On the threat of action

In a previous post I sketched a scene from Mad Men where Joan criticized Peggy for firing Joey.  Peggy’s official reason was due to Joey’s excessive levels of misogamy towards Joan, but Joan picked up up that this was a smokescreen concealing her own personal grandstanding.

I claim that Joan is right in her analysis of Peggy’s action, not only because Peggy’s actions were coached by Don, but also because she fails to grasp the true nature of power. Authority stems from the credibility of a threat of a consequence, not from the exercise of power.

Joey, once believing in Peggy’s threat to sack him, tries to backtrack and states that he is going to apologize to Joan after initially refusing to do so. The fact that his back peddling is undermined through his reference to Peggy’s flared nostrils is a symptom of his personal relationship issues of his mother and not that of general pervasivness of societal misogamy. Peggy should have taken the hit, and recognized the apology as a concession by Joey, which would have been closer to act of solidarity within the confines of the system in which they were operating in.

Perhaps in the mode of Roger who implanted the idea in Pete’s head that it was Don who saved Peter from the sack in the episode New Amsterdam, Peggy could have somehow planted the idea that it was Joan who saved Joey from the sack.

Another example of failing to grasp the nature of authority can be found in the critics who see failure in Obama failing to carry out his threat on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  They overlook the fact that the threat coerced Russia/Syria into efforts to remove chemical weapons without the use of military force (whilst also solidifying Russian/Syrian grip over the crisis through removing the only thing which directly threatened the United States).

Where Joan is wrong is in failing to see the new development that women can begin to wield power like a (white) man. This line of argument is a rehash of Kotsko’s argument that Mad Men demonstrates the failure of Fordist mode of production, and in someway, this failure points to the rise of neoliberalism. Where Kosko elaborates the argument by dint of the function of home and public life of work for the characters,  I choose to emphasize the way in which worked in terms of gender relations and how this foreshadows neoliberal incorporation of other minorities which were barred under Fordism. At bottom the promise of neoliberalism is of…

  …some kind of purely personal and individual redemption – there may be hope for me but there is no hope for us.

To repeat: after the death of communism is an act of solidarity possible?


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