Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beck and Jameson

“The spatial peculiarities of postmodernism are 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 de-centering of global capital itself.” (Frederick Jameson)


Ulrich Beck’s “Logic of Wealth and Risk Distribution” discusses risk as something that is “mediated on principle through argument,” thus lending it an implicit conceptual nature (27).  Beck breaks down this “knowledge dependency” into two parts, the “theoretical” and the “normative.”  This breakdown relates to the difference between the actual recorded problem and the perceived identification of the problem as “a systematic side effect of modernization”(27).  This dichotomy of the perceived and the actual, which only act as “risk” when they come together, reminded me to a certain extent of Frederick Jameson’s argument about the death of the individual in the post-modern consumer world.


I located this correlation between Jameson and Beck by diagraming my comprehension of “risk” as follows: there is the self, which experiences a negative phenomenon (I’ll call, a problem); there is a diagnosis of the problem by a professional; there is the comprehension of the problem by both the individual and the larger community, within the structure of the culturally defined meaning of the problem.  Thus, between the self and the comprehension, the risk moves from a specifically personal phenomenon to an implicitly larger (perhaps even global) schematic. 


Through this diagram, Jameson’s interest in the “radically discontinuous realities” of the post-modern world seem to take on an interesting new meaning. While Jameson was originally talking more about identity in contemporary spatial temporal reality, it seems applicable to tie “identity” to a certain degree to “risk.”  Jameson’s and Beck’s essays demonstrate that they are, at the very least, correlated by nature of their similar basis in spatial temporal reality—which is to say, they are similarly dependent on the specificity of their point on these two axes.  Thus, while risk and identity do not necessarily relate to one another in a causal relationship, they share a similar causal relationship, which draws a link between their existences, and suggests that it can be hypothesized: the individual’s experience of risk in the larger schematic of the risk as a conception can be understood in much the same way as Jameson’s “individual” faces the risks inherent in post-modern reality.  The potential of this relationship leaves me wondering, is the dichotomy of the self and the comprehension, and the relationship between the two, the basis of an imagined community? 

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