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“In the final section of his essay, Jameson talks much about artistic manipulation, and how films like Jaws and The Godfather are essentially. Citation: Frederic Jameson () Reification and utopia in mass culture. Social Text, Duke University Press (RSS). Download. An Analysis of, “In Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” by Frederick Jameson. Words Apr 17th, 6 Pages. It is true that manipulation theory.

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The history of subversive art is long: We generally might accept that some art could compel political action or, at least, grand changes in art itself.

The thinking here seems to be that no revolution occurs without first having won over the hearts and minds of the revolutionary class, and what better way than through that which can surely motivate us reificstion effectively than any preachy call-to-arms? Still, this position is not without its doubters.

Particularly, Fredric Jameson, famous Marxist cultural critic, does not seem to find any art convincing in its subversiveness 3. Opposite Jameson for the purposes of this paper, Gilles Deleuze seems to ane the position that, post-WWII, a new form of cinema emerged to subvert the older jamexon of traditional Hollywood cinema and provided a means by which film could criticize the dominant structures of reality under capitalism 4.

In this paper, I intend to argue that, while Jameson may be right to criticize the full revolutional potentiality of commodified cinema, the fact that no cultural product or set of products has led to full-scale global communism is anx sufficient evidence to suggest that no film can be subversive at all.

Put another way, perhaps the game of subversive art is not a zero-sum one. He views analyses as tending to valorize either high art or mass culture, despite that the critical points made by all sides utopiia the similarities between high art and mass culture.

For example, Jameson asserts that reificatoin high art and mass culture are produced with sale in mind, if not with cultural impact also as an aspiration. He draws this comparison through his definition of reification of commodities.

“In Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” by Frederick Jameson Essay

Under capitalism, cultural products are packaged as commodities to be sold in a way by which they are reified into symbols of the conflicts in our daily lives. Jameson relates the two forms of cultural product to repetition, a central point to those who valorize high art at the expense of mass culture especially those of the Frankfurt School.

While mass culture reflects commodification through its mass production, high art is also reactive to repetition: Jameson goes on to describe how, under capitalism, contemporary products of culture affect us. As such, cultural products enable us to repress urges to subvert social institutions: It touches on present-day social contradictions and anxieties only to use them for its new task of ideological resolution, symbolically urging us to bury the older populisms and to respond to an image of political partnership which projects a whole new strategy of legitimation; and it effectively displaces the class antagonisms between rich and poor which persist in consumer society… by substituting for them a new and spurious kind of fraternity in which the viewer rejoices without understanding that he or she is excluded from it.

If Jameson is right, his bidirectional formula for how cultural products operate on us seems to carry serious implications about which products of culture can and cannot be subversive. What seems clear in this film is that the encroachment of capitalism in this case, we might set aside that the woman came to corrupt the protagonist in a kind of Genesian, patriarchal inflection on the broader capitalism vs.


Buddhism conflict at play on Buddhism brings Buddhism under threat. This might speak to the fears—not just of Buddhists—but of anyone concerned with the preservation of tradition or anything socio-historical. As such, what this film allows for is that capitalism comes to fully corrupt the young protagonist let us suppose that he would not have killed his lover if he had adhered to his Buddhist principlesbut this is not the full cost of the corruption.

In a somewhat contradictory turn, the old Buddhist man sets himself ablaze, tearfully committing suicide. The viewer might walk away feeling a vague sense of having worked through the repressed anxiety over the cultural destruction that capitalism might inflict, as well as a sense of relief over the hope that the film supplies: It is easy to see why Jameson suggests that such a film might leave any latent class antagonism cold and dry: That is not to say that we cannot find Jamesonian elements.

About halfway through, the film takes a sudden turn: Jameson offers no formula for how art may be subversive. In fact, he suggests that, at this time, no art could be conceived jamexon as relating effectively with political praxis.

Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture

His reasons are multiple: This might provide an opportunity to conceive of jmeson in such a way that it could, reiification least to some degree, provide a sense of subversion, albeit perhaps without fully avoiding all of the problems raised by Jameson at the very least, all relevant art is likely distributed by some segment of capitalist industry. The Time-Imagein which Deleuze suggests a new form of cinema a subversion of the previous film paradigm.

For Deleuze, subversion of traditional film norms as in the time-image might relay into a subversion of social and reificxtion norms. By taking focus from the actions of agents and, instead, to the symbols of sounds and images, there is no need for clear emancipatory acts on the part of any protagonist.

Instead, feelings of alienation, inequity, and injustice are made palpable by the recognizable sounds and images that accompany those undesirable characteristics of life.

In some sense, the criticism is far more complete: However, these symbols, as in the case of the movement-image model, merely seem to set the jameeson on which the action happens.

For Deleuze, the focus of the new film paradigm, the time-image, is less on grand narratives of recognizable heroes engaging in dramatic actions in order to save the day; instead, the depicted spaces and objects can tell us something of how the world is and how the reificaation could be. As such, Syndromes and a Century provides little in the way of recognizable inter-agential conflict; instead, the mood cast by the form of the film and its symbols is palpable.

Deleuze helps to clarify how these imageries might come to offer subversive effects. Typical of Deleuze, he refers to affect in a geographical, counterintuitive way: Hence, this space refers back again to the lost gazer of the being who is absent from the world as much as from himself.

Even the most introverted among us would likely not suppose that empty space represents a utopia to which we should aspire. In accordance with what Deleuze suggests, Weerasethakul provides a series of three sets of important imageries scattered throughout the second half of the film.

In the first case, Weerasethakul puts statues at the center of our consciousness. He does so in three scenes: These shots are accompanied by a low droning tone and capitalist sounds industrial noises and auto traffic drowning out the sounds of nature. Perhaps the moral implication problematic though it may be of black vs. Following most of the second half, with its odd, awkward moments of gum-eyed half-smiles and strange, almost elegant, and simultaneously robotic gesticulations and mannerisms, the second case of the symbolic image finds us in a room lit by ultraviolet bulbs, filled with what look like industrial machines.


Over low quasi-musical, quasi-discordant noise, the camera stares up toward a ceiling that is not there, revealing a ventilation system, plumbing, and suspended light fixtures. The camera hypnotically pans around, slowly foregrounding a vapor, an unrelenting smokiness in the room until the camera finds and fixates on an oddly hanging tube with a wide mouth. If we consider the overarching message of the film, the passage from the gentler, more joyous first half of the film seems clear in its relationship to Buddhism, while the second half of the film expresses a litany of small corruptions and subtle discontentednesses and alienations.

The only obvious interpretation of the tube seems to be that the tube itself might represent global capitalism, slowly, invisibly, practically imperceptibly forcing all that might ever lie before it into its gaping, exploitative, brutal mouth—even that which would seem wholly incompatible with its ethos—in this case, Buddhism, itself, which brings us to the third case. The film ends in a kind of perverted distortion of the mood of the beginning of the film, which is to say that of joy, but perhaps this is now capitalistic joy.

In place of the calm contentedness of the Buddhistic first half of the film, the mood is here replaced by an exuberant, spasmodic happiness achieved through a succession of images of gigantic masses of city-dwelling dancers in the public park, enthusiastically synchronized in their hyperactive dance-as-exercise routine, complete with the instructor in the center, leading the way—in some way, it feels like an army of the health-obsessed, but instead of ritualistic marching, we bear witness to an aerobics routine.

The implication might be double: This descriptive objectivism is just as critical and even didactic… where reflection is not simply focused on the content of the image but on its form, its means and functions, its falsifications and creativities, on the relations within it between the sound dimension and the optical.

Godard has little patience with or sympathy for fantasies: Slow Motion will show us the decomposition of a sexual fantasy into its separate, objective elements, visual, and then of sound.

Jameson seems right to point out the challenges in producing art that is both meaningful and subversive, but his unbounded skepticism, here, of the emancipatory promise in products of culture seems to ignore that which Deleuze captures. It would seem unreasonable to suggest that any cultural product would, on its own, lead to global communism, and perhaps that is not exactly what Jameson means, but he might concede that more time-images—instead of movement-images—could be helpful to effecting his utopic ideal for society.

“In Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” by Frederick Jameson Essay Example for Free

Create a free website or blog at WordPress. These are my writings. Ideally, these are the most honest expressions of myself that I could give. May 4, The Limits of Subversion in Film: From class lecture, Grossberg, Lawrence.

Cultural Reader: Fredric Jameson: “Reification and Utopia” – summary and review

University of Minnesota Press. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, …and Spring. Syndromes and a Century.

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