MOSCOW, 06 Jan 2022, RUSSTRAT Institute.
Post-cyberpunk in modern culture is a current reflecting the understanding of the nature of modern society – the society of social conflict of the postmodern era. Literature and art are always the sphere of interpretation of philosophical doctrines, the paradigmatic basis of social theories. A highly artistic work is a philosophical work, be it music, painting, cinema and theatre, architecture, literature, design.
In addition to the laws of structuring a work, the relationship of structure and form in it, form and content, aesthetic canons and rules for their violation, a work of art always contains an act of manifestation of a certain philosophy. It exists in it in an unmanifested form and through the sphere of emotional influence conveys its content to the audience.
To understand what post-cyberpunk is in modern culture, what causes it, what reflects where it came from and where it leads, it is worth conducting a semantic analysis of the term, considering its constituent parts. It is also necessary to consider the context in which this term is interpreted and to understand it in dynamics, as was previously said, in the process of direct historical development. To do this, it is worth briefly defining the essence of the terms “punk”, “cyberpunk” and “post-cyberpunk”.
Any culture is divided into subcultures, that is, into cultural currents of different social groups. In this sense, the statement of the classics of Marxism about the class content of culture is nothing but an understanding of this phenomenon of mass consciousness. Culture is a spiritual and intellectual form of expression of society’s adaptation to reality.
A high (elite) culture is formed only in conditions of excessive material wealth, excessive surplus product, in the language of classical bourgeois political economy. At this stage, a class appears in society that is able to form a request for such a product, and a class that is able to create it. This is the synergy of the political, economic and labor aristocracy. In a hierarchical society, high culture is the culture of the upper classes. Even if not everyone there understands it, then everyone follows the fashion for its veneration and consumption.
All other estates and classes try to imitate the upper classes in one form or another and introduce into their subculture the external symbolic attributes of the upper class culture. Folk culture in the modern era becomes archaic and folklore with elements of ethnographic specificity. The so-called mass culture, which includes subcultures of the social lower classes, residents of urban suburbs and megacities, reflects the processes taking place in these layers.
Capitalism constantly generates so-called “extra people” who do not fit into the market. These are marginals who exist at the intersection of cultures and do not belong to any of them. Over time, they form a kind of community that turns into a separate subculture.
Class theory includes the concept of lumpen-proletariat. These are the so-called “dregs of society”, the urban bottom. Modernisation implies the presence of a broad social stratum that does not keep up with it. Punk and cyberpunk are a product of the culture of the loser, oppressed, “despicable” class of the postmodern era.
Social inequality and poverty in bourgeois society lead the losing classes to the conclusion that it is necessary to reorganise society. The existing order of things is recognised as unfair and inhumane, and therefore requires replacement.
Like this cyberpunk spontaneously drifts in the direction of ethics and dogmatics of Marxism, which pushes the bourgeois upper classes to a social order to utilise the social energy of this cultural trend. It requires relaxation from the accumulated antagonistic contradictions inherent in imperialist-era capitalism. Mass culture copes with this task.
The aestheticisation of the subculture of the urban bottom is a technology for recycling the social protest that accumulates in the lower ranks of bourgeois society, harnessing its energy and turning it into a fashion, brand, game. All artistic genres are used: literature, cinema, fashion, design, comics, music, painting, computer games. The middle and upper classes are joining the movement, blurring the outer line between social groups. The subculture of the bottom becomes an aesthetic canon and a form of business.
In this way classical rock appeared in music, which first arose as a protest against aristocratic, bourgeois classics, and then became the same element of the subculture of the upper classes, thus showing solidarity with the lower classes.
Punk rock originated as a negation of any classics, including rock classics. In terms of content, it was a protest of the grassroots, expressed in a grotesque form. Aggression was directed not outside, into society, but inside the protesting individual. He covered himself with attributes that deliberately alienated the ordinary man in the street from him.
The essence of the aesthetics of punk is to emphasise that under capitalism progress is anti-human and generates social fascism in all its varieties. However, the emphasis on the individual, combined with the fashion for drugs, made punk a socially safe form of protest. It was not only cultivated by the ruling class, but also protected, and advertising and show business functionaries invested in it.
Scientific and technological progress gave rise to cyberpunk – the next modification of punk culture. Punk and cyberpunk are a mixture of individualism, anarchism and socialism, that is, a product of bourgeois counterculture. These are left-wing non-Marxist trends in the urban culture of the postmodern era.
Psychologically, this is a protective reaction of adaptation to stress, to an unbearable reality that there is no strength to change. Punk and its mutation cyberpunk is a deliberate mixture of incompatible bourgeois and anti-bourgeois attitudes, such as individualism and socialism, anarchism and nihilism, anti-establishment, anti-consumerism, pacifism, anti-capitalism and at the same time anti-paternalism, since the state here is considered an instrument of oppression in the interests of the upper classes and the establishment. This makes socialism and punk with cyberpunk socially related trends.
The aesthetics of punk and cyberpunk are close to the Proletkult. In fact, this is the version of the proletarian culture of postmodernism, its very bottom, which includes rudeness and rejection of sophistication as a basic principle. This was how anti-elitism manifested itself, which understood culture as a bourgeois phenomenon. After all, punk came out of the lumpen-hippie environment.
Cyberpunk is a continuation of the description of the social degradation of society in the genre of dystopia, in which the fruits of scientific and technological progress (biological and social engineering based on information technology) are appropriated by the top of the state-monopolistic, and above all the financial bourgeoisie. It describes the near future (futurism) in extreme manifestations. Everything is gloomy, the apotheosis of man’s alienation from the world, the little man’s war against social machinery is reduced to an attempt to survive and find a secluded niche in the general chaos.
In cyberpunk, this is interpreted as the decomposition of the institutions of the state, crushed by transnational corporations. Corruption, corporatocracy with mafia elements prevail here – the fusion of big business and state power, unpunished abuse of power for the purpose of personal enrichment, kleptocracy (the power of thieves), technocracy and cyberocracy (the power of immoral technical specialists from the servants of the ruling class).
Cyberpunk even gave rise to the term “algocracy” (from the word “the power of algorithms”, which implies not only digitalisation, but also the total bureaucratisation of social relations, the power of corporate regulations and procedures over all other types of social communications.
Post-cyberpunk is a kind of cultural virus that penetrates the protest current of cyberpunk and decomposes its canons. Cyberpunk is science fiction and fantasy – depending on the credo of the author and his moral position. The American cyberpunk fantasy genre is dark and apocalyptic. The Russian one is optimistic and symbolises the breakthrough of good through evil and is close to science fiction with its social optimism.
On an anti-bourgeois and humanitarian basis, the Russian version of cyberpunk corresponds to the Russian cultural code. The Russian one here is a mixture of communal socialism with religious ethics. For the urban lower class, by default, this is Christianity without Christ, but this is only the beginning, an external form to facilitate indoctrination and appeal to the non-religious (and often anti-religious) mass.
The bourgeois development of the trend feels this and takes punk and its post-versions into the occult and Satanism. The socialist and Christian interpretation of punk is not fulfilled because of the lack of a social order due to the defeat of Christianity and socialism in the war with liberalism.
The defeat arose from the fact that liberalism mastered scientific-technical progress and defeated socialism, which is now associated with technological backwardness and the dominance of an immoral and mentally mediocre bureaucracy. Liberalism stresses progressivity and the fact that socialism and traditionalism pull into the past and stop progress.
Cyberpunk is a statement that the future is terrible (anti-utopia, Big Brother, etc.). Post-cyberpunk denies this and claims that it’s possible to get a good job here. Post-cyberpunk, under the guise of adapting the population to scientific-technical progress through the development of network technologies, allegedly removing the separation of the upper from the lower, ridicules the canons of cyberpunk and at the same time ridicules the geopolitical goals of Russia in any form: Russian Empire, USSR, Russian Federation.
Thus, in the novel “Moscow 2042” written by dissident Vladimir Voynovich, who fled to the West, the Soviet Union is depicted in the style of evil satire: corrupt rulers have depleted oil sources, and therefore the country uses trucks and armoured personnel carriers on steam fuel, and feces are pumped to the West along the “Druzhba” oil pipeline as a source of biofuel.
Post-cyberpunk claims to remove the conflict between man and the system in a capitalist society. If cyberpunk is a separation of system and personality, then post-cyberpunk is a fusion of system and personality. Manipulation technology is not visible in post-cyberpunk, it is part of everyday life, social practice, dissolved in it, constitutes it.
Life is no longer a dystopia, but a parody of it. Coercion is not outside society, but inside it. The subject of post-cyberpunk is not the hero of the anti-system opposing the system, but a part of this system. This is an employee, a journalist, a policeman, i.e. living in harmony with the system and looking for ways to adapt and solve their problems in the system.
The Russian civilisational code is ready to understand cyberpunk, but in post-cyberpunk it borrows only what corresponds to its nature – network forms of horizontal social communication as a way of forming community and group cohesion. It is a means to maintain the instinct of collectivism.
But the Internet is a form, and for Russians the content is important. What would be the point of broadcasting over the Internet? The Russian civilisational code, according to A. Fursov’s definition, is characterised as systemic anti-capitalism. From post-cyberpunk, it will instinctively choose only what corresponds to this code.
There is little suitable for the Russian code in the current post-cyberpunk. If we take conservatism as a basis for consolidation, then this ideology is not for young people, there is no passionarity and heroisation of the sacrifice made for the sake of the future common good. This is protection, defence, security, characteristic of the older generations, those who have already lived and are afraid of change. It is the position of “No matter what happens”, quite compromised in the Russian classical literature of the school curriculum. For the young, the question arises: protect what from whom, why and how to correlate conservation and the demand for change?
In addition, there is no aggressiveness, offensive ability, experiment, social dynamics and an image of the future that generates a surge of energy that is attractive to young people. Left-wing ideologists at the beginning of the 20th century understood this and successfully expressed it in the slogan “Communism is the youth of the world, and it should be built by the youth!”. The art of the 30s, the period of the surge of left passionarity, is about this. What is the youth of the world today? Not inclusive capitalism!
The problem of conservatism is the reputation of the ideology of the elderly, which makes it possible to interpret it as a reactionary ideology of a weak, passive, defensive side and therefore losing the historical dispute. Young people do not want to join the weak, who have gone into deaf protection. In addition, aesthetic conservatism cultivates generational conflict. It has a fear of progress and the lack of its acceptable appearance. Conservatism is not good for young people.
The passionary version of ideology in line with the national code of Russians must inevitably be at the junction of socialism and Christianity with the postulation of a common energy of victory. The axiological basis is asceticism and self-sacrifice. The meeting point of the right wing with the left and the left wing with the right. This direction is being developed by many experts, but the final product has not yet been conceptually designed.