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An enlightening example of this more salient approach is Hal Fosters essay on Dutch still life paintings during the

middle of the seventeenthcentury. Foster captures exactly the spirit of the cultures of fetishism I will be addressing. Foster discusses the pronk 19 (pronken means to show off) paintings that depict lavish displays of objects like long clay pipes, gold chalices, fine porcelain platters, and extravagant food like oysters and crystal goblets filled with dark wine; all coated in a luxurious glaze of shellac that captures and lubricates the viewers gaze: Often in Dutch still life, the inert seems animate, the familiar becomes estranged, and the insignificant seems humanly, even preternaturally significant . . . animate and inanimate states are confused, things are consumed by representations, once homey images return as unheimlich (uncanny), a whiff or whisper of death hangs over the scene. 20 The fetishistic quality of these pronk paintings are even expressed in their official nomenclature, still life (still leven), nature morte. 21 But, as Foster reminds us, not every still life is fetishistic, or nearly as fetishistic as the pronk paintings of the seventeenth-century Dutch. During the seventeenth-century, the Dutch Protestant social order opposed the idea that any material object could have a spiritual value. They rejected what they called the Fetissos of the Africans and the crosses and icons of Catholicism as ridiculous ceremonies. 22 However, As religious fetishism was suppressed, a commercial fetishism, a fetishism of the commodity was released; the Dutch denounced one overvaluation of objects, only to produce another of their own. 23 Furthermore in this displaced fetishism of the pronk still lifes, the glazed objects appear caught between two worlds: not alive, not dead, not useful, not useless, as if lost between the tangibility of the common thing and the visibility of the distanced commodity. And the pictorial effect is often one of deathly suspension or, of eerie animation with the objects at once chilled and charged by the speculative gaze fixed upon them. 24 Finally, having exhausted the anthropological and commodity fetishisms of the pronk paintings, Foster suggests that these Dutch still lifes are also fetishisms in the Freudian sense. They are structures that express both sides of an ambivalence. For example, the Reaganomics 25 that Foster cites (and even more so, I would imagine, the Bushomics of the early twenty-first century), represented the ambivalent structures of fundamentalism and greed, moral restraint, and economic expenditure. With skilled craft controlling and regulating the destructive excess depicted in the paintings, the pronk still life, at the same time, could assuage anxieties about affluence, expenditure, and economic speculation. 26 Like the Freudian fetish, which both assuages castration anxiety by posing as a substitute penis, and yet also remains as a memorial to castration, in the pronk still life, a ghost of a lack hangs over its very abundance. 27 Moreover, the luminous shine on these still lifes is more faultily fetishistic: it recalls our lack even as it distracts us from it. Kaplan, Louise. Cultures of Fetishism. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. p 28. Copyright © 2006. Palgrave Macmillan. All rights reserved. The cultures that breed and nourish the fetishism strategy did not originate in the sterile corporate culture of the early-twenty-first century. They have been around for a long time. In the first chapter I called attention to Hal Fosters commentary on the fetishism strategy in seventeenthcentury Dutch still-life, Nature Morte, Pronk paintings. He compared the Reaganomic culture of fundamentalism mixed with greed to the seventeenth-century Dutch religious and political structure that simultaneously encouraged the imperatives of moral restraint and economic expansion. The fetishism strategy displayed in the Pronk paintings were an expression of those inherently contradictory social imperatives. Foster observed: Pronk still life was asked to represent these imperatives simultaneously thus its negotiation between order and disorder, godliness and greed, a negotiation that helps to explain emotively conflicted tableaus such as a spilled chalice immaculately composed or a spoiled pie exquisitely glazed. 11 When I described Fosters The Art of Fetishism, I remarked that it reminded me of analogous trends in our contemporary Bushomics, where the interplay between spending and saving, luxury and frugality, acquisitiveness and asceticism is plainly evident. In chapter three, I also recalled Fosters ideas when I thought about the social contradictions of nineteenth-century Neo-Confucianism, with its oscillation between a moral restraint that was meant to eliminate desire, and a license for extravagant indulgences in sensual pleasures, especially food and sex. Nor should we forget

footbinding, a writing on the skin that expressed the contradiction of keeping a woman bound to the hearth, while at the same time transforming her body into the very embodiment of lavish sensual pleasures. Nineteenth-century Neo-Confucianism, twenty first-century Bushomics, like twentieth-century Reaganomics and the economic acquisitiveness of the seventeenth-century Protestant Dutch government, encourage a moral climate that allows human beings to have it both ways: exquisite moral purity on the one hand and profligate economic indulgences for the already affluent, on the other. Thus an entire culture can be pulled in two directions simultaneously. We can indulge in the moral scrupulosity of a pro-life, anti-abortion position, but also simultaneously be drawn to an anti birth control platform that inadvertantly expresses cruelty toward the poor and misfortunate who end up contracting AIDS and giving birth to children who are likely to starve to death before they finally die of AIDS. This mingling of moral scrupulosity and cruelty was vividly displayed in Mel Gibsons blockbuster film The Passion of The Christ, where the blood and bloodied scraps of Christs flogged skin were sopped up by a cloth given to his mother by a compassionate onlooker, who very likely assuaged her voyeuristic guilt by her act of charity, as did the thousands of moviegoers who wept their eyes out after indulging themselves in two hours of gazing intently at the unspeakable sufferings of Jesus Christ. Kaplan, Louise. Cultures of Fetishism. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. p 192-193. Copyright © 2006. Palgrave Macmillan. All rights reserved. I was reminded here of Fosters essay on the fetishistic structure of the seventeenth-century Pronk still-lifes. You may recall that these images also reflected similar contradictions in Dutch culture. While very different in religious outlook and economic structure from the culture of seventeenthcentury China, the contradictions in Dutch culture arose out of similar circumstances, as a consequence of conflicts over the dictates of religious fundamentalism and economic excess, extravagance, affluence, and financial speculation. Foster said this conflict reminded him of the contradictions in the Reaganomics of his day. Certainly that conflict has come back to life in a more virulent form in our own Bushomic era, in which the contradictions between the high moral stance of religious fundamentalism and the program of increasing the affluence of the already affluent and supporting the financial extravagances of the rich are plainly evident. The Chinese had their footbinding; the Dutch had their pronken. What are the cultural forms that express the contradictions in our culture? I hope to be able to answer that question, as I continue along in my explorations of the cultures that breed and nurture the fetishism strategy. For the moment, I can offer only a tentative outline of what that answer might turn out to be. All of these cultural phenomena, Neo-Confucianism and footbinding, Dutch Protestantism and Pronk paintings, American fundamentalism and financial greed, have a similar fetishistic structure. In each instance, the moral stance allays the anxiety that arises in connection with the expression of human desires, whether these desires take the form of eroticism of the bound foot, or gustatory excess, or simply plain old financial greed. Kaplan, Louise. Cultures of Fetishism. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. p 52. Copyright © 2006. Palgrave Macmillan. All rights reserved. Foster, Hal (1993). The Art of Fetishism: Notes on Dutch Still Life, Fetishism as Cultural Discourse. Eds. Emily Apter and William Pietz. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.