April 2017 - Readings
Updated: Nov 27, 2017
I’m reading McKenzie Wark’s 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International (which was based on a lecture given in New York)
I’m reading about Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci in Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies by Douglas Kellner. Gramsci used Marxist theory to analyse cultural forms in relation to production, history and social impact. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. He believed that ruling intellectual and cultural forces constitute a form of hegemony, or domination, by ideas and cultural forms that induce consent to their rule. Social stability is created through state and institutional hegemony maintaining consent to ‘intellectual and moral leadership’.
I uploaded my keyword essays today (a day late), and ended up writing more than required for each of the essays. I’ve been doing a lot of writing to get these done, but it’s helping to keep the thesis moving along.
I’m researching Henri Lefebvre’s The Critique of Everyday Life 1947. He focuses on alienation (inauthentic life / a false relationship to the world / a reification of consciousness produced by the fetishism of commodities). He attempts to understand the transformation of everyday life, believing that by ‘subverting the everyday’, individuals can open the way to ‘real life’. This is crucial to the thinking underlying the transformation of art into life proposed by Dada. Also, in 1948, when the Cobra group was founded, Constant’s manifesto was explicitly inspired by Critique of Everyday Life. Additionally, Lefebvre’s later relations with the Situationist movement further stimulated debate. Lefebvre’s connection to these groups is crucial to the development of the theory and practice underlying ‘personal revolution’ and the ‘transformation of art into life’.
I started reading Stephen Duncombe’s Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy 2007.
Duncombe defines a new political aesthetic tied to an apparent wide appeal for the irrational; utilising ‘fantasy’ and ‘spectacular communication’ in a new approach to politics where commercial culture is acknowledged, respected, and adopted. He believes that to do otherwise is to guarantee political insignificance. However, whilst ‘fantasy’ and ‘spectacular communication’ is certainly the way that media communication has developed, (with the emergence of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’) this is an avenue that runs the risk of playing into ‘recuperation’ and the ‘spectacle’. I do not believe that this is not in the best interests of neutralising the alienating effects of the ‘spectacle’. If anything, this approach may itself be neutralised by the ‘spectacle’. Duncombe does recognise this though: “the challenge for progressives is to create ethical spectacles”. (Duncombe, 2007, p 17) These are being created by the likes of activists such as the Yes Men who ‘construct situations’, but now the abundance of ‘spectacular communication’ is such that the effects of these sorts of actions are dampened. Duncombe defines ‘spectacle’ as “a way of making an argument… through story and myth, fears and desire, imagination and fantasy”. (Duncombe, 2007, p 30)
I’ve been reading - Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work 2015 by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, which critiques left wing politics. They suggest that since the 1960s left wing politics has been characterised by ‘folk politics’. Yet, this approach tends to render it ineffective because of its reactionary approach through protest and resistance; unrealistic goals; focus on the tangible over the abstract; personal involvement over institutional action; simple issues over complex strategies; non-hierarchical organisation; and a local focus over the bigger picture. Srnicek and Williams argue that these approaches are insufficient to tackle new capitalism and compare them with the dominance achieved by new capitalism in developing networks of think-tanks which position their ideas in government and the media. The ‘Left’ therefore needs to similarly promote their values if they wish to achieve a progressive future.
I’m working on a thesis critique for feedback and ended up downloading two theses. The first one turned out to be unsuitable, so I’m going to finish the exercise with the second one.
I watched: Filth and the Fury, the Sex Pistols DVD documentary. There was a memorable part where Johnny Rotten recalled that they knew they’d been absorbed into the capitalist system (“the shitstem”) when they noticed that there were hundreds of middle class youths running around in leather jackets. It brought home the need to remain underground and avoid ‘popularity’, which is probably best achieved by not engaging in ‘promotion’ and ‘marketing’. And therein lies the dilemma, how to promote an idea without it becoming ‘popular’.
I made another attempt at deodorant (which makes this one recipe #5) – This time I used only castor oil + dry ingredients and Tea Tree Oil. In the last batch I used sweet almond oil and castor oil and they never really emulsified. Regardless of how many times I remixed everything, a layer of oil would always float to the top. I assume this is because of mismatched viscosity (castor oil is much more viscous rather sweet almond). Or it could also be that not heating the oils as I had previously done (because of using a proportion of solid oil) caused a problem when blending all the ingredients so that they remained ‘unmixed’.
Also started reading The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen –
Keen takes the view that for all its connectivity and the ability to share information, the internet has become nothing but a data gathering complex, powered by the willing engagement and self-promotion of individuals. He sees ‘personal revolution’ as having already occurred, but in the form of narcissistic self-promotion, which is having a negative impact on people’s lives. He talks about ‘personal revolution’ but from a different perspective entirely, and so this book is not particularly relevant to my research.
I’ve been focused on finishing the thesis critique. I need to upload it in the next couple of days. This has been a useful exercise, particularly because the two theses I partially critiqued were significantly different in style, which provided additional benefit that I could see the contrasting results each produced. One was much better at identifying the necessary components of a thesis introduction for someone reading (or examining) it.
My attention is back to my ongoing experiment with producing a roll-on deodorant… because… I’m wrong again. I thought if I used only one type of oil that the oil wouldn’t separate and everything would be good. This was not the case, with the oil separating and sitting on top of the mixture, as it had done when I used both castor and sweet almond oils. Now I think it is simply a matter of the ‘dry’ material not remaining suspended and settling to the bottom, which squeezes out the oil. Therefore, I don’t think I can produce a good ‘roll-on’ deodorant, but instead need some solidifying agent, such as Shea butter, cocoa butter or coconut oil to keep the ‘dry’ material (bi-carb and arrowroot) suspended.
Oil sitting on top