Day 336: Some Kind of Monster

This weekend I had a LOONG discussion with a friend regarding monsters (we were both supposed to read/write at Intelligentsia…). Since we could not really come up with a lot of answers, here my attempt to take the debate to the streets:

1. If we assume that each specific stage of capitalism creates its own monster in cultural production (e.g. Industrial Revolution –>Frankenstein), what is the monster that corresponds to contemporary capitalism? (pre-emptory note: zombies do not count, since they do not qualify as monsters per se, since monsters must be freaks that stand OPPOSED to a norm, while zombies often are a way to represent this very norm itself in a freakish way).

2. What stage of capitalism does the alien in Ridley Scott’s Alien represent (the first movie–just by means of explanation: EVERY character in the movie is very specifically materially coded–class and otherwise–and the story itself is at heart an allegory for a transformation in international trade–remember what turns out to be the entire logic of the space mission–so how do we read that alien itself)? Bear in mind: this movie was released in 1979 (hence we must be very specific here as far as economic transformations are concerned).

Just wondering if people have any ideas.

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12 Comments

  1. Corporate capitalism simply incorporated the monster and took away its sting. See here: http://www.monster.com/

  2. Hmm. Would you have one or to hints regarding the characteristics of contemporary capitalism in terms of cultural production? I am currently looking for a monster that creates the opposite of excess.

  3. Coincidentally cames across this trailer: http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/01/11/movie-trailer-monster-the-asylums-cloverfield-knock-off/

  4. How commercially successfull does the monster have to be to be considered a monster for contemporary capitalism? Does it have to have its own theme park or are t-shirts and a breakfast cereal with its name enough?

  5. Sorry, I was probably not sufficiently clear on this: we are not looking for a capitalist monster but for the historically and economically specific monsters OF capitalism. In other words, we are looking at monsters as a sociocultural mediation of the contradictions of capitalism that correspond to a specific stage of capitalist socioeconomic regulation, its structural arrangement and the logic of the corresponding reproduction of the conditions of production (and obviously structural and ideological crises thereof).

  6. That does not clarify anything sounds more like someone shook a dictionary and then used the words that fell out to make up a sentence.

  7. Have you read Moretti’s Capital Dracula in Signs Taken for Wonders? That’s a must-read for this question.

  8. Hehe: That’s EXACTLY what brought up this conversation. 🙂 Or rather, the tension between his chapter on the monstrous and his chapter on the novels of Balzac (where he claims that, as far as form is concerned, the city in realism has taken over the function of the freak). So we had essentially two questions: 1) is King Kong the monster of colonialism or of postcolonial imperialism (i.e. return of the repressed/Fanonian “master’s tools to dismantle his house” vs. introduction of a hostile global element into a still protected national market) and 2) what is the monster of post-Fordism? Any ideas?

  9. Kingkong: Postcolonial
    I can imagine that only posteriority will be able do define our monster

  10. anaj: I see your “postcolonial” and raise you a “why?”
    And posteriority: you mean, like, my butt?
    But seriously: that seems too easy. Plus, retrospection is, as most historiography shows, not really superior to present analyses as far as truth value is concerned (although it is often claimed that hindsight is 20/20–in reality hindsight, as all “sight,” is rather 20/ideology). Plus, jumping headfirst into the struggle with weird contemporary questions assures you a seat in the dialectic-mobile. 🙂

  11. I’m sorry, that was obviously one syllable too many: posterity

    If anything -colonial, then postcolonial: Because King Kong is successfully introduced to Western modes of desire and entertainment: get the busty blonde, smash some cars (I only know the movies, as you can tell). He’s one of ‘us’ not them. He descends to be one of us, no longer God, no longer king. He leaves his kingdom behind to suffer as a first generation immigrant.

    (btw: My notion of postcoloniality stems from Dutch literature which has produced an array both colonial and postcolonial novels: I might have recommended the Max Havelaar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Havelaar before – a must-read for speakers of any language who have an interest in post/coloinialism)

    (and second disclaimer: this was a rule of thumb decision; i guess that is the only possible kind of decision when applying heuristic instruments such as “which monster would be” – kinda reminds me of those “if you were an animal/car/house, what would you be?” question which is also considered a heuristic instrument by some, e.g. customers of dating communities; I’m a huge fan of analogies and such heuristic tools, yet they have obvious limitations)

  12. “… according to Pramoedya, Max Havelaar is “the book that killed colonialism”.[1]

    Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1999). “The book that killed colonialism”. The New York Times Magazine. April 18: 112-114.


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