Friday, November 13, 2009

The Material Behavior of an At Risk Subject

Stanley Kubrick's rendition of the social satire, A Clockwork Orange provides a window into the implications of a class society and it's devastating affects on those individuals who occupy the lower realms.

Randy Martin's essay “Where Did the Future Go,” and Louis Althusser's “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” have some interesting correlations in their arguments regarding the social structures of society. However, after a close reading of both, it is apparent that their arguments intersect, particularly where the implications of the structure of the society adversely affect those citizens who occupy its lower class.

In the eyes of Martin, the protagonist Alex by virtue of his working class background dwells in the realm of those “incapable of taking risk,” and thus is “cast [in a population] at risk and [is the] target of all manner of domestic wars (on drugs, crime, kids and culture),” in this society. This is exemplified in the beginning scene where Alex and his droogs are drinking milk spiked with a drug that increases their ultra-violent tendencies, which for Alex and his mates is the embodiment of their Utopia.

According to Martin there has been a shift from the fairy tale of Capitalism, to “Imperialism's renaissance,” and accordingly there are “implications of finance's rules on the experience of daily life.” In the “political economy,” shaped by these implications of finance's rules, the government depicted in A Clockwork Orange, must employ pre-emptive policies and aggressive tactics. Martin would say, “patience and forbearance must give way to incessant agressivity in the face of evil and vigilant opportunism for the prospect of good.” In A Clockwork Orange, we see the face of evil depicted by The Minister of the Interior. The Minister of the Interior see's the Ludovico Technique the pre-emptive policy (aggressive and opportunistic) as being the means to an end in the prospect for good.

Alex is living in an “interventionist” State. The State views the current penal system as a bad investment. It is a penal system where you get “concentrated criminality...crime in the midst of punishment,” and as The Minister of the Interior further remarks, “outmoded penalogical theories. Soon we may need all prison space for political offenders,” which apparently would be more profitable. Imprisoning common criminals is not, according to the Minister of the Interior a cost effective process. He remarks, “criminals are best dealt with on a purely curative basis, kill the criminal reflex,” in other words employ the pre-emptive policies.

This Ludovico Technique is a form of brain washing. It is believed that through this technique Alex will learn “along with his body that violence is a very horrible thing,” and the state will achieve containment. After the treatment it is explained that paradoxically Alex is “impelled toward the good by paradoxically being impelled toward evil.” Thus when the State fully implements this process of “rehabilitation” it will then be able to “leverage high risk to widely dispersed effect in a manner consistent with the derivative,” in the war on criminality.

However, the result is met with “strategic failure.” The intelligence was not reliable, and the high risk did not yield high returns but rather a political nightmare, requiring further investment.

In comparison, Althusser views the social structure of a capitalistic society through the metaphor of a firm. In order for the society to survive it must abide by the same rules of corporate governance. Where the firm can be seen as being the ruling class, and having great influence over the State apparatus.

Althusser asserts that, “the State Apparatus, which defines the state as a force of repressive execution and intervention 'in the interests of the ruling classes' in the class struggle conducted by the bourgeoisie and its allies against the proletariat, is quite certainly the State, and quite certainly defines its basic 'function'.” According to Althusser, Alex is a “bad subject” who also belongs to the class of the proletariat and his actions have “provoke[d] the intervention of one of the detachments of the (Repressive) state apparatus.”
In the beginning Alex refuses to be “governed by the rituals of the ISAs,” and it is not until he is repressed (put in jail) and forced to “recognize the existing state of affairs, that 'it really is true that it is so and not otherwise' and that [he] must be obedient,” or continue to suffer the adverse consequences.

While in prison Alex attempts to “exist in his actions,” that is he attempts through his material actions to represent himself as a subject embodying the ideology of the state apparatus, i.e. the church who is symbolized through the Preacher. However through this material action, Alex is “len[t] other ideas corresponding to the actions.” In opposition to empathizing with Jesus in his readings of the bible (the material action), Alex relates to the Romans, and prefers to read the stories of the Romans who are tended to by the handmaidens, and shies away from the “preachy” parts. Thus furthering the argument that Alex is a “bad subject.”

Thus the repressive state apparatus as represented by the Minister of the Interior, feels the need for the use of force. As a result the Ludovico Technique is used in order to “enable the ruling classes [and] to ensure their domination of the working class.”

However, as Althusser points out, the ISA's have their own forms of punishment and are not strictly strictly ideological and the same for the State Apparatuses while “predominately” repressive, functions secondarily by ideology. We see this “punishment” through the ISA of the family. When Alex is “rehabilitated” and attempts to go home, he is not welcomed.

As I have demonstrated, while appearing to be rather disconnected Althusser and Martins discussion are in essence related. Martin and Althusser both have convincing arguments that those who occupy the lowest classes are victims of the structures of it's society. Through the calculating intervention the lower class is further exploited and victimized as we see evident in Alex's situation.

Works Cited
A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Malcolmmm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corrri, Miriam Karlin. Warner Brothers, 1971.

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes towards an Investigation.” Trans. Brewster. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, Monthly Review Press 1971.

Martin, Randy. “Where Did The Future Go?” Logosonline Winter 2006. 6 October 2009.

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