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Ilias Marmaras

Radical social criticism: A threat or a cheat?

One of the apparent characteristics of critical thought in the field of the new media today and in general, is the poor relation they maintain with History and the accumulated experience. The latter can be used through the careful apprehension of historical events, their causes, and their contemporary importance, either when they are used for the production of artistic works or as a platform of political action and sensitization of the public opinion globally. An indicative trend of this kind, which prevailed during the ’90s –and to an extent continues to exist today-, is thought to be the Internet. A utopian but at the same time realistic, true venue of communication, an event that according to its supporters, should be sufficient enough for linguistic products that may lead to a global political consciousness.

To use a specific example: The gift of Kant* to humanity was not a global theory neither its systemization but the principle of criticism*. Since then, we acknowledge that what we call human spirit cannot surpass arbitrarily the limits experiencing an event imposes. Because then –and there are many similar historic examples- it is crushed, it becomes naive and often ridiculous, always leading to tragic results. Today’s intellectuals, activists, and artists involved in the field of radical social criticism seem to forget this fact. They collect the benefits occurring -as they believe-only from the statement of this position (i.e. a kind of ritual gesture in the context of the contemporary worship of revolution, in general) escaping from the toil of labor and the demanding factor that analyzing the roots of problems entails. Hence, a genre of logical distortion (or machination?) where the statement replaces its content has made its appearance. The result of this manipulation is, in principle, demagogic. This is manifested because the essence of social criticism automatically becomes attainable with the lacking rules of the manner of “flock consumption” that addresses anyone indiscriminately. It is a kind of “fast food” social criticism. Off course, stating a radical critical stance, also pays off a reward consequent to the exemption from the usual platitude conformities to the “status quo’’, a property that affords moreover the glory of moral authenticity. Without taking into consideration the subjective profit that occurs from the confirmation of the moral foundations of the denouncer, that –temporarily at least-seems to function as a sedative against each kind of neurosis that scourge modern revolutionists. At this point I must also note that radicalism and the denouncing discourse wins an audience, as the “operators’’ of mass media already know quite well.

Radical social criticism is not a new stance. However, during the 20th century it had a serious excuse, since then a feeling –if not a certainty for some- of a revolutionary horizon still existed, although placed in a teleological manner in the profoundness of the occurrence of events. This afforded reason to collective actions through the constant exposing of the individual sentiment in surmounting situations, demonstrating constantly the general context that rendered the common goal apprehensible.

Today ? today? today? today? today? today? today? today? today? today? today?

The process of individualism belongs -today- to the sphere of elements that obey the rules imposed by advertisement and its techniques. The basic objectives of advertisement are to define individualism of every person as an arbitrarily division from the rest of the world and consequently as a tragic basis of ignorance on which the identity of individuals can be reconstructed. The same process of individualism is followed by radical social trends. In other words, the common grounds of advertisement and modern social criticism is that they both mainly render the rights of the individual in the sphere of ideology and then “bargain” the commercialization produced by this machination.

Transforming the evident into a theme, i.e. an issue, leads consequently to the appraisement of its solution: A vile but sufficient machination enough to fuel the shape of the culture of denunciation- a practice very frequent in the field of mass media, with television in the lead.

The methodology of denunciation lays a claim only in the basis of moral order that, off course, leads to nowhere. It does not risk a thing and therefore does not change or will not change anything. It seems to criticize, it then denounces, but certainly interprets nothing at all in the end. It bears the cultural cloak even more, it is increasingly presented in terms of a “work of art”; it denominates, but does not transform. It does not analyze and thus neither assists humanity to control its destiny. The ability to comprehend capitalism in a fragmented manner, as an array of coincidences, cannot support the effort to attain any of its secondary components and none of the causes of its reproduction. Neither does it offer, off course, a medium to intervene and change it.

Results lead to contemporary individuals who attempt to understand the causes behind the facts, have no and cannot find a place in today’s radical pot were the practices of denomination are “cooked”. What is left for us -the ones that lost their path- is the hope that we will discover the ways and the tools, which will assist us to apprehend the world and the way it may change. Since radical social criticism faces its subject as if it is a cultural commodity, as a collector treats his collection, it is already over. It has died.

Translation from Greek: Widian Al Hilaly

  • Have the courage to use your own intellect. Immanuel Kant, What is the enlightenment?
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Page last modified on September 01, 2006, at 09:57 AM