Viewing posts tagged magic

Strange Matters

There is something very gothic about Doctor Who, in the hauntological sense.  I mean that the show keeps on doing monsters that represent, in various ways, 'the return of the repressed', monsters that represent buried anxieties, or anxieties that we have attempted to bury.  But the monsters tend to be steadfastly material in quite straightforward ways... and to embody material, social, historical nightmares (fascism is a big one that immediately suggests itself).

It's important to stress that this isn't a contradiction, as such.  Indeed, in many ways, it's 'business as usual' for the gothic.  You can't get more hauntological than vampires, but they tend to be interpreted as representing deeply materialist concerns, from veneral disease to monopoly capitalism (and, these days, teen romance... which is about as materialist as anything gets).  However, while they may represent material, social, historical anxieties, vampires are not straightforwardly material.  They are, like most classic gothic/hauntological monsters, profoundly spectral - or at least ab-physical.  They dissolve in sunlight, cast no reflection, can appear and disappear at will, can physically transform into bats or wolves, can reverse physical time by becoming young again after feasting, can defy gravity by crawling down ...

Harry Potter and the Labour Theory of Value

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. 
- Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto

In this post, I noticed that Star Trek portrays the society of the future as essentially capitalist (in all but name) despite the fact that the people of the Federation have 'Replicators' that can summon material objects out of pure energy. Such a development of the forces of production ought to have banished scarcity of any description, thus also banishing any need for the exploitation of labour, the extraction of surplus and the existence of class, along with many other features of capitalism which persist (open or half-hidden) in the Roddenberry/Berman utopia.  In short, given the technology it possesses, the Federation ought to look a lot more like 'the Culture' of Iain M. Banks' (though, actually, the Culture is as much a liberal vision as it is socialist or anarchist... with its dependence upon the benevolent dictatorship of super-smart AIs ...

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