critical theory


For Poggioli, futurism defines one central aspect of the avant-garde, which in Ortega Y Gasset's words, is that the historical task of the contemporary artist is to "work in the present for the future". In this "historical mythology of contemporary art" the work of the avant-garde presents the shape of things to come. Poggioli differentiates between the actual artistic movement of Futurism and that movement's claim to the concept of the avant-garde. For Poggioli,Futurism "possessed in its name the most successful and suggestive formula thought up by the avant-garde" but the movement "was one of the lowliest and vulgar manifestations of avant-garde culture" (p.143) If real futurism is dead forever, ideal futurism is still living, precisely because it renews itself in the consciousness of each successive avant-garde. (p.223). Reyner Banham also enthusiastically described the Futurist example and its exaltation of speed while distancing himself from its politics. 

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"Commodities can provisionally be defined as objects of economic value." (Arjun Appadurai, "Commodities and the politics of value," in The Social Life of Things, p 3)This economic value, following Simmel, is defined as a reciprocal formation in the possibilities of exchange. "The sacrifice or renunciation that is interposed between man and the object of his demand is, at the same time, the object of someone else's demand. The one has to give up possession or enjoyment that the other wants in order to persuade the latter to give up what he owns and the former wants." (The Philosophy of Money, p 78)

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Georges Bataille defines eroticism as the "assenting to life up to the point of death". (Erotism, introduction) For Bataille, eroticism distinguishes man from the animals because it is a consciously intellectualized feeling that is possible only in a context where sexuality is repressed, or at least where erotic pleasure is independent of reproduction as an end. Bataille relates eroticism to a knowledge of evil and the inevitability of death, rather than simply an expression of joyful passion. He quotes de Sade's observation that "There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image." While De Sade's "aberration" may be the logical extreme of this link, "In essence, the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, of violation." (p. 16)

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The three primary models of fetishism -- anthropological, Marxian, Freudian--all define the fetish as an object endowed with a special force or independent life. Marx called this transference, Freud called it overvaluation. In this sense the fetish is not a representation. It does not refer to something outside itself. 

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We can perhaps begin by describing formalism as the valorization of the purely aesthetic experience, as aestheticism. The principle work of formalism focuses on the techniques specific to a medium.

Michael Podro describes the critical historians of art as treading a tightrope between a sense of context in art and a sense of autonomy. He describes the concept of art as both inextricable from context and irreducible to it. When the former is elevated at the expense of the latter, art becomes a trace or symptom of context, when the latter is stressed, the position moves more towards formalism. For art, to be autonomous is to have a separate history. (The compromise solution for this tension has been to describe the "semi-autonomy" or "relative autonomy" of art.)

For the Russian formalist critics, such as Viktor Shklovsky, "estrangement" (or "defamiliarization”) was the central vehicle for a modernist aesthetics that sought to define the "literariness of literature". (although Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Cervante's Don Quixote written long before modernism, are often referred to as canonic examples of the technique)In "Art as Technique" (1917), Shklovsky claimed that the purpose of art was to force us to notice. Because of habitualization, "the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously...and art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. ...The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar", to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important." (Lemon & Reis, p. 12)

Formalism presents itself as moving beyond representation, and it thus moves out of the communicational social contract constituted in representation.

Russian Formalism was first attacked by Trotsky, in Literature and Revolution, in 1923. Trotsky saw Formalism as only concerned with the technical aspects of literature. In the following year, the first Soviet Commissar of Education, Anatoly Lunacharsky, renewed the attack, calling Formalism "decadent" rather than simply "narrow". for Lunacharsky, Formalism encouraged art for art's sake and promoted aesthetic sterility. (see Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism, p. 103-107)

The debate between the Marxist and Formalist critics continued for the rest of the decade and took a decidedly more frightening turn with the rise of Stalin. One of the more interesting attempts at going beyond both a-social pure Formalism and a-literary sociologism of pure Marxisms was the study originally attributed to P.N. Medvedev, but now thought to be principally written by M. M. Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship.

In 1932, Sergei Eisenstein was one of the few active artists still able to defend the idea of form. In "In the Interest of Form", he wrote, echoing what Medvedev/Bahktin saw as "the main claim of European formalism" that "Form is always ideological ."



What is globalization? On a simple level, Globalization seems to be a a name for the increased interconnectedness of cultures, a world of complex mobilities and interconnections, characterized by cultural flows of capital, people, commodities, images, and ideologies

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In the Gramscian tradition, hegemony is the historical ability of a given class to legitimate its claim to establish political institutions and cultural values able to mobilize the majority of the society, while fulfilling its specific interests as the new dominant class. (Manuel Castells)

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Political system

While the relations between science and political systems is not always obvious, many writers on complexity point out connections between the emerging sciences and what is sometimes called the "new world disorder". But whether one sees current political trends as tending towards chaos or towards new forms of self-organization, it seems clear that some of the analytic concepts of the new sciences provide powerful heuristics for current political analysis.

For example, the problems of nationalism in Eastern Europe, or the problems of ethnic communities in cities like Los Angeles, exhibits scaling self-similarity. That is to say, the problems of minorities occur at multiple scales: Yugoslavia breaks into republics, republics break into smaller pieces, etc. The question of self-determination on ethnic grounds occurs at every scale. Chaos seems to loom around the corner. The speed at which this issue has erupted seems to tell us something about global dynamics at the edge of Chaos. At the same time, these developments may hold out the promise of emergent forms of self-organization. Complex systems exhibit diffusion of authority. (Casti cites democratic governments, labor unions, and universities as examples) They exhibit a resiliency that comes from their capacity to absorb disruptions and environmental fluctuations. These may be understood as changes in the relation between local and global

The view of "spaceship" earth as seen by the Apollo astronauts, first made the Gaia hypothesis plausible.

The end of the Cold War system and the "Prisoner's Dilemma" Russian Catastrophe theory describes perestroika (metamorphosis) in mathematical terms while acknowledging that their successful study is undoubtedly a result of political perestroika .

For the relations between science and prestige, see big science.


In his reassesment of the "hardships" and "poverty" of hunter-gatherer societies, Marshall Sahlins describes the effect of the market-industrial system as instituting scarcity and sentencing us to "life at hard labor." (Stone Age Economics, p.4)

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