The Passage of Savage Capitalism:
Time, Non-place and Subjectivity in Fogwill’s Narration
Table of Contents
Fogwill: An Introduction 7
Underground: the War and the Economy 8
Traveling Towards Prophecy: Porteños Abroad 14
A Crisis of Nationality 16
Desire, Consumption and the Space-Chance Continuum 20
An Approximation of the World of Savage Capitalism 28
From Place to Non-Place 32
Representing Non-Place: Another Perspective 37
From Time to a Perpetual (Chance-Driven) Present 40
From Subjects to Controlled Consumers 43
Cover Image Guillermo Kuitca. Untitled (Card Tables & Slot Machines) 2000.
Figure 1 Guillermo Kuitca. Belt Conveyors with Unclaimed Luggage, 2000.
Figure 2 Guillermo Kuitca. Trauerspiel, 2001.
Figure 3 Guillermo Kuitca. Terminal, 2000.
Fogwill: An Introduction
This paper is a study of two novels and one short story by the Argentine author Fogwill. To call him simply an author does not convey his varied and impressive background, a background that is directly relevant to his writing. The most obvious link between his fiction and his various other jobs in more corporate sectors is his sensitivity to marketing. Rodolfo Enrique, before he became just “Fogwill” (“Yo quería ocupar un lugar tipo Sócrates o Hegel. ¿Quién dice Guillermo Federico Hegel?”), spent a good portion of his life doing publicity and advertisements for corporations; traces of this past come through in much of his work. In the author’s own words:
Estudié medicina, letras, filosofía, matemáticas, canto, música, francés, inglés, alemán, rudimentos de griego y latín, y olvidé casi todo. Enseñé metodología, estadística, teorías de la comunicación, teorías de la ideología y sociología: no aprendí casi nada. Fui publicitario, investigador de mercados, redactor, empresario, especulador de bolsa, terrorista y estafador—según advierte en mi prontuario la Policía Federal--, columnista especializado en muchísimos medios, profesor universitario y consultor de empresas. Con frecuencia imagino que soy una mujer, pero estas fantasías pronto se diluyen o desembocan en una vulgar escena de lesbianismo sádico y desazón.
He has had quite a career, to say the least. This passage also highlights his abrupt, macho style and his tendency always to choose the more vulgar path. His intimate knowledge of the economic sides of both the military dictatorship and the post-dictatorial, neo-liberal functioning of Argentine society puts him in the unique position of being able to truly represent globalization.
The sum of Fogwill’s many influences yields
a new twist on realism. His novels and stories, especially the three I will
study in depth, distance themselves from any notion of the fantastic. In turn,
they concentrate on contemporary events in
The first text I will study is the novel Los pichiciegos. The events in the novel
take place during the war in the Malvinas [
Underground: the War and the Economy
The plot of Los pichiciegos is simple and straightforward: a group of
Argentinean deserters in the Malvinas War form an underground trading colony.
Survival is the one and only value, which leads them to trade with the British,
to spy against
The war was a momentous event in
is not just an allegory. Fogwill concentrates on a hyper-realistic portrayal of
this particular war, and the economics of the pichis do not simply stand for what was happening on the mainland.
That is not to say a purely allegorical reading would be inappropriate. The
geographic location of the Pichería,
the pichis’ underground lair, and its
spatial relationship to the actual fighting are of primary importance to the
text, and any such allegorical reading runs the risk of losing these important
details. As long as the reader keeps the immediate and allegorical levels in
mind, none of the subtleties of the text will be lost. The values of the Pichería must be understood as the
values that were emerging at the tail end of the military’s opening up of
--¿Ustedes son boludos?
--¡No! Ustedes no son boludos, ustedes son vivos.
In place of the traditional drill sergeant ‘you are scum’ reception, the leaders scream at the new pichis that they are alive. This is all that matters. To stay alive, the pichis must get food, water, fuel, clothes and other provision. This leads to a purely economic conception of the surrounding war. A dead body or a shipwreck represents material goods for the lair. The savage capitalism which the pichis practice leads them to value those things that will aid their survival above all else. Money has no value, food and fuel are of primary importance. The goal is to live. Death is a given circumstance; the absurdity of war arises from the illogical systems it creates. A pichi reflects: “Un cohete explotó a un jeep: cuentan que cada uno de esos cohetes británicos les cuesta a ellos treinta veces más caro que los mejores jeeps británicos.” For the pichis, sides are immaterial and nationalism is just a shadow of a memory. The war to them is “la idea de que en algún lugar muy lejos algunos estarían bombardeando mucho a otros.” They do not take sides. The pichis know that they will be shot by their countrymen as deserters and that the British with whom they trade could turn them in at any moment.
This is how Fogwill presents the war during
its height. The British are powerful, the Argentines are surrendering. The
soldiers speculate about what is occurring around them, but they also receive
conflicting reports on the radio. The stations from
--Yo sentí que los tiraban al río desde aviones...
--Yo también había oído decir que los largaban al río desde los aviones, desde doce mil metros, pegás el agua y te convertís en un juguito espeso que no flota y se va con la corriente del fondo—indicó el Ingeniero.
--Pero de aviones no puede ser: por más locos que sean, ¿cómo van a remontar un avión, tomarse ese trabajo?—dijo Rubione--. Calculá: cien tipos por avión podrás tirar: son cien viajes. ¡Un cagadero de guita!
The same applies for the general population: the dictators preached a free-market logic that would make the ‘flights of death’ unthinkable, but they enacted and enforced that logic upon the nation doing the very things that would have seemed unfeasible in a modern, free-market society. The free market is good for all, they are told, so the moral issue does not even enter the calculation. The benevolent forces of the market simply could not permit such a blatant misdirection of life and resources. It could not have happened because it is not economically feasible, and economic feasibility rules.
of Los pichiciegos is a bit more
elusive than the story line. The text rarely, if ever, strays from its
war-based realism. As Beatriz Sarlo states,
“cuando las cosas dicen su verdad, materializan el recuerdo...Para hablar de la
guerra no hay términos generales: o se sabe o no se sabe lo que hace la guerra
con los cuerpos.” The origin of this realism is the true
question. The text begins as a third-person narrative in the past; the narrator
is omniscient and the dialogue reproduced faithfully. After the first few
chapters, an ‘I’ pops up, and there are mentions of note-taking and recording.
The second to last chapter of the first part ends with this quotation: “—Vos
anotalo que para eso servís. Anotá, pensá bien,
después sacá tus conclusiones—me dijo. Y yo seguí anotando.” The ‘I’ exists without referent. The reader
cannot place the subject nor the time of this utterance. Could somebody in the pichis’ lair be taking notes? Later it
becomes clear that someone is interviewing either one or all of the pichis to assemble the tale. These
moments of first-person intervention, or later in the text, when it is admitted
that we are hearing a replayed tape, exist in the text as slippages. As the
story develops, these interventions become more and more frequent, until it
becomes clear that the story has been put together from confessions, and that
Fogwill himself has been transcribing the interviews into the third person
narration. Fogwill appears not by name, but one of the interviewees comments
upon an earlier collection of Fogwill’s stories, Música japonesa.
When the reader finishes the story, he or she realizes that only one pichi has survived, and therefore that
he must be the one telling the story to Fogwill. Thus the entire text has been
a confession or testimonio that the
character/author Fogwill has transcribed into a story. The confession does not
begin with the usual “I am so-and-so, this is my story;” it is, in fact,
masked. Here again is another astounding example of Fogwill’s foresight. The testimonio is the genre that flourishes
One may attribute the hidden ‘I’ in the text to a more Borges-inspired meta-textual playfulness, but that does not detract from the amazing depth of anticipatory vision that Los pichiciegos presents. Fogwill estimated the truth of the War and of the dictatorship. While governmental control of information was at its height, he wrote a vision of Argentina after the dictatorship that turned out more or less valid, and he did all of this in a disguised form of what was to be the style of choice for the ‘recuperation of memory’ that so many American writers faced.
Traveling Towards Prophecy: Porteños Abroad
The Malvinas War and, in a broader sense,
the dictatorship in
We can see another prophetic connection in
Fogwill’s work: the use of Argentine nationals traveling abroad to show his
idea of space in the present time. His short story “Muchacha Punk” presents a
A Crisis of Nationality
In “Muchacha Punk” all identity finds itself in crisis. The state of the narrator as the narrator of his travels, his situation as a porteño abroad...nothing escapes the author’s questioning. Travel literature occupies a singular space within literature: by definition it breaks the pact of fiction that a non-identity be established between the author and the narrator. It is subjectivity that is central in travel literature: there is an identity precisely between the one who sees and the one who narrates. Fogwill’s story is clearly the story of a traveler—the narrator finds himself abroad, he interacts with the ‘natives’—but the author puts these very rules of the genre into doubt. The reader cannot situate the short story in the realm of the chronicle, nor in that of ethnography; it has marks of both. What begins as a chronicle converts itself into an ethnography of Punks, but below all of this lies something else. The narrator uses his supposed ethnography of the Punk to develop an auto-ethnography. This action conflicts with his status as a travel narrator, and the subject in crisis attempts to de-stabilize his role as the traveling narrator. He punctuates his story with revelations of the deceptions of both the reader and the narrator: “Primera decepción del lector: en este relato yo soy yo”; “Tercera decepción del narrador: mi Muchacha Punk era tan limpia como cualquier chitrula de Flores o de Belgrano”; “Tercera decepción del lector: Yo jamás me acosté con una muchacha punk.” The narrator has a heightened consciousness of his narrative operation; he continuously calls attention to himself as narrator (and not as character), puts in doubt all that he says and in general establishes a relationship with the reader that pertains more to the world of fiction than to travel literature. His self-questioning expands itself to reach, beyond his narratorial status, his Argentiness. But before we arrive to that line of questioning, or on the way there, we must pass the theme of an Argentine (third-world) poet in the home of the Renaissance.
The poet (the narrator-author) finds in
When faced with these punks, the narrator’s Argentineness converts itself into an aversion. In fact, his Argentineness is an aversion throughout the story, which forms a contradiction with the space that he creates. In a cafe that could not be more inter/trans/post-national (an idea that we will develop soon), he tries to hide his roots. The cafe is of Spanish ownership in a building that used to house a Romanian tourist office where our very narrator had faxed some documents to Italian clients. There he orders Chianti (possibly in honor of his clients) and attempts to pass as a traveler from the Commonwealth, “tal vez un malvinero.” Any nationality besides Argentine, he thinks as he studies the cafe and considers the possibilities of global conformity. Conformity with the exclusion of Buenos Aires:
El mozo me había mirado mal, tal vez porque me descubrió estudiando sus movimientos, perplejo a causa de la semejanza que puede postularse en un relato entre un mozo español de pizzería inglesa, y cualquier otro mozo español de pizzería de París, o de Rosario. He elegido Rosario para no citar tanto a Buenos Aires. Querido.
The punks, with their mix of total
ignorance and cursory knowledge of the Latin American dictatorships, reflect
the international imaginary of
Finally, in the
Desire, Consumption and the Space-Chance Continuum
Figure 1: Guillermo Kuitca, Belt Conveyors with Unclaimed Luggage, 2000.
In La experiencia sensible, Fogwill is
interested in the construction of an urban space. The space that he constructs
is very particular. In the hotel-casinos of
presents this new urban space to the reader with a movement through three
different places. The story begins in the
airport, the family goes to the
Mr. Romano tells us that the coins are the “las claves
que necesitarían dominar pronto, para no cometer errores en el juego y las
propinas.” In the continuum, the material of social
interaction is the coin. As Beatriz Sarlo
says in her article “Fogwill, la experiencia sensible,” “la moneda es sólo un
medio para cuantificar el lucro, no para medir el gasto.” The Romanos always compare their expenses
In the space-chance
continuum, the substitution of chance for time does not allow for a strong
connection with the past. The city concentrates itself in the now of the games
of chance, and because of this the ‘flow of stories’ so crucial to the seedy
Romano family, the space of the
Allí, los mismos dispositivos que el hotel destina a concentrar la atención en el juego y el consumo confluían en mantener a los Romano y su comitiva en una misma cápsula espacio-temporal: la realización del sueño de la mítica unidad familiar perdida para siempre.
Mr. Romano says that in other vacations, the family has shared space, but it has never shared time. But when time disappears and chance replaces it, when the space joins desire with consumption without a temporal intermediary, the family exists in peace. His wife describes the peace as such: “a nadie le importa nada de vos... Entonces, claro... ¡Aquí vivís en paz!” This peace is not that of a well-functioning cooperative society, but rather a permanent state of ‘leave me in peace’ with the least number of human interventions possible in the relationship between the individual and chance. What happens, then, to the other subjects in the continuum? They exist either as objects of desire to be consumed or as witnesses of the bet. The theme of subjects as objects of desire does not need further development; the behavior of all of the characters, especially the vulgar women, shows it clearly. Mr. Romano explains how the witnesses work in the roulette wheel: “se gana cuando la voz del que administra el juego anuncia el resultado y todos los participantes corroboran la legitimidad de su diagnóstico.” The subject needs the other people, but the others also carry the risky possibility of breaking the peace. It is because of this risk that the continuum has such a strong security force and such strict categories that maintain the distinction between those who bet and those who watch. When Mr. Romano is playing the roulette wheel and exceeds the maximum bet at the table, a “público de curiosos” gather to watch him. They observe without speaking. As long as they act as witnesses without disturbing the peace, all goes well. But Mr. Romano breaks one of the cardinal laws of the casino when he stays at the table without betting. An employee informs him that he must bet, or, if he wishes to watch, that he must step aside. The distinction is clear: watch from afar without intervening or continue betting. And it functions thus in the Paradise: a place of peace and chance where an Argentine family in 1978 can go for vacation while a military leader stays in the family’s vacation house in Punta del Este.
An Approximation of the World of Savage Capitalism
All three texts carry the markings of the dictatorship. In fact, Fogwill appears to imply something similar to Idelber Avelar’s thesis in The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning that the dictatorships in the Southern Cone were not the path to a supposed international free-market but rather the Process itself was the internationalization of the markets and the opening of the economies. The hindsight of La experiencia sensible presents, as much as the foresight of “Muchacha Punk,” an internationalized and globalized world where the typical relationships between identity, nationality, time and space do not have a place. Avelar asserts that the post-dictatorial “transitions” to democracy are, in themselves, simply a progression in the larger scale transition to modernization in the Southern Cone. The real ‘work’ of these transitions was accomplished during the dictatorships: the dismantling of the welfare state, deregulation, opening formerly state-controlled areas to foreign investment. The violence of the dictatorships allowed for a ‘smooth’ transition economically, thus, “the real transitions are the dictatorships themselves.” He elaborates:
The epochal transition was no doubt the dictatorship, not the return of civil rule that ensued once the real transition had been accomplished. In other words, the return of democracy in itself does not imply a transit to any place other than the one where the dictatorship left off. ‘Transition to democracy’ meant nothing but the juridical-electoral legitimating of the successful transition carried out under the military, that is, the ultimate equation between political freedom for the people and economic freedom for capital, as if the former depended upon the latter, or as if the latter had somehow been hampered by the generals.
Nowhere are these contradictions more
visible than in Los Pichiciegos: a
near-perfect liberal free-market economy is set up geographically under the
madness of the
From the perspective of the 21st century, Fogwill returns to the dictatorship through La experiencia sensible. The author has no doubt about the processes he observed in 1982, but in his text from 2000, he explores the functioning of savage capitalism with much greater detail. We have seen how time, space and the individual function in the hotel-casinos of Las Vegas, but we can also read, on a larger scale, how these operate as ideals in the world of savage capitalism. The smoothing, contradiction-hiding action of savage capitalism seeks to change all place into non-place, all time into a perpetual present and all subjects into controlled consumers.
From Place to non-Place
Figure 2: Guillermo Kuitca. Trauerspiel, 2001.
The progression we observed from the traditional non-place of the Miami airport to the new non-place of a Las Vegas casino-hotel by way of the Las Vegas airport can be read as a movement away from Marc Augé’s conception of non-place as outlined in his Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity towards Fogwill’s own conception of the non-place in what I have termed savage capitalism. The non-places we see in Fogwill are those places where savage capitalism most perfectly masks its constitutive contradictions. At this point it will be useful to review how contemporary formulations have thought non-place.
Augé situates the non-place in “supermodernity,” a time of excess defined by changes in scale (both the growing and shrinking of the globe). Supermodernity is characterized by a need to give meaning to the present. This need is a new development that did not exist in the places of modernity, which Augé calls “anthropological” places. These are places that intrinsically possess meaning, both for observers and inhabitants. They are relational, historical, and concerned with identity. Non-places are the opposite: they are never defined as relational, historical, or concerned with identity and never integrate earlier places. Augé characterizes non-places as temporary and ephemeral places ruled by abstract, unmediated commerce and inhabited by solitary individuals. He offers the “traveler’s space” as the archetype of the non-place. Textuality mediates the individual/non-place relationship; the text represents moral entities or institutions and creates solitude in the individual. The created solitude has no identity-forming potential; textuality only alienates. The non-place is an “environment of the moment” and the present moment rules.
As John Tomlinson suggests in Globalization and Culture, Augé’s rush to idealize the non-place leads him to make a few hasty conclusions. There is a world directly outside of the non-place (beyond the doors of the airport); even if these places are not integrated into the non-place, as Augé tells us, they still exist and interact with the non-place. Thus it would be incomplete to build a theory of supermodernity solely off of the homogenous airport lounges and duty-free shops to arrive at an articulation of globalizing hegemony. It is where these forces interact and negotiate with each other that the true force of globalization becomes apparent. Tomlinson also poses the question of perspective in a non-place: to the employees of an airport, that location is not a non-place, but rather a (their) workplace. These distinctions are of the utmost importance for our understanding of the non-places in La experiencia sensible, for it is the very idealization of these places and the suppression of the contradictory forces within them (such as workplace vs. non-place) that Fogwill highlights.
Non-places also occupy (if we may use that term) an important place in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s recent Empire. In their view, Empire itself is a non-place. Needless to say, their conception of the non-place is much more inclusive and dialogues not only with Augé’s line of thought but also with the Foucaultian one about disciplinary institutions such as the prison, the clinic and the school as non-places by virtue of their marginality in society. Empire, a term Hardt and Negri use almost interchangeably with postmodernism and the new world order, is defined as the actual sovereign power ruling the world today. This global sovereignty is a non-place because it, by the authors’ definition, “establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers. It is a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers.” Most significant, there is no longer any “outside” to Empire. Thus, according to the logic of Hardt and Negri, “places” (in the sense of Augé’s anthropological places) are based on an obsolete inside-outside binary. Empire now implies within and eliminates without. Since it now lacks an outside, all difference within Empire is difference in degree. Since the outside has been internalized, a Foucaultian notion of discipline no longer applies, and the authors assert the absent but implied thesis of Foucault’s opus that we have moved from a discipline-based society to a society of control. There remains no “place” for Foucaultian discipline (“this border place no longer exists, and thus the modern critical strategy tends no longer to be effective”). Differences, themselves unnatural, produced and hybrid, are now managed and controlled by Empire.
A reconceived version of Guy Debord’s spectacle becomes the non-place of politics in Empire. Hardt and Negri explain:
In imperial society the spectacle is a virtual place, or more accurately, a non-place of politics. The spectacle is at once unified and diffuse in such a way that it is impossible to distinguish any inside from outside—the natural from the social, the private from the public. The liberal notion of the public, the place outside where we act in the presence of others, has been both universalized (because we are always now under the gaze of others, monitored by safety cameras) and sublimated or de-actualized in the virtual spaces of the spectacle. The end of the outside is the end of liberal politics.
The problematization of Debord’s binaries would be a welcome project. Although Debord’s spectacle itself is all-encompassing, he does make a few fundamental distinctions between it and life, as well as between the image and the real, thus opening the possibility of negation. But this is not how the authors of Empire proceed. Instead, they simply banish anything outside or beyond the spectacle and universalize non-place. Instead of negating the spectacle, the multitude must push through Empire. By insisting on the autonomy and totality of Empire, Hardt and Negri merely seem to be demonstrating Debord’s fifth thesis of The Society of the Spectacle, where he states that the spectacle is “a world view transformed into an objective force.” Indeed, the authors seem to agree wholeheartedly with Debord’s description of the spectacle, except that they eliminate all potential negation and valorize the spectacle, or Empire, in itself. The true power of Empire lies in the mobile multitude and its immanent labor. The multitude’s resistance is constitutive: Empire’s ability to respond to the multitude’s resistance and incorporate that resistance into its own constitution is the very basis of Empire’s immanence. Since all of Empire is a non-place, there is no location in which to base a negation of Empire. Thus negation is replaced by resistance on the level of immanence. Debord’s negation becomes Hardt and Negri’s negotiation.
It is precisely against this revalorization
of savage capitalism that La experiencia
sensible works. In purely descriptive terms, Fogwill’s
experiencia sensible does not deny the existence of non-places; the text
shows that the true non-places are those spaces that savage capitalism has
succeeded in smoothing. Fogwill situates the non-place of the
Representing Non-place: Another Perspective
Figure 3: Guillermo Kuitca. Terminal, 2000.
There is a strange resemblance between some of Guillermo Kuitca’s newest work and the settings of La experiencia sensible. The subject matter of Kuitca’s The Neufert Suite is the non-place in all of its manifestations. In each frame, Kuitca removes a thematically cohesive set of objects (or rather machines) specific to a location and re-arranges those objects in an architectonic plan. The artist himself has said that the positioning of the icons is not tied to any actual or real location. But the thread that ties the frames together is clear. In one we see the horror vacui ruling the dispersion of Church confessionals, also one of Foucault’s primary interests. We trace over to the videobooths and peep-shows of a porn shop, where sexual desire and capitalist consumption merge. Next, it is fitness machines, one of the most direct apparatuses that capitalism uses to shape the body. Then we encounter gaming tables and slot machines: machines which function within the logic of a perpetual present and endless consumption of chance. Each grouping of machines is sterile and free from human presence. Not only is each grouping of machines void of any users, but the actuality of the respective place where the machines would normally be found is also lacking. As Kuitca says, there is no attempt at a realistic representation of, say, a Church or a gym; the meticulously ordered but yet non-real arrangements rob the spaces of their placeness.
Kuitca withheld Untitled (Unclaimed Luggage) from The Neufert Suite; he thought it deserved further exploration on its own. That withholding led to Terminal and Trauerspiel, two perspective-oriented representations of luggage claim belts. As in The Neufert Suite, these images are robbed of place and subject. Beyond the belt itself, there is no information to indicate its location in an airport, or anywhere else for that matter. The lack-felt-as-robbery is Kuitca’s way of calling to our attention the smoothing action of savage capitalism. These machines of Capital have been violently decontextulized so as to exist in non-place. The ideal of non-placeness has been obtained, but the smoothing action slips (thanks to Kuitca’s intervention) and these places can be seen as the sterile and dehumanizing projection of a savage capitalism concerned with nothing but its own smooth development. Smoothing fails, the lack is revealed as such, and the viewer opens a space of possibility. Bruno Bosteels elaborates:
In the current configuration [of Kuitca’s work], however, the subject is lacking who could remain loyal to the chance-like nature of such an event; instead, the space for this subject is systematically left vacant, emptied out of all ideological or sentimental identifications, whether in terms of couple, group, class, or nation. Every gamble and every wager always already seems to be diluted and subordinate to the law of money, free only to dance in the chains of this eternal present of capital without a future. The viewers thereby become interpellated: to them befalls the decision whether merely to occupy the individualized slot foreseen for them in the diagram of society, or else to force the very law of assigned spaces, no matter how unforgiving the latter may well be, toward the generic future of a truth that is yet to come.
The lack of a subject in Kuitca’s work points to, but does not name, a new subjectivity; we shall see a similar move in La experiencia sensible. Kuitca’s viewer can speculate what kind of subject could fill the void, but The Neufert Suite only concerns itself with allowing any potential speculation to take place. The subject would have to be, of course, aware of these vacated spaces or seeming non-places, and he or she would have to comprehend the logic that rids these spaces of any content. The new subject would have a fundamentally different relationship to each of the machines shown in the paintings. His or her relationship with power no longer would be mediated by the confessional, his or her relationship with body no longer mediated by fitness machines, with consumption no longer by slot machines, and sexuality no longer by peep-shows.
From Time to a Perpetual (Chance-Driven) Present
In all of the theoretical formulations of non-place we have seen, there has been a fundamental change in the conception of time. As history occupies a destabilized place at best, time loses its sense of progression and becomes a perpetual present. As we have seen in La experiencia sensible, this present is measured in unmediated chance. But like the non-place, a perpetual present is an ideal of savage capitalism that suppresses its inherent internal contradictions.
Hardt and Negri use the shift from a Fordist to a Toyotist model of automobile production as an example of the perpetual present in Empire:
Toyotism is based on an inversion of the Fordist structure of communication between production and consumption. Ideally, according to this model, production planning will communicate with markets constantly and immediately. Factories will maintain zero stock, and commodities will be produced just in time according to the present demand of the existing markets. This model thus involves not simply a more rapid feedback loop but an inversion of the relationship because, at least in theory, the production decision actually comes after and in reaction to the market decision. In the most extreme cases the commodity is not produced until the consumer has already chosen and purchased it. In general, however, it would be more accurate to conceive the model as striving toward a continual interactivity or rapid communication between production and consumption.
This model of production is similar to the functioning of the slot machine (máquina de azar) in La experiencia sensible. The change from a Fordist structure to Toyotism is a change in the conception of time in the production-consumption relationship. The perfect Toyotism would coordinate time so that instantaneous production could satisfy immediate demand. In this postmodern model, time and distance are not factors to be considered, they are outdated notions that must be eliminated. Time approaches the zero-limit represented by instantaneous consumption. This way of thinking time leaves no room for historical reflection. The privileging of instantaneous consumption values the present at the expense of the past and the future.
Appadurai, in Modernity at Large, has
an even more radical articulation of this phenomenon: “consumption creates time
and does not simply respond to it.”
What consumption creates is a perpetual state of the present. With this in mind,
let us return to the Romano family’s encounter with the slot machines. When Mr.
Romano frantically drops coin after coin into the slot machines of the
Following a similar logic, Hardt and Negri introduce immaterial labor, which arises in an economy based upon the production of information and services (not material or durable goods). Immaterial labor tends towards a real (compared to Marx’s abstract) homogenization of laboring practices. The authors locate the motivation of this paradigm shift in the computer, which they view as the central or universal tool of the informatization of production. Thus “the labor of computerized tailoring and the labor of computerized weaving may involve exactly the same concrete practices—that is, manipulation of symbols and information.” Marx’s commodity fetishism no longer conceals the social characteristics of private labor and the social relations between individual producers: the homogenization is now real. Consumption becomes the model of this really homogenized productive work. However, as in the case of the non-place, we can read this ideal as yet another willed ideal of savage capitalism.
In its highest form, as presented in La experiencia sensible, the time of
social interaction disappears and the consumer becomes a simple chooser
ruled by chance. As we did with the ideal of non-place, we must situate the
ideal of a perpetual present of chance within the casino. In La experiencia sensible, the
From Subjects to Controlled Consumers
As the fear and constant surveillance that create the perpetual present become normalized and politics becomes a matter of conformity, the inhabitant of the idealized non-place/chance continuum of savage capitalism becomes an idealized subject as well. The negative energy brought about by the creation of the non-place of the present can be channeled into consumption. In its idealized form, consumption is not viewed only as productive labor, but also as a defining action of the subject. With history effectively smoothed over and made inaccessible for subjective definition in the perpetual present, the subject looks to consumption for self-definition. The “excess” which characterizes Augé’s supermodernity is the negative direction of our productive humanness into consumption. The misdirected energy is negative because the subject-as-consumer loses any other possible notion of his or her relationship to society. When chance becomes the law by which value circulates in savage capitalism, the subject loses any ability of self-definition other than the defining action of conspicuous consumption. Chance, replacing the function of time in the perpetual present, becomes absolute. It is part of the rigid logic of savage capitalism; this rigidity translates into, beyond a controlled consumer, an absolutely determined subject-as-consumer.
Fogwill does not render visible the contradictions within the controlled consumer as he does with non-places and the perpetual present. There is no movement to reclaim a notion of the subject as there is with place and time. That is not to say that his texts are merely descriptive. Although these three texts, culminating in La experiencia sensible, are more than a description of the world of savage capitalism, they do not give the reader a prescribed course of action. By insisting on the existence of place and time and making visible the contradictions that the smoothing logic of non-place and a perpetual present work to hide, Fogwill creates a potential space of contestation to savage capitalism. He does not give the controlled consumer a plan to reclaim his or her subjectivity, nor does he insist that we, as readers, ask specific questions of his choosing about what a new kind of subjectivity would look like. He does give the reader a real, even if metaphorical, place in which to contest or even negate. Never do we hear an answer to the question “what is to be done?” Fogwill’s rendering visible of contradictions and his pessimistic portrayal of the controlled consumer do insist that there exist unanswered questions and unrealized potential. Through both prophecy, as in the text from 1982, and a revisitation of the past, as in the text from 2000, Fogwill creates a literature of passage. In this literature we see a dual acknowledgment of a ‘no longer’ and a ‘not yet.’ The ‘no longer’ lies in the savage capitalism supported by military regimes that pretend to dominate even their own opposition. The ‘not yet’ is the possibility of a new subjectivity. It is a possibility filled with uncertainty, and these texts make no claim to how it will be.
A. “Learning from
Arjun. Modernity at Large.
Marc. Non-places: Introduction to an
Anthropology of Supermodernity. Trans. John Howe.
Idelber. The Untimely Present:
Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning.
Bruno. “Guillermo Kuitca: The Art of Theory.” Distrito 4
Guy. The Society of the Spectacle.
Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith.
Fogwill. “Autobiografia.” Primera Persona. Buenos Aires: Norma, 1995.
______. “Presentación del autor.” Cantos de marineros en La Pampa. Barcelona: Mondadori, 1998.
______. La experiencia sensible. Barcelona: Mondadori, 2001.
______. “Las máquinas del azar y las recetas del oficio.” Clarín, July 29, 2001.
______. Los pichiciegos. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1998.
______. “Muchacha Punk.” Muchacha Punk. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1998.
Michael and Negri, Antonio. Empire.
Kohan, Martín. “La experiencia sensible de Fogwill: el futuro de los años setenta.” Unpublished typescript.
Kuitca, Guillermo and Cooke, Lynne. “Terminal.” milpalabras 2 (Summer 2001) 21-35.
Karl. “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof”
Reggiani, Federico. “La fama de las letras: el papel de la literatura en la patria de tres cuentos de Fogwill.” Literatura Argentina y Nacionalismo. La Plata: Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 1995.
Sarlo, Beatriz. “Fogwill, la experiencia sensible.” Punto de Vista 71 (December 2001).
_____, Beatriz. “No olvidar la guerra de Malvinas.” Punto de Vista 48 (August 1994): 11-15.
Schilling, Carlos. “Ignoramos todo sobre la vida.” La voz del interior (August 2, 2001).
Schvartzman, Julio. “Un lugar bajo el mundo: Los pichiciegos de Rodolfo E. Fogwill.” Microcrítica. Lecturas Argentinas. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 1996
Speranza, Graciela. “La realidad sensible y atroz.” Clarín, July 29, 2001.
_______________. “Magias parciales del realismo.” milpalabras 2 (Summer 2001) 57-64.
John. Globalization and Culture.
Robert, et. al. Learning from
 “I wanted to take a place next to Socrates or Hegel. Who says William Frederic Hegel?” in “Fogwill,” Primera Persona p. 42.
 “I studied medicine, letters, philosophy, mathematics, singing, music, French, English, German, rudimentary Greek and Latin, and I forgot almost everything. I taught methodology, statistics, communication theory, theories of ideology and sociology: I learned almost nothing. I was a publicist, a market investigator, redactor, a businessman, a stock trader, a terrorist and a con-man—so say the Federal Police in my rap sheet—, a specialized columnist in many different mediums, a university professor and a corporate consultant. I frequently imagine that I am a woman, but these fantasies quickly flow into a vulgar scene of sadistic lesbianism and unrest” (p. 39).
 “Why lie? I write poorly—I have recognized that—but quickly” (p 45).
 “--Are you morons? --Yes, sir! --No! You are not morons, you are alive.” In Fogwill, Los pichiciegos (henceforth PC) p. 25.
 See PC 70.
 “A rocket blew up a jeep: they calculate that each one of those British rockets costs them thirty times more that the best British jeep” (PC 22).
 “The idea that somewhere far away some people would be heavily bombing some others” (PC 51).
 “--I heard that they throw them into the river from airplanes. –I
have also heard them say that they toss them into the river from airplanes,
from twelve thousand feet, you hit the water and you become a thick juice that
doesn’t float and you go with the current to the bottom—indicated the Engineer.
–But it can’t be in planes: however crazy they may be, how could they prepare a
plane, do all that work?—said Rubione--. Think about it: you could throw one
hundred guys out of each plane: that’s a hundred trips. A shitload of money!”
(PC 53). The flights of death were the infamous dumping of “political
subversives” into the
 “When the things speak their truth, they materialize the memory...To speak of the war there are no general terms: either ones knows or one doesn’t know what war does to bodies.” Beatriz Sarlo, “No olvidar la guerra de Malvinas,” p. 12.
 “--Write this down so that it’s useful. Write it down, think about it, then make your conclusions—he told me. And I continued writing” (PC 82).
 See PC 119.
 See John Beverly, Against Literature and The Real Thing: Testimonial Discourse and Latin America, Georg M. Gugelberger, editor.
 Martín Kohan, “Fogwill’s The Sensible Experience: the future of the 70s” (forthcoming).
 The defeat is that of the military dictatorship due to the fiasco of the war, but also the defeat of any form of post-dictatorial idealism solidified by Alfonsín’s early departure from his democratically elected office of the presidency and Menem’s pardon to the imprisoned military leaders.
 Dolares dulces, an
expression used to show the strength of
 “First deception of the reader: in this story I am I” in Fogwill, “Muchacha Punk,” (henceforth MP) p. 53.
 “Third deception of the narrator: my Muchacha Punk was as clean as any chitrula from Flores or Belgrano” (MP 74).
 “Third deception of the reader: I never slept with a muchacha punk” (MP 74).
 “I never saw a nightingale” (MP 59).
 “The delicious and timbric voice” (MP 63).
 “Possibly a Malvinero” (MP 57), an inhabitant of the
 “The waiter gave me a bad look, maybe because he discovered me
studying his movements, perplexed due to the similarities that one can
postulate in a story between a Spanish waiter in an English pizzeria, and
whatever other Spanish waiter in a Parisian Pizzeria, or in Rosario. I have
 “lice-ridden stinky dirty sons of bitches” (MP 61).
 “The horrible image of my country that for some time has been inculcated in young Europeans” (MP 77).
 “Had bought for so little in
 “I haven’t made love with another person since March of 1976” (MP 74). The military seized power in March of 1976.
 “hypnotic trance that pushed her towards shopping” in Fogwill, La experiencia sensible (henceforth ES) p. 56.
 “disposed himself to loose” (ES 56).
 “to free himself of the coins” (ES 57).
 “looked as if it would never end” (ES 60).
 “the Argentinean atmosphere of that place” (ES 60).
 “something mysterious in the environment of the games of chance” (ES 95).
 “the exciting sensation of being a whore” (ES 95).
 “it wasn’t worth the effort of leaving the hotel” (ES 98).
 “It is the city that lends its name—the illusion of being in a geographic space—to those who decided to pass through the hotels” (ES 92).
 “salvajemente temáticos” (ES 92).
 “Polish, Italian, Colombian and Mexican surnames” (ES 93).
 “key elements that one need quickly dominate, so as not to commit errors in the game nor in the tips” (ES 65).
 “the coin is only a mean to quantify the lucre, not to measure expenses.” Beatriz Sarlo, Punto de Vista 71 (2001) p. 30.
 “has converted into the meeting point for Japanese citizens...who disseminated around the world with the great migratory waves of the first half of the twentieth century” (ES 103).
 “subproduct of the hotel industry” (ES 108).
 “That city offered them the opportunity to inhabit a shared space and a shared time with all of his suite” (ES 110).
 “There, the same mechanisms that the hotel used to concentrate attention in gambling and in consumption converge to maintain the Romano family in the same space-time capsule: the realization of the dream of the mythical, forever-lost family unity” (ES 111).
 “nobody cares anything about you.. Then, great... Here you live in peace!” (ES 112).
 “You win when the game administrator’s voice announces the result and all of the participants corroborate the legitimacy of his diagnostic” (ES 121).
 “curious public” (ES 66).
 Idelber Avelar, The Untimely Present, p. 58.
 Avelar, p. 59.
 Marc Augé, Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, p. 86.
 Augé, p. 103.
 John Tomlinson, Globalization and Culture, p. 6.
 Tomlinson, pp. 111-12.
 Hardt & Negri, p. xii.
 Hardt & Negri, p. 183.
 Hardt & Negri, pp. 188-89.
 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, p. 13.
 Hardt & Negri, p. 190.
 Hardt & Negri, p. 198.
 “En esta nueva serie de pinturas trato de evitar toda información concreta: no hay señales ni carteles. En otras palabras, no hay una indicación específica de que se trate de un aeropuerto.” Guillermo Kuitca and Lynne Cooke, “Terminal,” in milpalabras 2 (2001), p. 22.
 Kuitca and Cooke, p. 22
 Bruno Bosteels, “Guillermo Kuitca: The Art of Theory,” p. 6.
 Hardt & Negri p. 290.
 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large, p. 70.
 Hardt & Negri p. 292.
 Appadurai, p. 42.