Distribution Automatique

Sunday, October 26

"The actual order of things is precisely what
"popular" tactics turn to their own ends,
without any illusion that it will change any
time soon. Though elsewhere it is exploited
by a dominant power or simply denied by an
ideological discourse, here order is "tricked" by
an art. Into the institution to be served are thus
insinuated styles of social exchange, technical
invention, and moral resistance, that is an
economy of the *gift* (generosities for which
one expects a return), an esthetics of *tricks*
(artists' operations) and an esthetics of *tenacity*
(countless ways of refusing to accord the established
order the status of a law, a meaning, or a fatality).
"Popular" culture is precisely that: it is not a corpus
considered as foreign, fragmented in order to be
displayed, studied and "quoted" by a system which
does to objects what it does to living beings.

The progressive paritioning of times and places,
the disjunctive logic of specialization through and
for work, no longer has an adequate counterpart
in the conjunctive rituals of mass communications.
This *fact*cannot become our *law*.It can be gotten
around through departments that, "competing"
with the gifts of our benefactors, offer them products
at the expense of the institution that divides
and pays the workers. This practice of economic
*diversion* is in reality the return of a sociopolitical
ethics into an economic system. It is no doubt
related to the *potlatch* described by
Mauss, an interplay of voluntary allowances
that counts on reciprocity and organizes
a social network articulated by the
"obligation to give." In our societies, the market
econom is no longer determined by such
an "emulation": taking the abstract individual
as a basic unit, it regulates all exchanges among
these units acccording to the code of generalized
equivalence constitued by money. This individualistic
axiom is, of course, now surfacing as the question
that disturbs the free market system as
a whole. The a priori assumption of an historical Western
option is becoming its point of implosion. However
that may be, the *potlatch* seems to persist within it
as the mark of another type of economy. It survives in
our economy, though on its margins or
in its interstices. It is even developing, although
held to be illegitimate, within modern market economy.
Because of this, the politics of the "gift" *also
* becomes a diversionary tactic. In the same way,
the loss that was voluntary in a gift economy is
transformed into a transgression in a profit economy:
it appears as an excess (a waste),
a challenge (a rejection of profit), or a crime (an attack on property).

This path, relative to our economy,
derives from another; it
compensates for the first even
though it is illegal and (from this
point of view) marginal. The same
pathway allows investigations to take up
a position that is no longer defined
only by an acquired power
and an observational knowledge, with
the addition of a pinch of
nostalgia. Melancholy is not enough."

*The Practice of Everyday Life*
Miichel de Certeau