a) the bizarre obtuseness, this strange now widespread tone-deafness to Marx' texts (which seemed to set in in the late 70s in certain academic circles and appears to have been the combined creation of Althusser, who had never really read Marx and just looked at famous fragments, and the oxbridgy Analytic Marxists like Cohen who were profoundly not getting the "historical" in "historical materialism") and
b)the object of Nate's main objection, capital described as "inexpressible phenomenon" (invisible monster?) of which a "figure or model" may be "constructed".
These seem to be artifacts of the same surpassing of language by image and spectacle.
Tracing the increasing marginalization of language by images, in his “Language, Images and the Postmodern Predicament,” Wlad Godzich, probably borrowing from Roger Munier’s pamphlet Against Images, puts it thus: “Where with language we have a discourse on the world, with human beings facing the world in order to name it, photography substitutes the simple appearance of things; it is a discourse of the world….Images now allow for the paradox that the world stages itself before human language.” To register the crisis that the proliferation of images poses for language and thus for the conscious mind would be to agree with Godzich that today language is outpaced by images. “Images are scrambling the function of language which must operate out of the imaginary to function optimally.” The overall effect of an ever-increasing quantity of images is the radical alienation of consciousness, its isolation and separation, its inability to convincingly “language” reality and thus its reduction to something on the order of a free-floating hallucination, cut away as it is from all ground.- Jonathan Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production
When linked to the rise of image technologies, this demotion of language and of its capacity to slow down the movement of reality suggests that the radical alienation of language, that is, the alienation of the subject and its principal means of self-expression and self-understanding, is a structural effect of the intensification of capitalism and therefore an instrumental strategy of domination. In addition to Marx’ description of the four-fold alienation produced by wage-labor (from the object, the self, other, people and the species), bodies become deprived of the power of speech. This image-consciousness, or better, image/consciousness in which consciousness is an afterthought of the spectacle, participates in the rendering of an intensified auratic component, theorized as “simulation” or “the simulacrum”, to nearly every aspect of social existence in the technologically permeated world. Beyond all reckoning, the objective world is newly regnant with an excess of sign value, or rather, with values exceeding the capacities of the sign. Frenzied attempts to language “reality” (what appears) become hysterical because everything is a symptom of something else. Such a promiscuity of signification, what Baudrillard called “the ecstasy of communication,’ implies, in short, a devaluation of signification – a radical instability, unanchoredness, and inconsistence of consciousness to such an extent that consciousness becomes unconsciousness by other means.