Monday, January 29, 2007



  1. Introduction

  1. Consumerism: Freedom of Choice or Determined Order?

  1. Self in Consumer Culture and Identity Crisis

3.1 Illusion of Real and Truth

3.2 Time- Space- Distraction

3.3 Line of Flight

3.4 Reaching Self Consciousness Through Insanity

3.5 Servant and Master: The Integral Binary

  1. Opposing the System Out of the System

4.1 Forming of Fight Club

4.2 Overman or Dictator? Charismatic Leader Tyler Durden

4.3 Transformation of Fight Club into Project Mayhem

  1. Failure of the New Order

5.1 Separation of Tyler Durden and Jack

6. Conclusion

1. Introduction

We live in a time that people have access to almost everywhere through technology, but we still cannot prevent people dying from hunger in every three seconds. Shopping malls growing at the corners of almost every street, people dedicating their lives to television and increasing number of psychological disorders in the society, made me question myself and what caused this current situation. Although there are many dimensions of the problem, such as politics, economics etc., I wanted to focus on simple people and their lifestyles. Consumer culture seems to be one of the responsible as it shuts the brains down.

While searching for a way to put my thoughts into term paper, I figured it would be easier to use a film to analyze theories in action. I have seen parallels between Fight Club and today’s modern society in terms of identity adopting processes, meaning of commodity and relationships. Fight Club offers a critique of the late capitalist society by focusing on individuals’ psychological conditions and sociological positions in the culture of consumerism.

The film both focuses on the lifestyles in general which is shaped by consumption and also highlights how one individual can exist in such society. Instead of criticizing capitalism in terms of job insecurity and high unemployment rates, Fight Club considers problems of ‘functional’ workers of the system. The film draws attention to the point that even the ones with jobs, degrees, and fancy furniture are under attack in the capitalist system. According to the movie, consumerism kills the free will, fetisihizes the commodity, and creates functional good looking workers to maintain the system.

In taking up these issues I first analyze the consumer culture of the film, addressing social critique of consumerism and individual’s position in it. In doing so, I address the identity crisis one can experience and the ways to cope with it. Then I will point out the factors that set Fight Club in terms of the founder and the group members as well as representational politics that structure Fight Club- that the dress code, mystic rules and leadership, philosophical background and preparation of Project Mayhem. Finally, I argue that Fight Club and Project Mayhem were not actually intended to free slaves, but they are used as Tyler Durden’s fantasy revolution which lead to another form of dictatorship that he rejects at the beginning. By doing so I will use the terms of line of flight, alienation, overman, real, and truth to support my ideas.

2. Consumerism: Freedom of Choice or Determined Order?

Consumer culture is the dominant mode of cultural reproduction developed in the west over the course of modernity. It denotes a social arrangement in which the relation between lived culture and social resources, between meaningful ways of life, the symbolic and material resources on which they depend, is mediated through markets.

Although the roots of consumer culture dates back to eighteenth century, it developed and fully formed itself in postmodern era. The idea of making consumerism a unique culture was not a consequence of industrial modernization but it was a part of the making modern world. It is strongly bounded with the idea of modernism and modern experience with its various elements such as values, aspirations, ideas and identities.

Consumer culture is about continuous self-creation through the accessibility of things which are themselves presented as new, modish, faddish, or fashionable, always improves and improving (Slater, 1997:10).

The society described in Fight Club is materialistic, concerned with ‘having’ to the exclusion of ‘being’, commodified, hedonistic and full of choices that produces consumer sovereignty. The lifestyle that consumerism dictates force men in the movie to seek refuge in support groups. There is no principle restricting who can consume what, there is no principle what can be consumed. All social relations, activities, and objects can be exchanged in consumerism. Jack, the main character of the movie, is an automotive manufacture recall coordinator who starts questioning meaning of his life and blaming consumerism for his psychological problems. He travels around the country to investigate car accidents for a major auto company. He objectifies people by weighing them and calculates the cost against car recall costs. People seem like recyclable objects to Jack, the people he meets on airplanes are ‘single serving friends’ to him.

No spiritual satisfaction in his job, lack of hope for future, Jack has many existential questions in mind. In the ‘neoliberal’ society he lives in, he has the right to decide what he wants. Living in an apartment building called ‘A place to be somebody’, he constantly orders furniture from IKEA and tries to make the place ‘somewhere’. By ordering from IKEA catalogue, he rationally pursues his self-defined interests through the market. What he realizes later is that he is not motivated by particular needs but by a general desire of the economic and political system.

In the postmodern era, lifestylisation has become a major component of identity production, whereby individuals seek to produce themselves through particular lifestyle practices. This lifestylisation and individualization process may be in response to the fragmentation of formerly distinct identities, for example class or national identity. Such mass identifications seemingly no longer suffice in our newly individualizing world. Consumers then, seek to use specific goods to differentiate themselves from others, including the mass-culture at large, a process which is driven by the desire for individuality, status and distinction.

Consumption is cultural itself for many reasons. First of all consumption have meaning by interpreting sensations,
experiences and situations. In the movie, Jack can guess what day of the week it is by looking at his boss’ tie:
“It must have been Tuesday; he was wearing his ‘corn-flower’ blue tie”
(Fight Club). Color of the tie, not
only reflects the boss’ personal unique choices, but it also works as a signifier on days of the week. Later on,
the boss asks to the chipper salesman if he can choose the color corn-flower blue for the icon. Corn-flower blue
is a unique choice from the plural rich color pool for the boss. It works as an ‘elite’ personal taste and as a
signifier for weekdays to his employees. Secondly, even in consumer culture there is shared meaning. Employees
or business partners of Jack’s boss know the specific meaning of the color corn- flower blue. In the consumer
culture, materials, colors, clothes undertake various complex social meanings and they play important roles on
determining the identity. The things consumed are expressions of identities, values, tastes, social memberships
and so on.
What makes the individual active in this process is ‘freedom of choice.’ When the consumer culture offers too
many choices self experiences risk and anxiety because of the fear of making the wrong choice. Right choices
of today can be wrong tomorrow. In the wide choices pool of consumer culture, self help books, courses and
programs, psychologists, therapists, and many other commodities are ready to solve the problem in exchange
of money. (Bauman 1990: 200-5).
3. Self in Consumer Culture and Identity Crisis
Consumer culture is part of social deregulation and it mostly emerges on identity crisis. In the deregulated pluralism
of modernity, identity is not described or fixed by a stable social order, instead it must be chosen by the individuals.
Consumer culture exemplifies this situation of choice and reinforces the cultural deficits of modernity. However,
modernity based on pure individual self- interest, ironically leaves the individual in a chronically weak position
(Slater 2003: 73). Lack of solidarity, without a binding collective culture, the individual is subjected to manipulation
and potential psychological disorders. Mentioned psychological conditions are necessary in the modern world, as
an individual expelled from the social boundaries and traditional walls are lost and alone, easier to convince to buy
and consume. Liberation from social restraint causes weakening, disorientation, and submission of the individual by
loss of natural feeling, stable social values and increasing loneliness. Having individual autonomy, the self desires more,
produces insatiable needs, and glorifies competition.
The characterization of modernity as mass identity crisis connects with consumer culture in several major ways. The
metaphor of individual choice dominates our sense of the social. Social action and structure are increasingly understood
in terms of individual choices undertaken in relation to the needs of, or for, a self. Modern identity is best understood
through the image of consumption (Slater 1997: 85). We adopt pre-made self identities from the plural social world
surrounding us. Relationship styles, experiences, collective memories and all other objects are set to build self identity
and maintain it. After the construction of self is complete, there comes self’s turn to sell itself. In many social environments,
jobs, career, relationships self promotes itself. “I loved that condo. I loved every stick of furniture. The lamps, the
chairs, the rugs, were me. The dishes were me.”
(Fight Club).
Choosing to define himself with commodification speeds up Jack’s identity crisis as his condo blows up. Somewhere
between modernity and postmodernity, in the middle of paranoia and schizophrenia, Jack’s identity crisis starts with
alienation and comes as insomnia. In a sense, it is not a disorder but a symptom. It could be symptom of identity crisis
which would lead him to split personality.
Žižek points out that we must bear in mind the radical ontological status of
symptom that is literally our only substance, the only positive support for our being, the only point that gives consistency
to the subject.
Consumption does not just influence the culture or the way of doing for a basic need, but rather it constitutes the needs,
objects, practices, it even shapes personalities and social relationships. In the movie, Jack ‘chooses’ to define himself
with the furniture he orders from IKEA. As usual in the concept of consumption, the needs never end, the right choice
never comes: “Jack: You buy furniture. You tell yourself: this is the last sofa I'll ever need. No matter what else
happens, I've got the sofa issue handled. Then, the right set of dishes. The right dinette”
(Fight Club).

Jack exists in a universe where individuals are known either by their afflictions or by their possessions; they are segmented and classified, restricted by capitalism. "I flipped through catalogs and wondered: 'What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” (Fight Club). He needs to describe himself with material possessions. Jack has this furniture not because he wants it, particularly; Jack has this furniture because he is supposed to have it and because he foolishly believed that he could define himself with catalogue garbage.

3.1 Illusion of Real and Truth

Working hours are so long, stimulants are too many; life is so compact that all make the individual find and addiction or substance to deal with this hard life. Some choose to party, some play video games and others simply watch television. Addiction to something seems to be the way to cope, the way to forget. Consumer culture does not impose ‘think and deal with it’ but ‘enjoy!’ It presents the “truth” and people are too busy to question it, they are easily deceived.

Individual does not seem to be caring about the meaning of life; the initial goal is to relieve the pain. Suffering from insomnia, Jack visits his doctor with the complaint of ‘real’ pain. The doctor refuses to prescribe medicine and suggests him to visit testicular cancer survivor group. Discovering the ‘real’ pain, comfort of free crying and reaching catharsis, Jack’s insomnia relieves the days he visit the groups. By finding a new drug for himself, he discovers other support groups where people are free to express their feelings and listen each other.

Jack seems to be relieved until meeting Marla. Marla Singer is the melancholic, obsessed with death and confident character that Jack cannot decide what to feel about throughout the movie. Marla figures that she can die any moment, and this becomes trauma of her life. By seeing the ‘truth’, she searches for ways to cope with it. Somehow Marla finds self help support groups and becomes addicted to them just like Jack. After Jack seeing Marla at the same groups, he knows she is not dying like other cancer patients. Forgetting his reasons to join the groups, he hates seeing Marla in those groups as she is lying. Marla’s existence is a mirror to Jack: "She was a liar. She had no diseases at all. I had seen her at 'Free and Clear' my blood parasite group Thursdays. Then at 'Hope', my bi-monthly sickle cell circle. And again at 'Seize the Day', my tuberculosis Friday night. Marla... the big tourist. Her lie reflected my lie. Suddenly I felt nothing. I couldn't cry, so once again I couldn't sleep" (Fight Club).

Sleep is Jack’s drug. Without TV, consuming people cannot handle the real, without sleep Jack cannot handle the truth. There comes his confusion about the ‘truth’ and the ‘real’: “With insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy” (Fight Club).

Jack discovers the truth with drug-free state of mind that everything is a copy of copy. What he cannot figure out is that is ‘real.’ He goes to the same office every morning, sees the same people, does the same job, goes back to the same home, watch the same news. The content is never changed; main idea is the same in different forms. Sleep makes him think ‘it is a new day; things are going to be different’. By focusing on small details, he misses the truth: Born, grow up if lucky, die. Death is unavoidable and the same for everyone. Unable to judge what real is, or because he lives a copy life, insomnia makes things look alike to him. Insomnia opens Jack’s eyes; he is just too blind to see it.

Truth, for Hegel, was not to be found in knowledge that was purified of any influence from man's own desires and feelings. Ultimately Hegel considered that there could be no truth that was not intimately linked with the ongoing process of human beings as thinking subjects; truth was their truth. The supposed objectivity of the world of nature was in fact an alienation, for man's task was to discover, behind these appearances, his own essential life and finally to view everything as a face of his own self-consciousness.

Nietzsche, on the other hand, considered truth as a claim of will to power. In his formulation of will to power and search for the truth is not the solution but the problem itself. Will to power refers to the differential element of force. Only a will can obey commands. The ground of will is plural. Force is related to another, whether to command or obey. Concepts of God and the world are not yet completed, the inner will must be ascribed to them is called will to power. It is both a complement of force and something internal to it. Force is the will itself, not the one wills. Will is differential and genetic. The will to power is the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related. When the will to power is added to force as the differential and genetic element becomes the internal element of production. Thus it is always through the will to power that one force prevails over others and dominates or commands them. Moreover it is also will to power which makes a force obey within a relation it is through will to power that it obeys. (Deleuze, 2004)

3.2 Time - Space - Distraction
Insomnia can also be considered as distraction in the particular case. It consists a non-awareness of the immediate
present. Distraction withdraws attention from everything relatively important, and causes an abstract self feeling.
Everything seems a copy of a copy. With insomnia, he does not know if he is awake or asleep. He loses the sense
of time. Even though he starts questioning the meaning of his life and the system he lives in, he maintains his work until
the late stages of Fight Club. As an insurance company employee, he flies very often that causing frequent changes of
space: “You wake up at O'Hare. You wake up at SeaTac. Pacific, Mountain, Central. Lose an hour, gain an
hour. This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time”
(Fight Club).
Jack starts losing the sense of time and space.  As they change so frequently and quickly, they seem to be indifferent.
If time and space seem indifferent, the subject might be changing Jack assumes:” If you wake up at a different time,
in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?"
(Fight Club).

3.3 Line of Flight

Feeling stuck in the slave consumerist society, Jack tries to find his line of flight. The lines connecting him to time and space seem to be not functioning anymore: Buying furniture, watching TV, traveling and having superficial conversations in confining socializing environments are inadequate for Jack. There comes Tyler as a new model, with new morals and values and having everything Jack would never have: Being cool without Calvin Kline underwear, successful in bed, cool without job titles, and with natural born leader characteristics that can drag people after him all over the country.

In Deleuze’s understanding of line of flight, there is no eternal escape. There is no imaginative, creative or symbolic escape. Escaping from one line, people develop another as it would be something to escape from for others.

Searching for his line of flight, trying IKEA, support groups and other solutions in the outer world, nothing cures his pain. Then he produces Tyler Durden as his alter-ego and significant other. Jack uploads all characteristics he wanted in one idealized personality and accepts everything he says without questioning. He cannot get rid of the subject and free ‘self’ but produces an ideal one to obey.

Considering Jack and Tyler’s consciousnesses, it could be said that two self-consciousnesses are in one. Jack was not independent in the beginning by appearance; it was a mere objectification of Tyler. In Hegelian terms, self-consciousness comes outside itself. The struggle between Tyler and Jack, and between the two self-consciousnesses in the story, each stands within one self.

3.4 Reaching Self Consciousness Through Insanity
Fight Club is a journey from awareness of alienation and a reactionary posture to a transcendent one that leaves the
negative behind. Is the individual self conscious in the consumerist society? How does the existential questioning start?
How can one overcome all these questions? Does Fight Club explicate the process of becoming Overman in Nietzsche’s
terms, or simply overcoming alienation in a consumerist society?
Jack’s mental condition is never clear in the movie. Puzzled with time-space confusion, consumer culture, existential
questions, alienation, he goes insane if splitting personality counts so. He never loses his consciousness while he is
‘Jack.’ In considering insanity we must, as in other cases, anticipate the full-grown and intelligent conscious subject,
which is at the same time the natural self of self –feeling. In such a phase the self can be liable to the contradiction
between its own free subjectivity and a particularity which, instead of being ‘idealized’ in the former, remains as a fixed
element in self feeling. (Hegel 1971: 123)
Alienation process of Jack derives from his family relationships. His father abandoned him many years ago and he
does not have any relationships with rest of his family. Like rejecting family, he starts rejecting the society. At one
point his family seem meaningless, then the society. Stuck in the capitalist society all by himself, Jack compensates
his psychological and social problems with cultural and existential questions. With his current position in the society
and personality, it seems too difficult to make a change. Therefore Jack creates Tyler who can achieve his utopian
desires by covering emotional damages of the past. In addition to Jack’s creation of
Tyler, the film focuses on his
developing conflict with it. At different stages, Jack raises self consciousness, he attempts to overcome the conflict
with Jack and the overall process can be seen as schizophrenic dialectic of identity crisis.

Jack’s initial goal in the movie is to reach independent self- consciousness. The first step in this path is getting over his fear of death. Freedom is obtained only through risking life in Hegelian terms. Therefore self consciousness can only be gained through experiencing many different levels in life and questioning them. Independent consciousness goes one step further and requires risking of life to get over the real fear about life. In doing so Tyler imposes this fear for life on Jack by speeding with a car on a rainy night. Before the car crashes, Tyler attempts to enlighten Jack: “Only after you’ve lost everything, you are free to do anything” (Fight Club). The crash produces the confirmation of the requirement in the path to freedom. The crash also provides recognition for Jack that he learns about the actual meaning of a car accident. As he reports and analyzes car accident statistics before, he could only objectify crash victims as they are commodities. The crash helps Jack to have empathy for other people and raise self-consciousness level by respecting them.


3.5 Servant and Master: The Integral Binary

Tyler Durden whom Jack meets on an airplane is smart, confident, anarchist soap salesman. In a time of identity crisis, questioning the meaning of life, Jack is impressed by Tyler’s ideas and sense of subversion. Spending a few hours by criticizing consumerism and society, Jack is convinced for revolution of his life. “Things you own end up owning you… Fuck Martha Stewart… Fuck off your sofa units… Stop being perfect. Let’s evolve.” (Fight Club).

After his ‘enlightenment’ by Tyler Durden, Jack figures that his previous desires were not autonomous but determined by others, by social pressure, by the needs of family, by advertising, fashion and the media. He considers the members of society as the objects of rational calculation by other forces and targets of marketing drive. “Jack: I felt sorry for all the guys packing into gyms, trying to look like what Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger said they should” (Fight Club).

Jack discovers that his salvation is freedom; he is not sure freedom of what and how. Unconsciously, he develops his alter ego, absent father figure, an anti-hero, Tyler Durden. He secretly prays Tyler for filling his empty life, finding the essence and knowing the truth. In Hegel, the self becomes aware of itself only through the mediation of an other. Through other, the self reflects recognition, or acknowledgment, back to it. At the beginning of the movie, Jack gets some sort of recognition he seeks at support groups for terminal illnesses, but they are not capable of reflecting his inner world but give him a chance to speak.

The other Jack deserves is his hidden self. Jack’s creation of Tyler and their relation could be considered in a Master
- Servant dialectic. In Hegel’s terms, the Master (Tyler) is independent, and his essential nature is to exist for himself;
the other is dependent on the Master and its essence is life or existence for another, to name in the movie,
Tyler. The
Servant (Jack) considers himself unimportant; he adores and believes in the Master.
The Servant’s subjection is supposed to achieve the Master’s independence through recognition. The Master’s identity,
on the other hand is also dependent upon the Servant’s, therefore his consciousness cannot be called independent either.
The Master is a subject to the Servant. The dependent relations between the two make them inseparable. In Hegelian
terms this dialectic can only be understood through their actions.

4. Opposing the System Out of the System

Lines of flight, rebelling the power, subversion turn into micro-fascist terrorist organization. Is there any other way to oppose the society? Is it possible to offer more ethical solution by using the terms escape, creativity, nomadic, and revolution? Or all major movements require slavery and destruction? What if micro fascism includes a creative line of flight as well as destructive? How do people are deceived to join such revolutionary movements?

Tyler Durden has the power of awakening people about their lives, but after that he doesn’t free them, he imposes his own truth. His strong leadership skills have direct effect on forming Fight Club and Project Mayhem. The tools he chooses, the way he uses people are not any different from the system he opposes. His revolution involves fight, destruction, and new slaves. In order to stop deterritorialization that is created by capitalism, Project Mayhem becomes a new deterritorialization as it offers a new order.

In Hegel’s parable, Fight Club represents a struggle for recognition to its members and getting over their fear, reaching freedom. As capitalism objectifies them, they start objectifying others: "Tyler sold his soap [made of fat stolen from liposuction clinic dumpsters] to department stores at $20 a bar. Lord knows what they charged. It was beautiful. We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them"

4.1 Forming of the Fight Club

As Jack’s condo blows up with an undetermined reason, Tyler lets him move in to his abounded house. To discover ‘real pain’ they start hitting each other and enjoy it as the fight lets them to express their power. The action easily spreads at the basements of the bars and many people join Fight Club.

In addition to organized fighting Tyler lectures the members about consumerism and capitalism. He points out those things are bought not because they are needed, but because commercials dictate that a certain brand is the cool thing to have. Women starve themselves for the sake of beauty. Men shop for hours to find a specific brand of underwear that is cool to have. Once they do not have the commodity they need, it causes problems, even disorders. We are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives" (Fight Club).

Tyler is very powerful in impressing people. First he raises awareness by identifying the society. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need" (Fight Club). He criticizes brands, rituals, morals, people, and society, everything old and present. The second stage forms itself as how this culture shapes their identities, what it did to them: "You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis." (Fight Club). He gets into mission of awaking others and offers a temporary solution, Fight Club. Participating in Fight Club provides its members to express themselves free from their class and social identities as well as experiencing physical pain that is referred in the movie as ‘one’s true nature and real.’ It is also a way of rejection of imposed values and norms and a cure to alienation caused by the dictated culture.

Mystery and secrets also attract people: “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club” Tyler knows the ‘secret’ well, the actual message is: “Go out and bring other people who would keep ‘secret’, but keep this hidden truth as a uniting secret for the organization”.

4.2 Dictator or Overman? The Charismatic Leader Tyler Durden

Tyler does not care about how he looks, but he is fit. He does not simply stop going gym, but practices his own eccentric sports at home. He is a person that could very easily be considered cool, but the name brand on his clothing has nothing to do with his coolness. Though, he just produces his own way of being cool, he doesn’t reject the idea of being cool. "You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis" (Fight Club).

He suggests self destruction; he becomes the leader of a terrorist organization by ‘overman’ kind of personality characteristics. He just does not obey the dictated rules. Instead he builds new moral codes, rules and offers a new form of society. Therefore he does not reject the rules in favor of anarchy but for the sake of his own revolution. He tells people to be free from imposed culture! He tells them to follow their dreams. He tells people to not care about God. Then he becomes their God. He makes them follow his own dream and kills their freedom. All the rhetoric he used were not actually intended to set people free but set people free from the present dominant power and then use for his own plans. He simply takes advantage of people’s need of believing in someone. People are in need of following leaders. Tyler tells about how women messed up a whole generation but then he does not offer any solution. Instead he starts a brand new pleasure game for Americans who are always desperately in need of innovations. Fight Club is not any different from watching fight on TV. Just because they don’t consume at the moment, feel the pleasure and pain themselves, instead of watching, they are still pieces of the pictures: Enjoying themselves at the weekends, working on the weekdays. System wouldn’t oppose that as long are they are ‘relaxed’ and ready to work on Monday morning. System wouldn’t care if some guy brain washes its citizens or they physically hurt themselves as long as they keep working.

Tyler criticizes people for consuming and self improving. He rejects brands. Then he almost makes his own brand. He exercises often; he has tan and good posture. He actually shows signs about not being an anarchist as he claims to be. He opposes the dominating power because he wants to be the dominating power.

Nietzsche describes overman as a person struggling for perfection. He/she has not gods and heroes but will to power. Overman never stops producing ideas, and never commits to anybody. The overman seeks to overcome everything she/he has internalized from external sources, especially society and religion.

Overman is so creative that he/she continually overcomes even himself/ herself by new ideas and new actions. He/ she reaches self consciousness by using the will to power. The overman lives by her/his self-created values, realizing she/he is these actions, thus acquiring freedom Jack declares that he was "close to being complete," to which his alter-ego, Tyler, responds "Never be complete, stop being perfect; I say let's evolve." Tyler reflects Nietzsche's view that man should will the overman.

Tyler’s philosophy is based on self destruction. Before Jack realizes that his life has become defined by external sources and not his own will, Tyler offered him a new perspective that self destruction could be the answer. Self destruction does not simply mean to kill self but destroy and produce a new one to overcome the previous one. Tyler suggests losing everything to be free to do anything. In order to overcome the self, one needs to get rid of all burden and baggage including values and rituals.

When Jack realizes that he is Tyler, he sees that he has created his self. He takes responsibility for his creation of Tyler and experiences ‘growth’. Jack's creation of a new person by the end of the movie by destroying old values and personality and producing new ones, not Tyler but Jack can be considered overman. Jack takes responsibility for his actions and gives himself in to Police, fights and kills Tyler. He even overcomes his most eminence creation: Tyler Durden. He gives a sign the process of self-overcoming will continue: he calls the end of the film "the beginning.”

4.3 Transformation of Fight Club into Project Mayhem

Fight Club’s transformation to Project Mayhem reminds of Jack’s formation of Tyler. System was too tight that a violence based club grew out of it, and then the philosophy wanted to put itself to action. Similarly, system produced Jack, Jack produced Tyler. Tyler wants to produce his own system. While confronting the system, he uses the same tools as the system does. Fight club starts with rhetoric of freedom then it converts to microfascist organization ‘Project Mayhem.’ Tyler forms the same system he confronts just works for different goals. He controls the members’ minds, structuring their life philosophy. Even the image is organized and structured: Black shirt, black pants, black shoes. The heads are shaved, the looks are the same. By putting uniforms on, they lose their individualities. They become the exact opposite of what they wanted at the beginning, they become slaves of freedom. Project Mayhem is made out of Fight Club, Fight Club is made out of society. Each one provides the necessary core material and reasons for the next one.

By using the reference of freedom of selves, Tyler removes the old value system from his ‘soldiers’ considering they already internalized being told would not go one step further. Most of them easily convert from one culture to another. When Tyler transforms Fight Club to Project Mayhem, members of Fight Club are free from self improving, fashion, consumption, unneeded politeness. Tyler knows that when one loses everything, hits ground zero, he either finds a new system/philosophy or builds his own. Right at that stage, when the members are ‘free’, Tyler introduces Project Mayhem. As it includes destroying buildings, harming masterpieces of art, harm to people and vandalistic activities, Tyler uses his clever method to convince his soldiers: He promotes the secret project mysteriously, and elevates the desire level by making it difficult to join the project. Although nobody knows what is the project about at the beginning, after waiting hungry and dehydrated by Tyler’s door and being humiliated by him, they start believing it is important and meaningful for humanity. After the ‘believing stage’, to avoid ‘thinking stage’ Tyler bans the members from asking questions and announces their passivity by calling them ‘space monkeys’.

“The first and only question of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions about Project Mayhem” (Fight Club).

When Fight Club turns into Project Mayhem, it takes on cult/religious overtones. Project Mayhem becomes a movement that subsumes the identity of the individual subject. One of the rules is that nobody has names in Project Mayhem, they are called Space Monkeys. Tyler depersonalizes them and goes from being an example of a cult leader; to the level of trained servants, willfully submitting to their master's wishes. Depersonalization and objectification generates interpersonal distance; with their subjective experience suppressed, it is difficult for individuals to feel truly seen and understood. Level of Alienation increases while meaningful communication disappears.

The acts of Project Mayhem start with ‘cultural jamming’ such as changing billboards to political slogans and replacing airplane safety cards with those have the catastrophic expressions. The second stage is vandalism in small portions as feeding birds to poop on brand new cars. The final part is the revolutionist one: breaking down the industrialization through destroying credit card companies which are the most obvious symbols of consumer culture.

  1. Failure of the New Order

Although it is a movement that aspires to remove and forget history and build a new identity for its participants, the birth of Project Mayhem itself is a compressed summary of the familiar rhetoric and ideologies of western political history: demagoguery, fascism, and the class politics of the infamous communist parties (Friday, 2003). Instead of a new identity that becomes conflated with revolutionary rhetoric, Project Mayhem offers only the same identity even more strictly with dress codes and without the freedom of choice. Just like in capitalism, members of Fight Club are perfectly trained to do one simple task perfectly, but none of them understands or questions the whole pans. The project reduces its members functional tools without minds.

What Tyler chooses as enemy is the consumer culture itself and as the symbols of it are corporate headquarters of
American credit card industry. The initial goal is to send the national debt record back to zero. By destroying the enemy,
Tyler wants to beat money and its components in order to start a new culture. In order to start anything new, one
should get rid of the old entirely.
Tyler: “Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat! It's not a seminar! You have to
forget everything you know, everything you think you know -- about life, about friendship, about you and me”

(Fight Club).

The revolution failures in theory by ethical problems such accepting a man’s death during ‘operation’ easily or not. Eventually, Jack takes over the control to prevent explosions, but he cannot achieve it. He kills Tyler; by killing potential destroy including revolutions in the future.

5.1 Separation of Tyler Durden and Jack

By the evolving of Fight Club to Project Mayhem, the separation of Jack and Tyler begins. There are again similar rules in Project Mayhem as ‘You do not question Project Mayhem.’ By the rule applying even to Jack, he gets puzzled with all the idea of confronting system and limits of acts considering Project Mayhem’s vandalistic actions. Jack realizes that he does not agree with everything Tyler does anymore. When his friend from testicular cancer support group dies during an operation of Project Mayhem, Jack calls for termination of the project and recognizes Tyler as a fascist paramilitary organization leader.

The self-possessed and healthy subject has an active and present consciousness of the world in general and his individual one. The system is subsumed with each special content of sensation, such as idea, desire, and inclination, then inserts them in proper places. Jack’s fights with Tyler are fights with himself, and because he fights himself in front of his boss at the hotel, Jack is using the fights as a way of asserting himself as his own boss. These fights are a representation of his struggle of becoming the dominant figure. Once he completes his fights with the outer world, he goes back to his inner world, fights Tyler Durden.

First the distinction between two lines of flight of Tyler and Jack comes. Tyler is dislocated, he feels home everywhere, or he simply does not care about it. Jack, on the other hand, loves his condo, he feels belonged to it. Even after his ‘becoming’ stage, he acts different at home, at work and at fight club. Space is a matter for Jack he cannot get over. At home he is Tyler’s student, at work he is obeying/rebelling worker, and at Fight Club he is the co-leader. Space has a direct effect on Jack’s behavior. Tyler, on the other hand is the confident leader at all times. At home, he tells Jack what to do and lectures about life. At work he deconstructs the system by urinating in soup or putting pornographic images into family movies. At Fight Club he promotes his philosophy and trains people mentally for his initial goals. After learning too much from Tyler, unlike other space monkeys (members of Project Mayhem), he starts building his own line of flight. He restarts questioning the new morality Tyler brings, and breaks the rule: “The first and only question of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions about Project Mayhem” (Fight Club).

At one point, their routes do not intercross anymore. In Jack’s morality, a human’s death is not acceptable for the sake of Project Mayhem, whereas for Tyler ‘you need to break eggs to make omelet.’ Their lines of flight do not support each other anymore.

As Jack’s and Tyler’s lines of flight are immanent, the separation does not take place very easily. The lines are not transcendental, they work jointly. Jack figures that he does not want to be a part of Project Mayhem. In his brand new moral system, he does not obey anything or anybody without questioning. Jack does not approve explosions and terrorist activities and decides to terminate the project. When he tries to convince space monkeys to do so, they refuse to listen him. Their brains washed by Tyler, they are focused on the mission. Ethical responsibilities are not a concern. Jack realizes that their philosophy and game (Fight Club) transformed to a paramilitary organization (Project Mayhem). At Fight Club, Jack is an authority as the co-founder. At Project Mayhem, he is not even a member. Power struggled and frustrated, Jack decides to find Tyler.

Jack discovers his ‘power’. His power is not Tyler’s power anymore. He wants separation from Tyler, terminate Tyler’s project, and prove his dominancy. By tracking Tyler’s boarding passes, he flies all over the country to find him. Everywhere he goes, people treat him respectfully, but don’t give a clue about Tyler’s secret place. By nobody calling him with his name, going to potential ‘Fight Club’s in major cities straight from the airport without having the information where they are, having flashbacks from the past, Jack suspects that he is Tyler. He calls Marla Singer, and asks if they ever had sex. As Tyler is the one who has sex with Marla, the answer conveys the truth, Marla confirms the act: Jack is Tyler.

While Jack represents the psychological disorder that capitalism causes, Tyler represents the sociological disorder as the promise of violence in the interests of political and social anarchy if not a new form of totalitarianism. First they do not talk about their secret group to “others”. Then they do not talk about it even among themselves. Unnamable becomes unthinkable, unquestionable: “You do not talk about Fight Club.” “You do not question Project Mayhem” (Fight Club).

When Bob dies, he says, “You have to break some eggs to make omelet.” This becomes the ultimate separation reason for Jack. He figures that the only way to maintain his life and protect people from terrorist activities is to kill Tyler. Jack points the gun at Tyler and shoots, the bullets passes right through. Tyler experiences a moment of do-or-die, while Jack feels a sense of ripening by the sense of leaving him behind. Both are confused, Tyler offers cease and a new unity and threaten him: “If I leave, you will be right back where I found you.” (Fight Club). Jack looks at the gun and brings it up and shoots himself in the mouth which blows a hole at the back of Tyler’s head. By killing Tyler and keeping himself alive, Jack reaches self consciousness. Not only physically but also mentally Jack kills his alter ego. This confusing transcendental moment is can be read as a transition to an upper level synthesis. Jack risks his own life in order to have one self only. The self left after the shooting is not Jack in the beginning of the movie is not Tyler either. This new self is a synthesis of thesis (Jack) and anti- thesis (Tyler) in Hegelian dialectic. Both of their characteristics are present in new Jack. Tyler’s and Jack’s separation is actually the union of the two.

  1. Conclusion

Fight Club, a David Fincher film based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, addresses the cracks in consumer culture which positions the individual in boredom, meaningless and purposeless life conditions. The film attempts to show slave looking, market driven individual’s identity crisis and explore the possibilities for creating a sense of community first to express their power, then its transformation to a paramilitary organization with vandalistic and terrorist actions.

Fight Club is a manifestation of the internal war between Jack and Tyler; the fighting is not between the charismatic anarchist leader and the white collar worker but between the office role and the inner man struggling to be released from the prison of the service industry, passionless, meaningless, and soulless male.

The ‘enemy’ described in Fight Club is not cruel looking armed top-hatted 20 something soldier. As Eagleton calls it
the norm now is money. Since money has no identity, characteristics or principles of its own, it could not be a norm
(Eagleton, 2003:17). This normlessness as a characteristic of personality reflects itself on people. The shift from one
main culture with a set of rules, to combinable sub-cultures, put people at angles where they can point one another as
‘other.’ The concept of enemy transformed from a clear national identity to various possible others who could be next
door neighbors. Glorifying of work, spending less time with family and friends paved the way for individualism and fear
of ‘other.’ There is no doubt that modern commerce, democracy and enlightenment helped this process in terms of
dissolving the social bonds and values that previously held the society together (Slater 1997:63).

Fight Club strictly criticizes capitalism from individual’s perspective. As it has taken the hold of free will in the broad sense, it is difficult to talk about political or social transformation in the discourse of neoliberalism. Market-driven consumerism not only mobilizes people’s desires, but it also shapes market identities as well as market relationships. Fight Club is an example of how can liberalism confine the individual, cause identity crisis, alienation and lead to anarchy, even terrorism. While the movie attempts to show individual’s search for the "real," it denies daily and routine forms of non-capitalist anti-commodifying actions and lifestyles.

Can Tyler Durden break up civilization? Even if he could, the movie does not give any clue about the new order. Considering his postmodern "present" as Jack’s alter identity, he seems incapable of achieving its distinctive, revolutionary significance; instead, this impossibility itself is deferred and thereby transformed into possibility. In Žižekian terms, this is a dialectical reversal where deferral itself becomes the object of desire and the positive support for identity: "the impeded desire converts into a desire for impediment; the unsatisfied desire converts into a desire for unsatisfaction; a desire to keep our desire 'open': the fact that we 'don't really know what we really want'--what to desire--converts into a desire not to know, a desire for ignorance" (Žižek, 1992: 144).


The movie could be an exaggerated example of consumer culture, but has many parallels with today’s modern world. It analyzes the schizophrenic transformation of one individual in capitalism but does not offer any reasonable alternative. I believe that consumer culture is part of the liberal system and in liberalism it is quite possible to offer solutions. When individual knows that he/ she is the subject and this is the system lets him/ her free, one can uses freedom of choice more freely.

Although it has many contradictions, liberalism seems to be the only system lets civil society exist. Once the individual reaches self consciousness, the system could be easily used for good: Solidarity organizations, NGO’s, political movements, etc. Fighting with guns and soldiers is too marginal, it is time to use ideas that liberalism lets to grow. There could be more books and campaigns about education and solidarity in popular culture in order to keep the people sane and prevent fights, explosions and wars.


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