Aaron at Airport Through the Trees with some good thoughts about retro and late capitalism:
"Retro is a structural necessity within the new formation of capital.... The loss of the alienated subject, structural critique, mass opposition
(through the fracturing of markets via flexible accumulation) the loss
of biology-based antagonisms (which persist but are no longer
"beneficial") which form groups out of necessity, instead of deliberate
taste, has caused the production of new cultural material to exploit to
come to a standstill (or at least, to become so slow as to not be able
to keep pace with the speed of commodification necessary to provide the
necessary profits). The structural need for perpetual growth (you gotta
spend money to make money) has reopened past forms to exploitation. The
new underclass, no longer alienated, no longer antagonistic, only
concerned with personal growth, is only too happy to repurpose older
cultural product for the new market. This repurposing is the stripping
of any referents or cultural baggage that belonged to the older form of
social and economic organization."
In an earlier part of the post, Aaron has a schema that breaks down facets of the transition from industrial to postindustrial / modern to postmodern / material labor to immaterial labor etc. One of them is:
Modernism (new space for exploitation)---> Retro (reclamation of old space for re-exploitation)
I don't think Aaron meant physical space or urban space here (although real estate and gentrification crop up elsewhere in his argument), but it had never before fully struck me re. the parallels between retro as the reclamation of old musical styles and the movement of hipsters etc into old working class neighbourhoods. In both cases, the "space" (cultural and urban-geographical) is associated with primary forms of production. So Williamsburg, Shoreditch, or the Flats in Cleveland in an earlier age, etc etc these are places that used to be full of factories and warehouses and sweatshops, whose consequent ugliness and lack of facilities made them undesirable to anybody but urban pioneers and aspiring artists...
But the musical forms associated with that proletarian lifestyle are equally abandoned and derelict, capable of being repurposed and remodelled... but with none of the existensial urgency that those forms had for the people who invented them and invested them with their energy, frustration, need for temporary transcendence...
This is why hipster house is such a curious thing, or indeed "Detroit techno" when it's made by people not from Detroit and not in the 1980s/early 90s....
But going back to the post, Aaron himself notes that the word "necessity" (as in "Retro is a structural necessity within the new formation of capital") is a stumbling point in his argument. I also faced the same road bump while making a similar argument in the conclusion to Retromania but had to glide past it as best as I could. Even Fredric Jameson himself doesn't quite establish the link between "the nostalgia mode" and late capitalism -- retro as the inevitable upshot of / superstructure-to-base corrolary of an economy based around artificially expanded credit, real estate speculation, the finance sector and its ever-more spectral "instruments"...
Signs become detached from referents, signifiers from signs, styles unrooted from their modes of production.... yes, yes, absolutely.... but why does that imply and impel a return to the archives? Is it because the economic growth that characterises late capitalism is pseudo-growth, fallacious growth (finance, property -- speculative, unmoored from material production), and thus a mask for a society that has stalled in its tracks.... that has lost its generative capacity in terms of new forms?