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The Politics of Pleasure

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Pleasures delivered by reason – from the frissons provoked by a beautiful mathematical equation to the joys inspired by paintings or poetry – are not the majority. It is chiefly for this reason that the media in modernity have proliferated to such a degree as to occupy more time than any activity other than work and sleep. The bulk of popular culture inserts disposable pleasures throughout everyday life. For the most part, the pleasures of our emotions and sensations are momentary respites from the life of calculation that capitalism renders indispensable throughout daily life. (Inspired by Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money, I elaborated this argument in my Media Unlimited.) The sheer immensity of media experience is the product of an endless search for the next sensation or feeling. Contra Max Weber, modernity does not drive away enchantment, but pulverises it and sprinkles it around. Thanks to a culture industry that is never more than a click away, the longing for transcendent expe...

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