Landscapes of Global Capital
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For Zygmunt Bauman (1998) what separates elites and non-elites is their relationship to space and time. On the one hand, like capital itself elites tend to be globally mobile; they are not tied to place. An estimated 25 million persons work in foreign countries for global corporations. Trade agreements such as NAFTA have eased restrictions on corporate and business executives, professionals, and highly skilled workers as they move from one country to another (Anderson and Cavanagh, 2000: 25). They share the liquidity of Capital and traverse national borders with ease. They are equipped with the technologies of mobility: laptops, cell phones, credit cards, and wireless connections to the global informational system. Likewise, a nomadic institutional structure has developed to support these executives: elite hotel chains, the airline industry, VIP lounges, platinum cards, rental cars, etc. On the other hand, non-elites are 'locally tied.' They are tied to communities, relatives, work, land, and to the immobility of poverty. Immigration laws articulate the national boundaries that govern them. Mobility is not chosen but cast upon them by some form of disaster: natural disasters, civil war, and chronic unemployment. There is also a nomadic institutional structure: immigration authorities, the Red Cross, refugee camps. Provided by the State these structures are designed to reinstate control. This dark side of the lightness of new capital formations is absent in advertising narratives, with the exception of old-fashioned legitimation ads such as those by Philip Morris that claim to respond to the crisis of Central European civilian refugees.

Surrounded by technology, the globe-spanning nomadic elite equips themselves to enter a fully modern landscape, or what Marc Augé describes as the 'non-place' of supermodernity. History, culture, and identity or lived organic relations are associated with place. In a non-place this form of relations disappears.

Clearly the word 'non-place' designates two complementary but distinct realities: spaces formed in relation to certain ends (transport, transit, commerce, leisure), and the relations that individuals have with these spaces... For non-places mediate a whole mass of relations, with the self and with others, which are only indirectly connected with their purposes. As anthropological places create the organically social, so non-places create solitary contractuality. (1992: 94)

In an Allianz commercial entitled "The Promise," a father leaves his daughter for a business trip and promises to call her. Our nomadic executive leaves his daughter and enters the world of non-places. His odyssey is through contractual spaces: airport, hotel, rental car, and electronic communication circuits. Like our protagonist capital is liquid and flows across the landscape. Allianz insurance underwrites these non-places as it flows across the circuits of capital, the insurance to cover the uncertainties that inhabit supermodernity.

Mobility. Covered by Allianz.
Risk. Covered by Allianz.
Performance. Covered by Allianz.
Technology. Covered by Allianz.
Life. Covered by Allianz.

In this commercial Allianz blends liquid globalized capital with the concern and dependability. It disguises the logic of capital through a familial analogy. Father to daughter is equivalent to Allianz and it clients. Like a father who thinks about his daughter during his travels; Allianz is always thinking about its insurees. As the narrator states, "a promise is a promise. Wherever you are and whatever you do, Allianz with its global partners is the power beside you." And just as a father fulfills his promise to his daughter Allianz will fulfill its promise.

The ad substitutes an organic relationship for contractual relationship. Using slow motion, superimpositions, dissolves, soft focus, pastels, and warm caring music and lyrics the commercial blends images of the daughter with supermodernity. Both father and daughter gaze upward in their solitude. It's an empty existence without the other. The mother of the family is essentially absent. We only see a fragment of her body in two shots: holding the child as the father leaves and handing her daughter the phone. A reoccurring social tableaux is a scene depicting absence from family members and the psychological response of longing. The moment of identity is the father/daughter relation; their pleasure and affect are connected to each other's voice.

What he is confronted with, finally, is an image of himself, but in truth it is a pretty strange image. The only face to be seen, the only voice to be heard, in the silent dialogue he holds with the landscape-text addressed to him along with others, are his own: the face and voice of a solitude made all the more baffling by the fact that it echoes millions of others. The passenger through non-places retrieves his identity only at customs, at the tollbooth, at the checkout counter. Meanwhile, he obeys the same code as others, receives the same messages, responds to the same entreaties. The space of non-place creates neither singular identity nor relations, only solitude, and similitude (Augé, 1992, 103).

While the Allianz commercial substitutes one form of relation with another, AT&T affectively captures the solitude of non-places. The AT&T commercial uses Elton John's "Rocket man" as emotional background. John's lyrics express the loss of relationship for the modern nomad. He pines for his home, his wife, his child, the Earth, solid ground. It captures the lonely disconnectedness and endless travel of supermodernity.

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour, nine a.m.
I miss the earth so much; I miss my wife
It's lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight.
And I think it's going to be a long, long time
Till touchdown brings me round again to fly.
I'm not the man they think I am a home
oh no no no
I'm a Rocket man. Rocket man
Burning out into the very...."
Across the screen:
"AT&T - Its all within your reach"
Allianz01-99
Mobility. This snapshot from an Allianz ad symbolically captures the grand narratives of progress and individual mobility. Its linking of present and future came undone on September 11, 2001 when the whiplash of history smashed this bourgeois image of freedom.
Against the solitude expressed in the lyrics and images of air travel the commercial edits together a composite tapestry of images expressing warmth: the wife sleeping in a mahogany bed next to a bouquet of flowers, the daughter leaving for school, the wife in the kitchen preparing food, the child's purple violet broach which the wife slipped into his briefcase. These are given narrative direction by the series of pictures of his and her longing gazes.

Longing is transformed into communication, a commodity exchange. He sends her a fax that reads "Meet me on the porch 9:00." The porch romanticizes the relationship. Roland Marchand (1985) observed that in early modern ads from the 1920's family tableaux were often shot in soft focus, a haven from a heartless world. The demands of work and the nomadic existence experienced by executives are offset, countered by memories of other family members. Here the daughter plays the pivotal role.

The Allianz and AT&T commercials speak to the social separation implicit in doing business in the high tech world of global capital, while at the same time reinstating emotional contact through the telecommunications circuits of high tech capital.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey