The Privileging of Leading Products:
Postmodern Meta-Narratives of Cultural Synchronicity
Postmodernism claims it "privileges" no "meta-narrative." Yet it really "privileges" that philosophical meta-narrative called pluralism (many) over the meta-narratives of monism (one) or dualism (two).
The symbol for pluralism in our late capitalistic economy are those contemporary mini-symbols called products and brands. And what are products and brands but the content of words and information searching for the contextual monism of the original symbolic image?
Consumer culture "votes" certain products (content, words, information) into "leadership" roles by the act of buying some products (content) more than others. Therefore, the leading products and brands in culture at particular times represents a "democratic" type of "privilege" rather than a "philosophic" argument for the existence of no privilege. In effect, the particular "information" surrounding these leading products is "privileged" over the information surrounding other products for these moments in time.
There exists symbolic correspondences (relationships) between the leading content (products) of culture. These correspondences are not contentual (similarities in outward features, benefits and appearances) but rather contextual (similarities relating to subjective ideas like space, place and time). Dominance of a film like Titanic in the mid 90s ( night time love story and tragedy that takes place in the context of the ocean) finds contextual relationship to feminine symbolism of water, ocean, night-time and the romance genre. This contextual symbolism "voted" into a privileged leadership position in the mid-90s has correspondences with product content from other areas: cars, music, books, celebrities and events.
This overall relationship between content of culture at particular times has been termed various things. Hegel called it the "zeitgeist" or the "spirit of the times." Jung termed it "archetype" or "collective unconscious."
In terms of postmodern culture, one can say that the content of culture "voted" into dominance at a particular time represents the "meta-narrative" of culture. One needs to keep in mind that it is a "meta-narrative" for a moment in time and not the grand narrative (or ideology) for an age or an era.
It is a different type of "meta-narrative" than postmodern philosophers have in mind. For this grand narrative "privileges" the vertical alignment of similarities found at the particular moment in time rather than the horizontal juxtapositions of differentiation found in the linear world of causal time where information breeds more information and repeatedly knocks into itself like bumper cars at an amusement park. It "privileges" selection of content by popular culture rather than imposition of rule by elitist culture. A "democracy of consumption" where "leaders" are "voted" on each day at the supermarkets and movies rather than each four years in the voting booths. As McLuhan once said, the living room is the new voting booth.
And it expresses the correspondence and synchronicity between the "given" contextual world of nature and the "produced" world of cultural content. This is what Jung was moving towards in his ideas about synchronicity. He certainly meant it to mean more that the strange knockings of beetles (Gold Scarabs) against windows in consultations with neurotic patients.
These meta narratives are based on the moment and they change based on a dualistic system which moves between opposites. It is a cyclical system and, as it is with all cyclical systems, there is a standard progression of sequences in movement between the opposites. These cyclic sequences correspond to stages of human psychic and biologic growth. They also have correspondence with stages in the cycles of cultures. As Erich Neumann points out in The Origins and History of Consciousness, individual consciousness passes through the same archetypal stages of development that mark the history of human consciousness as a whole.
Each stage in the sequence has a dominant image or symbol which gathers all of the confused pluralism of product content around it like a planet draws moons into its orbit, like a Galaxy draws solar systems into a swirling dervish-like dance of embracement.
In this process of imploding (rather than exploding) sequential symbols of context serve to reduce the pluralistic diversity of content at particular times rather than produce more content. The way out of the stalemate of postmodern culture (a state similar to a backed-up plumbing system) is not forward into the production of more product content of information and words but rather backwards through the reduction of content and towards a return to the context of original image. Through reduction not production.
Ironically, the same electronic technology that allows an overproduction of contentual symbols also brings with it a massive new power of monitoring and tracking content. This new monitoring technology possesses within it the technology of reduction. Technology has produced the content of postmodern pluralism in a never-ending hypertext link of words. It can also reduce words and move towards the original symbols of image. The niche cultures of postmodernism might be aligned into a powerful new American mass culture. And the silliness of postmodernism might fade into the history books with the suddeness of disco, flared pants and Tiny Tim.