On Crary’s 24/7

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by sdileonardi

This post is hardly argumentative, but rather an attempt to map out the claims being made on pages 41 and 42 in Jonathan Crary’s 24/7. I think that any general comprehension of the book relies on at least a partial grasp of the two tenants of his argument outlined in these pages.

On the one hand,  our contemporary context, especially regarding forms of technological consumption, inherits many of its defining characteristics from the industrial projects of modernization and capitalistic expansion occurring during the end of the nineteenth century. As I write, the hum of the washing machine signals the ominous presence of GE, which 130 years ago was called the Edison Electric Light Company. Giants such as Edison have proven that capitalism has also helped produce particular types of consumers, shaping and forming the nuanced aspects of society through an understanding of what drives a profit margin.

However, Crary wants to adumbrate an alternate kind of consumer production model that is inaugurated by the 1990s through Microsoft, Google, and others. Companies like these take a step beyond the production of consumers and actually succeed in producing subjectivities of technological users whose social ontologies are largely outlined and delineated by the roles these megalithic entities play. Crary posits that through this model “technological consumption coincides with and becomes indistinguishable from strategies and effects of power” (42). It is with this Foucauldian bent that Crary allows the subsequent chapters of his book to unfold. It is not that the mega-capitalistic model of Edison et. al. has been replaced, but rather augmented. And while for centuries philosophers and writers have focused their attention on political figureheads in order to fully highlight the power of the sovereign, Crary represents a shift in focal point as corporations have demonstrated the ability to wield subject-producing power.

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One comment on “On Crary’s 24/7

  1. Lori Emerson says:

    Sean, just to say that I appreciated you focusing on these two pages in particular – I had it in my notes for class to try to work through this apparent (but not real) contradiction in Crary’s book. It also makes me thing think that the “post” in “postmodernism” (which is supposed to roughly correspond to late capitalism) should instead be “late modernism” as more and more it does seem as if we’re living through an extension, exaggeration, continuation of more of the same that began in the late 19th century.

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