I’ve posted about Georg Lukács in the past: here, here, and here. Lukács’ excellent polemic against Kautsky, from 1924, was also featured. Though he was denounced in 1924 by the vulgarian Zinoviev, and later forced to recant, the arguments he laid out in History and Class Consciousness, Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought, and his unpublished rebuttal Tailism and the Dialectic represent a high point in the history of revolutionary thought.
Victor Serge later recalled:
I held Georg Lukács in greatest esteem; indeed, I owe him a great deal. A former university teacher in Budapest, and then commissar to a Red division in the front line, Lukács was a philosopher steeped in the works of Hegel, Marx, and Freud, and possessing a free-ranging and rigorous mind. He was engaged in writing a number of outstanding books that were never to see the light of day. In him I saw a first-class brain that could have endowed Communism with a true intellectual greatness if it had developed as a social movement instead of degenerating into a movement in solidarity with an authoritarian power. Lukács’ thinking led him to a totalitarian vision of Marxism within which he united all aspects of human life; his theory of the Party could be taken as either superb or disastrous, depending on the circumstances. For example, he considered that since history could not be divorced from politics, it should be written by historians in the service of the Central Committee.
One day we were discussing the problem of whether or not revolutionaries who had been condemned to death should commit suicide; this arose from the execution in 1919 at Budapest of Otto Korvin, who had been in charge of the Hungarian Cheka, and whose hanging afforded a choice spectacle for “society” folk. “I thought of suicide,” said Lukács, “ in the hours when I was expecting to be arrested and hanged with him. I came to the conclusion that I had no right to it: a member o f the Central Committee must set the example.” (I was to meet Georg Lukács and his wife later, in 1928 or 1929, in a Moscow street. He was then working at the Marx-Engels Institute; his books were being suppressed, and he lived bravely in the general fear. Although he was fairly well-disposed towards me, he did not care to shake my hand in a public place, since I was expelled and a known [Left] Oppositionist. He enjoyed a physical survival, and wrote short, spiritless articles in Comintern journals.)
Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Henri Lefebvre, and Guy Debord would not have been possible without the groundbreaking work of Lukács. You can download full-text PDFs of his assorted writings below. And then, below that, you can read a brief reflection by Lukács’ fellow Marxist and countryman G.M. Tamás, occasioned by the removal of a statue in Budapest earlier this year.
Writings by Lukács
- Selected Correspondence: Dialogues with Weber, Simmel, Buber, Mannheim, and others (1902-1920)
- “The Sociology of Modern Drama” (1909)
- Soul and Form (1910)
- Theory of the Novel (1914-1915)
- “The Old Culture and the New” (1920)
- History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (1920-1923)
- Reviews and Articles for Die Rote Fahne (1922)
- Lenin: A Study of the Unity of His Thought (1924)
- Tailism and the Dialectic (1925-1926)
- “Art for Art’s Sake and Proletarian Writing” (1926)
- Tactics and Ethics: Political Essays (1919-1929)
- The Historical Novel (1937)
- Writer and Critic, and Other Essays (1930s-1940s)
- Goethe and His Age (1934-1940)
- The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relations between Dialectics and Economics (1938/1948)
- Studies in European Realism: A Sociological Survey of the Writings of Balzac, Stendhal, Zola, Tolstoy, Gorki, and Others (1940-1947)
- The Culture of People’s Democracy: Hungarian Essays on Literature, Art, and Democratic Transition (1945-1948)
- “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals” (1948)
- German Realists in the Nineteenth Century (1951)
- The Destruction of Reason (1952)
- “Max Weber and German Sociology” (1955)
- The Meaning of Contemporary Realism (1957)
- “Reflections on the Cult of Stalin” (1962)
- “On Bertolt Brecht” (1963)
- “On Walter Benjamin” (1963)
- Essays on Thomas Mann (1963) [1909, 1936, 1948, 1955]
- “An Entire Epoch of Inhumanity” (1964)
- Solzhenitsyn (1964, 1969)
- The Process of Democratization (1968)
- The Ontology of Social Being, Volume 1: Hegel’s False and His Genuine Ontology (1971, published posthumously)
- The Ontology of Social Being, Volume 2: Marx’s Basic Ontological Principles (1971, published posthumously)
- The Ontology of Social Being, Volume 3: Labor (1971, published posthumously)
- Record of a Life: An Autobiographical Sketch (1971, published posthumously)
- Selected Writings
In other languages
- L’anima e le forme
- Die Theorie des Romans: Ein geschichtsphilosophischer Versuch über die großen Formen der Epik
- Storia e coscienza di classe
- La letteratura sovietica
- Écrits de Moscou
- „Zur philosophischen Entwicklung des jungen Marx (1840-1844)”
- Thomas Mann e la tragedia dell’arte moderna
- Socialismo e democratização: escritos políticos, 1956-1971
- Zur Ontologie des gesellschaftlichen Seins. Die ontologischen Grundprinzipien von Marx
Writings about Lukács
- Victor Zitta, Georg Lukács’ Marxism: Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution — A Study in Utopia and Ideology (1964)
- Lucien Goldmann, Lukács and Heidegger: Towards a New Philosophy (1970)
- George Lichtheim, Georg Lukács (1970)
- István Mészáros, Lukács’ Concept of Dialectic (1972)
- Michael Löwy, Georg Lukács: From Romanticism to Bolshevism (1976)
- Ágnes Heller, “Lukács and The Holy Family” (1984)
- Constanzo Preve, “Viewing Lukács from the 1980s” (1987)
- Tom Rockmore (ed.), Lukács Today: Essays in Marxist Philosophy (1988)
- Moishe Postone, “Lukács and the Dialectical Critique of Capitalism” (2003)
- Michael J. Thompson (ed.), Lukács Reconsidered (2011)
Gáspár Miklós Tamás
LA Review of Books
March 6, 2017
Before 1914, Lukács’ early works were received with great antipathy by the literary establishment in Hungary; they were found to be too “German” — that is to say, too philosophical, not impressionistic and positivist enough. That was only the beginning, of course; from then on, Lukács would be attacked from the right incessantly, all his life. Lukács didn’t fare much better in leftist circles, either. When his most important book, History and Class Consciousness (1923), came out, it was savaged by both the Second and the Third International. It wasn’t to be republished until the 1960s. Lukács was given an ultimatum: if he wanted to stay in the Party, he had to repudiate the book and subject himself to self-criticism, which is what he eventually did.
He was harshly criticized in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Soon after he relocated from Vienna to Moscow, Lukács was exiled to Tashkent, and silenced. But in 1945, the Party needed him — or rather, his fame — in Hungary. He agreed to return there rather reluctantly; East Germany was also an option. After the dictatorship was established and consolidated in Hungary in 1947–1948, the “Lukács Debate” was launched in earnest: he was attacked as a “deviationist,” a “bourgeois,” as a man who did not esteem Soviet “socialist realism.” (Truth be told, he was indeed all these things.) He was again silenced, forbidden to teach or publish in Hungarian, but some of his work was smuggled out and printed in West Germany.
In 1956, Lukács was a member of the revolutionary Nagy government. That’s why he was arrested by the Soviet soldiers and temporarily deported to Romania. When he was brought back, he was expelled from the Party, blacklisted, and pensioned off. Once again, he had to smuggle his texts abroad, this time to West Germany, where Luchterhand Verlag began to publish his complete works (a project taken over by Aisthesis Verlag in 2009). A slander campaign was launched against him both in Hungary and in the DDR; he was now condemned as a “revisionist” and, possibly, “counter-revolutionary.” Entire volumes were dedicated to making this case; they were even translated into quite a few languages.
Jameson’s style invites derision. Russell Jacoby once described his manner of writing as “a peculiar American baroque” — i.e., “a gray mash of half-written sentences punctuated by tooting horns and waving pennants,” “confounding rigor mortis with rigor.” Essays by Jameson are frequently ponderous, convoluted, and opaque. No other writer is so emblematic of contemporary Marxism’s professorial bent. Densely allusive, with many meandering asides, what Jonathan Arac called “the deliberate scandal of Jameson’s method” consists in its casual comparisons of a whole range of thinkers from across the European philosophical tradition.
Alberto Toscano might be seen as the legitimate successor to this method, along with Benjamin Noys and the late Mark Fisher (though these latter two are much more fluid writers). The theoreticism of their texts often leads readers far afield of the topic at hand, but by and large returns from these divagations enriched by the journey. One of the most brutal send-ups of Jameson’s work came from Robert Hullot-Kentor, whose approach to translation was praised at the outset of Late Marxism: Adorno, or, the Persistence of the Dialectic (1990). In a polemical review of this same book, “Suggested Reading: Jameson on Adorno,” Hullot-Kentor painted a very unflattering portrait of its author:
Fredric Jameson is one of the great tattooed men of our times. Every inch of flesh is covered: that web of cat’s cradles coiling up the right calf are Greimas and Levi-Strauss; dripping over the right shoulder, under the sign of the Cimabue Christ — the inverted crucifixion — hangs Derrida. And hardly recognizable in those many other overlapping splotches of color is just about everybody else: Lyotard, Sartre, Habermas, et al. “All One, All Different” scrolls across the panoramic chest. In Late Marxism Jameson scouts carefully before setting portentious digit on a densely engraved quadrate of his left hip, Adorno! and falls into a roll: “Adorno you will notice is like Althusser, only more like Sartre, except the idea of totality, in my opinion, as I’ll say again later, differs from Rorty, coming back to Luhmann, like Marxism, late, very late, minus Hegel’s concept of time. Perhaps, maybe, almost… Take another look, another look, just not too close, please, ladies and gentleman, give the man room to breathe!”
Still, if one can get past all the offhand references Jameson makes, the experience can be quite rewarding. Late Marxism was perhaps an unfortunate target for such ire, however — yes, “perhaps.” Hullot-Kentor’s caustic criticism of this work, though doubtless deserved, could have just as easily applied to Postmodernism or The Political Unconscious, released a few years before. And while it is understandable that Hullot-Kentor, the celebrated translator and interpreter of Adorno, would take Jameson to task on this subject, it was nevertheless bold for anyone to publish a defense of Adorno’s Marxist credentials in 1990. Whatever its other shortcomings may be, and they are many, Late Marxism is noteworthy at least in this respect. Especially given the Anglophone reception of Adorno up to that point, which apart from Susan Buck-Morss and Gillian Rose either ignored his Marxism or exaggerated its heterodoxy.
Regarding the rest of Jameson’s vast corpus, the stuff on periodization is probably what interests me the most. Modernity, postmodernity, and everything that comes in between. Aijaz Ahmad was right, of course, to scold Jameson for his overreach when it came to Third World literature, and Adorno was right to be skeptical of so-called “revolutions” taking place in the Third World. The sheer scope of his theoretical reading — not to mention his focus on film, literature, and architecture — is astounding. You can download a number of his works by clicking on the links below. Full-text PDFs only, since I don’t like E-books (for whatever reason):
- Fredric Jameson, Sartre: The Origins of a Style (1961)
- Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form: Twentieth Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (1971)
- Fredric Jameson, The Prison-House of Language: A Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism (1972)
- Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981)
- Fredric Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory (1988, 2008)
- Fredric Jameson, Late Marxism: Adorno, or, the Persistence of the Dialectic (1990)
- Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991)
- Fredric Jameson, Signatures of the Visible (1992)
- Fredric Jameson, The Seeds of Time (1994)
- Fredric Jameson, Brecht and Method (1998)
- Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998 (1998)
- Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (2002)
- Fredric Jameson, “Dialectics of Disaster” (2002)
- Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2005)
- Fredric Jameson, Conversations on Cultural Marxism (2007)
- Fredric Jameson, The Modernist Papers (2007)
- Fredric Jameson, Valences of the Dialectic (2009)
- Fredric Jameson, The Hegel Variations: On the Phenomenology of the Spirit (2010)
- Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One (2011)
- Fredric Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism (2015)
- Fredric Jameson, The Ancients and the Postmoderns (2015)
- Fredric Jameson, “The Aesthetics of Singularity” (2016)
- Fredric Jameson, An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army (2016)
- Fredric Jameson, “Badiou and the French Tradition” (2016)
- Fredric Jameson, Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality (2016)
Below you can read an excellent review of Valences of the Dialectic by Benjamin Kunkel, originally published by the London Review of Books (and subsequently included in the Jacobin collection Utopia or Bust). Kunkel’s reviews of individual books tend to be skillful, if sweeping, overviews of a thinker’s entire oeuvre, and this one delivers well as far as that goes. He’s correct, in any case, that Jameson is more of an essayist than anything else. Enjoy!
April 22, 2010
Fredric Jameson’s preeminence, over the last generation, among critics writing in English would be hard to dispute. Part of the tribute has been exacted by his majestic style, one distinctive feature of which is the way that the convoy of long sentences freighted and balanced with subordinate clauses will dock here and there to unload a pithy slogan. “Always historicize!” is one of these, and Jameson has also insisted, under the banner of “One cannot not periodize,” on the related necessity (as well as the semi-arbitrariness) of dividing history into periods. With that in mind, it’s tempting to propose a period, coincident with Jameson’s career as the main theorist of postmodernism, stretching from about 1983 (when Thatcher, having won a war, and Reagan, having survived a recession, consolidated their popularity) to 2008 (when the neoliberal program launched by Reagan and Thatcher was set back by the worst economic crisis since the Depression). During this period of neoliberal ascendancy — an era of deregulation, financialization, industrial decline, demoralization of the working class, the collapse of Communism and so on — it often seemed easier to spot the contradictions of Marxism than the more famous contradictions of capitalism, and no figure seemed to embody more than Fredric Jameson the peculiar condition of an economic theory that had turned out to flourish above all as a mode of cultural analysis, a mass movement that had become the province of an academic “elite,” and an intellectual tradition that had arrived at some sort of culmination right at the point of apparent extinction.
Over the last quarter-century, Jameson has been at once the timeliest and most untimely of American critics and writers. Not only did he develop interests in film, science fiction, or the work of Walter Benjamin, say, earlier than most of his colleagues in the humanities, he was also a pioneer of that enlargement of literary criticism (Jameson received a PhD in French literature from Yale in 1959) into all-purpose theory which made the discussion of all these things in the same breath established academic practice. More than this, he succeeded better than anyone else at defining the term, “postmodernism,” that sought to catch the historical specificity of the present age.
The following, from Croatian comrade Juraj Katalenac, appeared late last week and has so far received overwhelmingly positive responses. I’m even told that it has been shared with two of my personal heroes, Loren Goldner and Russell Jacoby, who appreciated both its irreverent style as well as the substance of its message. Juraj has interviewed Moshé Machover, Mike Macnair, and Peter Hudis in the past. His blog, ADIDAS Marxism, is linked below.
A note, regarding Kill All Normies by the Irish author Angela Nagle: One of the sublime ironies surrounding this book’s release is that, in decrying internet pile-ons, Nagle has been subjected to something of an internet pile-on herself. Richard Seymour and Noah Berlatsky on Patreon, and some Maoist dumbass named “Combat Liberalism” on Medium, have written scathing reviews of the book, insinuating that Nagle was blaming hysterical left-liberal Tumblr for the rise of the truly insidious alt-Right. Even if that were her thesis, it’s not that implausible that overreach on one side might’ve fueled reaction on the other. Nagle was not positing a direct causal relationship between the two; if anything, she was arguing that there was a formal similarity in terms of the results. The only legitimate insight of “horseshoe” theories of polarization is that either extreme has anime profile pictures, as everyone knows.
Seymour’s review is perhaps written in good faith, but he capitulated to identity politics and “intersectionality” long ago. Oliver Traldi makes an interesting point, though, about Nagle’s failure to mention a personality who almost perfectly embodies her argument: Justine Tunney, the tech utopian transwoman who helped launch #Occupy in 2011 before declaring “feminist” solidarity with Marine Le Pen of France in 2014 on her way to becoming a Silicon Valley fascist. But the most hilarious review of Kill All Normies came from Jordy Cummings, who called Judith Butler’s notoriously-impenetrable Gender Trouble “important but accessible.” The best line has to be: “If it were up to Nagle, the Left would be led by able-bodied workers.” Winning any workers over to Marxist politics would be a huge step forward (not an ableist metaphor, I hope) for the contemporary Left. Cummings’ review reminds me of that Onion spoof a few months back, “Trump voter feels betrayed by president after reading 800 pages of queer feminist theory,” where a steelworker breathlessly reads some lines from Butler
Gender ought not to be conceived merely as the cultural inscription of meaning on a pregiven sex (a juridical conception); gender must also designate the very apparatus of production whereby the sexes themselves are established. As a result, gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which “sexed nature” or “a natural sex” is produced and established as “prediscursive,” prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts.
My only real reservation about Nagle’s book is that she doesn’t really go into the right-wing libertarian episode of the development of the alt-Right. There is nothing in her book about the Ron Paul phenomenon. Kill All Normies is a great intro to the online culture wars, however. For a more serious discussion of the ideological origins of the alt-Right, check out Matthew Lyons’ outstanding essay “Ctrl+Alt+Delete.” Otherwise, complaints about the “anti-woke Left” fall flat. Adolph Reed is an easy target, I would contend, not because of his astute criticisms of identitarian politics on the Left, but because he’s a centrist social democrat who predictably, if begrudgingly, ends up backing Democratic Party candidates like Hillary Clinton every four years. For my part, I’d rather be a braindead workerist than every shade of woke. Luckily, we don’t have to settle for such lukewarm alternatives. Katalenac’s searing critique points beyond some of the impasses that the American Left has exported, often at ideological gunpoint, to communists overseas. (I’ve made only cosmetic edits, here and there, for the sake of readability).
From theoretical barbarism
to intellectual decadence
August 22, 2017
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
— Oscar Wilde
Have you noticed how, for example, being rude towards fat people has suddenly become a question of left-wing politics instead of proper upbringing and being a decent human being? Have you noticed suddenly embracing your own mental illnesses, instead of treating them in a proper way, and encouraging others to act the same, has become an act of political “emancipation” and “empowerment” of the individual? Have you noticed how toxic Western political correctness has become the mandatory language of the left-wing politics with its aim being the enforcement of a certain way of discussion without examining the content? Have you noticed how being working class has suddenly become just one of the identities, how suddenly you can become working class just by association, instead of needing to work for a wage or being dependent on somebody that does, and how the working class has lost its role as the “wheel of social change” to become “oppressed peoplex”? Have you noticed how the problem of racism is suddenly “challenged” by enforcing particular ethnic identities?
In short: have you noticed how left-wing politics has completely abandoned its content in the pursuit for useless forms and/or smokescreens and how it has stopped being an idea aiming at the creation of a mass movement of the working class with the aim of change and the creation of a better society and has become a subcultural scene for a socially maladjusted people?
With the global fall in oil prices, Venezuela’s fifteen-year experiment in “petrol populism” seems to be winding to a close. Either the regime will collapse in short order, or it will maintain itself through increasingly bloody and repressive measures, as Maduro’s claim to represent the interests of the people grows even more tenuous. George Ciccariello-Maher, a seasoned apologist of Chavismo in the United States, writes in an article for Jacobin that the “enemies” are the ones who are out there “in the streets, burning and looting.” Socialists, he contends, should be supporting the recent state crackdown on the protestors, which has already left 130 or so dead.
Pavel Minorski, a Croatian left communist and trustworthy comrade, comments that “[Ciccariello-Maher’s latest piece] is basic leftism. There is good capitalism and bad capitalism. Good capitalism is run by The People, bad capitalism by (((the elite))). Eventually, of course, people will revolt against good capitalism. But don’t worry, those aren’t The People™. They’re malicious, deluded, or both. Here’s how national developmentalism can still win!” For anyone interested, “Dialectics and Difference: Against the ‘Decolonial Turn’,” my polemic against Decolonizing Dialectics by Ciccariello-Maher just came out, and can be read over at the Insurgent Notes website.
Michael Roberts’ analysis of “The Venezuelan Tragedy” paints a much bleaker picture. The numbers are just brutal. “Income poverty,” observes Roberts, “increased from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by Venezuela’s three most prestigious universities.” Chávez, like every other leader who came before him, was content to rake in profits when times were good, i.e. when the price of oil was high, funding ambitious social programs with the profits as part of his wedge electoral strategy. He didn’t bother trying to diversify the country’s production, so when its sole export monocommodity plummeted in value, the whole country went tits up.
Sergio López of Kosmoprolet saw this coming as early as 2009. “21st-century socialism? Charitable kleptocracy! A kleptocracy, indeed, which is steering the country to its next economic and social crisis.” López noted then, at the pinnacle of Chavismo, the popularity of slogans such as “Chávez is the People!” and “President Chávez is a tool of God!” “Postmodern Bonapartism,” as Marco Torres dubbed Bolivarianism in a 2010 piece, is “a bricolage of thirties vintage pop-frontism together with nineties antiglobalization, molded upon sixties developmentalist Third Worldism.” Continue reading
Henri Lefebvre’s work spans a variety of disciplines and fields, ranging from philosophy and sociology to architecture and urbanism. Obviously, this relates to a number of the themes discussed on this blog. A past entry featured Alfred Schmidt’s laudatory essay dedicated to Lefebvre, which I urge everyone to read. Roland Barthes, in his Mythologies, defended his contemporary against “criticism blind and dumb” in the press: “You don’t explain philosophers, but they explain you. You have no desire to understand that play by the Marxist Lefebvre, but you can be sure that the Marxist Lefebvre understands your incomprehension perfectly, and above all that he understands (for I myself suspect you to be more subtle than stupid) the delightfully ‘harmless’ confession you make of it.”
Lefebvre blazed a path, moreover, in the theoretical inquiry into “everyday life,” taking up a thread from the early Soviet discourse on the transformation of “everyday life” [быт] and Marx’s musings on “practical everyday life” [praktischen Werkeltagslebens]. Trotsky had authored a book on the subject in the 1920s, under the title Problems of Everyday Life, and the three-volume Critique of Everyday Life by Lefebvre, released over the course of four decades (1946, 1961, and 1981), can be seen as an elaboration of its themes. Eventually, inspired by this series, the Situationist upstar Raoul Vaneigem would publish The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967), while the Catholic theorist Michel de Certeau released two volumes of The Practice of Everyday Life (1976, 1980).
Russell Jacoby passingly remarked in his excellent Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism (1981) that “Lefebvre’s career in France recapitulates the general development of Western Marxism.” He continued: “Lefebvre left the French Communist party only after 1956, but his earlier activities and writings betrayed a commitment to unorthodox Marxism. He belonged to a group called ‘Philosophies,’ which briefly (1925-1926) formed an alliance with the surrealists. With Norbert Guterman he translated Hegel, Lenin’s Hegel notebooks, and early Marx. He also wrote with Guterman a book that represented a high point of French Western Marxism in this earlier period, La Conscience mystifiée. Published in 1936, the title itself hints of History and Class Consciousness… rewritten in the context of the struggle against fascism.” Continue reading
May 25, 1929
It is never a waste of time to study the history of a word. Such journeys, whether short or long, monotonous or varied are always instructive. But in every major language there are a dozen or so terms, never more, often less, whose past is no food for the scholar. But it is for the historian if we give the word historian all its due force.
Such terms, whose meaning is more or less crudely defined in dictionaries, never cease to evolve under the influence of human experience and they reach us pregnant, one might say, with all the history through which they have passed. They alone can enable us to follow and measure, perhaps rather slowly but very precisely (language is not a very rapid recording instrument), the transformations which took place in a group of those governing ideas which man is pleased to think of as being immobile because their immobility seems to be a guarantee of his security.1 Constructing the history of the French word civilisation would in fact mean reconstituting the stages in the most profound of all the revolutions which the French spirit has achieved and undergone in the period starting with the second half of the eighteenth century and taking us up to the present day. And so it will mean embracing in its totality, but from one particular point of view, a history whose origins and influence have not been confined within the frontiers of a single state. The simple sketch which follows may make it possible to date the periods in the revolution to which we refer with more rigor than previously. And it will at least show once more that the rhythm of the waves which break upon our societies are, in the last instance, governed and determined by the progress not of a particular science and of thought that revolves within one and the same circle, but by progress in all the disciplines together and in all the branches of learning working in conjunction.
Let us clearly mark out the limits of the problem. Some months ago a thesis was defended in the Sorbonne dealing with the civilization of the Tupi-Guarani. The Tupi-Guarani are small tribes living in South America which in every respect fit the term “savage” as used by our ancestors. But for a long time now the concept of a civilization of non-civilized people has been current. If archaeology were able to supply the means, we should see an archaeologist coolly dealing with the civilization of the Huns; who we were once told were “the flail of civilization.”
But our newspapers and journals, and we ourselves, talk continually about the progress, conquests and benefits of civilization. Sometimes with conviction, sometimes with irony and sometimes even with bitterness. But what counts is that we talk about it. And what this implies is surely that one and the same word is used to designate two different concepts.
In the first case civilization simply refers to all the features that can be observed in the collective life of one human group, embracing their material, intellectual, moral and political life and, there is unfortunately no other word for it, their social life. It has been suggested that this should be called the “ethnographical” conception of civilization.2 It does not imply any value judgment on the detail or the overall pattern of the facts examined. Neither does it have any bearing on the individual in the group taken separately, or on their personal reactions or individual behavior. It is above all a conception which refers to a group. Continue reading
Victor Carpov belongs to that rare breed of contemporary scholars who have preserved the “pure principles” of such Russian art theorists as Alexander Gabrichevskii, Vassilii Zubov, and Aleksandr Rappaport and linked them with the Western methodology of architectural typology, drawn from the work of Joseph Rykwert, Giulio Carlo Argan and others. He is a senior fellow of the Institute for the Theory and History of Architecture and Urban Planning in Moscow and one of the leading architectural thinkers in Russia today.
The paper “Typology and Ideology: Moisei Ginzburg Revisited” was published in 2013 in the magazine Akademia: Arkhitektura i Stroitelstvo [Academia: Architecture, and Construction] and was based on a lecture, first presented at the conference “Style and Epoch,” which was organized by the Aleksei Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in cooperation with the Institute for the Theory and History of Architecture and Urban Planning, and dedicated to the centenary of Moisei Ginzburg’s birth. This paper is closely connected with Victor Carpov’s entire research into the evolution of architectural typology, which celebrated an important step in contemporary post-Heideggerian architectural theory.
Already in his dissertation of 1992, the author considered the history of typological thinking in architecture from Vitruvius to the late twentieth-century architects and theorists (Saverio Muratori, Giulio Carlo Argan, Aldo Rossi, Joseph Rykwert, Rob and Léon Krier and others). Later, an interest in typological (that is, ontological and pre-linguistic) thinking in architecture — which might be called architectonic thinking per se — led him to Alberti and other heroes of typological thinking in architecture in essays including “Tip-antitip: k arkhitekturnoi germenevtike” [Type-Antitype: Towards Architectural Hermeneutics] of 1991 (revised in 2012).
Haitian revolutionary leader and statesman Toussaint Louverture was born 274 years ago today. You can read a number of books, essays, and articles by clicking on the links below.
- CLR James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution (1938)
- CLR James, Lectures on The Black Jacobins (1974)
- Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004)
- Jeremy D. Popkin, Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection (2008)
- Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009)
- Jeremy D. Popkin, A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution (2011)
Foremost among these, of course, is CLR James’ classic The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution (1938). Against the naïve imperative that says “we must not censor works hailed by the subaltern as masterful pieces of our history, but instead celebrate them if the subaltern says we should” — which almost reads like a reductio ad absurdum of standpoint epistemology — we ought rather to uphold those works which pass critical and scholarly muster. James’ book, though not written by an academic, stands up brilliantly to this test.
Some of the others are also worth checking out. In particular, Susan Buck-Morss’ influential study of Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009), which caused something of a stir when the first half was published as an essay back in 2001. “Decolonial dialectician” George Ciccariello-Maher criticized her for focusing too much on Toussaint, at the expense of his compatriot Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Nevertheless, out of these two, I greatly prefer Toussaint.
James repeatedly compared Toussaint to Robespierre, and in this analogy Dessalines could only be compared to Napoleon. After selling Toussaint out to Leclerc, and disposing of rivals such as Charles and Sanité Bélair, Dessalines crowned himself emperor and ruled with an iron fist over the ex-colonial island. Marx, as we know, had little patience for would-be New World Napoleons like Simon Bolivar, so it’s not hard to imagine what he would have thought of Dessalines.
But even beyond these monographs and histories, Toussaint’s life has inspired works by great literary figures as well. To honor and commemorate his birthday, then, I’m also including a poem dedicated to Toussaint by the poet William Wordsworth and a short story by the novelist Ralph Ellison. Enjoy!
The Morning Post
February 4, 1802
Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!
…Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
…Pillowed in some deep dungeon’s earless den; —
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
…Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
…Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
…Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There’s not a breathing of the common wind
…That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
…And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.
Comrades, we love the sun that gives us light, but if the rich and the aggressors were to try to monopolize the sun, we should say: “Let the sun be extinguished, let darkness reign, eternal night…”
— Leon Trotsky (September 11, 1918)
Товарищи, мы любим солнце, которое дает нам жизнь, но если бы богачи и агрессоры попытались захватить себе солнце, мы бы сказали: «Пусть солнце погаснет, пусть воцарится тьма, вечная ночь…»
— Лев Троцкий (11 сентября 1918 г.)
Dmitrii Volkogonov, former court historian of Stalinism turned rabid anticommunist, famously dubbed Trotsky the “demon” of the October Revolution. When he commanded the Red Army, during the Civil War, this was indeed the image enemies of the Soviet Union had of him. He would appear in Theodor Adorno’s dreams, and Walter Benjamin devoured his autobiography and History of the Russian Revolution. The psychoanalyst Helmut Dahmer, a student of Adorno, has written on the various intellectual resonances and parallels between Trotsky’s Left Opposition and Horkheimer’s Institute of Social Research. I’ve pointed out both the tensions and connections of Trotsky with the Italian communist leader Amedeo Bordiga, if not Trotskyism and Bordigism (which are much further apart than their respective founders).
Some of his works could already be found in a previous post, but here are a few more titles:
- Leon Trotsky, 1905 (1907)
- Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1920)
- Leon Trotsky, Military Writings, 1920-1923
- Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (1923)
- Leon Trotsky, The Challenge of the Left Opposition: Writings, 1923-1925
- Leon Trotsky, My Life (1928)
- Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (1928)
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 1: The Overthrow of Tsarism (1929)
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 2: Attempt at Counterrevolution (1930)
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 3: The Triumph of the Soviets (1931)
Here are some biographies and memoirs by his friends, as well:
- Victor Serge and Natalia Sedova, Life and Death of Leon Trotsky (1946)
- Jean van Heijenoort, With Trotsky in Exile: From Prinkipo to Coyoacán (1978)
- Dmitrii Volkogonov, Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary (1992)
- Ian D. Thatcher, Trotsky (2002)
- Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (2011)