Montag on Jameson

Notes by Erik Empson

Jameson is criticised alongside Lyotard for reducing Marxism to a meta-narrative. Moreover, Jameson is linked to apologetic strains of thought, for not being able to conceive of opposition to current forms of domination. Postmodernism for Jameson is so totalised it removes the possibility for critical space and opposition to the Being of Capital.(p. 94) The latter dominates all. In previous times for Jameson, culture and the unconscious, offered spaces wherein the toalizing force of capital could be resisted. Today there exists no such space and thus Jameson’s own opposition can be likened to something like the beautiful soul in Hegel (Phenomenology p. 400) that withdraws from the world, to preserve its perfect difference and sanctity.

Thus Jameson is taken up here for his proclamation of the absolutisation of reality by capital, and his incapacity to understand social reality as antagonistic in its very nature. All positions within society become expressions of the totalising force of capital…critical philosophy alike.(p. 95)

Fundamental complicity of Jameson, Lyotard and Baudrillard. They ultimately share Baudrillard’s belief in the impossibility of resistance, and the ignorance of the masses. (p. 101)

Materiality of representations. They are not indeterminate. Thus to conceive of works of art as surfaces without depth (like Warhol’s shoes for Jameson) is seen as undermining their materiality. Montag is thus against ‘absolute determination' (culture as expression) that leads to the notion that the work of art is unknowable. (p. 98)

'Jameson seems unable to grasp that this unknowability reflects the inadequate character of the theoretical constructions through which the object is known, rather than the nature of the object itself.’ (p. 98)

'In the absence of a concept of the overdetermined material existence of the work of art, Marxism, faced with an art and literature that question the very foundations of traditional philosophical reflection…can do no better than cry ‘Apocalypse Now!’, taking for the end of art what is in reality a crisis of its own theory.'

What is at Stake in the Debate on Postmodernism, Postmodernism and Its Discontents, (London: Verso, 1988)

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