Home Page
Fiction and Poetry
Essays and Reviews
Art and Style
World and Politics
Montreal
Archive
 

***

A GENERATION OF SCRAPPERS

***

By Aaron James Henry

***

The Montréal Review, January 2017

***

***

It started with Torrent. In the Internet’s under-toe, a bunch of us were desperate to cobble together a film or video game from the scraps of free-floating bits and bytes. This was a symptom of whatever it was that got me here. Here, just down the road from a gas station, I’m trying to choose something to eat in a dimly lit and well-appointed gastro-pub. Two years ago the pub was a derelict building bereft on a collection of streets that had yet to be consolidated into the social and economic processes of the downtown core. Walls of sun-bleached wood, salvaged from the owner’s uncle’s barn, frame the interior of this reclaimed space. The menu is priced from the high teens to mid-twenties, and caters to a generation of indebted, educated, low-paid workers with discerning palettes. Stuffed rabbit wrapped in prosciutto, pork belly, ox tongue, a pork shoulder. Twenty-years ago these cuts of meat probably wouldn’t have made it on to a menu, and they certainly would not have accompanied one another. But now scraps of various carcasses and the rabbit, an unwanted and residual game animal, are entrees.

Across the street a faded neon sign glows stubbornly, adorning a Chinese restaurant like a faux crown. On the steamy windows I can see the “Just Eat” emblem: a sign that lets customers know they can use subcontracted couriers to have the restaurant’s food delivered to them at home. In this moment there is a bizarre confluence of relations. I am struck by the financial viability that has been conferred to businesses that set up shop on the streets passed over in the consolidation of commercial and shopping districts in the mid-1990s. The menu is a concession to my generation’s desire to consume highly sophisticated meals and dishes on salaries configured by the forces of automation and hiring freezes. I am dizzy with the scene of these relations passing before me. Scrap meat masquerading as mid-priced entrees, salvaged walls, the diligent and efficient use of the discarded pieces of urban space, and the debris of out-sourced delivery across the road. It is in this softly lit corner that the cultural figuration of the millennial generation reveals itself unapologetically.  This generation, born somewhere between 1980 and the early 2000s, reproduces its social, economic, and cultural existence by rendering “scraps” productive. We are scrappers.

Often what defines our lives and holds them together eludes our knowledge. The reasons we use to motivate ourselves out of bed and the actual activities we carry out in the course of our days are often divorced; and if it were otherwise and we were aware of how our lives imprinted social structures we may find the pursuit of these errands unpalatable or simply meaningless. But it does seem, whether or not we are conscious of it, that our generation expends its energy attending to scraps of capital flows and performing bits of tasks left behind after an unprecedented monopolization of global wealth. Though lacking a definite social and cultural existence, “the scrap” exerts a shadowy and unreal effect on the younger worker’s existence. The rather understated presence of the scrap is in part a consequence of having forged more compelling idioms to carve out the cultural life of the demographic.

The activity of dressing in “bloody” and ripped clothes and shuffling through shopping districts as the undead, is an idiosyncratic expression of the millennial’s conditions of social existence. There is much in this current impasse of relations that fits only in that ethereal yet all too pressing border-world of the undead. For the undead is a creature that exerts its presence and occupies a space in the world but is cut off from its social and cultural existence; unable to animate the social reality that was its birthright, silenced and unable to produce politics, to connect words to deeds, the undead being is confined to relive, in slow decay, the cultural practices and aspirations that now exist simply in the habitual, if not instinctive.1 And indeed, the millennial has no political and social institutions but those of which are undead. It is indebted to zombie-banks, shut-out from the white picket fence of the suburban home, measured against the decaying notion of the nuclear family and must advance its economic and social grievances through an undead proletariat class, that by virtue of the relations of production cannot die so long as there are capitalists but also appears in an increasingly post-industrial society as a lifeless thing, shuffling along in near-silence.

The apocalypse as an expression of resistance is one we have forged actively. Apocalypse is all the rage, because much of our outrage is expressed as apocalypse. It is though the expression of our cultural life and not the actual figuration of economic existence. And, for that matter, the apocalypse is the one bit of our social and cultural inheritance that our parent’s generation did not torch or hide away in offshore accounts. The Boomers were, after-all, the curators of the apocalyptic dream of “the bomb.” Unlike our parent’s view of the apocalypse as a nuclear holocaust though, apocalypse is now conceived within a triad of possibilities: survivalist, an ability to live and thrive in a reality that is barren yet saturated with risk; the naïve millennial dream of the “reset,” this dream is not so much fabricated from sheer hopeless than it is a requiem of the 2008 financial crisis, which had the potentiality to level finance capital in much of the Western World. This generation cannot wonder if that potentiality was extinguished by the transfer of public wealth or merely postponed for a later date and, thereby, the apocalypse holds semblance to the “biblical original” as a moment of rightful reckoning; last, the apocalypse is cultivated as a sober resignation that the economic, social, and environmental mode of existence will only continue to deteriorate.

The apocalypse is a recognition that forces beyond our control and beyond our comprehension have inaugurated a new order that we must shuffle through half-blind, inching along in a shadow-world of consumption that is forever depleting. “It is what it is,” is precisely the aphorism that captures the apocalyptic malaise of our present moment. In contrast “the scrap,” though wedded to apocalyptic fantasies of foraging and salvaging debris for survival so often now expressed in video games,2 is a less obvious condition of our social existence and social reproduction.

As a relation to work and consumption in capitalist society, its appearance is dependent on the coalescence of many different relations. The formation of the “scrap” is a product of the digital revolution. Recoding information into flows and streams makes it possible for labour-time to be bought and sold and offered as scraps. Yet much of the scrap’s ascendance leans heavily on automation, no doubt an essential condition of the digital revolution, which has created the economic necessity and disrupted work schedules that have forced individuals to scrap a salary together from many different sources. Low wages combined with each individual’s heightened digital control over the media they consume has given rise to a culture of consuming bits and pieces of things: episodes rather than cable subscriptions, songs rather than albums, articles rather than magazines. Finally, the privatization of public wealth following the 2008 financial crisis not only definitely laid to rest the “golden age of capitalism,” but it left the rest of us sorting through the debris, the scrap pieces that escaped or were not worthy of this great economic appropriation. It is these conditions that have made “the scrap” the figuration of the millennial generation’s social, economic, and political existence.

I argue the scrap has been crucial in reconfiguring consumption and production for a generation whose economic reality is shaped by low-waged precarious employment and high debt. “The scrap” as a mode of economic production­ and consumption has allowed the millennial to assemble as a highly sophisticated, selective consumer class that tends towards greater individualization and customization despite often being short of the means to engage in the older forms of conspicuous consumption. As such, these attributes have been essential to the continuity of the consumer impulse in age of austerity, low wages, and debt.

So, what is it about contemporary capitalist relations that make the idea of the “scrap” a close approximation of how social production and consumption have been culturally refigured? For the last thirty-years or so we have witnessed a decisive transfer in collective wealth. The danger of a rapid and marked increase in inequality is hardly news. Most millennials came of working age during a rather colossal appropriation of public wealth during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.  Quantitative Easing (QE) and public bailouts at once transferred public money to corporations and ensured these corporations reaped the benefits of stock market growth. While reaping the benefits of transfers of public money both directly or indirectly through QE, corporate firms pursued austere employment policies and accelerated the rate of automation. This greatly reduced and consolidated the entryways into permanent or even semi-permanent well-paid jobs and gave most government’s a mandate for austerity, which resulted in selling off public assets and reducing social spending as well as government employment. David Harvey, a critical geographer, has referred to these processes as accumulation by dispossession, a process where accumulation is fostered largely by selling off public assets and resources, including government revenue surpluses to allow capitalists to increase their wealth.3

The baby-boomer generation have reaped the benefits of these policies in stock growth, real estate appreciation, and, looking further back, in the connection of productivity gains to wage growth in the 1950s-1970s which ensured they had the initial capital to invest and purchase real estate before these processes of financialization occurred. The younger generation has been heavily indebted so that this consolidated wealth can be realized; the mortgage debts that have been taken on so that homes can be sold at an overvalued price are an obvious example of this symbiotic relationship between the valorization of wealth and the proliferation of debt. These processes constitute an appropriation and transfer of wealth broadly along generational lines, with very little public wealth left for those currently coming of age.

Under these conditions a class of consumer aligned closely, though not exclusively, with the millennial demographic has learned to make social existence out of the remnants of this colossal monopolization of society’s collective wealth. This group is forging their economic and social existence by living on the scraps and vestiges from Western industrial capitalist civilization. By examining consumption and production, I think we can see how the scrap figures as an important cultural formation. Of course, consumption and production are inextricably linked but here I treat them as being discrete for conceptual purposes.  

Consumption 

Modern capitalism now appears to operate more and more on the fragmentation of industrial modes of production. Though some have called attention to a fragmentation of culture, to understand the unique subject position of the millennial we must attend to the fact that increasingly we don’t live so much in a fragmentation of culture but in a culture of fragmentation. The fundamental condition of consumption today is that the act of consuming will be available in scrap like pieces. It is important not to sell the millennial short and suggest that the cultural life they lead is one of abnegation forced by pure necessity. Though relative to their parent’s generation this may be the case, the survival of the consumer impulse amongst the millennial is rooted in the fact that this necessity is experienced and given the cultural trappings of a highly individualized and selective mode of consumption. Left alone necessity is far too explosive and unstable to take shape as a set of cultural conditions; rather it is the elaboration of austerity by the millennial into a sophisticated mode of life, one that is trendy, cosmopolitan but rather lean, that ensures the constraints placed on consumption by deteriorating labour markets are given the cultural appearance of avant-garde choice.   

In previous forms of capitalism the act of consumption was powered by wages paired to gains in productivity and was geared towards rather expensive industrial products. Ovens, fridges, dishwashers, new cars, televisions, electronics, home pools, fine furnishings and interior design and, automobiles. It was highly individualized and the purpose of consumption was to own the possession, to behave as one-dimensional economic subject that used commodity-forms as the prostheses of personality. Ownership of the cultural whole of the product and the product’s singular existence was confined to an item. Arranged in department stores in the aesthetics of supply-side production, each item was one of many but still a discrete commodity intended to be bought by a single buyer. It was the discreteness of the object that made its attachment to the ego as a supplement of personality both possible and purposeless in that its relative uniformity failed to deliver the promise of uniqueness via acquisition. It is a familiar line that the millennial generation has failed to repeat their parents’ purchases of automobiles, appliances and home furnishing.4

This “failure” is not only linked to stagnated wages and precarious labour market participation but to the elaboration of these conditions into practices of consumption. Though debt can maintain consumption in societies that are rapidly shedding middle class jobs, debt weights heavily on the psyche of the individual and if left unchecked could compel them to disavow their necessary role in consumption. Indeed, austerity has been something that has happened to millennials not merely as the restructuring of social provisions but at the level of the household budget. The conditioning of this cultural form of self-imposed austerity is given clear expression in television programs such as “Til Debt Do We Part.So how does a class of people who police their own austerity produce a culture of consumption that is in close approximation, though still generally beyond their means, with their economic reality? It can be argued that they have channeled economic activity into the consumption of scraps.

So what are these scraps of consumption? Take, for instance, the consumption of media such as television programs, music, newspapers, and magazines. These products are increasingly dislodged from the monolithic delivery systems that previously shaped the parameters through which one consumed the cultural product. Magazines were sold as an entire product one could not walk into a store and rip out several articles, toss a few dimes to the cashier, and walk out. Similarly, if one wanted to watch a specific television program one had to purchase a cable package. Though singles were offered, music was predominately experienced in the totality of the cultural product as a CD. In turn, the album itself was often packaged as a complete cultural product, its songs told a story or at least operated within a general thematic, (i.e. the thematic arc of Pink Floyd’s The Wall). Today, consumption occurs by experiencing cultural wholes in piecemeal fashion.

The process of consumption is predicated on the continued existence of the complete cultural product, after-all if such a product were not produced the thesis of scraps would be untenable, but it also assumes a class of consumers who will only consume shreds of what’s on offer. It is a covenant that allows for the old model of consumption to persist, predominately among the wealthy portions of the boomer generation, but ensures that the cultural life of consumption can also continue amongst a vast majority of debtors.

One also has the emergence of platforms that allow one to consume travel experiences or other services. Go-Fund-Me is taken as an exemplary form of the Sharing Economy. However, at an economic level the premise operates on the principal of relocating economic resources to ensure that a more expensive product, one usually outside the reach of all funders as individuals, can be purchased. While the cultural product that is being consumed remains unitary and whole, the basis of consumption itself is dependent on the debris, the scraps of “funders” means of subsistence. One makes purchases, travels, retrains, and even celebrates a child’s birthday through a mechanism that allows for scraps of wealth to be consolidated. What is remarkable is that the individual becomes empowered to maintain their own processes of consumption by successfully capturing and rendering productive the debris of other people’s wages. This is a model of consumption where an individual must be aware of the piece-meal nature of the financial flows available to them and market themselves to capture scrap bits of money that may otherwise get funneled by the potential funder into coffee purchases, and pints etc.

The fundamental condition of the sharing economy is not philanthropy or generosity but the vitalization of a culture of fragmentation. To share demands some form of partition in ownership, if not physically than temporally. This fragmentation of products cannot help but give rise to the expression of scraps. Indeed, the same aspect of consumption is reflected in car-sharing services such as POGO and VrtuCar, where users enjoy a singular commodity through technologies that allow for its fragmentation into slots of time. One owns a car in scraps of time and the commodity itself becomes dolled out in pieces, the debris of what forty years ago had been highly individualized and inalienable product. The experience of the user is equally fragmented.

Culturally, this arrangement has an air of sophistication and selectivity. It suggests rather than being stuck with a car, I have the freedom to use and momentarily own a car as and when I please. It is a great extension of consumer selectivity where the commodity itself becomes customized based on highly individualized personal needs (one’s work schedule, shopping schedule, daily travel throughout the city, on the basis of appointments). As a business model though, fragmentation or production of scraps of car ownership relies on the coherency and uniformity of the car as a commodity, it is that it is produced originally as a singular object that makes its refurbishing into scraps of time and use ultimately more profitable.

The same logic is reproduced in the rise of AirBnB. This is also a process of producing economic activity through the productive of sellable scraps. From the perspective of the seller, AirBnB allows one to unlock latent value in one’s home renting out a basement, an empty bedroom and so on. The process, in many cases, demands that the unity of the house is actively dissolved into essential living space and scraps of rented area. From the perspective of the buyer, AirBnB allows one to purchase scraps or pieces or parts of the hotel experience for, ideally, a reduced price. One might get neither the privacy of a hotel room, nor the continental breakfast offered by a large hotel chain. What one acquires instead are scraps of the hotel experience, flows of rental space that not only augment consumption but also further diversify the possibilities of consumption. As Airbnb boasts, its fragmentation of living space into commodities allows the user to “fully immerse in communities around the world.” Indeed, this mode of consumption is touted to expand the range of consumer experiences, to make renting a room in a stranger’s basement a broader act of selecting a community to sample. Consumption becomes more nuanced and customized precisely because of the disintegration of the hotel-room as a complete and uniform commodity form. The fragmentation of unnecessary rooms into bits and pieces that can be rented greatly increases the range of potential experiences and produces possibilities that are fleeting and ephemeral; and therefore dependent on class of consumers willing to make these otherwise unused scraps of space productive and profitable.

At the same time, the scrap has a schizoid character. A scrap is at once a superfluous bit of debris and yet is also prized for the economic accessibility conferred upon it by its appearance as a superfluous thing. Consequently, the scrap is in constant danger of losing its social character. The muddiness of the scrap’s value can obscure the distinction between value and waste. However, because the speculative value of the scrap is integral to its economic formation and increasingly the scrap has reformed the circuits between production and consumption, it is often the case that waste is mistaken for scraps and not scraps that are mistaken for waste. And this blurriness is readily apparent when one now walks into a new vintage thrift store, or a boutique retro-shop, all of which have sprouted with the Millennial demographic, and realizes “this is just someone’s junk!”

Scraps of wardrobes, debris from cleaned out basements, all of it might patently be junk but its potential to be a scrap that can be reinvested and resold spares even the most threadbare of shirts from the trash. Unsurprisingly, the consumption of scraps produces placeless senses of dress, fashion, and furnishings. Our dress and sense of taste increasingly are the active recycling of scraps from other historical periods. Though it is rare that dress and dispositions do not exist without some unconscious recycling5 our act of consuming scraps and rendering them productive has created an outlook and sense of style that explicitly plays homage to its borrowed state: the return of the manicured mustache, eighties glasses, the revival of the barber-shop, the single geared bike, the return of the suit. Our sense of taste and dress do not stem from an effort to reproduce or revitalize the cultural and social existence of previous generations but rather have been shaped by digging around for viable remnants of these generations, the available scraps of culture that can be rendered productive once more in processes of highly circumscribed consumption; if we were once “all Keynesians now” today we all fast becoming “the divers into history’s dumpster.”

Perhaps, it is under these conditions that we might understand the new contours that have appeared on the old problem of hoarding. One motivation for the hoarder is an affliction of sentimentality and a desire to preserve, and in this form the line between being a hoarder and an archivist is largely institutional. However, a newer angle is that hoarders might hoard out of the belief that things may become of value. Neglected items may, under the right circumstances, be made to sing their latent wealth; and so the scrap’s heighted economic life forever bars antiquated things, dead artifacts, and even vanquished ideologies, from ever being fully put to rest, lest we forsake their residual cache.  

Labour Time

In a post-industrial digital economy the sharing economy is being touted as the new socialized direction of capitalist production. Though by virtue of the fragmentation of both economic activity and commodity use, the sharing economy is in reality the sin qua none of the figuration of a new economic-social existence that reflects a life lived on the scraps of capitalist production. It has been argued that the patriarchal industrial order of the breadwinner has been extinguished. As Donna Haraway noted in the Cyborg Manifesto, automation was throwing asunder the paternal industrial order that had anchored the labour-time of the male breadwinner. The feminized production patterns, feminized in terms of low wages and the discontinuity of one’s existence as a labourer, first experimented with in the third-world are increasingly becoming the global conditions of production.6

The economic activity of the millennial is a game of actively scrounging together opportunities to sell their labour-time. An approximated salary is scrapped together from whatever sources are available. That this work can be characterized as scraps is not only demonstrated by the fragmented and hybrid character of work performed but the relation of this work to other economic processes. The rise of the digital courier through online applications such as “Just Eat,” has allowed business to contract out the least profitable and most cumbersome aspects of the service economy. As such, young workers, increasingly linked digitally to the economy, are handed the unprofitable scraps of the service economy. One has a growing distance between formal economic activity of well paid and semi-permanent jobs and the so-called other jobs that were formed largely through being excised from the consolidation of the most profitable aspects of the latter. This has forced the emergence of a form of economic existence that is dependent on the technological capacity to out-source economic activity, sub-contract its elements as the need for this service arises. Perhaps as a consequence of this fragmentation of economic activity into scraps, the spontaneous emergence of the scrap of work appears to make these scraps more and more synonymous with “opportunity.”

The Uber Driver is yet another form of scrapped together economic existence. The difference of Uber from the “Just Eat Courier” is distinct. Uber is not the outsourcing of unprofitable or cumbersome work; it is an assault on a profession that previously controlled its membership through strict licensing, and tests. Yet, the life of the Uber Drive, as a flexible and spontaneous transition in and out of paid labour-time, renders the driver responsible for producing their own scraps of labour-time from their day-to-day life. The Uber Driver must find a way to sell a spare hour, a spare day, an unfilled moment, in short scraps of unscheduled or unabsorbed time. The task of the Uber drive is to render their scraps of leisure time, their moments of idleness into a productive pursuit. The logic is similar in the proliferation of the Zero-Hour contract in the United Kingdom. From the perspective of the employer, this means that retailers can keep their teams lean during times of day that are the least busy and, if unexpectedly, demand drops, those working the floor on zero-hour contracts can be let go.

Even beyond these most extreme and obvious examples, the production of scraps into which labour-time is absorbed continues apace. The feature that makes the slew of part-time contracts, limited term positions and so on, not merely contracts but rather scraps, the undesirable pieces of other forms of activity, is that often these contracts exist within a Manichean world of well-remunerated and full-time employment. An exemplary form of this division between an existing economic structure that allows one to participate in the capitalist economy and the scraps that fall from this stable economic structure is that of the fate of the scholar in the university system.

As a career the university professor forms the core identity recognized in the economic market. They hold permanent positions and are well paid. This type of work forms the accepted and “real” social and economic life of the university professoriate. The university though actively also generates scraps of employment from the tasks tenured professors do not undertake. In this regard, the existence of the professor is supported by a relatively informal scrap economy of teaching contracts carried out, again predominately by a younger generation, at 4 month to 1-year contracts. Again, one has a life process that is orientated around looking for the scraps that are somewhat unpredictably cast off from a more formalized, permanent and consolidated economic order that appears increasingly organized across generational lines.

 It is perhaps this distinction, the relation of scraps of work to the continued existence of a different economic structure, a differentiation that seems most applicable to the service economy, that will spare me the charge that I have done nothing more but dredge up a new form of an old relation: piecework. Marx noted that in the early formations of capitalism, piecework and not wage-labour was the predominant relation.7 Wage-labour gradually dislodged piecework and became the predominant relation between workers and owners. It is the co-existence of salaries and short, at times twenty minute, contracts that I think perhaps allows us to better see the labour and consumption work of many of us as scraps. The millennial’s existence is defined by finding pieces, flows of work that are set loose precisely because they are not valued as the primary form of economic life and in this devaluation in fact make the primary form of economic life viable. Under these conditions, it becomes a process of catching the scraps, the outsourced or dislodged activities of a service economy, governed by decisions to jettison some forms of activity and maintain others. Regrettably, it is likely that eventually the scrap will displace the stable well-remunerated labour markets that have consolidated and closed themselves off following the aftermath of the financial crisis.

What are the consequences of this mode of cultural appropriation? The reconfiguration of consumption into scraps has been essential in recasting conditions of deprivation into a form of consumerism that is fluid, selective, diverse in experience, and highly individualized. It is curious that the commodity-form created the ego of the consuming subject during the 1950 and 1960s, and in many ways is still a primary, and primarily impoverished, mode of self-expression. It was once remarked that in a consumer society personality meant no more than “dazzling white teeth and freedom from body odor and emotions;” in essence a purchased, pre-made packaged sense of self.8

Given the constraints placed on consumption by low-wages and debt, one might think the relation of consumption to individualization may have been severed. However, it can be argued that the fragmentation of consumption, its breakdown into bits and pieces has better economized the consumption of individuality through the creation of highly eclectic and, thereby, idiosyncratic forms of consumption; the important point being that this eclecticism has not actually extended the choices that are available to consume but merely fragmented them like breaking a block of ice into little chips; the modes and range of freedoms tied up with consumption remain relatively unchanged; one may simply personalize the bits and pieces they draw from the product.

This economized mode of self-expression via consumption is borne out in the content of the individual’s digital library, scraps of media given the appearance of a more discerning and customized taste, one that within our current parameters of freedom cannot be entertained as anything but evidence of free choice and expression. One is an avid consumer of Game of Thrones but does not believe in or appreciate “big cable channels.” One might adore and love three songs from Adele but by no means feel the need to purchase her complete albums. Yet, this also accentuates the decontextualization of consumption from a complete cultural form.

The 20th-century commodity form is imagined to form a totality with a distinct place and time. It is meant to constitute the whole of the cultural life. Within the alliance between television, radio and newspapers, each organ of production was connected to definite industrial conditions that created a stable and coherent cultural product; consumption animated by scraps allows for ever greater individualization and this individualization far from being the product of superior forms of autonomy or expanded meanings of freedom is merely sustained by the technological ability to fragment and collate scraps of cultural products in one’s own personal “library.” Individuality as expressed by market relations is now entirely dependent on fragmentation; but the fragmentation of old forms.

Another curious effect of fragmentation of cultural and economic products is the resurgence of the “Epic” as a medium of story. It would seem that as the pace of life is increasingly colonized by the scrap in the form of transient associations, and truncated cultural forms, that this would give rise to a new form of medium, and to an extent it has. The “meme” is an accelerated and acute expression of the scrap. The meme is literally the scrapping together of a sentiment and an image in a meaning that is apropos to a limited moment or even a fleeting event (an outrageous quote from a presidential nominee, for instance); and, for that matter, that it only exists in newsfeeds of social media platforms exacerbates its appearance as piecemeal and fleeting; a temporality that reinforces its scrap like quality.  

However, as the scrap has extended itself into most of our idioms and shapes our lives, a resurrection of “the Epic” has occurred. Television programs with enough seasons to span hundreds of hours (Mad Men, Waking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter, Downton Abbey) operate with extended plots, and the formation of rich characters whose development becomes central to the arc of the program. Such programs appear contradictory in a form of social organization characterized by the truncated, half-completed, and fleeting article of the scrap. The conditions for the Epic’s return are, in part, technological. It is that episodes are streamed rather than aired that allows writers to create stories with grand arcs and rich character development; the modern television show is premised on the belief that it is impossible to miss an episode and so one can assume the audience is able to follow each tantalizing moment of the story. Curiously, though sustained by the same technology that allows for the fragmentation of media consumption into scraps, the Epic has grown in favor because it is the exact opposite of the scrap; it grows in value precisely because it is like nothing else we produce or experience. www.themontrealreview.com

***

Aaron Henry is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow and holds a doctorate in Sociology and Political Economy. He has lectured on contemporary social theory and surveillance and has published short essays and academic articles on cultures of capitalism, security, and state formation.

***

1 George Romero made this critique in Dawn of the Dead (1978). When “Francine” asks why the zombies keep coming to the mall, the character Stephen responds that it is “some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

2 See such indie video games such as Rust, Don’t Starve, Mine Craft, Survive, I am alive, Stranded Deep and State of Decay. Even our escapism is transfixed by a profound optimism of hopeless conditions.

3 See David Harvey. New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

4 Kriston Capps. “Why Millennial Aren’t Forming New Households” in The Atlantic CityLab, published August 20th, 2015, retrieved September 20th, 2016. Bill Greiner, “How A Lack Of Income For Millennials Effects Household Formation” Forbes published February 25th, 2015, retrieved September 22, 2016. Richard Fry. “Millennials still lag in forming their own households” PewResearchCenter, published October 18th, 2013, retrieved September 18th, 2016.

5 See Georg Simmel. “Fashion” American Journal of Sociology vol. 62. No. 6 (May, 1957): 557.

6 Donna Haraway. “Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991) pp. 164

7 Karl Marx. Capital vol. 1, (London: Penguin Press, 1991) pp. 697-698.

8 Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno. “The Culture Industry as Mass Deception” Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 136.

***

 
 

Subscribe
Submissions Guide
pdf
RSS

 
 
 
home | past issues | world & politics | essays | art and style | fiction and poetry
Copyright © 2014, T.S. Tsonchev Publishing & Design, Canada. All rights reserved. ISSN 1920-2911
about | contact us | copyright | user agreement | privacy policy