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Thread: Is a counterculture still possible?

  1. #1
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    Default Is a counterculture still possible?

    We've talked around this in a few threads, but

    I would contend that it's almost impossible to imagine a counterculture - as opposed to a subculture - existing at this point in time

    Advertising is so sophisticated and integrated at every level of cultural consumption, and

    Artists themselves do their own branding - spend large amounts of time doing it - on as many social media platforms as they can

    The cycle of recuperation is almost instantaneous

    Is it possible to envision a culture, scene, movement, whatever that hasn't already been commodified at the moment of its birth (or rather, codification) or soon thereafter?

    If it is, what would such a culture look like? How would it avoid commodification?

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    Further question: was a true counterculture ever possible, or has everything always been merely a commodity waiting to be commodified?

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    not just in the arts but in any field

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    watch this plummet + sink

    but hey luke ain't around, we gotta pick up the slack

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    sous les paves, la plage

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    I agree that's it's impossible in the classic Dick Hebdige sense of subcultures occurring as distinct fashions with associated musics. Cultural spaces aren't siloed any longer and as you say, everything is recuperated at such speed. Nothing has the space to grow in the dark anymore. It does actually make me wonder if being offline will take on some kind of catchet of exclusivity in the future.

    However, I'd say there are some areas of culture that still generation gap me, confuse me and I get that sense of cultural production occurring that's designed to exclude outsiders - the meme culture that existed around 4chan would be one example. Maybe that's a "subculture" now? Even if it's entirely online. It's certainly a counter-culture in the sense of being in opposition to the liberal wisdom of the generation before them. I found Angela Nagle's book a useful read about this even if it's problematic in some ways. It seems very punk to me in some ways in that way of really telling your elders to fuck right off.

    I've also wondered about some of the kind of Instagram fitness culture - obvs not free from capitalism and mediated imagery - but there seems to be this very intense culture of sculpting the body, that involves rejecting normal consumption in terms of booze and diet. The intensity of focus around this reminded me of subcultures - and obvs I'm auto-excluded from this due to my ageing, decaying body. I was talking about this with a mate and he said "yeah, we might be able to nick their trainers, but we can't steal their genetics".

    I know this is more on the level of subculture rather than counter-culture as such but just some opening thoughts.
    Last edited by DannyL; 04-08-2019 at 07:43 AM.

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    Further thoughts - to what degree does this interface with K-Punk's Capitalist Realism idea?

    Is the impossibility of counter-culture connected to the impossibilty of being able to imagine outside of capitalism?

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    Counterculture... What for?

    Todays youth has sold pretty much all of their lives out to a handful of silicon valley overlords.

    It's hilarious anyways, a bunch of "benevolent tech-moguls" became filthy rich by commercially exploiting by-products of the military industrial complex calling the shots today.

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    I'm not sure that counterposing counter culture with commodification is useful really. It's a process. A bit like social revolutions, if that isn't too pretentious.

    Counter cultures have been commodified because they have failed to transform society and make the commodity form redundant.

    I think it's also useful to look at what is happening to mass culture (and compare this to mass workplaces just to add a further layer of marxist pretension). There is less and less of a unified mass culture, so there can be less and less of a unified counterculture.

    Everything is very fragmented and there are fewer mass events that everyone participates in at the same time and discusses the day afterwards.

    So I think you would need something big to happen to bring everyone together - something external to artists.

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    punk was kinda conservative though. that's why post-punk happened ultimately.

    but then the post-punk revival in the 00s was also kind of conservative.

    more to do with the race element through which the modality through which class is lived rather than the inherent musicality or amusicality of tunes or albums. i think ultimately we've exhausted nearly all musical possibilities. we know what synths can do now. keith fullerton whitman can write a patch and get it generating sequences for 5 hours stick it on soundcloud and its captivating in its own right. I'm not dissing it i think designing synths is a talent in its own way. the future musical developments will be revolutionary but more in the mathematical sense. like for instance Sote, he isn't really doing anything that's totally unexpected future shock but it's new and innovative.

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...24XhCH_pMkru2s
    Last edited by thirdform; 04-08-2019 at 05:19 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    the meme culture that existed around 4chan would be one example
    yes that is an interesting shout

    it seems to organically resist commodification, without even having to try to

    and certainly yes it it has that "what are you rebelling against? well, what have you got?" vibe

    it's perhaps too nihilistic to coalesce into something tho? and when it does it's the literal worst, white supremacists, proud boys, Nazis, etc.

    see 8chan's connections to Christchurch and yesterday's El Paso atrocity

    there is some larger discussion to the extent which parts of the (alt etc) right have become/embody "counterculture", often by appropriating traditional tools of the left

    it depends what one means by "counter". to a real and imagined liberal hegemony, yes. to capitalist realism, I don't think so.

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    fitness culture otoh is 1 million percent not countercultural, which I say as someone pretty well versed in it.

    literally everything is about monetization. they're just selling different stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    Is the impossibility of counter-culture connected to the impossibilty of being able to imagine outside of capitalism?
    yes

    also something something acceleration of pace, as of recuperation

    counterculture exists in the brief moment between coalescence/codification and recuperation

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    Counter cultures have been commodified because they have failed to transform society and make the commodity form redundant
    that's inevitable tho?

    I do think commodification is the useful framework because it is the ultimate end of culture, and thus what counterculture is counter to

    of course real life is far messier, with things often all mixed up together, but the fundamental point is true

    I wouldn't deny social revolution is another potentially useful framework

    however, social revolution is ultimately itself subservient to commodification, unless it can itself transform society and make the commodity form redundant

    which so far has not happened, and seems unlikely to happen, tho again perhaps this is a failure to imagine a world outside

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    Quote Originally Posted by padraig (u.s.) View Post
    fitness culture otoh is 1 million percent not countercultural, which I say as someone pretty well versed in it.

    literally everything is about monetization. they're just selling different stuff.
    Yeah I know - I meant subculture rather than counterculture I think = definitions are failing me here. I was just struck when a friend was writing a piece about fitness culture sometime last year that the cultural energy around it was similar to what I'd call "subculture" only I didn't recognise it as such, being too stuck in that classic Dick Hebdidge model where a "subculture" = a distinct fashion allied with music. The 4 Chan stuff is similar in that I didn't recognise it as a "subculture" on first hearing about it.

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