The 80s were the end of a world. Its hours and days detailed the sunset of the 20th century, which opened in 1917. The 19th century, which ran from 1789 (the French Revolution) and closed with the end of the First World War and the birth of the Soviet Union, was the platform from which the dreams and nightmares of the 20th century were launched. These dreams and nightmares, rocketed by the militarized and mobilized super powers, each imagining itself to be “the legitimate heir”(4) of the 19th century, came to end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall—an event that was accompanied by other great events of that astonishing year: after 27 years of imprisonment, the releasing of Nelson Mandela; the burst of the Japanese bubble; the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; the Tiananmen Square massacre; the assassination of King Tubby in Kingston, Jamaica; and much, much more.
When people say that we entered the 21st century on September 11, they are gravely mistaken. Despite the scale of the destruction, 9/11. was just that: massive destruction. It was the collapse of two massive structures but not the collapse of the prevailing ideological edifice of our new times.(5) The buildings went down but the ruling ideology remained erect.(6) 9/11 was the deepening and intensification of what was already there—the 21st century—in all of its significant attributes, which Deleuze succinctly describes in his “brief and enigmatic essay, ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’”7.
Published at the dawn of the 21st century, 1990, “Postscript on the Societies of Control” outlines the primary shifts and new directions that were to shape what President George Bush, Sr. famously called The New World Order: the “breakdown of all sites of confinement” that defined “disciplinary society” (prisons, schools, barracks, and so on); the diminishing role of the nation state in managing internal and international affairs (the Japanese management guru Kenichi Ohmae aggressively championed this as “The Borderless World” in his bestseller The Borderless World—Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy, which was also published in 1990); the merging of Third and First worlds within the same geographic space (characterized by the growing similarities between cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City or, more physically, San Diego and Tijuana—as noted in Mike Davis’ Magical Urbanism, 2000); the end of real national politics—meaning, the end of a distinct right and left positions and the arrival of tough-love democrats and compassionate republicans.
In the way that Hiroshima accelerated the 20th century, 9-11 accelerated the 21st century. The parts that were casually coming together to give the era its shape and destiny were rushed closer to their defining center when the second hijacked jet plane opened and entered the gates of hell.8 This is why the term “new war” so easily replaced the term “new economy”—they were, as Hal Foster says in another context, “expressions of a particular period”; meaning, concepts conditioned/fashioned by the same historical moment/materials. We must turn to the 80s to see the end. Objects in the 90s are exposed to the strange light of dawn; objects in 80s are rounded and confirmed in the diminishing light of dusk.
Notes: 4 In Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, Susan Buck-Morris writes: “The great cold war enemies, while having been truly dangerous to each other, appear as in fact close relatives. Their common descent from the French revolution (which Lenin constantly stressed, but with the understanding that since October 1917 only his own regime was the legitimate heir).”
5 In Lenin and Philosophy, Louis Althusser writes: “[Ideology according to Marx is] an Imaginary assemblage (bricolage), a true dream, empty and vain, constituted by ‘the day’s residues’ from the only full and positive reality, that of the concrete history of concrete material individuals materially producing their existence.”
6 Seattle Research Institute reports (http://www.seattleresearchinstitute.org/): “A tactical strike on the great studios of Hollywood would have likely had a more lasting and deep-seated effect on America. First, it would have been a much harder target to process: Bush could not easily stand before the rubble of the Paramount Gates and lie, as he was able to do so easily, that, "we were attacked because we are a beacon of Freedom." Second, it would have crippled the primary machine by which America promulgates its system of values. By attacking us with the tools of our own making—not just planes and box cutters and airline training courses, but bloated symbolism and blockbuster visuals—the perpetrators emerge not as true commitments to a tactical Jihad, but just 19 more people who wish that they were on film.”
7 From Michael Hardt’s limpid essay “The Withering of Civil Society,” which is published Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings In Politics, Philosophy, and Culture.
8 The Seattle Research Institute reports (http://www.seattleresearchinstitute.org/): “A quick fact check will remind us that motion pictures remain this nation’s single largest export commodity; that Hollywood products account for over 75% of the worldwide box office total; that our stars are more widely recognized than most government leaders in their own nations; and the only image in the world to date more widely seen than the sinking prow of the Titanic is, ironically, the collapsing fury of the Twin Towers.” (http:// www.seattleresearchinstitute.org/)