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ZERZAN, John. "Culture"

"cynicism will remain as long as we allow culture to remain in lieu of unmediated life."

Article published on 19 July 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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Cul-ture n. commonly rendered as the sum of the customs, ideas, arts, patterns, etc. of a given society. Civilization is often given as a synonym, reminding us that cultivation - as in domestication - is right in there, too. The Situationists, in 1960, had it that "culture can be defined as the ensemble of means through which society thinks of itself and shows itself to itself." Getting warmer, Barthes remarked that it is " a machine to showing you desire. To desire, always to desire but never to understand."

Culture was more respected once, seemingly, something to "live up to." Now, instead of concern for how we fail culture, the emphasis is on how culture has failed us. Definitely something at work that thwarts us, does not satisfy and this makes itself more evident as we face globally and within us the death of nature. Culture, as the opposite of nature, grows discordant, sours, fades as we strangle in the thinner and thinner air of symbolic activity. High culture or low, palace or hovel, it’s the same prisonhouse of consciousness; the symbolic as the repressive.

It is inseparable from the birth and continuation of alienation surviving, as ever, as compensation, a trade of the real for its objectifcation. Culture embodies the split betveen wholeness and the parts of the whole turning into domination. Time, language, number, art-cultural impositions that have come to dominate us with lives of their own.


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