Robert P. Marzec



Hawthorne set [The Scarlet Letter] in the past...’cause he couldn't say directly all the wild things he wanted to say. He was living in a society to which ideas and writing still mattered… Hawthorne makes sure he tells us the story of The Scarlet Letter occurred long ago and has nothing to do with anyone who's now living. After all, [he] had to protect himself so he could keep writing. Right now I can speak as directly as I want 'cause no one gives a shit about writing and ideas, all anyone cares about is money. Even if one person in Boise, Idaho, gave half-a-shit, the, only book Mr., Idaho can get his hands on is a book the publishers, or rather the advertisers ('cause all businessmen are now advertisers) have decided will net a half-a-million n, movie and/or TV rights. A book that can be advertised.

Define culture that way.

Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School

[I]n all of [their lives]…men and women were moved around like checkers.

-Toni Morrison, Beloved



An unquestioned rhetoric of "efficiency" binds the space of the university today, a rhetoric that seeks to expunge from the university environment all unproductive energies for the purposes of constituting individuals economically useful and politically legitimate. We are told that this rhetoric comes as an objective answer to an "economic crisis." A dispersion of "efficient" legislative activity at the local, state, and national levels has appeared overtly in the last few years—activity that is changing the face of higher education ("although, of course, this has been an ongoing process for far longer). This legislation is not limited to the university arena, but includes such tactics as the downsizing of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts; the cutbacks in federal funding for public radio and television; the reactionary attacks on affirmative action; and increased corporate privatization of programs formerly funded at the state and federal levels. To these we can couple similar events specific to the university: the reduction in funding for and availability of student loans; the move to eradicate affirmative action in California's universities; the increasing attacks on diversity on college campuses in a reactionary attempt to recuperate a "common ground" for American democratic educational requirements ; and the substantial privatization of university systems matched with the downsizing of university departments. Five years ago in the midst of the "job crisis"--graduate students were told to wait for an increase in jobs from positions certain to open up due to retirements. Five years later, those professors have retired--and so have their "openings." In the State University of New York (SUNY) system alone, 733 full-time faculty retired between 1990 and 1995 without being replaced.

We should keep in mind that these cutbacks are occurring in an era when the contours of the world are being striated to make way for the new global commercial media market. Systems of knowledge production-including computers and the Internet, television and film, and the music industry are beginning to take their next leap into new territory. The U.S. Telecommunications Act, which was passed in February of 1996, has now deregulated these and other forms of broadcasting and advertising so that ventures can basically be determined by the market, opening the door to global mergers and conglomerate buy-outs. Part of the power of this growing global market stems from the disseminating techniques of advertising. The mass communications theorist Robert McChesney shows this vividly:

To give some example of what's happening, in the U.S. we spent in 1995 $365 per person on advertising. The second leading country in advertising spending in Europe, the U.K., spent $258. Italy spent $97 per person. So they're way below U.S. rates [T]ransnational firms are using advertising to enter new markets and capitalizing upon it with television… China in 1995 spent $3 per person on.advertising...India $1 per person. This is where a lot of the growth is going to be coming. If anyone wants any evidence of China's turn to a market economy, you need only look at advertising figures. That lays it out crystal clear exactly what's going on in China. In 1990 China accounted for 1% of Asian advertising. In 1995 8%, 1997 16%. It's expected in the year 2000 to account for 30% of all Asian advertising. [I]ts growth will be from $3 billion in 1995 to $22 billion in he year 2000. This is the world historical growth of the market, $22 billion from basically non-existence in the year 1990, largely corporate, largely transnational, big firms...Likewise in advertising we've seen a corresponding consolidation of merger movement… What has happened is, there are now about three to six transnational advertising agencies based in New York, London, and Paris that pretty much dominate global advertising. These firms generally have about a hundred branch offices around the world. Firms like IBM that three years ago had deals with forty-five or fifty different ad agencies around the world to handle their global advertising now are down to one or two.


This surge in the growth of advertising--with its ability to neatly carry not only the products of the media industry but also advancements in computer technology-suggests the extent to which corporate knowledge now has the potential to be processed down to the smallest detail: microprocessed on an individual level, with the "individual" statistically indexed down to the last dollar figure.


(This text is only a selection. For the complete essay please see our journal)