virtual operation environment which is convenient for creating and communicating images and is easy to enter / exit. This is the way the Windows operating system keeps attributes of reality through a screen simulation of buttons, which can be pushed or cards stacked in a card file. What is preserved is the image of things the computer technology is entitled to rid us of. This is an effect of a ‘will to virtuality’, which leads to an expansion of the virtual reality logic as well as of the virtual technologies into all spheres of human life. ‘Will to virtuality’ is a dominant tendency of the present but dialectical theory presupposes as the next step of critical analysis the search for marginal tendencies negating established social order. Under conditions of virtualization the dialectical negation of the present can be related to new anti-social or alter-social movements and tendencies which violate the order of simulations. Hackers and ‘pirates’ violate intellectual property rights and therefore undermine the postindustrial mode of image-production. Fundamentalists and anti-globalists violate democracy as political rights of majority and therefore undermine the postmodernist regime of image-making power. These new violent movements represent now new totalizing utopia: struggle for authenticity against plurality, tolerance, complexity, difference of virtualized society. On the basis of dialectical theory the model of the social future should be developed as the model of transformation of the postindustrial and postmodernist society through absorption of values and practices of anti-social and alter-social movements as the present society’s creative negation. Literature Ivanov, D. (2000) Virtualizatsia Obschestva (Virtualization of Society), Sankt-Peterburg: Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie Marcuse, H. (1964) One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press Marcuse, H. (1967 [1941]) Reason and Revolution. London: Penguin Press Marcuse, H. (1973 [1955]) Eros and Civilization. London: Sphere Books