The archetype of the fall is echoed in a stated personal inclination for homeostasis:
I am not by temperament or conviction, a revolutionary; I would prefer a stable, changeless environment of modest services and human scale. (Playboy interview cited by Theall 45)
If McLuhan's hankering for tradition has
there are no direct citations to prove a link
McLuhan and Jung, between the former's conception
rag-and-bone shop of clichés and archetypes
the latter's collective unconscious.
However the rapprochement is to be made in the homologous structure of hypertrophy and retrenchment that both men describe, one in physical, the other in psychic terms. McLuhan claims that an overinvestment of time and attention in one sensory modality leads to its extension and to unbalance that is rectified through amputation:
Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among the other organs and extensions of the body. (Understanding Media 45)
Likewise Jung posits balanced equal development as a desideratum and considers that overinvestment of time and attention in one psychological function requires compensation. The form this takes is amputation:
In so far then as every man, as a relatively stable being, possesses all the basic psychological functions, it would be a psychological necessity with a view to perfect adaptation that he should also employ them in equal measure. [...] Through a one-sided (typical) attitude there remains a deficit in the resulting psychological adaptation, which accumulates during the course of life; from this deficiency a derangement of adaptation develops, which forces the subject towards a compensation. But the compensation can be obtained only by means of amputation (sacrifice) of the hitherto one-sided attitude. [emphasis in original] (Psychological Types 28)
Furthermore McLuhan's simultaneous acoustic tribal
space possesses the features of the archaic time
there was no individuality, that time Jung
when he often turns to Lévy-Bruhl to claim
the effacement of ego boundaries is no new
and that it is related to participation mystique
evinced in "our own barbarian element with
primitive collective mentality" (Psychological
106). Accord the
some form of
rationality or remove the stable unchanging female
principle, Jung's and McLuhan's systems of
dichotomies and reversals disintegrate. At
is the value of dialectic, in the materialist
history and in the rhetorical sense of dialogue,
dialectic as explanation and practice.
Both Jung and McLuhan encourage an aesthetic
depoliticized response to historical change.
Both manage the combined spectre of the primitive
of woman, conventional markers of the irrational
the uncontrollable, by situating these in the
the timeless and the unchanging. This
conjunction of a fetish for the irrational and a
fascination for participation mystique is the very
target of a sustained critique by Walter Benjamin,
critique essential for Benjamin's meditations on
nexus of technology, perception and reproduction.
In McLuhan's embrace of the participatory
technologies appealing to an aural modality reduce
distance. In Benjamin's approach to auratic
technologies that bring artefacts closer to
undermine participation and enhance critical
distance. In their accounts, the eye-ear
contrast is inflected differently. McLuhan
the contrast over an oral-scriptural divide of the
verbal. Benjamin contrasts the pictorial
verbal. Benjamin values the disintegrating
allegorical mode of the word over the symbol as
engrossing image that assembles and unites.
Despite the different histories they construct,
both thinkers the historiographic text pivots on
iconoclastic test. As well, sexual politics
affect the manner in which the sensory mapping is
applied to historic periodization.
Benjamin, unlike McLuhan, does not engage in
for the blessedness of the past. McLuhan's
celebration of oral tribalism is of a piece with
ascription of pre-pill sexual relations to a
pre-mechanized world (n13). Benjamin was working well
the advent of mass-manufactured oral
contraceptives. However, the division
sexuality and procreation that McLuhan in the
trumpets as a new phenomenon is in the 1930s
Benjamin with a reasonable age. Benjamin
this period is working on 19th century Paris
the very century condemned by McLuhan
what he claims is a move toward mindless
Sexual politics are intricately meshed with
refinement of the question of
an environment saturated by the technological
development of media. These considerations
interwoven in Benjamin's critique of the auratic
object which is in part a polemic against Jung or
rather ideas generally in circulation and
in Jung for Benjamin never completed his intended
critique of the Swiss psychologist (n14).
Benjamin's notion of experience will hinge upon
relation of reason (mind) and ecstasy (body)
specifically in the production of knowledge.
well he tackles the analogy between the function
symbol as container and woman (soul) as vessel.
In mining the collection of citations and commentary that is Benjamin's Passagen-Werk to find a passage to juxtapose with Jung's appropriation of Marianism for a universal structure of the psyche (Psychological Types 287) one turns in spirit of contrariness to seek a Magdalene figure in Konvolut O, the file pertaining to prostitution and gambling and one finds there a citation from a pamphlet by Emmanuel Berl:
As if the laws of nature, to which love is subjected, were not more tyrannical and more odious than those of society! The metaphysical meaning of sadism is [found in] the hope that human revolt will take on such intensity that it will cast nature into the position of changing its laws that women no longer willing to tolerate the travails of pregnancy, the risks and pain of childbirth, and of abortion, nature will be compelled to invent some other means for man to perpetuate himself on earth (Passagen-Werk O.2.3. 616-617)
Note an intervention like abortion is located well within the sphere of nature. Berl does not set nature over and against society. Human suffering is not ennobled by its source. A similar sentiment is detected in the call for sexual and social responsibility in Benjamin's comment:
Indeed, the sexual revolt against love, rises up not only from fanatic obsessive sexual desire, it also is intent on making nature submissive and adequate for that [desire]. (Passagen-Werk O.2.3. 617)
For Benjamin these tensions are even clearer in
case of prostitution especially when its cynical
of-the-century Parisian form is viewed "less
antithesis than as the decay of love"
Gegensatz denn als Verfall der Liebe).
keeps in tension desire and its
Neither is relegated to unconscious process.
the background here is the anarcho-feminist
marriage with prostitution.
© François Lachance, 1996