2012, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut, No. 54, fall 2012
Narrating the global: pedagogy and disorientation in Syrianaby Kfir Cohen
Whether watching Syriana for the first or even the third time, whether at the time of its release in 2005 or now, viewers often leave the film with a sense that they have been offered an intelligent lesson about global power relations, yet such a lesson seems almost impossible to articulate given the intricate relations between agents, interests, and events. I have dubbed this immediate sense of insight and confusion as pedagogy and disorientation. In what follows I offer a reading of the film that would try to explain the pedagogical and disorienting elements in Syriana, and indicate how its juxtaposition of events teaches us something about the current moment we term globalization.
An ambitious treatment of globalization, Syriana embraces the most influencial actors and precious objects on the world stage. What propels the film forward, an event taking place before the film begins, is the decision of a Persian Gulf Emir – Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) – to grant an oil contract to the Chinese rather than to a U.S. corporation, Connex. To compensate for its loss, Connex mergers with another, smaller oil company, Killen, run by Jimmy Pope (Chris Cooper), who happens to just win a big oil contract in Kazakhstan. However, as the firms plan their merger, the Department of Justice (David Clennon) launches an investigation into both firms as it believes the Kazakhstan contract was gained illegally. To manage the damage, Connex seeks the mediation of its Washington law firm, Whiting and Sloan (Christopher Plummer), who sends Sydney Hewitt (Nick Henson) and his “boy” Bennett Holiday (Jeffery Wright) to investigate internally.
Woven into this story’s “economic” plotline is a “political” struggle between Islam and the West, taking on the twin motifs of ideological indoctrination and terrorism waged in the Gulf, the very country of Prince Nasir. Here we see Bob Barnes (George Clooney), a CIA agent. After his mission to assassinate Prince Nasir fails, he is being falsely investigated as a rogue agent. This leads him to investigate independently the reasons and people behind the assignation, and his search eventually, if followed closely, ties the stories together. The other two storylines are that of Brian Woodward (Matt Damon), an American ex-pat energy analyst who befriends Prince Nasir, and Wasim Khan (Mazhar Munir), a Pakistani immigrant worker who is laid off once the Chinese take over the contract in the Gulf. Although important to the film’s unfolding, these two serve the affective side of the story more (other than Barnes, we sympathize with them the most). But those two characters’ storylines are perhaps also the most effective in the film, in the sense that their fates are cast as external effects of the other, larger plotlines: Wasim becomes a “terrorist” and Woodward serves as a witness to Nasir’s actions and translates his intentions to us.
So in its four interweaving stories Syriana offers us a map of connections all over the world. Blogger Philip Dhingra has come up with a visual map of all characters and stories, allowing us to see how “it’s all connected,” how it proves to the unsuspecting newspaper reader that a terrorist attack in the Gulf, appearing in the headline, has everything to do with a merger of U.S. oil companies in the business sector. [open endnotes in new window] And yet Dhingra’s map works to create a leveling effect, reducing all actors and events to the same plane. By doing so, that schematic effaces the real achievement of Syriana.For the film as it plays out shows us how the different and what we take to be discreet levels of the social world themselves change as they come into contact with one another, which, in turn, changes our understanding of them as well. Anticipating a later moment in this argument, what I suggest is that mapping the connections between discreet entities misses the point that the very meaning of an “economic” agent and a “political” agent change as they interact, and this change is what globalization means for us at this point in time. So using Dhingra’s puzzle “solution” as a foil, I hope to get closer instead to Syriana’s specific pedagogy, which is to reveal, to make visible, not simply global connections but rather the kinds of relations between the “economic” and the “political.”
To address this problematic, I would like to turn to Fredric Jameson’s earlier attempt to think through globalization and film in his 1992 The Geopolitical Aesthetic. Consistent over the years in his insistence on the category of totality and its appearance only in its displaced signs, Jameson continues to offer us an allegorical reading of cinema. Only this time, the films are meant to figure not simply this or that national situation, but rather the more encompassing effects and relations of the world system. In the principle essay “Totality as Conspiracy,” focusing primarily on 1970s First World conspiracy films, Jameson argues that in the moment of postmodernity or globalization,
“the older motif of conspiracy knows a fresh lease on life, as a narrative structure capable of reuniting the minimal basic components: a potentially infinite network, along with a plausible explanation of its invisibility: or, in other words: the collective and the epistemological.”
In Jameson’s analysis, the twin questions of collectivity (the social world as a totality) and epistemology (the manner in which we come to discover or know this reality) is considered dialectically. According to Jameson, the specific historical configuration of the infinite network, entering the text as content and raw material, necessitates a particular kind of form: that of the investigation of conspiracy in its different permutations. It will become evident in a moment what an infinite network might mean, but before we continue we should remember that the investigation or search of an absent totality is not new and has been with bourgeois life ever since its inception. Georg Lukács’ Theory of the Novel remains a reliable source here:
“the novel is the epic of an age in which the extensive totality of life is no longer directly given, in which the immanence of meaning in life has become a problem… [T]he novel seeks, by giving form, to uncover and construct the concealed totality of life… Thus the fundamental form-determining intention of the novel is objectified as the psychology of the novel’s heroes: they are seekers.”
To bring Lukács’ language a bit closer to us and give a sense of what an “infinite network” is, I note here Gaghan’s own account of the screenplay:
“it’s a giant system, and it’s all seems linked and all the players know all the other players and the world is very small. The decision makers in the Middle East and Washington, the guys that affect cross paths… [so] how [do you] capture that…”
Gaghan’s reified notion that the system is the sum total of the players notwithstanding, I take his interest in trying to “capture” the system as a good example of what it might mean to represent an “infinite network.” In other words, if we follow Lukács and Jameson, Syriana seeks to represent, to give form, to these global relations (the network, the system, totality, etc.) and its twin investigations is the narrative form through which we glimpse this totality and its meaning. The script’s twin investigations set up a narrative form through which we glimpse this totality and its meaning.
The film’s burden then is not to invent a symbol for this totality—think of an image of Earth from the moon or Barack Obama and Hu Jintao shaking hands—but rather, much more difficult to accomplish, to offer some kind of insight into its reality, which endows the text with what Jameson sometime terms its “cognitive function,” be it conscious or unconscious. To be sure, according to Jameson the totality cannot be given in itself, hence leaving us to glean it only in its effects, or, in Jameson’s words, in its allegorical signs:
“The narrative cannot but remain allegorical, since the object it attempts to represent – namely, the social totality itself – is not an empirical entity and cannot be made to materialize as such in front of the individual viewer. In effect, the new figure we are here asked to supply continues to suggest something other than itself, in the occurrence a conspiracy that is in reality a (class) war.”
So for Jameson, the significance of 1970s conspiracy films is not that they point a finger at specific political figures, but rather that they offer us a displaced (i.e., unconscious) allegory for the world system itself.
Yet when reflecting on Syriana, it is useful to wonder how much the film suggests “something other than itself” and not the thing itself? For example, Syriana cannot be described simply as a “conspiracy” film but rather, as we might call it today, a globalization film. What one notices at the very outset, even before getting down to doing a close reading of its specific elements, is that Syriana with its explicit geopolitical themes strikes the eye as an explicit, or as Jameson would say, conscious film about the world system. .This change suggests that our understanding of globalization should be reconsidered in order to account for such a conscious treatment of globalization in First World entertainment media where none was expected.
I invoked in passing the two narrative levels that seemed to be at play in Syriana – the economic and the political which could be also understood as the private and general (or public) interest. Syriana’s pedagogy is such that it does not just tell us a cautionary tale about U.S. imperialism and the disastrous political effects of securing oil reserves. It surely does this as well, but this aspect of the film provides what seems to me its weakest moments, as it freezes structural interests in conscious ideological statements at key moments (that have the same weight as primal scenes). Rather, it seems to me that the film articulates quite well relations between the private and the public, the economic and the political. A good way to understand this is to note how Syriana differs from the conspiracy films of the 1970s, which seem to have served Gaghan and Clooney as a model. In films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Sydney Pollock’s Three Days of the Condor, and Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men and The Parallax View, we have one line of investigation and usually one detective, whose plotline leads to the uncovering of the conspiracy network. Jameson suggests that these films’ allegorical structure works to align the economic and the political in a lateral manner:
“if you want to say something about economics… you do so with political material (such is indeed the general interpretive of this chapter, that the economic organization of multinational capitalism is in the conspiracy form conveyed by the shifting shapes of power). On the other hand, if you want to say something about politics… it is by way of economic raw material…”
In other words, political power relations are used as an allegory for corporate relations and vice versa; the two levels never co-exist. With Syriana not only do we have two (seemingly) unrelated characters who uncover the two networks at play, the characters’ are quite elegantly divided between an investigation into a private business executed by Bennet Holiday at Connex-Killen and an investigation into a public one, carried out by Bob Barnes at the CIA. The existence of investigations at both social levels at the same time suggests a different allegorical structure. For what becomes evident as the film progresses is the fact that the expansion of capitalism, its need to secure more and more natural resources, confronts a political limit in the figure of a sovereign state and enlightened political leader—Prince Nasir —who would rather sell its country’s oil to the Chinese so as to benefit his people. Of course, as we find out, Nasir is assassinated, his brother is crowned a puppet king, and Connex wins back, at the very last moments of the film, the oil refinery it lost to the Chinese at the beginning.
Here globalization means not only the expansion of capital all over the globe—nothing new— but the fact that the subordination of the political level to the economic one becomes transparent. These transparent relations are not limited to the Third World. For the film develops its conspiracy aspect in the way it sets up the relation between the economic and the political. That is, in order to legitimate the assassination of the prince, the U.S. must code him not as a legitimate economic rival, as the Chinese are, but as a political one. Thus, he is coded a “terrorist” and as such is wiped out by the CIA, an institution of the state.
If in The Parallax View the “cover story” for capitalism is the “eccentric individual,” the lone assassin, in Syriana the system has nowhere to hide. The “political” itself is used as the cover up. In other words, what Syriana achieves with its interlocking stories, is to position the economic and political, the private and the public, in such a way that we witness the subsuming of the latter under the former. This pedagogy is also operative in the other major storyline where we witness, in a very schematic manner, the making of a terrorist and a terrorist attack. The film’s most naïve moment traces direct trail that leads from capital’s treatment of migrant workers to terrorism, that is, how economic conditions spur on the political. To say that Syriana is a film about globalization then suggests not that it imagines the role of U.S. interests in the Arab world, an imaginary dubbed “Anti-American” by Charles Krauthammer, but rather, more importantly, that it exposes the determinant relation between the economic and the political.
But this observation needs to be nuanced further, for the kind of determination that Syriana figures is its most valuable achievement. We can gauge this by reflecting on our subjective experience of the film. As I mentioned at the outset, one of the impressions people have after watching Syriana is that it is too complicated, ending up perhaps in mystifying our understanding of the relations between capital and politics. To acknowledge such an insight would set our film viewing in line with Jameson’s understanding of the disorientation typical of the postmodern, expressed most vividly in his tour of the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A. But it is important to ask, “what is the source of the disorientation and what is its significance?”
Putting aside the limit of a viewer’s capacity to gather important details offered only once and on the move, I think the major source of disorientation on the plot level comes from the character of Dean Whiting. Whiting is the founder of Whiting and Sloan, the Washington law firm working for Connex that is charged with smoothing the merger between Connex and Killen. What is unique about Whiting’s character is that he is the only character moving between the succession story in the Gulf and the Connex-Killen merger in the United States, that is, moving between the economic plot and the political one. During the first or even second and third viewings, Whiting’s role remains opaque. But once we understand that he is the linchpin that ties the stories together, the film became very clear, perhaps even too clear. Whiting’s character is opaque not only because his moves between the economic and political must unfold behind the scenes, but also because he seems to embody, as one character, both the private and the public interest.
Such close relations between the spheres surface several times throughout the film. Justifying bribing a Kazakhstan politician to obtain rights to drill in the Tangiez, Jimmy Pope, the owner of Killen explains,
“China’s economy isn’t growing as fast as it could because they can’t get the oil they need, and I am damn proud of that fact.”
To have the Chinese appear only under the sign of a national political adversary (we never learn of a specific Chinese oil firm) is one way the film encourages us to notice how the U.S. oil business is taking a patriotic “cover.” Killen speaks as if the economic interests of an U.S. oil company are synonymous with those of the U.S. public at large. The most remarkable articulation of this conflation takes place at the end of the film when Bennet explains how the two spheres converge:
“But this merger [between Connex and Killen] is so balance-positive for the American consumers that ultimately [the Department of] Justice wants it, the federal court wants it. Everybody wants it. Our real client is US, the American People and we’re building our presence in Kazakhstan so we had to give them [Department of Justice] a little something meaningful and they got out of our way.”
Now this symptom to which Syriana seems to give form suggests that we might no longer be under the illusion that Marx identified with the rise of modern society, namely the separation of civil society from the state. In that historical moment, private interest was separated from public interest and consequently the political sphere proper (the state) was conceived of as autonomous and universal. However, to say “our real client is US, the American People and we’re building our presence in Kazakhstan…” is then to suggest that this symbolic separation of spheres has broken down, that private interest has become the general interest.
I will not be able to offer a nuanced account of Marx’s critique of the state, offered in his reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, but I would mention here one fundamental argument whose general familiarity will hopefully compensate for my abbreviated discussion of it. Key to Hegel’s conception of the modern state is the separation he sets up between the domestic sphere, civil society (representing private interest) and the state, representing the general interest, which for Hegel is understood as universal. Universal here means that the state, although made up of people from civil society, is able to transcend private interest and represent the public or general interest. The state, for Hegel, is then a social embodiment of the universal. Marx begins to expose the contradiction inherent in the universality of the state, i.e., the political sphere, by putting his finger on the moment that delegates of private corporations are elected for the national assembly:
“Hegel began by regarding the representatives as representing the corporations, etc., but then introduces the further political determination to the effect that they should not vindicate the particular interest of the corporation, etc. He thereby nullifies his own definition, for he draws a dividing line between their essential determination as representatives and their existence as part of a corporation. Furthermore, he also cuts the corporation off from itself, from its own real content, for the corporation is supposed to elect deputies not from its own point of view but from the point of view of the state, i.e. it votes in its non-existence as corporation. Hegel thus acknowledges in the material determination what he denied formally, namely that civil society abstracts from itself at the moment of its political activity, and that its political existence is nothing but this abstraction… [the deputies] have authority as representative of public affairs, whereas in reality they represent particular interests.”
Marx argues here that Hegel disregards a contradiction between abstract form and content. The material determination of the delegates (their private interest) is obscured by a formal and symbolic structure (the political assembly) that is supposed to insure the leveling of private interest and the execution of the general or public interest. According to Marx, modern society, contrary to feudal society, is characterized with what could be called the fetishization or reification of the political into its own independent sphere.
Now it is easier to draw the distinction between the 1970s conspiracy films and 21st century globalization films such as Syriana. Conspiracy is not simply a structure of appearance and essence (the world of politics appears to be an independent sphere but in actuality it is only a shadow theatre for greater powers). It is also fundamentally grounded on the apparent symbolic separation of two (or more) social spheres. In the older conspiracy film, with the duration of the plot, that separation of spheres is finally revealed to be an illusion. This is why every conspiracy film is, in principle, akin to coming of age stories. Plot development is based on a fundamental moment of recognition of the Real (whether it is probable or not), a demystifying movement from the naivety of appearances to the harsh reality of life. Given a general presupposition of a symbolic separation between the private and the public, what characterizes conspiracy films is their attempt to show how one sphere influences or penetrates another. Indeed, the films’ “dark” or sinister mood has something to do with the anxiety stemming from the source of influence being obscured, in the shadows. But, as a consequence of globalization we notice the erosion of this symbolic separation. i.e., that global corporations are weakening national borders and states’ regulatory policies, as well as the increased financialization of every aspect of daily life which limits and contracts civil and political commitments. Thus, this movement of global integration now fuses the political and the economic such that it is no longer possible to talk about “influence” but rather about the becoming economic of the political.
Think here how Stan (William Hurt, the former CIA agent turned private consultant) explains to Bob how the CIA is an inefficient 30 billion dollar business, how private consulting is much better (“the same job but it pays better”). All of a sudden, as we notice how the CIA agents (Fred, Terry, the Division Chief) insisting that Bob learn how to be a good office person they begin to change their political colors and emit those signs more typical of corporate executives. What is so remarkable in the way Gaghan shoots the room from which the CIA orders a missile launch to kill Nasir is that its mise en scene emit not the sinister connotation of a secret assassination, but the dreariness and grayness typical of routine office work. The significance of Dean Whiting’s shifting between narrative and symbolic levels can now also be explained as that narrative expression indicating not so much the influence of “special interests” on politics but the convergence of the two spheres. This is also the source of the viewer’s disorientation—feeling unable to understand who is behind what, who works for whom. I suggest that such viewer confusion comes not from the plot’s mystifying social relations, but precisely from making the two spheres indistinguishable. In one of the most important scenes of the film, keyed to the Faustian pact, we witness a meeting between a businessman, Dean Whiting, and the would-be King, Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha):
Businessman: "Capitalism cannot exist without waste. This is why we should write thank you notes to Mr. Whiting and the USA for producing one quarter of the world’s garbage and one quarter of the demand.
Whiting: You are certainly welcomed; our pleasure, really. (To Meshal): Prince, is there anything we can do for you?
Prince Meshal: Americans are always happy to drill holes in other peoples’ countries. I heard of you, Mr. Whiting: the cat’s paw of the Saudi princes.
Whiting: As far as I can see you could use a bit of the cat’s paw yourself. Second- born son, so beaten down by his family he can’t even tell me what he wants when he’s asked straight out. A grown-up baby, who is afraid of his brother and maybe wants to be king. Maybe? Well, prince, are you a king? Can you tell me what you want?” 
See how Whiting is figured as both capital and political power so much so that at this point, at least in first viewing, it is unclear who he is exactly. And how can a Washington lawyer can offer the crown to a Saudi prince? And indeed, although Meshal remains silent, we witness in the following scene the launching of the first assassination attempt against Prince Nasir. Gaghan has a keen, even if a bit awestruck understanding of the significance of Whiting when he talks of the real-life equivalent of Whiting who served him as an inspiration:
“it’s interesting that these men [like Whiting] can represent inside one law firm… Saudi Arabia, and an oil company, a military contract and be the private lawyer of a senator and it’s one nexus at this point…”
Globalization debates are usually split on whether the phenomenon is recent or the result of long term developments. While critics of the term remind us that capital was always global, I would like to suggest that although capital’s material determinations might be said to remain constant, its global ubiquity and its simultaneity seem to be affecting its symbolic forms (in Marx’s words, the “abstractions”) such that capital seems to erode the hold of appearances it itself put in place at earlier moments. In other words, globalization seems to accomplish what had been the task of critique, that is, bringing into unity what was reified and separated, only now this unification takes place not in thought but in reality.
To say all this differently and in an abbreviated fashion will be to say that global integration means that we witness the unification of the different levels of social life into a single one, the economic. If this is the case, and I only speculate here, it could go some way in explaining the intricacy of Syriana’s multiple storylines. Both the 1970s conspiracy films and Syriana are charged, as it were, with finding a form for the relation between the political and the economic. In the earlier moment, since the appearance of the separation of the private and public was still real (hence our naivety could be shattered), a conspiracy film’s energies were invested solely in bringing together the reified elements. In Syriana, given the erosion of the apparent separation of the spheres (hence our apathy), the film must invest as much energies in separating them and placing them in the far distant edges of the globe so to be able to tell its story of convergence.
To conclude, I would like briefly to consider one alternative explanation to my reading. It is possible that the transparency of the relation between the political and the economic has something to do with the fact that Syriana is ultimately a film about the decline of U.S. hegemony and China’s ascendancy. It is important to note at this point how the only actors remaining in the dark are the Chinese. Although their presence is as at the heart of the film, they remain quite unknown to us. It is possible then that the structural power shift between the United States and China induces a crisis that renders the relation between the political and the economic transparent. Marx’s theory of crisis, although attending more immediately to the production process proper, could be said to be pertinent here in explaining the unity between seemingly independent spheres:
“Crisis is nothing but the forcible assertion of the unity of phases of the production process which have become independent of each other.”
In our case, the crisis exposes the unity of the economic and the political. This will suggest that what I called the convergence of the spheres is not a new stage or an attribute of globalization but simply an effect of a crisis whose termination might bring us back to the former separation of spheres. While this might be the case, it raises questions as to the length of crises and to their enduring effects.
In his 1977 reflections on the Brecht-Lukács debate, Jameson concluded his essay envisioning a new realism, one that would
“resist the power of reification in consumer society and reinvent that category of totality, which, systematically undermined by existential fragmentation on all levels of life and social organization today, can alone project structural relations between classes as well as between class struggles in other countries, in what has increasingly become a world system.”
In films like Syriana, it might be the case that globalization itself prepares the conditions for the reassertion of the category of totality.
2. Fredric Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (Bloomington/London: Indiana University Press/BFI, 1992), 9.
3. Georg Lukács, The Theory of the Novel: A Historico-Philosophical Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature, trans. Anna Bostock (Cambridge: MIT, 1971), 56, 60.
4. Interview with Charlie Rose on December 9th 2005, 9:20-9:35.
5. For Louis Althusser on totality see, Louis Althusser, For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster (London/New York: Verso, 2005), especially, 87-127. For a reading of Jacques Lacan’s concept of the Real see Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London/New York: Verso, 2008), especially, 190-196.
6. Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic, 45-6.
7. Jameson, “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text 15 (1986): 65-88.
8. By primary scenes I mean that they express as such the social antagonism itself very much like a primal scene is the moment where sexual relations appear as such and not in a displaced manner. See for example the following scenes: 0:17:42 - 0:18:15 (CIA); 0:39:50 – 0:41:15 (Islam); 1:16:56 – 1:19:02 (Nasir-Bryan); 1:22:10 – 1:23:00 (Dalton).
9. “It’s a film in design like films of the seventies in that they were willing to discuss geo-political issues without pointing a finger directly at a specific person.” George Clooney, Making of Syriana, 0:22 – 0:34.
10. Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic, 67.
11. For example, the conspiracy to assassinate a political candidate in The Parallax View although dealing with political content is in fact, according to Jameson, a displaced figure for corporate structures. The obverse works for David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, where corporate competition serves as an allegory for political power. See Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic.
12. The Parallax View, directed by Alan J. Pakula (1974; Los Angeles, CA: Paramount, 1999), DVD.
13. Charls Kruathammer, “Oscars for Osama,” Washington Post (3.3.2006).
14. See Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 38-45.
15. For example the exact relation between Danny Dalton and Killen; who are the characters representing Connex and who Killen; how Iran fits the larger network of American interests and other details.
16. Stephen Gaghan, Syriana, 1:42:07 – 1:42:13.
17. Gaghan, Syriana screenplay, p. 114, emphasis in original. In film: 1:47: 37 – 1:48: 03.
18. It is important to note that Hegel’s 19th century understanding of corporations (in German : Korporation] is both similar and different than ours. They are similar in the sense that they are firms that are guided by private interest, but they did not enjoy some of the later legal reforms, beginning in the late 19th century, limiting their liability and regarding them as “people.” For Hegel’s discussion of the corporation see his Outlines of the Philosophy of Right, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 224-228.
19. Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State,” in Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone and Roger Benton (London: Penguin, 1992), 193-4, emphasis in original.
20. Gaghan, Syriana, 0:41:46 – 0:43:15.
21. Interview with Charlie Rose on December 9th 2005, 13:10-13:25.
22. See for example David Held and Anthony McGrew “The Great Globalization Debate: An Introduction.” In The Global Transformations Reader: An Introduction to the Globalization Debate 2nd Edition, edited by David Held and Anthony McGrew (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2003), 1-50; Fredric Jameson, “Globalization as a Philosophical Issue.” In Valences of the Dialectic (London: Verso, 2009), 435-455.
23. See for example Neil Larsen’s critique of the concept, “Theory Risk: Reflections on ‘Globalization Theory’ and the Crisis in Argentina,” The New Centennial Review 3.2 (2003): 23-40.
24. The Chinese are the chief reason Connex fails to win Nasir’s contract, which pushes them to merge with Killen. On the other hand, they contribute indirectly to the laying off of Wasim and to Nasir being assassinated.
25. I thank Neil Larsen for suggesting to me the importance of crisis as a moment where essence and appearance can be said to overlap.
26. Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, ed. S. Ryazanskaya. trans. Renate Simpson (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1969) vol. 2, 509, emphasis in original. See also,
“If, for example, purchase and sale—or the metamorphosis of commodities—represent the unity of two processes, or rather the movement of one process through two opposite phases, and thus essentially the unity of the two phases, the movement is essentially just as much the separation of these two phases and their becoming independent of each other. Since, however, they belong together, the independence of the two correlated aspects can only show itself forcibly, as a destructive process. It is just the crisis in which they assert their unity, the unity of the different aspects. The independence which these two linked and complimentary phases assume in relation to each other is forcibly destroyed. Thus the crisis manifests the unity of the two phases that have become independent of each other. There would be no crisis without this inner unity of factors that are apparently indifferent to each other…” — Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 2, 500, emphasis in original.
27. Naomi Klein discusses a similar subordination of public interest to economic private interest in her analysis of the Bush administration. See, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), especially 308-322.
28. Jameson, “Reflections on the Brecht Lukács-Debate,” in The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, vol. 2, Syntax and History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 146.
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