Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Base, Superstructure, and Where Do We Go From Here?

I have one relatively straightforward question this week, dealing mostly with the Lee and LiPuma article on "Culture of Circulation." In the essay, the authors describe processes by which what would formerly have been described as the economic base adopt the models and mechanisms of the superstructure, both through the idea of the cultural circulation of capital and through the reduction of capitalist exchange to a form of the performative utterance. This is hardly a new idea--see recent work by Scott Lash, William McClure, or Jean Baudrillard before he died in advance. But none of these writers describe a viable response to this apparent collapsing of the base into the superstructure (or vice versa, because they seem to meet in the middle). When class struggle (for the sake of making the argument more poignant) ceases to be a transformative tactic, what can be done? Is the dialectic displaced from historical materialist attempts at "real" (in the Zizekian sense) economic structural change into an ahistorical struggle to use the tools of the order of the symbolic to fight the increasingly irresistible realm of the imaginary?

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