The Possessed Individual: Technology and the French Postmodern

Description

176 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
$14.95
ISBN 0-920393-90-X
DDC 303.48'3'01

Year

1992

Contributor

Reviewed by Geoff Cragg

Geoff Cragg is a tenured instructor in the Faculty of General Studies,
University of Calgary.

Review

The author’s goals in this book are twofold. The first, as the title
indicates, is to relate French postmodern thought to technological
(i.e., American) society in order to explain “the theoretical
mechanisms by which power functions in America.” The second is to
expose the “internal debates which storm across French thought,”
because these constitute “the deepest cultural debates of the fin de
milennium.”

To accomplish his objectives, Kroker presents the work of several
theorists within what he terms “a series of critical discourses:
technology as pure speed (Virilio), technology as simulation
(Baudrillard), the rhetoric of technology (Barthes), technology as a
desiring-machine (Deleuze and Guattari), technology as aesthetics
(Lyotard) and technologies of subjectivity (Foucault).” Through these
various frames, the author builds a larger picture of a society that can
best be described in terms of virtuality rather than “alienation,
reification or simulation.” Rightly rejecting the typical American
vision of “technology as liberation” as simplistic and blinkered, he
counters with a French discourse on technology that describes it in
terms of “cynical power.”

Given the ambition of his project and the brevity of the text,
Kroker’s successes are impressive. Rather than isolate each
theorist’s contribution, he makes frequent comments on points of
agreement and opposition; what emerges is an energetic sense of the
debates within this group. Further, Kroker engenders a number of
provocative insights by including thinkers from outside the postmodern;
for example, he explores the affinity between Baudrillard and McLuhan,
and explains Barthes’s approach to myth in terms of “the analogical
rules of [classical] rhetoric.”

If there is some fault to be found, it is the lack of examples from
popular mass culture. Though Kroker draws upon a broad array of
contemporary art to ground various theorists, he tends not to use more
ordinary examples, especially those proceeding from communication
technologies. Doing so would drive home the virtuality—and thus the
possession—of everyday life, and thereby help him to achieve the first
of his declared purposes.

Citation

Kroker, Arthur., “The Possessed Individual: Technology and the French Postmodern,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/13889.