DIY Culture Industry: Signifying Practices, Social Networks and Other Instrumentalizations of Everyday Art


Here’s a succinct gloss on Sartre’s notion of seriality (from Catharine Savage Brosman, ” Theories of Collectivities in Sartre and Rousseau,” South Central Review 2/1 (Spring 1985):

The loosest sort of communal relationship, the series is not a genuine community but rather an aspect of what Sartre calls “the practico-inert.” A serial relationship between individuals is only formal and logical, there can be no common praxis. Isolation is an effect of series; while not literally isolated the members are serially separate. Sartre gives examples: people waiting for a bus, all the drivers in a big city, the readers of a newspaper, listeners of “Top 10” radio (which greatly struck him when he first visited the US after WWII), the purchasers of “Top 10” records. In a series, action is always elsewhere and is exercised through alterity and recurrence, which alter for others as objects the field of activity: though one’s relationship to others remains negative, one’s situation is a function of them (how many are waiting in line ahead of me; how many others are driving thus congesting the streets; what records have been bought by others). A series is a collection. Series encourage rivalry and express or create dependence on others without a compensating sense of community. Historical action takes place to a lrg xtent through and on series. Shopkeepers are implicated in serial effects of monetary action while being powerless to do anything about them because they are “the others,” obliged to participate in spreading the serial result (i.e. raising prices because all others raised theirs). Like inanimate matter, a series can be manipulated or worked (as by advertising). Ownership of the means of production by the power elite and the institutionalizing of its power in the state give to the proletariat the structure of seriality because production is directed toward the satisfaction of consumption as alterity, that is, as dictated by the demands of the other. Large societies are composed of both multiple serialities and groups, relating to and mediating each other; there are even series of groups. Classes in Sartre’s view are not groups but series, derived negatively with respect to another series of which they are not; the bourgeois are “the others” to the workers.

Perhaps something like Sartre’s seriality is what Paulo Virno has in mind when he writes much more recently in A Grammar of the Multitude: “Publicness without a public sphere is the evil of multitude. The general, or public and common, intellect if it doesn’t become a republic, a public sphere, a political community, drastically increases forms of submission.”


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