The Dream Society and Market Mysticism
Things get only stranger and stranger as I delve deeper into Rolf Jensen’s imagination of “The Dream Society”. Just how strange and weird it is can’t be adequately described, perhaps, unless you dive into the book yourself. I would never have paid it even a second thought had it not been my suspicion a few days ago that it also had something to do with “the collapse of reality”, or with the meaning of “post-rational” or “post-truth”.
So, today I’m going to try to describe and perhaps partially explain what looms monstrously large in the background of this “Dream Society” — something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on two years ago when I first read it, but which accounts for why I was very uneasy about it in the first place. I call it Jensen’s “market mysticism”.
We can also call that market mysticism “the mystique of the market” or “the myth of the market”, terms which I hope will be justified by my description of Jensen’s use of the word “market” in the book.
Jensen actually never defines what he means by “the market”, and there’s no particular passage in the book (as far as I’ve read into the book) that I could cite as representing his imagination of the market. It’s just something there — supreme, universal, absolute, and ubiquitous. It contains all, it embraces all, and is the existential matrix for all human relations so that, in effect, this “market” is simply that in which we all live, move, and have our being, like the ocean — or like God. It is the aether, the firmament, the unmoved mover all in one.
It occurred to me, then, that “the market” has, in that respect, become also a substitute myth or metaphor for the Newtonian-Cartesian Clockwork Universe. In fact, as just another “story — and the Dream Society is in the business of selling stories — the “post-rational” market also contains the Clockwork Universe as simply one of those stories.
In fact, Jensen’s imagination of, and use of the term, “market” in his book invokes a recollection of Nicholas of Cusa’s description of God as “a circle whose circumference is nowhere, and who centre is everywhere”, and it infiltrates everywhere, including the human “imagination”, “dreams”, and the human “spirit”. These intimate matters, too, must be commodified, and submit, too, to what some call “the market imperative”.
This isn’t just a vulgar economism, by which all human behaviours and relationships are reduced to economic ones. It is that, of course, but there’s something more in play here. For Jensen the “market” has pretty much the same meaning as Einstein’s spacetime continuum. It has pretty much the same significance as the “quantum field” in quantum mechanics. In those terms, one can see how Jensen might promote the “market” as new myth to supplant the Clockwork Universe, and how it might take on that meaning as myth and metaphor, or as symbolic or representational image of the spacetime continuum or the “field”.
But there is something more than this, something which lends to “the market” this character of market mysticism or “the myth of the market”. As a mental image of the spacetime continuum, or the quantum field, there’s nothing that suggests the “dream society” as its logical expression. The reason is simple to understand, for quite apart from a kind correlate to the spacetime continuum, or the quantum field, the “market” for Jensen is Jung’s “collective unconscious”, which is also boundless yet provides the context for all dreams and imaginings, and for all that is considered mythical and magical.
This isn’t just market fetishism. Is Jensen even aware that his ubiquitous “market” looks identical to Jung’s collective unconscious? I’m not sure that he is, but there is no doubt that some associated with Jensen’s “dream society” and what is called “marketing 3.0” are persuaded to think of the market as equivalent to Jung’s collective unconscious and are using Jung’s archetypal psychology for the purpose of marketing and propaganda, which means, in effect, that they do treat the “market” and Jung’s “collective unconscious” as the same thing. That’s pretty much the premiss of Margaret Mark’s and Carol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.
We can certainly wonder and ponder, too, whether the present “collapse of reality” isn’t in some way also the manifestation of the “collective unconscious” as this “market”, and has become fetishised as such. The mind simply reels at the implications of that, and not only because a very large element of Jung’s collective unconscious is the Shadow. It may be no coincidence that there is, simultaneous with the imagination of this “Dream Society”, an attendant concern with manifestations of “the Shadow“, or Paul Levy’s “the spell of Wetigo” (“Wendigo” in this part of the world).
If you know anything about Jung’s archetypal psychology, you’ll also understand the numinous power of the archetypes, for they are, in effect, the old gods and spirits of the mythical and magical consciousness, and not to be treated of frivolously, and also in effect, treating of them as “brands” is a conjuration of all that. But that’s what “marketing 3.0” seems set on doing.
Of course, what Gebser refers to as the “irruption” of older, latent factors in our psychic constitution — the mythical and the magical — predates Jensen’s “Dream Society” or marketing 3.0, which would seem to be contingent upon that irruption, and perhaps exploiting it, however witlessly, for fun and profit, and would seem themselves to be “deficient” expressions of that. That’s the paradox here — the whole domain of this “collective unconscious” becoming manifest as “the market” and brands as “archetypes” combining to effect “the dream society”. It would, in effect, meet the meaning of Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual” but only in the most perverse and opaque way — even as “commodity fetishism” or brand fetishism.
But it’s only as “collective unconscious” that Jensen’s market mysticism makes any sense, as well as how something called “the Dream Society” could even become effectually real at all. Marshall McLuhan addressed some of this earlier, of course, and there is something there of an anticipation of Jensen’s “Dream Society” in that very sense, also in terms of the commodification and marketing of archetypal myth and magic.
It would, of course, be very difficult to prove any relationship between Jensen’s Dream Society, marketing 3.0, “the collapse of reality” and postmodern chaos, and all that with things like Peter Pomerantsev’s description of matters in Putin’s Russia, too — in Nothing is True Everything is Possible, which seems to be exactly the Russian equivalent of Neal Gabler’s Life The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. Both appear, also, to be scrutinising the same “Dream Society” phenomenon (and perhaps also Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business).
So maybe the real question is not so much “What is the Matrix?” as it is “What is the Market?” And maybe they are just the same question after all.
The “market” may be an idol of the mind — it has all the features of an idol — but in treating this “market” as a manifestation of “the collective unconscious”, then the “dream society” of buying and selling dreams, fantasies, brands as archetypes, myths, and magic would make sense, as would the “collapse of reality” in those terms as well. If, as Marshall Berman insisted, “everything is pregnant with its contrary”, this would be a good example of that — the one time “rational” market having become completely inverted, being now irrational and irreal.
I’ld like to give you an answer as to whether the “collapse of reality” is velation or revelation, but it seems to have characteristics of both. Velation and revelation are, of course, the meaning of Gebser’s opacity and transparency.
And perhaps Jensen’s “market” as Jung’s collective unconscious may well account for those other strange matters I’ve often mentioned: Stirk’s Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, Lee Worth Bailey’s The Enchantments of Technology, or Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream, (this latter especially in relation to The Dream Society).
Which raises an interesting question about “post-rational” society. Is the Dream Society already here? Are we daily moving through visible manifestations of the collective unconscious without having recognised them as such yet? There are other strange things that suggest this may be so, which I’ll raise later.