As interest in the work of Bakhtin grows there is an increasing demand for a well organized, readable text which explains his main ideas and relates them to current social and cultural theory. This book is designed to supply this demand. Elegantly written with the needs of the student coming to Bakhtin for the first time in mind, it provides the essential guide to this important and neglected thinker.
Boredom Studies is an increasingly rich and vital area of contemporary research that examines the experience of boredom as an importan - even quintessential - condition of modern life. This anthology of newly commissioned essays focuses on the historical and theoretical potential of this modern condition, connecting boredom studies with parallel discourses such as affect theory and highlighting possible avenues of future research. Spanning sociology, history, art, philosophy and cultural studies, the book considers boredom as a mass response to the (...) atrophy of experience characteristic of a highly mechanised and urbanised social life. (shrink)
The relationship of Marxist thought to the phenomena of everyday life and utopia, both separately and in terms of their intersection, is a complex and often ambiguous one. In this article, I seek to trace some of the theoretical filiations of a critical Marxist approach to their convergence (as stemming mainly from a Central European tradition), in order to tease out some of the more significant ambivalences and semantic shifts involved in its theorization. This lineage originates in the work of (...) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, then stretches to Georg Lukács and the so-called ‘Gnostic Marxism’ of Walter Benjamin (as mediated by the important figure of Georg Simmel), and culminating most recently in the work of Agnes Heller. Such a Marxist theory is inseparable from a political project that seeks to unveil and critique what it takes to be the debased, routinized and ideological qualities of daily existence under the auspices of modern capitalist society, but also attempts to locate certain emancipatory tendencies within this selfsame terrain, an orientation that can be summed up in the phrase ‘everyday utopianism’. Although there are occasional lapses into dualistic modes of thinking in the work of these writers, the key insight they present to us is the need to overcome the pervasive dichotomy between the everyday/immanent and the utopian/transcendental, of a sort that has bedevilled the work of many other theorists and intellectual traditions. (shrink)
Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning interest in the study of everyday life within the social sciences and humanities. In Critiques of Everyday Life Michael Gardiner proposes that there exists a counter-tradition within everyday life theorizing.
The global financial crisis beginning in 2008 has encouraged the revitalization of a wide spectrum of leftist theorizing, but arguably the most audacious is that of ‘accelerationism’. Left-accelerationism sees the intensification of certain tendencies in late capitalist society as a way to escape its gravitational orbit and ‘repurpose’ the very material infrastructure of capitalism itself, to universally emancipatory ends. The central task here is to engage accelerationism with a thinker of the post-Autonomist tradition, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. Contrary to Williams and (...) Srnicek, co-authors of the #Accelerate manifesto, Bifo asserts that acceleration per se only augments the power and dynamism of capital, and posits instead a ‘post-politics’ of ironic detachment, aesthetic cultivation, and ‘therapy’. Contrasting Bifo and accelerationism clarifies each of their assumptions and core arguments, and points the way to a more nuanced perspective on these issues, in a contemporaneous moment marked in equal measure by inestimable threat and liberatory promise. (shrink)
Although Tanizaki Jun'ichirō's literary essay In'ei raisan (In praise of shadows) (1933) now sometimes receives serious attention, it is still often dismissed as nostalgic—missing the significance of Tanizaki's ontology of the shadow for our information-saturated era, with its conformist tendencies to block out all negativity. This essay relocates In'ei raisan within two historical contexts: first, the Kyoto School, including Kyoto's negotiation with Martin Heidegger, and a wider attempt to overhaul the empiricist, property-driven hardwiring of progress derived from the British empire; (...) second, the recently burgeoning field of 'critical transparency studies', for which the promise of perfectly clear representation risks a bureaucratic authoritarianism absorbing all agency. To a remarkable degree, the diagnosis by twenty-first century critical transparency studies of a narcissistic, technocratic addiction to positivity is already there in Tanizaki's shadows. These shadows deserve reconsideration for their potential to derail our condition of 'stuckness' in a progress defined by an empiricist instrumentalization of the world. (shrink)
One of the key concepts in autonomist Marxism is the ‘general intellect’. As capitalism develops, labour and its products become increasingly ‘immaterial’, inasmuch as the physical side of production is taken over by automated systems. The result is that all aspects of the collective worker's affective, desiring and cognitive capabilities are now brought to bear on production itself. This problematises capitalistic notions of proprietary control, because it raises the possibility that the mass ‘cognitive worker’, and the inherently co-operative principles it (...) embodies, can detach itself from neoliberal mechanisms of subsumption and valorisation and lay the foundation for a new communalistic ethos. What is intriguing is that several autonomists evoke the work of Mikhail Bakhtin vis-à-vis the ‘general intellect’. Bakhtin did maintain that dialogism is an irreducibly collective phenomenon, and that we all contribute to the continuous making and remaking of language. We do not ‘own’ the words we use; as such, meaning is necessarily plural and heterogeneous, the product of the interaction of many texts and voices that can only be pragmatically and contingently unified. The present article seeks to explore the connection between Bakhtin and autonomism, focusing on the insight that communication is always ‘more than myself’, and hence integral to the ‘social brain’ that is a shared legacy, our ‘commonwealth’. It also raises the possibility of a more ‘troublesome’ Bakhtin than is generally countenanced by the liberal academy, and a concomitantly ‘dangerous’ dialogism that haunts a digitalised and networked world marked in equal measure by tremendous emancipatory promise and catastrophic threat. (shrink)
Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s literary essay In’ei Raisan (In Praise of Shadows) (1933) has attracted increasing attention over the last two decades or so. However, descriptions of this essay as nostalgic or traditionalist can miss the significance of Tanizaki’s ontology of the shadow for our information-saturated era, driven by cognitive positive feedback loops and ‘automated’ progress. This paper firstly puts In’ei Raisan into its historical context relative to the Kyoto School, Kyoto’s negotiation with Martin Heidegger, and their contribution to the 1920s-’30s overhaul (...) of Japan’s Meiji-era ‘modernization’, in fact one form of modernity hardwiring an empiricist, property-driven Anglosphere monopoly on progress. Secondly, the paper points to the extraordinary resonances of In’ei Raisan in ‘critical transparency studies’, a field burgeoning over the past few years and describing how the promise of perfectly clear representation can end in a bureaucratic authoritarianism absorbing all agency. To a remarkable degree, twenty-first century critical transparency studies’ powerful diagnosis of a narcissistic addiction to positivity is already there in the shadows of Tanizaki, Watsuji Tetsurō, and philosophers of the Kyoto School. This paper suggests that Tanizaki’s and Kyoto’s shadows deserve more recognition for their ability to force us to rethink the twenty-first century habits of subject-driven progress and dominion in which we often feel stuck. (shrink)
Comparative Political Theory and Cross-Cultural Philosophy explores new forms of philosophizing in the age of globalization by challenging the conventional border between the East and the West, as well as the traditional boundaries among different academic disciplines. This rich investigation demonstrates the importance of cross-cultural thinking in our reading of philosophical texts and explores how cross-cultural thinking transforms our understanding of the traditional philosophical paradigm.
The French sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre developed an account of modernity that combined rigorous critique, a rejection of nostalgia, left pessimism or transcendental appeals, and the search for utopian potentialities in the hidden recesses of the everyday. This article will focus on a topic that is arguably central to his ‘critique of everyday life’ but has been entirely overlooked in the literature thus far: that of boredom. Although often dismissed as trivial, boredom can be understood as a touchstone through (...) which we can grasp much wider anxieties, socio-cultural changes and subjective crises that are intrinsic to our experience of modernity. Curiously, although Lefebvre was very interested in boredom, he did not analyse it systematically, and he used terms like ‘boring’ or ‘boredom’ in loose, elliptical and seemingly contradictory ways. Such a lack of clarity reveals his ambivalence about this phenomenon, but also highlights a subtle pattern of differentiation he makes between particular modalities of boredom that can be highly illuminating. Through a careful reading of the full range of Lefebvre’s writings, we can begin to understand how he discriminates between different experiences and expressions of boredom, some of which are unambiguously negative, whereas others are judged more positively. With respect to the latter, as he says in Introduction to Modernity, under certain conditions boredom can be full of desires, frustrations and possibilities. Through such an investigation, we start to glimpse latent connections between boredom and utopian propensities that caught the attention not only of Lefebvre but also such thinkers as Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin. (shrink)
Although several writers have noted significant complementary features in the respective projects of Russian philosopher and cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975) and the French social thinker Henri Lefebvre (1901–91), to date there has not been a systematic comparison of them. This article seeks to redress this oversight, by exploring some of the more intriguing of these conceptual dovetailings: first, their relationship to the intellectual and cultural legacy of Romanticism; and second, their respective assessments of irony (including Romantic irony), and, more (...) specifically, of the ironic register as a potential vehicle for socio-cultural criticism. Although the positions Bakhtin and Lefebvre stake out vis-à-vis these issues reveal many similarities – such as extensive use of Socrates in the writings of each – there are also significant differences, not least because Lefebvre’s understanding of Romanticism is more fully developed than Bakhtin’s. Accordingly, the central argument advanced here is that Bakhtin’s fairly disparaging account of Romanticism, together with his scattered and often contradictory remarks on irony, can be subjected to re-envisioning and potential enrichment by reference to Lefebvre’s more considered thoughts, especially the latter’s notions of ‘Revolutionary romanticism’ and ‘Marxist irony’. (shrink)