Possession

Thus far we have seen that the spectre can be read as a sign or trace of a repressed sociality or, what is only a symptom of the same thing, a repressed group within ° society. The spectre thus testifies to the deadening of our capacities for intersubjective recognition on which solidarity and collective life depends. But the spectre can also function as a sign of the deadening of our interior life as subjects subjected to the rule of capital. Possession narratives, in which the autonomy, independence and ethical and moral responsibility to others is at stake, convey this aspect of life under capital.

Under capitalism it is not labour (and its products) in all its diversity and specificity that is registered by economic 'value'.

As [...] use values, coat and linen, are combinations of special productive activities with cloth and yarn [...] [but] as values, the coat and linen, are, on the other hand, mere homogenous congelations of undifferentiated labour.

Under capitalism, use value, which registers the particular qualities of things, is dominated by value, which is concerned only with the quantative question: 'how much'. As Marx also writes: 'In order to act as [...] a mirror of value, the labour of tailoring must reflect nothing besides its own abstract quality of being human labour generally' (Marx 1983: 64).

The figure of the ghost, then, becomes a way in which we can imagine the abstraction and homogenisation, the sheer equivalence which capital works on the human body and its labours and products, mental and physical. One of the most startling representations within modern cinema of this ghostly abstraction and its indifference to an authentic materiality is to be found in the film Fallen (Gregory Hoblit, 1998 US) starring Denzel Washington. He plays a New York cop, Hobbs, on the trail of a serial killer, but it gradually emerges that the killer is a demon, called Azazel, who inhabits the bodies of human beings, turning them into killers before, when they are caught or killed, leaving the body and entering another. Alternatively, the demon can pass from body to body simply by touching someone else. In one scene, the demon, which has decided it wants to taunt and set up Hobbs for the murders it is committing, enters the police station to reveal itself to Hobbs. The horror of this scene resides in the ease with which Azazel can infiltrate the police P station, embodying itself in Hobbs' own colleagues. The scene also generates -a unease because what Hobbs knows, he cannot tell, for his knowledge is impossible a to translate into a realm of effective public action (a characteristic splitting a between what we know and what we can do with that knowledge is typical of p advanced fetishistic capitalism). Throughout the film, there are constant i references to the possibility of police corruption, to the possibility that someone on i the inside might be setting Hobbs up and so forth. There are also repeated . indications that police corruption is a given, difficult to tackle and politically M dangerous. But what Hobbs finds out so much dwarfs even this possibility that it §

becomes literally unspeakable. For the problem goes much deeper than merely an institutional malaise. As Hobbs chases the demon out of the station, Azazel merely passes from one body into the next out in the busy street. It is a climactic moment in the film and one in which the scale of the horror (once again seen only by the individual gaze, despite the public space of the action) and Hobbs' powerlessness as a police officer, becomes shockingly evident.

What is significant about the imagery in Fallen is that the urban space where the masses live provides the demon with his realm of life, death, movement and reproduction. For those tempted to read the film as an allegory of AIDS, any hint of eroticism and sexuality is evacuated from the demon's movement from one body to another. It is also significant that it is to the mountains outside the city that Hobbs tries to lure the demon in order to kill it. For the demon can only survive outside the body for one breath; a place without bodies to enter is the place where the demon can die. The demon, like capital, is both utterly dependent on possessing a body and at the same time utterly indifferent and hostile to the body it enters.

If human labour, practically conceived as homogeneous, uniform and abstract (without the detail of specificity), is the substance of value, time is its measurement, the means by which the magnitude of value is expressed in the price or exchange value of the commodity, give or take fluctuations in supply and demand around the mean price. It is the average socially necessary time required for the production of labour (with particular skills) and the labour of production, required to make a given product, which measures, quantifies and (via competition) equalises labour and the amount of 'value' stored in the commodity. As Marx writes in The Poverty of Philosophy:

[...] the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives [...] Time is everything, man is nothing; he is at most, time's carcase. Quantity alone decides everything; hour for hour, day for day.

Here, in the imagery of the carcase, Marx comes very close to explicitly linking the spectre of capital and the law of value with possession. The carcase metaphor evokes the live human body as eviscerated by value relations, as a husk, a shell. Emptied of bodily substance, labour is possessed by time, time conceived under the quantative law of value; the body is time's host. Although the body is alive and has to be alive in order to be valuable to capital so that it can have some agency as labour power, the body is also dead, a carcase.

In Fallen the demon Azazel uses the 1960s Rolling Stones song 'Time is on my Side' as his signature tune. It is a key moment in the film, one that begins to shift Hobbs' investigation away from the psychopathological to the metaphysical, when he discovers that he is trapped in some urban cyclical time loop. His own predicament of the good cop being framed for murders he did not commit replays what happened to a good cop back in the 1960s. The sense that time is indeed on the side of capital is precisely what Benjamin meant by 'homogeneous, empty time' (1999b: 252). There is a close relationship between the emptying out of the subject by the homogeneous force of capital, and the increasing sense of the pliability of time (loops, cycles, rewinds, gaps) which calls forth modifications in the temporal structure of classical narrative films. In such films as The Mothman Prophecies (Mark Pellington 2002 US), Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001 US) and Dark City (Alex Proyas 1997 US) visions of the subject swing (sometimes within the same film) from one dwindled to insignificance by the loss of time's 'objective' structure (it was never objective, it just felt that way) to omnipotence as the subject accumulates (mimicking capital) the powers of temporal manipulation. This splitting of the subject is deeply embedded into bourgeois history, culture and philosophy. Switching between impotence and omnipotence, the bourgeois model of the subject completely misses the real collective ties that bind and the ethics of mutuality and reciprocity implicit in them.

I have argued that the spectre within the horror film represents the dematerialisation of our social relations. Our capacity for subject-to-subject relations in time and space are subsequently frustrated and crippled. The media specifically, and the intelligentsia generally, have a key role in reproducing this stunted intersubjectivity or in challenging it. Our capacities for intersubjective relations are nothing less than our capacities for recognition of the other, for dialogue, negotiation and ultimately sharing our material and cultural resources.

References

Benjamin, Walter (1999a) the Arcades Project, translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin

McLaughlin. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Benjamin, Walter, (1999b) 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' in

Illuminations. London: Pimlico.

Creed, Barbara (1993) The Monstrous-Feminine, Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London:

Routledge.

Cushman, Philip (1995) Constructing The Self, Constructing America. Massachusetts: Perseus

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Debord, Guy, (1983) Society of the Spectacle. Detroit:Black and Red.

Gramsci, Antonio (1971) Selection from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, edited by

Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers.

Habermas, Jürgen (1987) The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (1996) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge: Polity

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"a

Jameson, Fredric (1992) The Geopolitical Aesthetic: cinema and space in the World System. London: BFI.

Kellner, Douglas (2003) Media Spectacle. London: Routledge.

Krzywinska, Tanya (2000) A Skin For Dancing In: possession, witchcraft and voodoo in film. Trowbridge: Flicks Books.

Leslie, Esther (2002) Hollywood Flatlands, Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde. London: Verso.

Marx, Karl (1967) Essential Writings of Karl Marx, edited by David Caute. London: Panther. Marx, Karl (1983) Capital Vol. 1. London:Lawrence and Wishart.

Wayne, Mike (2003) Marxism and Media Studies: Key Concepts and Contemporary Trends. London: Pluto.

Williams, Raymond (1989) Problems in Materialism and Culture. London: Verso.

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