The Neutralization of the Future and the Fetish of Finitude

“The unconscious remains bound to archaic fixations only as long as there is no investment [engagement] directing it towards the future.” – Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (38)

One of the dominant effects of utilitarian-hedonist desire-production and the Malthusian neoliberal production of subjectivities is the neutralization of the future.  We are to be here now, to reside in a perpetual present forever evading the responsibilities which the future demands of us.  If, from Guattari’s position, “capitalist subjectivity [through the media] attempts to conceal from us a sense of finitude,” (88) then we would have to claim just the opposite.  It would seem that human finitude, rather than being concealed through the media, is upheld as absolute justification for the superego injunction to enjoy, to live now, life life to the fullest, and so on.  If Kant’s unconditional imperative was “Du kannst, denn du sollst,” “You can, because you must!” and Zizek claims that in today’s permissive society the imperative becomes, “You must, because you can!” (You can enjoy sex, so you must. You can enjoy a healthy lifestyle, so you must), we must (because we can) go one step further and supplement Zizek’s formulation with a temporal qualifier:

“You must, because you can (for now)!”   or,

“For now, you must, because there will come a time when you can’t!”

In other words, we are finite, therefore we must enjoy.  We have no future, so we must enjoy and so on.  The sense of human finitude is thus deployed towards the enforcement of a pseudo-activity which merely perpetuates the present, rather than an engagement directed towards the future.  It is precisely in this sense, then, that the future is neutralized.  Finitude is fetishized, commoditized, and we YOLO (Drake, the Strokes), dance until the world ends (Britney Spears), dance until we die (Omnia, Katy Perry), and dance until we drop (Fergie).  To further elaborate:

Right here, right now’s all we got
A little party never killed nobody
So we gon’ dance until we drop, drop. (Fergie)

Now, as always, the situation is more complex.  One could argue that there is an emancipatory element in some of this rhetoric.  That remains to be elaborated.  For the most part, though, it would seem that such spectacles basically involve the blind leading the blind into a pit of alcoholic nihilism.  If there is any sense in what I’ve just written, then what Guattari referred to as Integrated World Capitalism does not simply perpetuate itself through spatial movements (delocalization, deterritorialization, “in extension, by extending its influence over the whole social, economic and cultural life of the planet and by ‘intension,’ by infilitrating the most unconscious subjective strata.”)(50).  It also requires the manufacture and production of temporally contracted subjectivities.  As our histories become increasingly fragmented, our futures are whisked away, and so we become timeless beings, although not, perhaps, in the sense that we might have once hoped.

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