Gilbert and Shortall

On Monday (30th April) we had two guests to the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths who managed to warp our brains in what we billed as a day school on ‘Contemporary Marxist Thought‘.

Visiting from Paris, Geoffrey Gilbert rightly wondered why and where we came up with the title for the day, and how his talk would fit, but it was nevertheless a good one I think – and the title might be taken as ironic in some ways, – the challenge for us to make Marxism contemporary is always welcome.

Geoff spoke to us of Lukacs on literary realism and a book by Francois Bon called Daewoo (2004), which I admit I’ve not read. The Daewoo book concerns a scandal to do with the Korean company in France and led to an excellent discussion of the character of realism, which clearly had resonances with an earlier Goldsmiths seminar on ‘speculative realism’ and the idea of realism in H. P. Lovecraft, [which I also missed cos I was in Berlin]. There was also much debate about Lukacs’ various recantations and re-valuations of History and Class Consciousness that, to tell the truth, really requires better preparation on my part if I’m to say anything coherent about it. On the whole Geoff’s presentation was engaging and informed (he was well prepared at least) and a very good start to the day.

A little later on I then had the pleasure to introduce Felton C Shortall, author of a book I’d read in dog-eared photocopy format borrowed from comrades in Melbourne. The Incomplete Marx was one of those texts that circulated like a rumour amongst us – at last something that thought and taught an activist Marx that was not a dumming down (I have the introductions prepared by the likes of the ‘thinkers’ of certain Trotskyite groups in mind here as contrast). So, at Goldsmiths Felton presented a potted summary of the argument of that book. I wish we’d had more time, and clearly the discussion was just getting going – with Bhaskar and I arguing about economics and moral bases of Marx’s philosophy, and Felton stressing the importance of alienation, and more that is sure to come up over and over at future meetings…

All in all a great day, which then carried on to a local eatery for refreshment and more practical discussion with visiting comrades from Brighton.. as you can see in the pics.

Thanks to
Tom for getting Felton,
and to Lisa for getting Geoff.

In order the pics are:
– Tom (dark grey shirt) and Felton (grey shirt)
– John (black hat) and Geoff (black shirt)
– the Brighton posse with Felton
– Lisa – and Geoff’s ear (pink).
[OK, so I’m not as good a photographer as Malinowski…]


One thought on “Gilbert and Shortall

  1. This is an e-mail I sent to John earlier today, which he suggested I post here. It’s about Marx’s reference to Goethe’s Faust in Volume 3 (which from a very cursory google search seems to be in a few other texts, certainly in Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy):


    Thought you might be interested in this:

    Had the day off to sit in the park reading fun books instead of boring
    books, and finished off Goethe’s Faust. Remember we were talking about the “as if by love possessed” bit at the reading group?

    The section from Marx (chapter 24 of Volume 3) reads:

    …just as wine in the cellar improves its use-value after a given period of time. Capital is now a thing, but the thing is capital. The money’s body is now by love possessed…interest accrues to it no matter whether
    it is asleep or awake, at home or abroad, by day and by night” (The
    translation at has “Money is now pregnant”)

    The section from Faust is taken from a scene in which Mephistopholes and Faust turn up at a drinking den. before they arrive there’s a bunch of drunks singing and pouring beer over each other, and one of them sings the
    following song:

    Brander [pounding on the table].
    Give heed Give heed! Lend me your ear!
    You, sirs, confess that I know what is what.
    Some lovesick folk are sitting here,
    And so in honour due their present lot
    I must contribute to their night’s good cheer.
    Give heed! A brand-new song ’twill be!
    And sing the chorus lustily!

    [He sings.]

    There once in a cellar lived a rat,
    Had a paunch could scarce be smoother,
    For it lived on butter and on fat,
    A mate for Doctor Luther.
    But soon the cook did poison strew
    And then the rat, so cramped it grew
    As if it had love in its body.
    Chorus [shouting].
    As if it had love in its body.
    It flew around, and out it flew,
    From every puddle swilling,
    It gnawed and scratched the whole house through,
    But its rage was past all stilling.
    It jumped full of in anguish mad,
    But soon, poor beast, enough it had,
    As if it had love in its body.
    As if it had love in its body.
    By anguish driven in open day
    It rushed into the kitchen,
    Fell on the hearth and panting lay,
    Most pitiably twitchin’.
    Then laughed the poisoner: “Hee! hee! hee!
    It’s at its last gasp now,” said she,
    “As if it had love in its body.”
    “As if it had love in its body.”



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