Voyou Désœuvré

That Jameson quote that Zizek loves, about it being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, is often mentioned in the context of our (I mean, late capitalist culture in general’s) love of apocalyptic scenarios. But the phrase also reminds us of something perhaps more important: that capitalism itself is necessarily incapable of imagining its own end. As Marx writes:

As representative of the general form of wealth—money—capital is the endless and limitless drive to go beyond its limiting barrier. Every boundary is and has to be a barrier for it. Else it would cease to be capital—money as self-reproductive. (Grundrisse)

This is, rather unexpectedly, one of the main themes of recent computer game Portal 2. Read more↴

I was at the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate last week, which is currently showing an exhibition of photographs from Rwanda tea plantations (sponsored by local tea company Taylors). Many of the pictures were beautiful and interesting, but the exhibition troubled me. The problem is mostly the inevitable othering of the sociological gaze, and it plays out in a particularly interesting way here. Read more↴

A few months ago Roger Ebert poked video game players with a stick, arguing that computer games could not possibly be art. His argument was stupid, as he himself has since realized, because he quite literally did not know what he was talking about: he had not played any of the games he was discussing, and so hadn’t had the kind of experience necessary to form a judgment on them. Dismissing computer games on the basis of video clips is, at best, like dismissing cinema on the basis of reading screenplays; the entire dimension in which the medium’s distinctive aesthetic effects work is absent. Ebert’s ignorance of computer games explains why he produces such a weak argument; this gives him an alibi which the editors of n+1 don’t have. Read more↴

“In general the close connection between advertising and the cosmic awaits analysis” wrote Benjamin (Arcades, 175). Indeed, and the connection would only become closer in the 50s; when, meanwhile, the phalanstery was finally conquered for the suburbs.A 1956 advert reads:

Perhaps this is a mere contingency of scheduling, but there’s an interesting pairing of exhibitions at SFMOMA right now. Read more↴

We’ve all probably imbibed, in one form or another, a left-wing culture criticism that draws, in one way or another, on Adorno and Horkheimer’s analysis of the culture industry; even I find it difficult to like Paris Hilton sometimes. But their essay is more interesting than the reflexive anti-commodification that is now so common. As Owen pointed out when I mentioned this before, you can occasionally see a glimpse of utopian possibilities in popular culture in the Frankfurt School, and this strain is even more pronounced in Benjamin. I talked to our local Marxism reading group about this a couple of weeks ago; here’s what I said: Read more↴