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March 8th, 2007 - click opera — LiveJournal
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March 8th, 2007
Thu, Mar. 8th, 2007 12:03 pm

Well, today I am dyspeptic. Perhaps there is, on the market, some sort of liver salt remedy to quench the distaste I feel for Clast, the new blog Marxy is penning for his employer, Tokyo-based market research group The Diamond Agency. The market, after all, has a remedy for all ailments, all maladies. Medical, spiritual, political, ideological. The market will cure us all!

I am dyspeptic because, since 2004, I have been contributing comments -- often polemical ones -- to Neomarxisme, a stimulating, fruity blog written by W. David Marx, aka Marxy. While remaining on very good terms with this man on the few occasions we've dined or drunk together, I invariably clash with Marxy on his blog. I vaguely knew that he worked in marketing, but didn't realize until today just how seamlessly what he describes as his "antagonizing and often über-ironic critical judgments on the state of Japanese popular culture" dovetailed with his marketing job.

Today Marxy thanks his readers "for all the support and ideological passion and word reading over the last three years". Neomarxisme the blog will continue, but in a radically different format which Marxy has outlined to me privately, and he will unveil in due course.

Blame radical puritan dyspepsia, but I responded to the announcement of the Clast blog with a parting broadside. It starts relatively politely:

"I'd be interested to see what you make of my next Wired column, going up on Tuesday. It basically says that the kind of market research behind junk mail is responsible for generating junk space and junk politics. It compares the class models of Marxism with the class models being proposed by market research companies like Experian Business Systems, whose Mosaic tool offers companies and politicians 61 distinct social classes, expanded with lively "pen sketches".

If you check out what they say about Scottish types you'll see that these descriptions are very close to your Clast descriptions of Can Cam readers. I'm assuming that "clast" comes from the word "iconoclast" and is meant to suggest that you're going to be blasting the status quo. Yet this will be extremely difficult if what you're doing is providing pen sketches in the Experian style for marketers and politicians.

If my theory that this produces "junk politics" is right, you will be entirely complicit in a process which leads directly from junk mail to junk world. And absolutely central to this process is the use, for the greater glory of marketing, of all the tools developed by academic disciplines -- geography, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, psychology, demographics. Anything that works.

That appropriation of academic disciplines for market research means the replacement of the ideologies underpinning all these disciplines (Enlightenment ideologies about knowledge, humanist ideologies about mankind, or the cultural relativist ideologies underpinning comparative social studies) by a single rationale: the ideology of the market.

Clearly this is not the kind of comment anyone at clast is ever going to make, because over there it's a foregone conclusion. This battle has been won. Everybody thinks the same way, and is getting on with the job. It's the kind of place where there can be no more conflict, only the daily business: a slow, methodical mapping-for-manipulation of consumer-citizens by means of knowledge tools developed by sucker academics whose methods were used, but whose worldviews, intentions and ultimate goals were thrown away.

Otsukare samadeshita!"

When I saw that Jean Snow had announced the Clast blog too ("expect the same sort of cultural coverage and dissection readers of his Neomarxisme blog will already be familiar with") I commented dyspeptically:

"Expect this sort of insight:

For fashion magazines, however, it’s a different story. Internet media has yet to prove an authoritarian status.

Authoritarian, not authoritative, Marxy? Why? Ah, because you’ve read the Frankfurt School. Because you are an “icono-clast”.

But what sacred images does this iconoclast smash, writing pen sketches of the Japanese market for a market-led Japan? Why, the sacred images of the very people who developed the tools being used, of course! What’s being smashed here is the image of a human nature in any way bigger than the market.

I can promise you that Theodor Adorno — author of “The Authoritarian Personality” — clutches his head in his hands and rains a great cloud of tears down from the neo-Marxist heaven from which he glimpses this travesty of his terms, his methods.

All those great books, those risks, those critical concepts — so that Au can sell a pink cellphone more effectively to an office lady? So that the LDP can win another privatization-themed snap election using targeted celebrity assassins? Is this where it all ends up? Do we have to start this thing all over?"

And now my dyspepsia is all mixed up with guilt and sympathy. Should I be criticizing Marxy like this? The guy has to make a living, and that means taking his insights to the market, right? We should be nice to people, even people who work in marketing, right? Even if we think marketing is totally the status quo, and they're posing as iconoclasts, right? And even if they're misappropriating concepts we hold dear, right, and handing them to the enemy?

I mean, if I dislike marketing, well, wow, I must really hate Japan, right? (Or do I just hate it when people dress their marketing up as salutary cultural critique?) And, come on, Mr Dyspepsia, if we picture Adorno looking down from heaven at just about anything we picture the man weeping in frustration, because that's what he did when he was alive! Right? Come on!

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