Jodi Dean, a new edition to my roll of regularly checked weblogs, has a wonderful entry today about the similarity between present-day capitalism and its sickly mirror-image. The concluding lines about the relationship between dream and reality in "actually existing capitalism" are poetry:
And yet it seems as if the American dream stays alive--even in its pathetic reality television versions. It is both the worse form of ideological trap, binding people into individualism, failure, and political action and a source of utopian energy, the promise of something else, something better, something worth struggling and sacrificing for. Another future.I'm really into the short-and-sweet form of political critique. That's also why I'm enjoying the previously namechecked Printculture so much. May I humbly recommend these sites to you as mind-spas where you can recharge your political energies. And don't forget to check out the new Bad Subjects issue "Jesusland$" while you're at it. We're now preparing to put together some open -- no predetermined theme, that is -- issues over the next six months, so, if you have something you're interested in publishing there, drop me a line: 3000 words max, jargon kept to a minimum, no footnotes, left-of-center perspective.
As an example of why I'm enjoying Printculture, have a look at my friend and colleague Eric's piece today on playing the online role-playing game EverQuest, which takes place in an imaginary world called Norrath. He considers why people -- mostly men, as he points out -- who play the game tend to withdraw so dramatically from the "real world" and what that withdrawal says about our society:
Thinking of online gamers as “addicted” or even “dead” is not going to solve the problem, because those concepts cannot confront the full import of virtual worlds: given a choice more social than hermitage and more compelling than mysticism, people are moving out of the world. As Castronova points out, the question is at some fundamental level economic: if reality can't compete with Norrath, that may well be reality's fault.As someone who spends a good deal of time in the partially imaginary world of the blogosphere, I found Eric piece's as moving as it was thought-provoking.
One of the things we might then be prompted to do is to wonder what's wrong with reality, or rather, to wonder what about Norrath deploys and makes actionable an alternative to that reality, and why that alternative is so compelling (especially for men). And once we have those answers, we can ask: How could we change reality to entice these people to move back “home”? And what's more, should anyone even try?