Thanks to his ignorance and moral abjection, Donald Trump represents the true soul of America, the unmovable soul of a population formed by a never-ending sequence of exploitation, oppression, bullying, invasions, and abominable crimes. Nothing but this. There isn’t an alternative America, as many thought in the 1960s and ’70s. There are millions of women and men, mostly nonwhite, who have suffered from American violence, and especially at a certain point in the ’60s and ’70s, fought to reform America to become more human. They failed, because there is no way to reform a nation of bigots and killers.
Even if Viktor Orbán is a fascist and Hungarian democracy is in very bad shape, I’m sorry to say that American democracy is even worse because it is the expression of the American people, and they are the product of centuries of genocide, of deportations, of slavery, and of systematic violence.
American democracy has been a fake since the beginning, when slave owners who wrote the Declaration of Independence stopped for a moment to consider the possibility of writing something about the problem of slavery, but instead decided to postpone such discussions indefinitely.
How do we move beyond the misery of contemporary life? Stiegler turns to psychoanalysis, particularly post Lacanian and Deleuzian thought. Psychoanalysis shows that the formation of an interior ‘we’ within the self is necessary before the self can form a community with others. This interior movement is what Freud calls primary narcissism, a prerequisite for the self-forming a bond with the community.
With all the talk we have of the rise of narcissism today, Stiegler’s thesis is refreshingly different, he argues that our problem is that we lack the the capacity to develop a primordial narcissism. He thus links our inability to form aesthetic attachments to singularities or singular objects to our inability to form community, with self and others.
Our ‘hyper-industrial era’ has temporalized objects along the time of marketing consumption and this is why we suffer from a new form of alienation and impossibility to identify with objects.
The retentional apparatus is one way to understand what is often called the attention economy, where every segment of our time is commodified and made eligible for the temporary attention we expend towards it. Stiegler’s proposal is that this attention economy is emblematic of a much larger absorption of the economic mode of production into the aesthetic sphere, which is the source of the misery we experience.