Possessed Individual

by Arthur Kroker,
ISBN: 092039390X

Post Your Opinion
The Life of Their Party
by Stan Fogel

THIS BOOK is what William Gibson might have written if he'd gotten a Ph.D. Perhaps, then, the book should have been titled "NeuroTlCmancer." Sure, Arthur Kroker is (in) a panic, but don't feel sorry for him: like Gibson, he's attempting to project, inhabit, and understand the hippest, most contemporary world we've got. Along with Marilouise Kroker, Arthur is trying to challenge "received discourses in art, social and political theory," as well as other dogmas or domains explored and explained by wo/man or beast.

The Krokers are general editors of a series called CultureTexts, one of which is their funny and alarmist - hence, the two meanings of panic - Panic Encyclopedia. In their rationale for CultureTexts, they merely(?) claim the contributions "represent the forward breaking-edge of postmodern theory and practice" If you like (another comparison), they are our foreign agents. That is because the Krokers'publishing venture is akin to the Foreign Agents series from Columbia University's Semiotext(e). It is also because the focus of both groups is the cultural and literary theorizing of a number of French women and men that is grouped under the rubric "postmodern."

The Possessed Individual, subtitled Technology and the French Postmodern, explicitly acknowledges these mentors. Kroker claims that he "rubs America" against them to provide insight into both. French theory is seen to offer "a prophetic analysis of the speed life of the twenty-first century." (The fin de millennium is already fin for those on the leading edge.) The rubbing also yields "a critical rethinking of the politics and culture of the technological dynamo" a.k.a. America. Passe are such modernists as Camus and Sartre, who believed in an individual who could "possess," in a subject who was autonomous, who was the active centre of her/his world Prescient about and writing as "possessed' subjects or as those dispossessed by technology, even of themselves, are the panoply of more recent French thinkers: VBB-DGLF, to turn them into an unreadable acronym or intellectual eye-chart. All are, to varying degrees, known by academics who have embraced postmodernism.

One "B" (Barthes) and "I" (Foucault) have been enormously influential for scholars in many disciplines. The other "B" (Baudrillard) is the one to whom Kroker owes the keenest debt. Baudrillard has no only contributed to CultureTexts, but he has also provided the vocabulary of dispossession Kroker deploys insistently in The Possessed Individual. In our hyper-reality there are no solid realities, only simulacra, or simulated things. From Baudrillard's Simulations Kroker quotes the following:

That is our only architecture today: great screens on which are reflected atoms, particles, molecules in motion. Not a public scene or true public space, but gigantic spaces of circulation, ventilation and ephemeral connection.

To Kroker's credit, he tries to write instead of represent or explain this altered reality and our altered, "possessed" selves. He deliberately uses sentence fragments aplenty to give the sense of being there. The typos and mistakes in grammar that litter the text speak, however, of another kind of breathlessness. Also, the VBBDGLF thinkers tend to overwhelm America. In the best beginning to a chapter, this one on "L" (Lyotard), Kroker cites Rick Hancox's experimental film Moose Jaw. It might be said that the book suffers from too little Moose Jaw and too much loose jaw. Nonetheless, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker are the life of the party in academe. If you like their pitch (both what they say and the level at which they say it), you'll enjoy all their books as well as their journal, the Canadian Journal of Social and Political Thought. If not, you'll R.S.V.P regrets to academic good times.


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