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Tomaž Janežič (essay)

Celebrity and social control
1. General preface: Capitalistic totalitarianism, social inequities and celebrity Since

Marx’s exquisite and devastating analyses of capitalism we are familiar with detailed sociological and economical critique of capitalism. From the fall of socialistic systems neoliberalism reaffirmed capitalism as “the end of history”. Second greatest economic crises in 2008 confirmed Marx’s these that capitalism will be destroyed by itself, because of profound antagonisms in capitalistic society and lack of markets which serve for exploitation. Even Keynes warned in 1936 that persisting on “lasses faire concept” endangers the whole society and economical system as whole, because of its consequences: 1) huge unemployment 2) lack of effective consumption. Capitalism is totalitarianism because of totalitarianism of production base, production praxis and accumulation principles – and arbitration confiscation of wealth, from the part of ruling class, which disciplines subordinated with repression and ideology. Althusser’s term ideological apparatus of the state and Gramsci’s hegemony enable us to understand the phenomena of obedience of masses. Important fact in late capitalism is that space for social grievances shrinks. On one side we have new interactive medias, on the other people are overwhelmed with commercials, products of consumer society and unilateral–authoritarian type of discourses from the economic and political elites, which control media. Social stratification in consumer society in adequate framework for “stars phenomena” – products of film, music and other media production. Common known fact that “celebrities” are only brands for production houses (film, music etc.) is challenged with concept of “talent” and meritocracy. If we take under consideration talent, we must ask ourselves what are instruments for measuring its scale and what dimensions of creativity are under consideration. Celebrities are used to canalize instinct of death and suppressed Eros, we speak about repressive de-sublimation, if we use Marcuse’s therm. They serve as compensation for individual’s lack of power and recognition. So if we speak about creativity, we see that conformism would be more appropriate term, because celebrities (film, music, TV-stars) have to obey ideological–demagogical and financial instructions of their producers. They act as

some sort of virtual ideals of the concept “what should good individual look like”, on one hand, they act as embodiment of ideal self, in Freudian terms, on the other as social police, because of uniformity and conformism. To make exploitation acceptable: that’s a task of each social system through ideological apparatus of the state. Aim of dominant ideology is to excuse violence of the state in praxis and culture. In case of culture industry the last means positive representation of violence and law enforcement praxes in function of defending social values, based on capitalistic values: private property, regardless the consequences and its amount. There’s no ethic without violence, to protect certain ethic it is necessary to use force against other. Myth, which is perpetuated by popular culture is that it exists a social consensus about ethics – analogue to ideological apparatus of the state, which legal ethics defends with violence of repression, in name of duty, justice etc. Kant’s categorical imperative does not count for state of law, based on exploitation. Capitalism creates conditions of ethic of natural selection, creating superfluous peoples, on one side and elite on the other. Members of elite are in commercial culture products represented as representatives of capital. Hollywood cinema tries to compensate a lack of cultural capital (Bourdieu’s them) with mythicizing market talents or physical attributes, in case of woman. When we speak about creativity (a capability to transform and synthesize various elements into new whole) and individuality (original point of view, life philosophy) of celebrities in mass media, popular culture is close to zero. Persons involved in “cultural industry” poses only capability to perform or simulate social reality and public bourgeoisie melodrama with pseudo empathy (actors, singers, TV-leaders). In their “discourse” (music performance included) social phenomena are naturalized (if we allude to Barthes) not problematized: sort of public pseudo-empathic therapy with obvious aim to maintain present social system, appeal to common sense, with tension to unify its pubic, regardless their cultural and social background: if we paraphrase Nietzsche: a (media) book for everyone and no one. So called new forms of entrainment, ”reality shows”, which provide media space for local celebrities, in environment of virtual, simulated reality, suffer from uniformity, discipline control, confinement, pseudo-originality, of the worst kind. They have very much in common with famous Zimbardo’s experiment, when people are confined in “virtual prison”. Progress is connected with transgression of conventional moral. Each society consists of 1) innovators 2) imitators, according to dimension of creativity, according to social power to A) commanders and B) executives. Innovator is powerless, if he has no social power, yet imitator is determining, if he has on his disposal moral authorities in name of duty. Creativity ___________ Power Commanders Innovators Imitators


Politicians, Judges, Priests



Artists, Scientists

Police, Celebrities

For commercial films it seems that they hesitate between “moral of a flock” and Nietzsche Superhuman. The concept of ethics needs a force to bring itself into action, and each force needs an ethical background (social, individual). Life is facing of forces and contra forces. A force gives a life and takes it: birth and death. This force has a name: time-space. “Transcendental conscience, in Husserl's sense, seeks logic of sense, not force. Recognition of alienation of man from material resources, means of production, natural and cultural environment and his own potentials, inevitably leads to alienation in relation to other people. To these findings capitalism defies with distraction techniques, where an important role plays popular culture with technique of phantom identification –identification with media simulations (celebrities).