Re: How memes work
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 10:54:22 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 4 Aug 1997, JD wrote:
> I would argue that even unconsciously clinging to the
> anti-conspiracy meme makes one a lackey of State. Come on! I was just
> chiding him for what I see as a contradiction....I wouldn't never have
> said it if I though he was consciously a Statist.--

There seems to be little question that there *are* Powers That Be and that
one of the things these Powers Do is to support the circulation of
attitudes and opinions in the culture that will benefit their continued
existence and the augmentation of their power. However, I question the
idea that these Powers align into some monolith, all of whose interests
are one and the same. The Powers have competing interests, too, surely?
The French theorist Michel Foucault (for whom I fear there is little love
lost among those on the list who know of him) often insisted that when we
think of power we tend to be enraptured by the image of a sovereign
enacting his will through the manipulation of the world and his subjects,
the image of a massive force working from the top down. But power in
modern, late modern, or postmodern societies (whichever flavor of theory
you happen to subscribe to) does not function this way *at all*. Power
circulates, ramifies, from and through innumerable points at once, not so
much from the bottom up, as infinite in all directions. So long as we
still can't get past that sovereign notion of power, however, we tend to
conceive of its workings (in the markets studied by economics, in the
field of discourse studied by memetics (and rhetoricians!)) by positing
the invisible hand of spontaneous order or the hidden hand of conspiracy.
*Neither* the idea that the market, say, emerges in consequence of the
best-possible interaction of sovereign rationally calculating homo
economici in a free-flow of unimpeded information, *nor* the idea that the
market is governed and manipulated by an all or even mostly powerful
monolithic ruling class -- however comforting these ideas may be in the
face of more troubling facts -- comes close to capturing the unholy mess
of the ways in which desire, knowledge, and force fling themselves around
the globe here and now and from here on out. Best, Dale

Dale Carrico |
University of California at Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric

If you want to tell people the truth be sure to make them laugh.
Otherwise, they will kill you. -- George Bernard Shaw
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. -- Nietzsche