What's The Ugliest Part of Your Market-Researched Anaclitic Affect Repertoire? [Franz Zappa als Anlehnungstypuskritik]


Keston Sutherland

paper addressed to ICE-Z (International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology) 16 January 2004 at Theatro Technis, Crowndale Road, Camden Town, London


In 1964, four years prior to the appearance of We're Only In It For The Money by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, the British Labour Party set up a Commission chaired by Lord Reith of Stonehaven, the first Director General of the BBC, to "consider the role of commercial advertising in present day society and to recommend whether reforms are required". Reith was an outspoken paternalist who regarded American TV economics as a kind of moral-weaponised dirty bomb in the hands of fanatics ready to terrorise the British plebs (whom he himself had betrayed during the General Strike of 1926).(1) Reacting to the advent of commercial television in 1956, Reith evacuated a stubborn warning from history into the House of Lords: "Somebody introduced Christianity into England and somebody introduced smallpox, bubonic plague, and the Black Death. Somebody is minded now to introduce sponsored broadcasting...Need we be ashamed of moral values, or of intellectual and ethical objectives? It is these that are here and now at stake". (2) He might also have mentioned that somebody likewise introduced the House of Lords, moral values, and even himself; but at least two of these things had probably been introduced to England from the inside rather than from the outside, and it is introduction from the outside that tends to reawaken the chivalric attitude in a person of Reith's class. (3) Reith's fatherliness was of a common sort, both true and false. True, because moral and intellectual values were in fact undeniably at stake, and would undergo extreme mutation as a result of the American influx he sought to prevent. False, because he failed to admit that it was the inevitable tendency of oligopolistic capitalist economies trying to remain competitive in the mid-twentieth century to substitute advertising for price competition as the principal weapon of profitability; (4) and false also because the moral and intellectual values he so passionately mentioned were assuredly unknown to him from any perspective other than that of a career-propagandist. In any case, moral outrage at the tip of the superstructure was never likely to defeat capitalism on its own basic turf, and despite Lord Reith's fiery imprecations Britain was soon to be overrun by a horde of image-makers and their made-up images, with its ears, minds and off-shore bank accounts kept thereafter permanently agape for all the fantasies of good living they could squeeze into their splitting apertures. By 1968 this invasion of compulsory commodity-life was, even in the United States, still in its infancy, most likely somewhere around the anal stage; which makes We're Only In It For The Money a first-rate example of what Georg Lukács called genuinely avant-garde art, that is, art which expresses from within the superstructure an accurate anticipation of forthcoming economic reality. The album's anticipatory power is expressed not in a straightforward critique of commodity-life and its human billboards, but more radically, in a sickening string of jokes at the expense of hippies and the whole dopey counter-culture that imagined itself to be the enemy of the state, whereas in fact that counter-culture turned out, as Zappa predicted, to be an object lesson in how to be recuperated by capitalism. The album, like much of Zappa's music, is a critique not of commodity-life itself but of the counter-cultural stupefaction that guarantees the continual success of the capitalist recuperation industry.

The following paper will attempt a theoretical homage to Zappa's 1968 album in two interrelated polemics dealing not only with commodity-life in the 1960s but with its current apparition also. The first of these polemics deals with some psychoanalytic ideas about pop music, magic and love, and their relation to advertising. The second is an attempt to think about what irrecuperable art would look or sound like in a society dominated by marketing, and to propose some conditions for irrecuperability in future art. This second polemic is directed quite predictably at the post-structuralist notion of reading as a kind of free play or production of meaning by the consumer of art.

The first issue of Internationale Situationniste, published in June 1958, featured an unsigned article called 'The Struggle for the Control of the New Techniques of Conditioning'. Like much of the Situationist material that would appear in the journal itself, the article is pretty thin on the ground when it comes to outright proposals for practical action; but it does include a declaration of intent that plainly distinguishes it from anything that Adorno or other humanists might have said:

...it must be understood that we are going to assist, to participate in, the race between free artists and the police to experiment with and to develop uses for the new techniques of conditioning. In this race the police already have a considerable advantage. The outcome of the race will depend on the appearance of passionate and liberating environments, or the reinforcement-under smooth scientific control-of the environment of the old world of oppression and horror. (5)

The article mentions the conditioning of an incarcerated Hungarian revolutionary, Lajos Ruff, by soviet police agents and psychologists in a specially designed, psychotropic jail cell, which sounds a bit like Patrick McGhee's experience in the cheerful 1960s TV show The Prisoner. The emphasis is on highly specialised, sinister, labour intensive and secretive methods of conditioning practised by the state and its modernised inquisition; to which the Situationist response, at least in this early article, is to imagine a highly theorised, provocative, play-intensive and elusive method of artistic experiment. But the most powerful form of conditioning was never secretive, in the sense at least that its purpose was to be as well known and pleasantly ingested as possible. This is of course advertising, and the shift in Situationist programs for revolutionary aesthetics (from highly technical experimentation to quick and easy vandalism) can perhaps be understood as their way of keeping up with capitalism at large, not just the police, in the race for control of the means of conditioning. A stupid advert requires only a quick bit of damage to be turned against its owners, and this is one aspect of advertising-the fickleness inherent in its obvious stupidity-that made it nice and convenient as a half-baked if not raw material for Situationist art.

To go a step further, revolutionary artists needed to understand not just the transparent principle behind advertising as a substitute for price competition, but also the research industry responsible for its particular strategies and aesthetics. That research industry has been unashamedly psychological from its beginnings. It has subordinated psychology to its own ends so effectively that some of the most cutting edge experimentation in the field is now in what is called "neuromarketing," a procedure for observing the physical and chemical behaviour of the brain of a volunteer consumer as he sits in a laboratory and gapes at a slideshow of prospective advert-types. This is all well enough known, though hardly well enough hated. Of more interest from an intellectual point of view is the relation between Freudian psychoanalytic theory and market research. What is the value and utility of the basic Freudian tropes for market research; and what is their value to the enemies of capitalism, not as a means of describing why this or that individual may or may not feel dispirited that the position formerly occupied in his mental apparatus by his mother is now occupied by a Dyson hoover, but more radically, as a means of diagnosing the ontogenetic origins of homo consumer in general? Is Freudian theory up to the job of providing a critique of commodity-life under the dance-steps of universal marketing, or is Freud's total failure to produce such a critique of his own evidence enough that psychoanalytic thinking is essentially irreconcilable with revolutionary thinking? Put in Situationist terms: can Freudian theory be detourned? Can we pull off a detournement not just of the images of advertising, but of the psychoanalytic research methods used to come up with them? The history of the British and American pop song is a good testing ground for this problem.

In 1964, the same year that Lord Reith was commissioned by an anxious government to look into the effects of TV advertising, an American psychoanalyst called Frances Hannett published the most detailed and elaborate psychoanalytic paper on American pop music to date. (6) Hannett noticed that her patients would often arrive for their therapy sessions humming or whistling a tune, or would tell her that a certain tune was stuck in their heads, or they would find that certain tunes burst into their memory at important moments of self-recognition in the course of their treatment. After analysing the sudden appearances of these tunes and what Freud would call their manifest content, i.e. the narrative or sentiment in their lyrics, Hannett concluded that they are "a 'voice of the preconscious' and must be understood in the same way as a dream fragment, a fantasy, or a repetitive act". (7) This agrees with both Freud's and Theodor Reik's view, that, as Reik puts it, "the incidental music accompanying our conscious thinking is never accidental". (8) Hannett set out to examine the entire body of chorus lyrics from American hit songs published between 1900 and 1949. She explains her decision not to include contemporary hits as follows:

This period [i.e. 1900-1949] was chosen because it covers the half-century during which popular music had its heyday and because the end of World War II ushered in various artificial influences which made it difficult or impossible to determine the intrinsic popular appeal of more recent so-called 'hits'. (9)

These "various influences" Hannett lists as "commercial rivalries among music producers, radio networks, disc jockeys etc". Her definition of a hit song is

one which has gained top ranking or appreciable acceptance by the public. Before radio, the popularity of a tune was determined by the sales of sheet music and Victrola recordings. Later, with the advent of radio and television, the success of a song depended on the amount of exposure it received through these media as well as on the sales of recordings and sheet music. (10)

Hannett's methodology excludes as a distortion of the real data the entire edifice of the culture industry in its post-war form. The underlying assumption is that permeation of the unconscious by music is more meaningful from a psychoanalytic point of view the less it can be chalked up to marketing, which Hannett calls "exposure". This an obvious theoretical convenience, analogous in some ways to Wilhelm Reich's preposterous idea that "there is no use in individual therapy...from the standpoint of the social problem" except money-making, and that analysis conducted on socialist principles has to "go back to the unspoiled protoplasm" of the strictly infantile psyche. (11) Both Reich and Hannett advocate an approach to analysis of the unconscious founded on the idea that the spoliation of an individual's psychic operations by capitalist culture makes psychoanalytic research either gratuitous or methodologically compromised. Both attitudes are plainly romantic and undialectical.

Notwithstanding that criticism, Hannett uncovered some useful data on the manifest content of hits songs according to her limited definition of them, which I've reproduced as Fig.1 in your handouts. The significant result of her observations is first of all that the great majority of all hits songs are love songs or "romantic" songs; and secondly that the manifest content of their lyrics is limited to a pretty small and unvarying range of reference-terms, symbols and affects. She concludes that "the popular lyric expresses unconscious infantile attitudes" and that "unresolved whole or partial attachments to the image of the preoedipal mother provide the latent matrix for American popular songs". (12) From this she extrapolates a judgement about human valuation of freedom in general: "although man values his freedom, there remains in him the paradoxical tendency to feel it as a rejection when it means separation from the mother". (13) Amongst the most popular themes that crop up in the hits she examined is a category defined in Freudian terms as "anaclitic affects": possessive dependence, depressive and hostile affects, separation anxiety and dreams of wish fulfilment. The frequency of these affects as themes in hit songs is shown to have increased significantly since the late 19th century, when hits songs were more often undisguisedly about death and sex (a trend that was powerfully restored to life in the last quarter of the 20th century by the mass popularisation of rap and hip-hop).

So what is an "anaclitic affect"? The term Anlehnungstypus or "anaclitic type" was invented by Freud in his 1914 paper 'On Narcissism'. Translated literally, it means "leaning-on type," according to the OED gloss "a person whose choice of a 'love-object' is governed by the dependence of the libido on another instinct, e.g. hunger". The anaclitic type of person experiences the full potency of erotic longing for somebody only when he feels that this somebody will satisfy what Freud called his "ego-instincts". That is, he is driven by his libido to find a "succession of substitutes" for the nourishment and protection that his mother and father provided for him in his infancy. He leans on these substitutes, driven by a sense that he will otherwise be exposed helplessly to the elements of a hostile environment that he couldn't possibly survive on his own. What Hannett lists as "anaclitic affects" are the ravages of the world's hostility against him.

The great prominence of these pathogenic affects among the tired old themes of pop music both in the early 20th century and in our own eternally recurrent and samey chart music is, logically enough, evidence that a great part of the psychic life of their mass audience is anaclitic; or at least, that this mass audience is taught by lyrical rote to think of itself as anaclitic and thus actually to become so. As Adorno and Horkheimer insisted, the defence of the marketing men that they are just giving the people what they want is undoubtedly true, but only because the condition of wanting has itself been downgraded in advance by these same innocent marketing men into a stupefying adjunct of the culture industry.

Hannett's data is essentially market-research. What it tells us about the drives and needs of homo sapiens finds its ultimate consequence in the life of homo consumer. What could be more useful to the marketing operations that decide the content of pop music than a complete breakdown of the sales figures for every symbol and affect, published under the disinterested imprimatur of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly? Yet her research is also conveniently incomplete. What Hannett's research excludes from vision by the ruse of ignoring the popularity of post-war hit songs is the one dominant category of which all the other themes in her list are sub-categories. This is the category of what I will call commodity-love. The heart, sexuality, nostalgia and all the other themes of pop music are not the unmediated symbols and drives of the lyrical psyche that Hannett implicitly proposes they are; each of them is transmuted by its appearance in a pop song into something quite alien to the human protoplasm. They become the symbols and drives of commodity-love, by which I mean both the love of commodities and love itself in commodified form. This is not to say that nothing can ever be wrung out of these hits songs except the experience of commodification; rather, it is by a process of transition in the mind of the adolescent listening to pop music that real love fresh from the bubbling libido is imperceptibly rehabilitated into commodity-love. Pop lyrics with their saccharine buffet of anaclitic affects are possibly the most powerful machinery discovered by capitalism to effect this transition. They are an inducement to choose one reality principle over another in the market-place of competing reality principles. The tears that sometimes reappear in our eyes when we're knocked about by an old love song are not 100% pure commodity; they have enough of our own infancy blent into them to keep the eyes from which they tip out firmly shut to the true business of their social and economic production and the problem of who owns the means of it.

In his essay on narcissism Freud lists six possible "paths leading to the choice of an object". Anyone condemned only to one list or the other, or to an imperfect combination made up of both, cannot in Freud's reckoning ever be really happy. Freud writes: "a real happy love corresponds to the primal condition in which object-libido and ego-libido cannot be distinguished". (14) That is, we are only truly happy when we enter a love relationship that gives us the illusion of being once more primally unable to discriminate between love for ourselves and love for our partner. In more technical terms: love for a "love-object" and love for the ego itself. In the remaining part of this paper I hope to show that this "real happy love" is exactly consonant with the commodity-love experienced by teenagers listening to pop songs; and that this psychological triumph of the culture industry will meet its most ruthless criticism only in art which, like Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money, conducts a full-blown assault not just on the bourgeois sensibilities of its audience but on the deep psychical stupefaction that fuels capitalism's recuperating-machines.

Picture a naked teenage boy prancing around in front of the mirror in his bedroom, with a hairbrush in his fist, singing 'The Power of Love' by Huey Lewis and The News. Exactly what kind of narcissism is this? It is none of Freud's four types of narcissistic love, not even the third, since he himself would not like to be Huey Lewis so much as to believe that 'The Power of Love' was actually his own creation. In Totem and Taboo, Freud discusses what he calls the "animistic" thinking of archaic societies and its residue in contemporary psychical processes. Animism is a structure of thought in which "things become less important than the ideas of things," such that "relations which hold between the ideas of things are assumed to hold equally between the things themselves". (15) Animistic thinking originates in the belief that thoughts themselves are "omnipotent". Freud remarks that "in the animistic epoch the reflection of the internal world is bound to blot out the other picture of the world-the one which we seem to perceive". The result, he says, is "a general over-valuation...of all mental processes". (16) The world turns into a spectacle of our own creation, its events and appearances governed by our own essentially infantile thinking. The contemporary American psychoanalyst Leo Balter describes how this kind of thinking is an important part of what he calls the "aesthetic illusion," a kind of best-possible experience of art "accompanied by narcissistically enhanced elation". (17) When we as teenagers listen to music that we love, we sign up for the illusion that it somehow makes us more loveable; but why, and how? As with much of Freud's writing, this moment in Totem and Taboo needs only a quick Marxist detournement to hit its peak truth-content. Freud writes of "a general overvaluation" of mental processes in animistic thinking. But in the case of the "aesthetic illusion" triggered by pop music in the heads of teenagers on the slide from real love into commodity-love, the "overvaluation" is literal and economic: it is surplus value; and the "mental processes" are no longer those of a primitive animistic community which constructs a meaning for its own life and death through ritual expressions of wishing; instead, the "mental processes" are the data of market-research. Our teenage participation in the new ritual of pop-music consumption is still animistic: we consume music-commodities as if they were our own mental processes. Think again of that nude 13 year-old. He writes out the lyrics of a song, and by writing them out in his own handwriting he gets this feeling that the song is being pulled into his life and his heart, and even that by writing it out it has become a song about him or to him, thus repressing in his mind as totally irrelevant the memory that he bought it in Woolworth's: it has become his own creation. And how does he love this part of himself? At once in a narcissistic and an anaclitic fashion: a commodified mirror image of Freud's "real happy love" in which "object-libido and ego-libido cannot be distinguished". We lean on the commodity we are.

The similarity of this adolescent good behaviour to the claims made by post-structuralist theoreticians of reading as a kind of production on the part of the reader herself are pretty obvious. I might even speculate that this theoretical attitude can be explained ontogenetically as a late resistance to the reality principle, mounted by adult litterateurs who never really stopped believing that the pop songs they bought when they were first learning how to masturbate were essentially their own creations. Roland Barthes made something interesting out of this fantasy, but he grew up playing Schumann sonatas on the piano; whether anything interesting will be made out of it by a generation fucked daily in the oval window by Girls Aloud and Justin Timberlake is open to some sort of debate.

The animistic thinking brought to life by the narcissism of this "aesthetic illusion," says Balter, "conceives the external world as having properties corresponding to the contents and forms of infantile mental life". But the external world does have these properties, not just in the image of it projected by adolescent narcissism but in its real, material image. This is the triumph of the culture industry: it turns what Freud called the overvaluation of mental processes" into real overvaluation in the form of surplus value realised into capital. It will continue to do this for as long as it manages to deceive its flock of consumers into the conscious or unconscious belief that the "mental processes" given to them as pop-songs are out there only to be fused back into the consumer's own spontaneous feelings and needs. That is to say, for as long as adolescents on the slide into adulteration go on believing narcissistically that these cynical pieces of shit are in some magical sense their own creations, only to buy in ten years or so later to a reality principle engineered by the culture industry that tells them to be forever nostalgic for that delusion. Narcissism is both the psychic end-point of the capitalist finishing school and its mass ontogenetic breeding ground; and if the self we fall in love with can be sold to us at a decent profit margin, so much the better.

So what would an irrecuperable art look or sound like? And why do I think that We're Only In It For The Money is one such work of art? One of the first conditions is that it should totally and violently frustrate the impulse of its consumer to fantasise that it is his own production. Art that matches the description broadcast by Roland Barthes is by definition recuperable. The "reader as producer" is merely a lone practitioner of recuperation acting out in solitude her variations on the main act of social recuperation to follow. She is a one-woman test audience. How can art be so violent that it resists this kind of individualistic recuperation? At a very basic level, it needs to have within it somewhere or other an unadulterated FUCK YOU in the form of some ethical or political or sexual exhibition that the one-man test audience could never imagine to be his own production, because its confrontation against him is too powerful and total to be subsumed under the product-heading of his own immediate cognition. And it needs to be a FUCK YOU that has the final word, not one of those substitutes in capitalism's endless succession of substitutes that ends up sounding more like, fuck you because after all you sort of want to be fucked and anyhow we both know that neither of us is really the target of any of this so we can keep these sapient grins plastered across our half-sapient faces. That is, the work of art must have something in it, some moment, that is not capable of being subordinated to the free play of abstract interpretive fantasy that is then declared to be the work of art itself. It needs to get a stranglehold on the imagination of its audience until they are made to gasp out in panic for some real air, rather than the steady drift of ether through the consumption snorkel. It needs to be irresistibly mediated by the suffering that consumer narcissism causes and relies on for its continued dominance. It needs at some level to be something that we can't agree with or don't want, even if later, with the benefit of dialectical reflection, we decide that we agree with it on account of its disagreeableness and want it on account of its unwantableness. In fact, irrecuperable art is conceivable as a source of pleasure only with this dialectic up and running. It is a condition of our enjoying the irrecuperable art work that what we most sweetly enjoy is how it offends and needles against the institution of enjoyment itself as the latter exists in and for capitalist culture. At its best, Zappa's music is a jump cable clamped on to the dialectical motor of the brain and sexual body, using its unadulterated FUCK YOU to rouse that motor back into action after a life spent rusting cheerfully in the pop music garage. We're Only In It For The Money grabs the market-research data out of the hands of its owners and reproduces every affect on Hannett's list in a gloating duplication of all the average love songs it can muster, thus decisively reducing their stupefaction-potential to zero. If I love it, it's because it also grabs hold of the commodified mirror of Freud's "real happy love" and gets it out of my face, pushing it back in to the faces of those whose stupefaction amounts finally to job security for the market-researchers for whom stupidity is bread, butter, milk and honey all rolled into a revolting luxury éclair.


1 See the propaganda article against commercial-free broadcasting by Ian Murray, dated 11 August 2003, at the Competitive Enterprise Institute website, http://www.cei.org/gencon/019,03597.cfm: Reith "believed strongly that the BBC should become a single broadcaster for the nation, bringing news and culture to those who had never experienced either before. Reith felt the BBC needed "the brute force of monopoly" in its mission to "inform, education [sic] and entertain... [and] bring the best of everything to the greatest number of homes". Reith was very much an establishment man. During the 1926 general strike, he argued that the BBC ought to support the government absolutely, because the BBC was the people's service and the government the people's government".

2 Ibid.

3 Compare Freud, Beyond The Pleasure Principle: "a particular way is adopted of dealing with any internal excitations which produce too great an increase of pleasure: there is a tendency to treat them as though they were acting, not from the inside, but from the outside, so that it may be possible to bring the shield against stimuli into operation as a means of defence against them. This is the origin of projection". The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Vintage, 2001) vol.18 p.29. Freud's analysis is something of an allegory for the social and economic manifestations of patriotism and xenophobia.

4 See Paul A. Baran, 'Theses on Advertising' (1964) The Longer View (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969) p.224: "Under oligopolistic conditions, price competition is avoided as a response to the insufficiency of demand and other forms of sales effort are substituted". I will return to this word, substituted.

5 My translation. In the original French: "il faut comprendre que nous allons assister, participer, … une course de vitesse entre les artistes libres et la police pour expérimenter et développer l'emploi des nouvelles techniques de conditionnement. Dans cette course la police a déjà un avantage considérable. De son issue dépend pourtant l'apparition d'environnements passionnants et libérateurs, ou le renforcement-scientifiquement contrôlable, sans brèche-de l'environnement du vieux monde d'oppression et d'horreur".

6 Frances Hannett, 'The Haunting Lyric. The Personal and Social Significance of American Popular Songs'. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly vol.33, 1964, pp.226-269.

7 Ibid. p.237.

8 Theodore Reik, The Haunting Melody (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953).

9 Hannett, 'The Haunting Lyric' p.237.

10 Ibid.

11 Interview with Kurt R. Eissler, 18th October 1952, in Reich Speaks of Freud ed. Mary Higgins and Chester M. Raphael, trans. Therese Pol (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975) p.52.

12 Hannett, 'The Haunting Lyric' p.255.

13 Ibid. p.257.

14 Freud, 'On Narcissism: An Introduction'. (1914) The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud vol.14 p.90.

15 Freud, Totem and Taboo (1913) The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud vol.13 p.85.

16 Ibid.

17 Leo Balter, 'Magic and the Aesthetic Illusion' Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 50/4, 2002 p.1165.


Back to ICE-Z
Get You Back Home