Rough justifications [Marx Course reading]

 Rough justifications for including these texts in my prelim reading for the Capital course (see here).

Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry

Adorno is famous for his dictum, “No Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not necessarily something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It could still be co-opted and recuperated… and of course he’s still anxious about that. And thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… We don’t need people to only be artists.

Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures

Aijaz Ahmad had denounced as imperialist the ‘three worlds theory’ in a debate with Frederic Jameson, where Jameson had called third world literature always an allegory of nation – clearly far too much a generalization on Fred’s part. ‘In Theory’ was like a brick thrown in a stagnant pool for us as postgraduate students, the first widely read book of theory in a long while that did not scrimp on the organizational politics. And with the added bonus of actual text-consulting detailed argument that corrects Edward Said’s too-quick dismissal of Marx on India.

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

Georges Bataille, especially in his early work, exhibits a refusal to be crushed by the brutality of events, war, oppression, morality. ‘The Accursed Share’ is the culmination of his economic and political writings, though I prefer the harder to access 1930s work (discussed here).

Jonathan.Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production

In Jonathan Beller’s book ‘The Cinematic Mode of Production’, attention to the gaze and the market of the spectacle advances both film theory and situationist ideas to offer a platform for understanding new media as a terrain of struggle in market, ideology and practice. Just as we willingly go and sit in the dark before the cinema, we also comply with the protocols of the digital. Virtual selves abroad in the world while backache and repetitive strain compensate for touch type immediacy. The world shrunk to a venture start-up as if the assembly of work-station and media-console wasn’t also co-ordinated with wiring configurations, electricity grids and mining industries that make the corralling of workers in all kinds of underpaid labour also part of an integrated geo-circuit.

Sylvere Lotringer (ed), Hatred of Capitalism: A Reader

This book just has the best title, and a great selection of essays from William Burroughs to Marx to Kathy Acker – and the circuit is intended.

Karl Marx, Capital: Volume One

Only volume one! Get them all. Start a reading group. Do not miss the footnotes and all the fun jokes about Money bags. Also there are vampires, werewolves, bibles exchanged for brandy, and trips to Australia, India – Lord Jagganath – and tributes to Leonard Horner, factory inspector and hero of the working classes. It is important to read more than the first chapter. And to read it anew every decade or so, since the context changes Marx, just as Marx tried to change the context (the point!).

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

The Manifesto was written over the winter of 47-48 for the International Workingmen’s Association. First drafted on the train from Manchester to London, then finished in a frenzy of work by Marx in Brussels in January 48. It influence astonishing, global, relevant still, etc. Everyone can quote from it: from its first words: ‘Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa’ (1848/1970:41) – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, to its last words ‘Mögen die herrschendenKlassen vor iner kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihr Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen. Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch’ (1848/1970:82-3) – ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite’. The Manifesto was written just as Europe launch into a period of revolutionary turmoil. Marx was himself an activist, expelled from Germany for political reasons, exiled in Paris then London. He was, apparently, a rebel rousing type, turning up to demos and meetings a little pissed, but able, in repartee, to make mince meat of any other ideologues – yet the revolutionary period of 1848 did not deliver freedom, and Marx’s hope for the situation was disappointed. He turned to the library – although never gave up activism – to provide an explanation.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

In this bumper book of critique Spivak shows she knows ‘the’ debates around a particular author or field with a quick sketch, then she shows she knows the critical angles on these debates and that these could be fruitful, but are often not without problems, and then, rather than detailing or extending the problems, she takes some moment or oblique angle on the text and levers it open to teach us something crucial. Repays reading over and over – wonderfully written, learned, and an education in itself. (more)

Michael Taussig My Cocaine Museum

The myriad examples in ‘My Cocaine Museum’ are assembled to order and disorder Colombia, where Mick has done 30+ years’ fieldwork, such that each of the curios selected for an impossible museum of gold, weapons and profit have to make sense in a history, and in syncopation with other examples for an archive of the imaginary institution, providing a model for eloquence… that I give students as an example of what might be possible if scholarship could be re-imagined.

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Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917

It has often been said that Zizek never has a thought that has not been published…. twice. Good thing too. We’d have to invent him if he did not invent himself.
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The course starts Jan 10. All welcome.
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