There’s mediation and there’s mediation…

Like Mark, I didn’t much care for the Mazzarella piece either, although it does raise interesting questions.  But what bothered me wasn’t so much his reference to “structures of representation and institutionalization” (what he actually referenced was a “subtle dialectic between emergence (immanence) and institutionalization (mediation) [as a] fundamental principle of social life” [722], which is not too different, it seems to me, from someone like Negri’s dialectic of constituent power and constituted power {not that I’m a great fan of dialectics}).  What I didn’t like was the middle ground he tries to find between Le Bon and the crowd and H&N and the multitude.  For one thing, he takes Le Bon too much at face value: despite what Le Bon says, language is not the product of a crowd, but of a multitude (the “language-community”), in which communication among individuals is “mediated” by the language-system without either (a) those individuals necessarily losing their individuality or (b) the system being imposed from the top down.  Crowds (in the strong sense) owe their existence to a leader, and participating in a crowd cancels out and homogenizes the individuality of the participants: their singularity is irrelevant to/extinguished by the crowd.  (We can debate the role of dictionaries and grammarians in attempting to control language from the top down, but language can work perfectly well without them.)  Mazarella also misses important aspects of Canetti, especially when he (M) opposes emergence to mediation [722 and passim].  What counts is not whether there is mediation or not, but the quality of the mediation.  A symphony orchestra performing classical music is top-down mediated – twice: the musicians are reproducing a pre-written score, and they are playing at the command of a conductor.  The performance of a jazz band improvising on a standard may be mediated by a chord-chart, but it doesn’t have to be mediated by a conductor or band-leader – and in free jazz, the performance is not even mediated by a chord-chart or familiar tune: it is “self-mediating” (self-organizing, emergent), produced (rather than reproduced) at the initiative of the musicians themselves, on the spot.  In other words, pace Mazzarella, a multitude can self-organize or self-mediate – and language, music, markets, and the internet are some of the vehicles by which this happens.

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One thought on “There’s mediation and there’s mediation…

  1. Pingback: Multitude and Mediation | Nomad Scholarship

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