The ceaseless interpellation of digital capitalism

This is superb from Richard Seymour on the ceaseless demands which contemporary capitalism places on us and the psychic costs they create. I’ve found his idea of the Twittering machine incredibly thought provoking to make sense of the sprawling entity which social media platforms are tangling us up within:

One of the most exhausting features of late capitalism is just how constantly it interpellates us. There may have been a time when ‘demand’ was something communicated unconsciously by a handful of adults in one’s emotional life. Today’s homes are penetrated by more and more screens and electronic devices, filaments of capitalist ideology. When I was a child, being ‘hailed’ meant one of my parents calling my name, usually in a way that suggested I was in trouble. Children growing up today are constantly being hailed by notifications, updates, alerts. Maybe the alerts don’t suggest that one is in trouble, but they demand immediate action. Even the little red number on top corner of social media or email app is a constant jangle of the nerves, which it is almost impossible to ignore. The imperative nature of these notifications cumulatively amounts to a demand on the subject: stay connected, be reactive, be productive, be ‘sociable’. And as kids grow up today, they’re growing into a 24/7 work culture. The drive is arguably being digitised, subsumed more fully into the logic of computational capital than that of Oedipal patriarchy. If the drive is a sort of mental writing, a montage of symbolic elements, it is surely now composed in part of elements drawn from a written network of signifiers.

So what do you when you just can’t? When demand is too much? When the interpellations are so persistent that they won’t even let you sleep? When the drive is what is keeping you constantly in a state of distracted, exhausted, pseudo-alertness? You find another way of working the drive. If your relationship to demand is problematic, you try to silence it, evade it, short-circuit it. Knock it out with alcohol or heroin. Short-circuit it by staging a reckoning right here, right now, on this gambling machine. As if you’re asking, with each bet, “what is it you want from me?” As long as you’re in that sequence of anticipatory moments, demand is muted. Even at the cost of ruin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.