Captain American and General Intellect: Abstraction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Robertson, Benjamin J. "Captain American [sic] and General Intellect: Abstraction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe."SFRA Review #329 (Summer 2019): 28-35.

This feature article in SFRA Review 329 offers an instructive Frederic Jamesonian approach to the Marvel "Cinematic Universe"[1] and other franchises (notably STAR WARS) with the franchise as a kind of sprawling artistic form. Relevant here primarily for two quotations suggesting we look at the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) as a variety of machine.

In the Grundrisse,[2] at the beginning of the fragment on machines, [Karl] Marx writes, “Capital which consumes itself in the production process, or fixed capital, is the means of production in the strict sense.” By “fixed capital” Marx means machinery, specifically industrial machinery. Machines “store” human skill and knowledge and thus represent an abstraction of the general intellect. Under late capitalism, however, we should no longer consider machinery to be limited to the technologies of industrial capitalism. Franchise is a type of machine characteristic of the present mode of production, one that alludes back to Marx’s machine but is more characteristic of the machines we find in Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia.[3] (p. 34) [* * *]

And that’s how the MCU machine works. It’s not a means of simple reproduction but rather one that takes on an accumulative shape as it develops and as more and more parts are added to it. These parts remain abstract, or drawn away, from one another but they grant the overall machine a shape that in turn determines future production. Ryan Vu tells us that every MCU film is the trailer for the next MCU film, which is true. It is also true that every MCU film is the most recent expression of a fixed-ness of capital, a machinic collection of abstract parts whose overall shape produces a limited set of possibilities for what can follow. (p. 35)

RDE, finishing, 23/24Sep20