Academic journal article Extrapolation

Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction

Academic journal article Extrapolation

Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction

Article excerpt

Towards Postcriticism? D. Harlan Wilson. Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. Hyattsville, MD: Guide Dog Books, 2009. 207 pp. ISBN 9781933293738. $14.95 pbk.

Reviewed by Pawel Frelik

The back cover blurb: "In Technologized Desire,1 D. Harlan Wilson measures the evolution of the human condition as it has been represented by postcapitalist science fiction,2 which has consistently represented the body and subjectivity as ultraviolent pathological phenomena. Operating under the assumption that selfhood is a technology,3 Wilson studies the emergence of selfhood in philosophy,4 fiction, and cinema5 in an attempt to portray the schizophrenic6 rigor7 of twenty-first century mediatized life. We are obligated by the pathological unconscious to always choose to be enslaved by capital and its hi-tech arsenal. The universe of consumer-capitalism, Wilson argues,8 is an illusory prison9 from which there is no escape - despite the fact that it is illusory."10


1. For Wilson, the postmodern subject is first and foremost "a desiringmachine whose contours are defined by the technetronic mediascape of late capitalism" (25) and whose longing but also greed can never be fully satisfied. The titular "technologized desire" inevitably pushes the discussion toward the figure of the zombie - here devoid of any biological connotations and predominantly invoked as a major metaphor of "postmodern mass man socialized by the routine of commodity labor" (96).

2. In Technologized Desire, the term "postcapitalist" functions in the same way in relation to "capitalist" or "late capitalist" as "postmodern" does to "modernist," suggesting not so much a radical break or apocalyptic shift as a logical development, an almost inevitable transformation of the current market ideologies. At the same time, the discussed texts map "a postcapitalist society that critiques contemporary capitalist technologies by extrapolating the current ideology of hyperconsumption" (109). Consequently, the volume directly develops and complements Terminal Identity (1993); where Bukatman discussed the ways in which (mostly) 1980s sfa represented the postmodern condition, Wilson demonstrates how newer texts narratively map "a dawning postcapitalist condition" (164), "our current socioeconomic ontology" as pushed to its limits and terminalizedb (119).

a. Like Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. in "Science Fiction and Empire" (unreferenced in the bibliography), Wilson perceives sf as "the genre of capital" (169).

b. The indebtedness to Bukatman is underscored by frequent references to terminality as the ontology of postmodern sf .

3 . Like many critics before him, Wilson uses a very broad definition of technology that extends from robots to languages, the latter very likely being the main justification for bundling Burroughs with the other four texts. Viewing the self as "a creative technological extension of the subject" (14) and assuming that any technology is "a creative extension of the subject" (163), Wilson attempts to reconnect, or at least bridge, Baudrillard's definition of the self as a template susceptible to cultural imprint and Kroker's and Cook's suggestion that the self is a product of technology (14).

4. This is not entirely true, as contemporary philosophy is not so much a subject as a tool of the critical dissection. To this end, Wilson mobilizes a pantheon of twentieth-century commentators from Freud and Benjamin, to Baudrillard and Lacan, to Jameson and Zizek, to, finally, Deleuze and Guattari - "poet laureates of technocapitalism" (164).

5. The selection of primary texts is doubly the strongest aspect of the book - because of the individual choices and because of the way in which they intersect with and complement each other. The Matrix trilogy is probably the only usual suspect in the context of postmodern technologies, but even here Wilson manages to differentiate himself from a legion of critics who have written on the films. …

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