“КУДА итти?”/“WHERE are We Going?”

Original title of the piece

Из Современная архитектура –  (1930) — № 1/2

Pg. 4

И деревня и город—обе эти старые формы расселения не отвечают потребностям настоящего дня. Они МЕШАЮТ правильному размещению промышленности и сельского хозяйства, мешают развитию новых общественных отношений людей.

Старое жилище патриархальной или мелкобуржуазной крестьянской семьи, старое мещанско-семейное жилище рабочих к служащих разлагается на наших глазах, бешено сопротивляясь неизбежному. Замена старого жилища подновленной рабочей казармой с огороженными или полуогороженными индивидуальными нарами — казармой под вывеской «Дома – Коммуны», на словах — коммуной  на деле казармой не радует больше ни потребителя — рабочего и служащего, ибо она не удобна, ни производителя, ибо она дорога.

Продолжать СТРОИТЬ ПО-СТАРОМУ значит РАССТРАЧИВАТЬ [sic] сотни миллионов, пускать на ветер МИЛЛИАРДЫ рабочих рублей из фондов КАПИТАЛЬНОГО СТРОИТЕЛЬСТВА, из фондов индустриализации, значит многовековый опыт российской технической и экономической отсталости приспособлять к новому или — что одно и то же — новым требованиям размещения производства, новым требованиям строительной техники, новым отношениям людей в производстве, новым отношениям людей между собой противопоставлять старую технику размещения, старую технику производства. Наступила пора разочарования а той якобы коммуне, которая отнимает у рабочего жилую площадь В ПОЛЬЗУ КОРИДОРОВ И ТЕПЛЫХ ПЕРЕХОДОВ. Лжекоммуна, позволяющая рабочему ТОЛЬКО СПАТЬ в своем жилище, лжекоммуна уменьшающая и площадь и личные удобства (очередь на умывальник, в стоповою, уборную, вешалку) начинает вызывать массовое безпокойство в рабочей среде. Экономическая невозможность создания даже таких ничтожных удобств встала со всей ясностью и перед руководящими хозяйственными органами.

А жилищная нужна растет. Промышленность борется с ней, напрягая все силы…растет и жилищная скученность…Все и вся ее усиливают.



Both the village and the city — neither of these old forms of settlement meet the needs of the present day.  They INTERFERE with the correct distribution of industry and agriculture, interfere with the development of new social relations between men.

The old dwelling of the patriarchal or petit-bourgeois peasant family, the old petty family-dwelling of workers to employees decomposes before our very eyes, furiously resisting the inevitable.  The replacement of old homes by refurbished workers barracks with enclosed and semi-protected individual bunks — a barracks in the guise of “House-Commune,” in words — a commune, practically a barracks, does not gladden the worker and the employee, since it is not convenient, any more than it does the manufacturer, because it is expensive.

To continue TO BUILD IN THE OLD WAY means WASTING hundreds of millions, to release into the wind THOUSANDS of the workers’ rubles from the funds of CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION, from the funds for industrialization, and consequently the age-old experience of Russian technical and economic backwardness in adjusting to the new or — what is the same — placing new demands on production, new requirements of construction equipment, a new relation of people in production, new relations between people to oppose the old placement techniques, the old production techniques.  There arrived a day of disillusionment with this supposed commune, which deprives the workers of living space IN FAVOR OF CORRIDORS AND WARM PASSAGES.  The pseudo-commune allows workers ONLY TO SLEEP in their dwellings, the pseudo-commune reducing both the total area and the private facilities (in all a washstand, a bin, restrooms, and a coat-hanger) begins to cause massive unrest in the working environment.  The economic impossibility of such poor facilities rose clearly to the state and economic organs.

But housing needs to grow.  The industry is struggling with it, straining its every nerve…and the growth of overcrowded housing…The whole thing increases.



(Anonymous author, February 1930)

A Marxist Approach to the Nature-Culture Divide: A Reply to Adam Robbert’s “Six Common Problems in Thinking Nature-Culture Interactions”

Still from Tarkovskii's "Stalker" -- Entering the Zone (1979)

The following is taken from a response I wrote to Adam Robbert’s recent post on his blog,“Six Common Problems in Thinking Nature-Culture Interactions.”  If you would like to read another interesting response to the article, check out Matthew David Segall’s reply here, “Towards an Eco-Ontology.”  My Adornian opposition to ontologies of any sort remains unchanged, and while this doubtless complicates any attempt at discourse I might have with the OOO approach, I still think that some fruitful dialogue might be taken from this discussion.

A very interesting reflection on the old problem of the nature-culture relationship. Your points are thorough, calm, and considered — and I will say that none of them fall prey to the kind of pernicious metaphysical proclamations I sometimes see being issued out of the OOO blogosphere. Seeing your measured comments on my blog, it is little surprise to see that you are equally measured and reasonable in writing posts for your own blog.

In any case, I, like Matthew, also appreciate some of the thinkers you brought into constellation with one another. Ellul and Mumford are among my favorite critics of technology, though I prefer their insights as filtered through and appropriated by Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse. For this reason, along with my general Marxist inclinations, the most important point you highlighted (in my opinion) was the third, considering the effects of capitalism and globalization on the relationship between humanity and nature. For me, capitalism, globalization, and modernity are all coterminous — globalization is simply a spatial register for capitalism’s inherently expansionary logic, while the time-consciousness of modernity is merely capitalism’s temporal register.

I would argue, viewing the problem historically, that the problem of humanity’s alienation from nature — the widening chasm between Nature and Culture, even if they be inextricably intertwined — arose historically. That is to say, although humanity’s self-distinction as a society distinguishable from nature arrived fairly early, with the project of agriculture and primitive domestication, the estrangement of humanity from nature only rose to the level of consciousness with the advent of capitalism. Only after the Enlightenment’s thorough disenchantment of nature, the coldly rationalizing and technicizing logic of capitalism, even in the eighteenth century, only after this point do we see writers like Schiller, Holderlin, Schelling, and Hegel writing of the problem of humanity’s alienation from nature. Marx rationalized the Romantic thinkers’ thoughts on the matter in his Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

This bleeds into your second point, where you talk about the problem of nature being one that nature considered as an entity unto itself must also be thought alongside the various ideological conceptions of nature arrived at by society through history. This is why I, in my own writings on the subject, have referred to nature as a fundamentally social problem. That is to say, one can look back through history at the way that humanity has conceived of nature, in its various iterations through the ages, and see that the way that nature has presented itself to us largely depends on the social constitution of a particular epoch. This is not to fall into the idealistic fantasy that nature has no existence apart from our conception of it, but rather to admit that while nature might have its own objective rhythms and regularities, it is not some sort of Kantian Ding-an-Sich, and the way that we conceptualize nature has much to do with how it appears to us as a problem. Oppositely, this would suggest that our way of thinking has much to do with the objective relations of whatever mode of production prevails throughout society at a given time, such that there is a quite real divide between Nature and Culture that has arisen historically. This means that we cannot overcome the problem simply by “reconceptualizing” it, but rather only through a fundamental transformation of our social structure.

Regarding the “pluriverse” and multiple conceptions of nature that you discuss in the fourth part, I thus believe that it is collapsible into the second part, since the multiple manifestations of nature arise historically as part of the social being of mankind. But I’m fully on board with you, also, on the facile attempt to dismiss the real opposition between nature and culture by simply saying that they are wholly intermingled with one another.

If you would like to read my own musings on the subjects, in a rather long essay that is due to be published in the upcoming SR journal Thinking Nature, edited by Ben Woodard and Timothy Morton, you can check it out on my blog. It’s much more detailed than the point-by-point reaction I give here, and I think you might be interested in taking a glance at it.

Ray Brassier on the speculative realist “movement”

Including his reaction to my satiric
Manifesto of speculative realist/
object-oriented ontological blogging

Image: Ray Brassier


I first came across Dr. Brassier’s brutal excoriation of the Speculative Realist/Object-Oriented Ontological blogging “movement” after my own lighthearted sendup of the phenomenon was met with such disapproval by Tim Morton, Levi Bryant, and (seemingly) Nick Srnicek, although Srnicek was perhaps justifiably upset that I counterposed his e-mail to me to Bryant’s. In any case, I felt some sense of vindication upon seeing Ray Brassier’s own scathing commentary on SR movement in his interview with the Polish magazine Kronos:

The “speculative realist movement” exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever: actor-network theory spiced with pan-psychist metaphysics and morsels of process philosophy. I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.

Now, Brassier’s unsparing invective against this trend within the theory blogosphere has already been widely circulated, and I must admit that I was something of a latecomer in discovering the sentiments he expressed. Most have probably been aware of these statements for much longer than me. Nevertheless, I’ve been slowly working through his recent book, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, and must admit that I’ve enjoyed it so far more than anything I’ve read from Harman or Latour. I especially appreciate his engagement with Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment; his interpretation is really quite good. So there’s a level of respect I had for him that preceded my stumbling upon this little snippet.

Anyway, following my recent publication of the satyric Manifesto of Speculative Realist/Object-Oriented Ontological Blogging and subsequent discovery of Brassier’s somewhat similar (though no doubt deeper) position on the matter, I e-mailed him with a link to the satyric piece. With the largely mixed response to the post that I’d received from the rest of the theory blogosphere, I was curious as to what Brassier might make of it. He responded this morning, rather promptly. The correspondence ran as follows.

Cover to the volume The speculative turn

Cover to the volume The speculative turn

Continue reading

The spatiotemporal dialectic of capitalism


To understand the history of architectural modernism and eclecticism as they emerged out of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one must take into account the broader development of architecture over the course of the latter half of the nineteenth century. This development, in turn, must be seen as emerging out of the dynamic of late nineteenth-century capitalism, which had by that point extended to encompass the whole of Europe. For it was the unique spatiotemporal dialectic of the capitalist mode of production — along with the massive social and technological forces it unleashed — that formed the basis for the major architectural ideologies that arose during this period. Before the story of the academicians or the avant-garde can be told, then, some background is necessary to explain both their origin and the eventual trajectory they would take into the early twentieth century.

So while my aim is to eventually account for how a single social formation, capitalism, can give birth to these two opposite tendencies within architectural thought, the space required to give an adequate exposition of the spatiotemporal dialectic of capitalism is such that it deserves to function as a standalone essay. Certainly other trends, both cultural and social, could be understood as reflections of this underlying socioeconomic dynamic. It is thus my intention to post this as its own piece, before then proceeding to detail the way in which architectural modernism and eclecticism mirrored these dynamics. Continue reading

On Hurt Feelings: The Case of Levi Bryant’s Missing Sense of Humor

Levi Bryant, humorless "onticologist"

I know that it’s usually in bad taste to publish a private e-mail correspondence with another individual over the internet, but in this case I feel it’s fairly harmless.  Over at Levi Bryant’s blog, Larval Subjects, I was engaging in an interesting discussion between Levi and Michael from Archive Fire.  You can see one of my comments on this thread, as well as Michael’s favorable citation of some of the points I make.  Anyway, sometime yesterday, I added another comment on the entry regarding the debate between Spinoza and Leibniz on actualism vs. possibilism (although Spinoza was dead when Leibniz’s major metaphysical writings began to appear).

After several hours, I saw that new comments had been updated for the post, and so I checked to see if Levi or Michael had responded to anything I’d written.  Much to my dismay, I discovered that my comment was nowhere to be found.  I tried leaving another one, asking what had happened, but this one likewise disappeared after a few minutes.  Concerned, I contacted Levi through e-mail:

[E-mails deleted out of respect for Levi Bryant's privacy]

Basically, Levi told me that he felt insulted by a comment I’d left the day before, and that, coupled with my satyric post on SR/OOO, he’s decided to cease discussion with me.  My reply to him was that the sendup of SR/OOO was aimed at the movement in general, and that he shouldn’t take it as a personal affront.  I also encouraged him to develop a better sense of humor about things generally and himself in particular.

So far, I haven’t received any further response.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.  Back in the ides of April, I published a somewhat lengthier (though similarly fraught) exchange between Levi and me that had resulted from a heated debate on the subject of Marxism on his own blog.  He accused me at that point of “hate speech.”  After some further conversation through e-mail (following the correspondence posted in that entry), I explained myself more thoroughly.  Levi eventually came to his senses and invited me back to comment on his blog.

Now again, it’s his right to exclude certain individuals from posting or commenting on his blog if he wants to.  I just think it’s a shame that he allows his feelings to be so easily hurt, or that he takes an obviously satyrical manifesto directed at a general movement and interprets it as a personal attack.  It’s really too bad that he can’t have a little better sense of humor about this, and have a laugh along with everyone else.

By contrast, the responses I received from the author of the blog ktismatics and Joseph Weissman of Fractal Ontology were unambiguously supportive.  Even the e-mail I received, from Nick Srnicek of Speculative Heresy, was polite and largely understanding:

[A polite and good-natured e-mail deleted out of respect for Nick Srnicek's privacy]

If this means an end to my participation on Larval Subjects, then so be it.  It’s just sort of sad that it had to be over such a petty matter.

The manifesto of Speculative Realist/Object-Oriented Ontological blogging


…the infernal piping of those blasphemous flutes…

Prologue: Of manifestoes and manifestoism

To launch a manifesto you have to want: A.B. & C., and fulminate against 1, 2, & 3.

work yourself up and sharpen your wings to conquer and circulate lower and upper case As, Bs & Cs, sign, shout, swear, organise prose into a form that is absolutely and irrefutably obvious, prove its ne plus ultra and maintain that novelty resembles life in the same way as the latest apparition of a harlot proves the essence of God.

We alone are the face of our Time. Through us the horn of Time blows in the art of the world.

Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity.

  1. Up to now literature has exalted contemplative stillness, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt movement and aggression, feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the slap and the punch.
  2. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath…a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than Тhe Victory of Samothrace.
  3. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  4. We intend to glorify war — the only hygiene of the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of anarchists, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and contempt for woman. Continue reading

Leon Trotsky’s “Attention to theory: Letter to the editor of Under the Banner of Marxism”

Screenshot from Tarkovsky's Solaris (1971)


Having just noticed this from The Platypus Review #34, I would here like to reprint the excellent translation it rendered of Leon Trotsky’s “Attention to theory: Letter to the editor of Under the Banner of Marxism.”  Their publication of an English version was the first time this letter was made available outside of the Russian language. The original posting of this article can be found here.

by Leon Trotsky

On the occasion of the launch of a new theoretical journal in 1922, Under the Banner of Marxism (Pod Znamenem Marksizma), Lenin singled out the open letter that Trotsky had written to the editors in the first issue, while expressing the hope that the venture would take the shape of a “society of materialist friends of Hegelian dialectics.”Trotsky himself underscored the importance of the letter in The Stalin School of Falsification (1937), which, in pointing to the difference between the changed conditions of education of the younger members of the party from that of their older comradesoutlined the necessity of a new theoretical approach in order to safeguard the theoretical and political experience accumulated within the partyDespite the importance attributed to the letter by Lenin and Trotsky, Leszek Kolakowski, in his Main Currents of Marxism, considered the letter unexceptional.

As the first in an experimental new series of original translations, the Platypus Review is delighted to be publishing the first English translation of this important letter by Trotsky.

Dear comrades!

The idea of publishing a magazine that would introduce advanced proletarian youth into the circle of materialist ideology seems to me highly valuable and fruitful.

The older generation of worker-communists that is now playing a leading role in the party and the country, awoke to conscious political life 10, 15, 20, or more years ago. That generation’s thought began its critical work with the policeman, the timekeeper, and the foreman, then rose to tsarism and capitalism, and then, most often in prison and exile, proceeded onto questions of the philosophy of history and scientific understanding of the world. Therefore, before the revolutionary proletarian reached the critical questions of the materialist explanation of historical development, it managed to accumulate a certain amount of ever-widening generalizations, from the particular to the general, based on its own life’s combat experience. The current young worker wakes up in the atmosphere of the soviet state, which itself is a living critique of the old world. Those general conclusions, that the older generation of workers acquired in battle and were fixed in consciousness by strong nails of personal experience, are now received by the younger generation of workers in finished form, directly from the state in which they live and from the party that governs that state. This means, of course, a giant step forward in terms of creating conditions for further political and theoretical education of the workers. But at the same time that this incomparably higher historical level is achieved by the work of older generations, new problems and challenges appear for young generations.

The soviet state is a living negation of the old world, its social order, personal relationships, views, and beliefs. But, at the same time, the soviet state itself is still full of contradictions, holes, inconsistencies, vague fermentation—in short, the phenomena in which the legacy of the past intertwines with the germs of the future. In such a deeply fractured, critical, and unstable era as ours, education of the proletarian vanguard requires serious and reliable theoretical foundations. It is necessary to arm a young worker’s thought and will with the method of the materialist worldview so that the greatest events, the powerful tides, rapidly changing tasks, and methods of the party and state do not disorganize his consciousness and do not break down his will before the threshold of his independent responsible work. Continue reading

Dr. Steven Best’s Theory of “Total Liberation”

The Space Jockey (the Biomechanical Corpse)

Here is Dr. Steven Best’s theory of “Total Liberation,” exposited in the extended quote below.  Best, who achieved some notoriety for his collaborations with Douglas Kellner writing introductory handbooks for continental postmodernism in the 1990s, is now one of the most outspoken voices among the animal liberation community.

The following is taken from his website, authored by Steven Best: Continue reading

This Essay Has Been Re-Routed

Sorry for the inconvenience.  The now-completed essay can be found here.