This. Almost buried in Anna Tsing’s book of mushrooming (“The Mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins” 2015 Princeton), a brilliant project that must be so fun.


Burning bookshops is the new face of fascism, draped in a flag, and making America hate again.

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Andy Zee talk worth hearing. The Joy of bookshops. I love it. They mean it – as he says, the place is named “revolution AND books”. Although a healthy scepticism about Berkley t-shirts only got a slightly uncomfortable laugh, I found that a great point – trinketization of BA is a part of the RCP’s different take on, well, modesty. Let that not take away the love of books of revolution – even if the BA books are on display at the door, the shelves are full of much much more. Support Revolution Books. Needed.

Thesis 11 on Adorno

Just catching up on Thesis 11 after many years, (ht Trevor Hogan).

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Antinomies of culture and critique of modernity: Evaluating György Márkus’s theory of culture from the perspective of China
Sun Jianyin

The critique of modernity was one of the important themes in philosophy in the 20th century. Theorists focused on the spiritual characteristics of modernity by which they tried to find a solution to the crisis of modernity, a solution beyond economics and politics. György Márkus, one of the members of the Budapest School, focused on the culture of modernity for 30 years. He presented a critical theory of modern culture. His theory had a clear logic and offered a compelling view. At the core of his theory of cultural modernity was the idea of the ‘antinomies of culture’. These antinomies are of vital importance since the struggle and tension between the poles of culture provides, on his view, the energies and orientation required for the development of cultural modernity. In this essay, I will try to analyse the reality of cultural modernity in China employing Márkus’s ideas and evaluating the significance of his theory.

Utopia as ‘genuine progress’: Adorno and the historicity of utopia
Buğra Yasin

This paper reexamines Adorno’s conception of utopia within the context of his critique of the concept of progress. It contests the standard interpretation which conveys Adorno’s conception of utopia to be imbued with an essentially extra-historical idea of redemption. I argue, contrary to this view, that the motif of redemption surfacing in Adorno’s conception of utopia negates a specific type of historical life – life under which historical consciousness sinks into oblivion – rather than history per se. In order to reveal the historicality of Adorno’s conception of utopia, I examine his fragmentary yet consistent critique of the concept of progress, which, far from calling for total abandonment, aims to access and unearth its truth-content. Last but not least, I visit Adorno’s suggestion regarding the consonance of utopia with genuine progress, assessing its implications vis-à-vis a characteristic feature of mythological life, the ratio of self-preservation.

More dialectical than the dialectic: Exemplarity in Theodor W. Adorno’s The Essay as Form
Thorn-R Kray

This essay presents a careful interpretation of Adorno’s classical text The Essay as Form, published in 1958 as the introduction to his Notes on Literature. Since it thickly condenses many of Adorno’s general views, the Essay poses great hermeneutic challenges to readers. The paper, first, elaborates on the essay more broadly as a genre and identifies a spectrum between science and art each individual essay draws from to forge its particular hybridity. Second, the example is discussed as an epistemologically potent trope oscillating between subsumption and singularity. This internal tension renders the example particularly qualified to serve as the conceptual basis on which interpretative themes in the essay can be discovered. Three lines of interpretation are suggested: (a) poetological for the essay/Essay’s definition, goal, and method; (b) critical/dialectical for its treatment of concepts and in relation to content; and (c) epistemic for the modern separation of art and science. The conclusion comes back to the issue of exemplarity.

Evil as a social action
Yuki Nakamura

This paper explores how to theoretically transcend the division that exists between nonautonomous and autonomous evil. Evil in the context of this paper is a social action that harms others against their will. Traditional social theory has explained the evil in modernity as a pathology or as the result of the organizational and bureaucratic structures of society that was beyond the agency of individuals. The concepts of nonautonomous and autonomous evil developed by John Kekes are used to clarify the types of evil as a social action. It follows that structural processes that entail agency can also be applied to unify the different approaches given to evil and fill the misleading gap that exists between nonautonomous and autonomous evil. Regardless of the event or the perpetrator, evil is agency-driven and is always composed of both nonautonomous and autonomous evil. What differs is the degree of nonautonomous or autonomous evil in the social action. It shows that evil is an important part of agency regardless of the agent’s awareness of the evil that actions entail within modernity, and it is therefore the task of social theory to shed light on its social processes.

Conflicts in common(s)? Radical democracy and the governance of the commons
Martin Deleixhe

Prominent radical democrats have in recent times shown a vivid interest in the commons. Ever since the publication of Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom, the commons have been associated with a self-governing and self-sustaining scheme of production and burdened with the responsibility of carving out an autonomous social space independent from both the markets and the state. Since the commons prove on a small empirical scale that self-governance, far from being a utopian ideal, is and long has been a lived reality, a few authors have attempted to turn them into the conceptual matrix of their own account of radical democracy. Negri and Hardt, on one hand, Laval and Dardot, on the other, have jointly coined the term ‘the common’ (in the singular) to suggest that the self-governance quintessential to the commons could be turned into a general democratic principle. Though this is an attractive theoretical prospect, I will contend that it fails to account for an important contradiction between the two theoretical frameworks it connects. Whereas the governance of the commons depends on harmonious cooperation between all stakeholders which in turn relies on a strong sense of belonging to a shared community, radical democracy is highly suspicious of any attempt to build a totalizing community and constantly emphasizes the decisive role of internal agonistic conflicts in maintaining a vibrant pluralism. I will further contend that the short-sightedness of radical democrats on this issue may be partially explained by the strong emphasis in the commons literature on a related but distinct conflict, that which opposes the commoners to the movement of enclosures. I will argue, however, that this conflict is not of an agonistic nature and does little to preserve the dynamism and the constant self-criticism proper to the radical democrat regime.

Xi Dada loves Peng Mama: Digital culture and the return of charismatic authority in China
Liangen Yin, Terry Flew

With Xi Jinping’s consolidation of political power in China, a personality cult has increasingly emerged. In this article, we analyze online documents and state news media to argue that this phenomenon is driven in part by local government officials and traditional media but most significantly by individual Chinese ‘netizens’. The current personality cult phenomenon is thus primarily society-driven and bottom-up rather than state-driven and top-down. We argue that the rise of this personality cult around Xi has its roots in national anxiety in an important transitional period in China. While some worry about a possible return to the politics of the Cultural Revolution by encouraging this personality cult, others are responding to economic anxieties and to the social anxieties created by social injustice greatly due to official corruption. We conclude that the possibility of society-driven personality cults will increase over time, as a paradoxical corollary of the potential of new media to allow for the democratization and opening up of politics and culture to new voices.

The Birthday Party and The Scientists: Nihilism, suburbia, and the importance of class
Jon Stratton

This article compares two of the groups generally regarded by critics as the most important in Australia in the post-punk period, The Birthday Party and The Scientists. While they had much in common – each was governed by the vision of one man, Nick Cave for The Birthday Party and Kim Salmon for The Scientists, both had record deals in Australia and both went to London – The Birthday Party became a cult success while The Scientists are only now, 30 years after their heyday, receiving the popular credit due them as a foundational noise group. There were important differences between the groups. The Birthday Party came from Melbourne and their members were middle-class. The Scientists came from Perth, at that time a small city remote from the cultural centres of Australia, and Salmon and his associates were working-class. The Birthday Party was self-consciously in a High Art tradition of nihilism going back to Dada while The Scientists’ music was an existential critique of the values of the middle-class suburbia that dominated Perth.

From Sharpies to Skyhooks – On the cutting edge: An interview with Greg Macainsh
Peter Beilharz, Sian Supski

Greg Macainsh is a major actor in the Australian popular music scene. He was the pioneer ethnographic filmmaker of the youth gang the Sharpies, and then bass player and songwriter for the most innovative band of the seventies, Skyhooks. Skyhooks combined new composition, driving music, sarcastic and local lyrics, and keen attention to visuals and costume. This article backgrounds Macainsh and his context. The interview that follows looks further into musical history and performative culture in Melbourne and its suburbs in the period.

Book Reviews:

Book review: Beyond Bauman: Critical Engagements and Creative Excursions
Kieran Flanagan

Assembling the early 1990s again in Melbourne

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There was a time when the Clever Country was the buzzword – in a time of buzzwords – the multifunction polis and the Precincts model were then fairly obvious code for back-door privatisation, and higher ed was slipping companies into campus ‘Science Parks’ to benefit from the free tax-payer-funded “synergies” that would ‘incubate” start-ups for commercialisation whoopee.

Well, this latest plan from the my alma mater, the University of Melbourne, has the merit of replacing a hospital (my sister and nephew born there) and offers a prime front door site for Uni.Melb Inc. Privatisation is such a dated word these days that it passes by in a blink… Further below I will offer as contrast an old essay on university-commercial research complicity, questioning the premise of these new premises for learning. Learning – is that what universities are still for, or research, or are the caveat’s obsolete and dated, very early 1990s, and we are in the realm of future business? Well, there is an old critique to be made nevertheless (someone said to me today that the key to moving forward is how criticism is handled – push back with exo-punitive denial, or quietly get on an fix-up your practice. I know Uni.Melb has a long history of not being able to handle criticism. In terms of institutional memory it will seem far far and long ago when the then Vice Chancellor Pennington, in the days when a vice-chancellor was basically a jumped-up after-dinner speaker and raconteur of limited means, who just happened to be friends with the Liberal machine… but anyway, Pennington had said the sign of a troubled department was disagreement within, and for the politics department then that was as laughable as it seems. Nowadays not so much, and vice-chancellors are armed against criticism so any dissent means its time to shoot the messenger, with intent).

But by and by – having just been reading Seuss to the kid, I have to stop rhyming so as to get through this bit… Let’s list some absurds in the precint proposal:

“Planning … innovation” – it goes without saying this is a proxy for nothing.

“The University of Melbourne and its [unnamed] partners” – were the partners not invited to the press conference, or did they refuse to stump up their cut for the reslease? Maybe they are secret or sect-like or shy. It anyway leaves me with a big question why. [away, Sneed, away]

“one step closer” – no need to worry about how long this white elephant will take, we are all the more closer to the rhetoric of the early 1990s. The Precinct model for Melbourne was Jeff Kennet vintage at least – have we just been Jeffed again? Ahh those were the days.

“The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies” – as we saw, privatisation. Companies can access the tax-funded thrills of the library and the University Club, though I suspect Jimmy Watson’s might do OK, if anyone still does lunch without whimpering.

“community members from different backgrounds” – obligatory diversity statement up front. Always welcome. Will it mean a whole department of such, or still here and there brochure-freindly photo-inclusiveness? Don’t tell me class is a bigger factor than the racist demographic of University as usual. It continues.

“innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges” – how would it be if someone suggested exclusion of corporate interests from research agendas? A fresh impetus for critical multicaulturalism, radical barefoot legal theory, Co-research inquiries, activist-in-residence programme, counter-mapping and Marxism 101-999? You know its needed. get in.

“vision… precinct… innovation…” – the circular rhetoric of recycled prose.

““Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said” – oh my, this is word for word straight out of the original brochure documents for setting up the multifunction polis, the work of Kenichi Ohmae, the Aust Govt Collaborative Centres definition of a science park – a pleasing environment adjacent to a a university (they do not mean Princess Park). the idea that boffins will leave their labs and sit having lunch under trees chatting until Eureka! Gold is panned from Sovereign alley/Elgin Hill. No need to go to Ballarat, the new rush starts here, well, heavily recycled, but wow. McCluskey does not stray far from the brief. “vision… precinct… innovate…”  (raconteur speaker as I said, with crib notes).

“buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space” – panoptic 101. never before in Carlton have so many been sold out for so little.

“Fab lab… Superfloor… hackathons… ” – and bean bags I bet. The Graduate School already had them in 1990 too, hat tip TT.

The upsides: Childcare, student accommodation… and Spotless as facilities partner (the partners get named at the end). We should be overjoyed and confident that it is Spotless. Recall, they were recently taken over by Downer EDI, so a check on their spotless industrial relations and court records, mining deaths, dubious pressures to settle strikes, and well, lets not think the Uni of Melbourne is going through some sort of subtle shift into touch love to redeem by association. Clever dialectic that would be.

An innovation precinct only works if, bottom line, there is a big profit player that makes the lead. An old book but informative, have a look at Peter Hall and Manuel Castells “Technopoles of the World” Check out Complicity below (after the Uni.Melb press release (sorry, journalism article) and if you are really keen, come back later and read up on Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Curry Puff, a similar plan under PM Mahathir (who, well frankly, maybe those were the good old days…).


Alumni Magazine 20 April 2018

The University of Melbourne and its partners are one step closer to developing Australia’s leading innovation precinct, receiving planning approval from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The University of Melbourne purchased the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in 2012 and announced in 2017 a partnership with a consortium led by Lendlease to redevelop it. Early works commenced in November 2017 and construction is expected to commence in mid-2018 for completion in 2020.

The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies and community members from different backgrounds and disciplines who will work together to develop innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said by enhancing research and education, the precinct will support the vision of Melbourne as a ‘Knowledge City’ and play an important role within the Melbourne Innovation Districts.

“Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said.

The precinct will be ideally located adjacent to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, which hosts some of the world’s top researchers, and within close proximity to the Melbourne CBD. It will have the tools, platforms and services to create an ecosystem where start-ups emerge and cutting-edge products and services are developed.

Mark Menhinnitt, Lendlease Urban Regeneration Managing Director, said the development will regenerate the former Royal Women’s Hospital site into an open, light and modern precinct, delivering a bold new architectural statement.

“This purpose-built facility will set a new benchmark in education and industry collaboration that meets the highest standards of design and sustainability, while also honouring the site’s heritage and history,” he said.

The 74,000 sqm precinct will feature a series of connecting buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space. In addition to co-working and commercial office space, the precinct will feature a Fab Lab, student accommodation and a ‘Superfloor’ dedicated to collaboration and fostering the exchange of ideas.

Dr Julie Wells, University of Melbourne’s Vice-Principal (Policy and Projects), said that the precinct will be a place for the local community to live, work and exchange ideas through a vast program of events such as hackathons, workshops, exhibitions and social events.

It will also include shops, cafes, public spaces, accommodation for graduate students and visiting academics, a childcare centre and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will deliver cutting-edge exhibitions, events and experiences.

The consortium delivering the innovation precinct in partnership with the University of Melbourne comprises Lendlease as developer, builder, co-investor and investment manager of the commercial space; GIC as major co-investor of the commercial space; Spotless as the facilities manager; and Urbanest as investor and manager of the student accommodation.


So, 18 years ago,the early 90’s already seemed old.

‘Complicity’ essay for Assembly catalogue 2000

Click on the pages to enlarge and read.




Semifeudal Cybercolonialism: Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

Thanks Kaloy Cunanan for recovering this from ascii-land.

An article on the multi-function polis in Malaysia, from 1999

Hutnyk 1999 Semifeudal Cybercolonialism Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

appeared in Bosma, Josephine et al (eds) 1999 Readme! ASCII Culture And The Revenge Of Knowledge, New York: Autonomedia.

A longer unpublished version is Semi-Feudal Cyber-Colonial.

Smuggling – of tea to Scotland?

The Commission of Customs Scotland to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, reporting on the subject of trade with India, in 1812, examined Earl, Osborne and Ferrier (traders) on the question of smuggling ‘tea’. The answer is instructive – smuggling will increase if EIC ships are permitted to trade in Scottish waters. That is, lets be clear, English ships smuggling ‘tea’ to Scotland. Recall that these ships mostly carry other goods than tea, but in smuggling, the trick is not to declare. Records reported elsewhere – I think in Judt, have to check back – indicated some half a million pounds worth or goods a year was ‘pilfered’ from vessels in the Thames at London – that’s half a million of the declared consignments. The need to read between the lines – what does other ‘East India Goods’ really mean, and what does it not mean? The remittances off the books was a healthy trade for, in Feldbaek’s examples, for Danish shipping out of Serampore.

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Opium not as interesting as money for the parliament, even as…


Reading various Blue Books and the like, parliamentary reports. This one on the East India Company struck me as typical, though the clipped coins distraction is of course curious enough to make the distraction distracting. I recall that Jacques Derrida writes on clipped coins in his essay Given Time, and George Caffentzis has a fascinating book on Locke: Clipped Coins, Abused Words, Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money, both of which repay reading in the light of this old evidence from 1832. A certain smuggler-trader called Davidson is giving evidence to the parliamentary committee.

The casual racism, that the committee was more interested in dollars and silver than the opium trade – which as Marx of course recalls, was a vicious and vengeful trade – and as carried on by what is called the Country Ships, or Country Trade, which means those private traders not in the employ of the East IndiaCompany but often doing the work of its servants or agents, its officers, who made their cut on such up-country ventures, from Clive on.

90% of the cargo cotton and opium.

The dollar is clipped

It does not thereby lose in value (since weight in silver still applies)

Holes in the coins – sometimes for stringing, but often they are punched and clipped (the idea is that you clip a bit of each of a dozen coins and melt the bits up into a new coin, or you punch out the middle, as circle or square, and use it as a smaller denomination coin). Eventually this clipping, and punching, practice defeats the denominations, and weight reasserts its interest.

Which all for me is interesting and if you think its ancient stuff, just look in your pocket and see – the British two pound is a punched coin, with gold rim, silver (alloy) middle, the Australian 50 cent piece is clipped on all sides, as is the Brit 20p and the Indian 5 paise, Danish 1, 2 and 5 krone have holes, the Thai Bhat reminiscent of the counter punched ones (and for a time was very useful in cigarette machines in England, a healthy killing made by arriving with pockets full of Bhat when travelling to pommie). Also various denominations of the yen, oh and I see the new British pound is a tribute to the clipped coin too – OK, look again at the pound pictured above, I call it, the contemporary British pound coin is in effect a silent tribute to the age-old bastard opium trade, in the memory of Walter Stevenson Davidson Esquire, giving evidence below:


Do you happen to know whether Advantage has been taken of the Removal of that Restriction from the Import of British Manufactures into China from India?

I have heard it stated to be so; I have understood that it has been done profitably.

What particular Species of Manufactures?

I really cannot enumerate them.

They have not been to any great Extent?

No, I think not; principally by the Officers of Ships. I should think not to an Extent sufficient much to attract the Attention of the great Houses in India.

What were the chief Articles consigned to you for Sale in China by your Constituents?

The chief Articles were Cotton and Opium; they formed, I think, upwards of Nine Tenths of my Consignments.

What were your Returns?

Besides the Supercargoes Bills on the Indian Government, when they drew, I remitted very largely in Sycee Silver, the Production of China, in Tutenag, and many other Articles.

Any in Dollars?

Sometimes in Dollars. We were occasionally compelled to remit in Dollars, owing to the Difficulty of smuggling the Sycee Silver; but never resorted to that Mode, I think, when we could obtain the Sycee Silver.

The Dollar in China is very much beaten and broken, is it not?

Constantly cut and clipped in all Directions; it almost ceases to be a Dollar when it has circulated in China; there it is weighed as Silver; all Payments are made by Weight.

Is the Dollar, in consequence of this beating and breaking, diminished in intrinsic Value in China?

The Moment the Dollar is clipped it cannot be said to diminish in Value, because it will be taken afterwards just for its Weight in Silver, although it be punched and clipped through and through.


(citation: ‘Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence, 25 June 1830’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830 (London, [n.d.]), pp. 1156-1164. British History Online [accessed 28 March 2018].)