Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Antiviral: Capitalism of the Fourth Kind

Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Antiviral: Capitalism of the Fourth Kind

Article excerpt

Capitalism is not a human invention, but a viral

contagion, replicated cyberpositively across

post-human space. ... [I]f schizophrenia is not yet

virally programmed it will be in the future.

Sadie Plant and Nick Land, 'Cyberpositive'

So the factory is hijacked by these self-interested

blueprints. In a sense it was crying out to be

hijacked. If you fill your factory with machines

so sophisticated that they can make anything

that any blueprint tells them to make it is hardly

surprising if sooner or later a blueprint arises that

tells these machines to make copies of itself. The

factory fills up with more and more of these rogue

machines, each churning out rogue blueprints for

making more machines that will make more of

themselves. Finally, the unfortunate bacterium

bursts and releases millions of viruses that infect

new bacteria. So much for the normal life cycle of

the virus in nature.

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (131)

It would not be too farfetched to say that

the extermination of mankind begins with

the extermination of germs. Man, with his

humours, his passions, his laughter, his genitalia,

his secretions, is really nothing more than a

filthy little germ disturbing the universe of

transparency. Once everything will have been

cleansed, once an end will have been put to all

viral processes and to all social and bacillary

contamination, then only the virus of sadness will

remain, in this universe of deadly cleanliness and

sophistication.

Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of

Communication (38)

I can really feel it coming on now, inside of

myself. I can't move, or think properly. I'm only

approximating myself.

Syd March, Antiviral

Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral (Canada 2012) engages with themes of biotechnology, bodily transformation and psychosis, all the time maintaining a self-reflexive approach towards the cinematic image. Like the sf films of his father, David Cronenberg, Antiviral attracts Deleuzian and Baudrillardian interpretation: its schizomolecular machines respond to the unconscious, its viral images and the film itself place a premium on affect, yet they implode the biological and technological with terrifying, paranoiac results. Here, one must usually make a choice between Baudrillard's negative emphasis on technocapitalist ideological invasion of the human body and mind, and Deleuze's affirmative and immanent concepts of desire, affect and schizoanalysis.1 I want to suggest that Antiviral lays claim to a new, synthetic reading, inspired by Thierry Bardini's Junkware (2011), which is exceptional for its synthesis of Baudrillard and Deleuze into a new, fourth phase of capitalism. In this essay, I will briefly examine the theoretical rationale for this fourth phase and address the analytical shortcomings of Bardini's thesis. Then, using Deleuze and Baudrillard, I will examine how Antiviral allows us to think through sf cinema, biocapital and the newly contagious bodies, machines, thoughts, images, affects and sensations of viral capitalism. I want to show that although Antiviral is in some way symptomatic of this unfolding fourth order, as an sf film it offers a powerful, negative critique of its own conditions of possibility. Its affects are as exciting as they are terrifying.2

Bardini's Junkware describes a fourth stage of capitalism in the wake of the 'false promises of the molecular revolution' (26) but one that is founded on a synthesis of Deleuze and Baudrillard. Bardini's premise is twofold. First, 'biotechnological and biopolitical innovations beg for an extension of the Deleuzo-Guattarian framework' (11). The framework to which Bardini refers, put briefly, is Deleuze and Guattari's two modes of organisation (body, social, unconscious, political, economic) under capitalism: schizophrenia and paranoia, and the body without organs is the pivotal point between them. …

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