“The Rebellion of Technology: Aesthetics, Destruction,
In a seldom quoted passage from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin argues that “human self-alienation has
reached a point where we can experience our own destruction as an aesthetic
pleasure of the first order.” Benjamin believed that modern societies
resort to war because only armed conflict enables states to mobilize the
full resources of technology while leaving the property system intact. Yet
he noted that it was precisely the democratic potential of technology that
made it necessary for elites to mobilize it for destructive ends, or as C.L.R.
James remarked in another context “Only such barbarism could repress
such democracy.” In my remarks I will explore the battle between destruction
and democracy in the context of the technological properties of the perpetual
war that our leaders have declared.
George Lipsitz is Professor of American Studies at UC, Santa Cruz.
He is the author of several books including American Studies in a
Moment of Danger, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, Dangerous
Crossroads, Time Passages, and Rainbow at Midnight.
“Powering Up/Powering Down” is sponsored in part by the University
of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Center for
Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA),
and the UC San Diego Department of Music in connection with the departments
of Visual Arts, Music, and Literature at UCSD along with the UC Riverside
and Los Angeles campuses.