The implosion of meaning in normcore

Baudrillard in his later work can be a mixed bag of prophesy, self-referentiality, and gnomic nonsense, but the last section of “The Implosion of Meaning in Media” (1980) seems right on to me: 

We are face to face with this system, in a double situation, an insoluble "double bind" exactly like children face to face with the adult universe. They are simultaneously summoned to behave like autonomous subjects, responsible, free, and conscious, and as submissive objects, inert, obedient, and conforming. The child resists on all levels, and to a contradictory demand he also responds with a double strategy. To the demand to be an object, he opposes all the practices of disobedience, revolt, emancipation; in short, a total claim to subjecthood. To the demand to be a subject, he opposes just as stubbornly and efficaciously with an object’s resistance, that is to say, in exactly the opposite manner: infantilism, hyperconformism, a total dependence, passivity, idiocy

The resistance-as-subject is today unilaterally valorized and held as positive — just as in the political sphere only the practices of liberation, emancipation, expression, and constitution as a political subject are taken to be valuable and subversive. But this is to ignore the equal or perhaps even superior impact, of all the practices-as-object — the renunciation of the position of subject and of meaning … which we bury and forget under the contemptuous terms of alienation and passivity. The liberating practices respond to one of the aspects of the system, to the constant ultimatum to make of ourselves pure objects, but they don’t respond at all to the other demand, which is to constitute ourselves as subjects, to liberate ourselves, to express ourselves at any price, to vote, produce, decide, speak, participate, play the game — a form of blackmail and ultimatum just as serious as the other, probably even more serious today. To a system whose argument is oppression and repression, the strategic resistance is the liberating claim of subjecthood. But this reflects rather the system’s previous phase, and even if we are still confronted with it, it is no longer the strategic terrain: the system’s current argument is the maximization of the word and the maximal production of meaning. Thus the strategic resistance is that of a refusal of meaning and a refusal of the word — or of the hyperconformist simulation of the very mechanisms of the system, which is a form of refusal and of non-reception.

This speaks to what K-hole called “normcore”: silence or hyperconformity in the face of the demand to make one’s subjectivity productive for capital, resistance through over-embracing the status of obedient object. 

But Its implications extend beyond fashion as a mode of self-expression to all the ways we are urged to express ourselves in captured media. If you use social media, one might consider using them in a normcore way, emptying the value of “self-expression” for social-media companies and shifting the location of selfhood elsewhere by perpetually deferring its “genuine” expression. 


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