The major and the minor on political aesthetics in the control society
This thesis examines the crucial diagnostic and productive roles that the concepts of minor and major practice, two interrelated modes of cultural production set out by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Kafka: toward a Minor Literature (1975), have to play in the present era of ubiquitous digital technology and informatics that Deleuze himself has influentially described as the control society. In first establishing the conditions of majority and majority, Deleuze and Guattari’s historical focus in Kafka is the early twentieth century period of Franz Kafka’s writing, a period which, for Deleuze, marks the start of a transition between two types of society – the disciplinary society described by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish and the control society that is set apart by its distribution, indifferent technical processes and the replacement of the individual with the dividual in social and political thought. Because of their unique conceptual location, at the transition between societies, the concepts of majority and minority present an essential framework for understanding the impact of ubiquitous digital technology and informatics on cultural production in the twentieth century and beyond. In order to determine the conditions of contemporary major and minor practice across the transition from disciplinary to control societies, the thesis is comprised of two interconnecting threads corresponding to majority and minority respectively. Drawing on the theoretical work of Deleuze and Guattari, Friedrich Kittler and Fredric Jameson alongside pioneering figures in the historical development of computation and informatics (Alan Turing, Claude Shannon and others), material observation on the technical function of digital machines, and the close examination of emblematic cultural forms, I determine the specific conditions of majority that emerge through the development of the contemporary control era. Alongside this delineation of the conditions of majority I examine the prospective tactics, corresponding to the characteristics of minority set out by Deleuze and Guattari in Kafka, which emerge as a contemporary counter-practice within the control-era. This is carried out through the close observation of key examples of cultural production in the fields of literature, film, video, television and the videogame that manifest prospective tactics for a control-era minor practice within the overarching technical characteristics of the control-era major. Through an examination of these interrelated threads the thesis presents a framework for both addressing the significant political and cultural changes that ubiquitous computation effects in constituting the contemporary control society and determining the ways in which these changes can be addressed and countered through cultural production.