Communication in and about daily performances, relationships, arrangements is ordinarily “non-controversial”: it takes things for granted. The world is established, and one has to put up with it; the common projects and aspirations do not essentially question it and do not go beyond it; they aim at rearrangements within it; the apophantic function of language is reactivated only in emergency situations, when the normal state of affairs breaks or is being broken. But the extent to which the apophantic function remains alive in the every-day universe of discourse is perhaps a token of the actual extent to which freedom of thought prevails in a given society. Freedom of thought is freedom of speech also in the sense that the speaker is capable of expressing and communicating ideas which contradict and transcend the established meaning, and do so not by virtue of some poetic or personal connotation, but by virtue of a soberly realistic and realizable content. Such non-conformist expression and communication presuppose an open universe of discourse, in which the meaning of the key terms is not preempted by their reference to a specific set of conditions, events, and relations. For example, “freedom of thought and speech” must be understood to mean, not only the constitutional guarantee and the actual exercise of this liberty, but also the possibility and ability to think independently, the consciousness and the conscience of the difference between individual and social needs and interests, between the human and the national purpose—in other words, the term must be understandable as containing the negation of its given content.
The apophantic function of communication manifests itself in the ability of language to convey, in its current usage, notions and images qualitatively different from those designating established conditions and opportunities, to discover not only that which is but also the presence of that which is not, to reveal the negativity of the positive. In the one-dimensionality of advanced technological civilization, this apophantic function declines, and with the decline of the apophantic function, language tends to be appropriated by and adapted to the requirements of the status quo. Language is literally made by corporate and national Business, by hired researchers, entertainers, press agents, etc. The more blatantly production for profit demands manipulation of needs, the more obviously it depends on mass hypnosis and autosuggestion, the more vanishes the difference between the “ethics” of business and those of the racket, between selling and cheating, between promoting and poisoning, between truth and lie, sense and non-sense. As the rising expenditures for expanding and insuring business enter into the very structure of the economy, they—together with their moronic features and consequences—become beneficial and rational. They help to procure the comforts and luxuries, material ...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.