From Militant Modernism, Owen Hatherley
“An alternative to either this sulky aestheticism or a total surrender to the demands of capital can only be enabled by an expansion of the apparatus: in a short passage pregnant with potential Brecht imagines that the Lehrstücke’s participants, usually active Communists, acting anywhere other than a conventional stage, would all have to have their own personal cinema apparatus. The freedom outside the new technology is meaningless. ‘To say to the intellectual worker that he is free to renounce the new work tools is to assign to him a freedom outside the production process’, and hence to render him utterly neutered, no threat to things as they are.” …
Cinema constantly exhibits a potentiality that, for all its employment as a mere money-making machine, can be turned on its head. Its essentially collective production is an exemplar of that: ‘it is the essence of capitalism and not something generally valid that ‘unique’ and ‘special’ artefacts can only be produced by individuals and collectives only bring forth standardised mass commodities.’ What if the collective and mass form could create something ‘unique’?
These passages are about Brecht’s relation to the cinema, but they seem equally valid as comments about social media, and why talk of abstaining from them is misguided. Social media are clearly the new work tools of the cultural worker, the Virno-ian “virtuoso,” and though those tools are being used to facilitate exploitation, they can’t be “renounced” without resigning oneself to irrelevance.
Instead, the tools can be used to form collective subjects, or to undermine the ideology of independent individualism that capitalism has adapted itself to rely upon.