robertogreco + mckenziewark + economics   4

Editorial - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"Syllabi are theory’s infrastructure. While they are not the same as the essays, lectures, books, case studies, films, and other media organized by them, they can and should be seen as theoretical contributions in their own right, and subjected to the same degree of critical reflection, scrutiny, and innovation. Syllabi set a program for study, give structure to vast networks of ideas, and define an interpretative stance on the world. Focusing attention on syllabi—which texts they include, and how they are organized and framed—offers a window into larger problems facing the field of architectural theory today.

Architectural theory went through an academic renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s, with scholars forging new links with groundbreaking theoretical movements of the time, from feminism and postcolonialism to semiotics, phenomenology, and deconstructivism. New syllabi were formed in architecture curricula that incorporated contemporary discursive practices, positions, and sensibilities. Yet the syllabi for such classes have not developed significantly since then. Architectural theory in academic curricula today is often addressed either through a history of theoretical concerns—from mimesis, analogy, beauty, honesty, and utopia to modernity, alienation, authenticity, regionalism, contextualism, autonomy, and postmodernity—a tabulation of theoretical frameworks—from structural linguistics, marxism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology to feminism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism—or a roster of authors—from Vitruvius, Alberti, Laugier, Perrault, Boullée, Durand, and Ruskin to Le Corbusier, Loos, Meyer, Jacobs, Alexander, Banham, Venturi, Scott-Brown, Norberg-Schulz, Rowe, Rossi, Tafuri, Eisenman, Jencks, and Koolhaas.

Academic courses that address more urgent contemporary issues and diverse geographies are too often allocated to specialized fields, institutions, or spaces of study, such that they rarely come to challenge the canon of architectural theory’s increasingly standard model. Theory is one of the necessary ingredients for the maintenance of the discipline of architecture as a synthetic manifestation connecting history, criticism, and practice. Therefore, theory must overcome the institutional inertia of pedagogical reproduction, the neoliberalization of intellectual labor, and the disorientation of informational media, and rearticulate its necessary role. At an infrastructural level of knowledge production, theory must attend to the changing nature of cultural communication, globalization and calls for inclusivity within the social space of discourse, and the economic logics driving planetary collapse.

The starting point for any reformulation of architectural theory should be the ways we learn. The conditions of contemporary thought itself have been transformed over the past decades by new media platforms and the emergent practices of surveillance capitalism. The old attentional economy that once sustained reflective and critical thought has been replaced by an economy of distraction. The work of analyzing difficult texts has become alien to digital natives young and old, who are habituated to a culture of instant access, skimming, and the hypnotic rhythm of clicks, taps, and swipes. When video tutorials appear more engaging and specific than the seemingly dated writing styles of even a decade ago, the habits of reading, thinking, and writing common to theory’s past must be re-imagined.

This expanding space of communications has accompanied intensified intercultural exchanges brought about by global economic integration, migration, and the resultant pressing together of different peoples, cultures, and ways of life. Theory’s debt to a Western tradition of philosophical, historical, and critical reason has been brought into question. Architecture’s theoretical discourse needs to respond to the critique of Western-centrism and the calls for its provincialization. It must address the question of opening up to alternative epistemologies and broader methods of discourse production, be they poetic, practical, symbolic, moral, magical, or mythic as much as philosophical or metaphysical. Provincializing Western architectural theory is one way to address the social struggles and conflicts between identity groups that have intensified with the proverbial shrinking of the world. In this vein, theory must reflect on who constructs architecture’s theoretical canon, who speaks as a theorist, who theory speaks about, and who theory addresses as its audience. While embracing the concrete political gains in the social redistribution of power among different genders, races, sexualities, and class backgrounds, theory should also question the role of identity as an operator within discourses, institutions, and national politics, and critically reflect on both its essentializations and constructed nature.

The globalization of culture is, for better or worse, supported by global, transnational, and neoliberal economic practices and their consequent forms of ecological destruction. As much as the global can provincialize theory, the global can also further focus theory upon the new ethico-political demand created by the explicit awareness of technological convergence and impending planetary collapse. With the recent granting of a new geological epoch to our species, we have passed a threshold of irreversible awareness that modern dreams of progress, infinite economic growth, and unlimited consumerist self-expression produce the counter-effects that turn dreams into nightmares. Yet while causes remain global, their effects are often local and asymmetrical, demanding that we theorize both a new hermeneutics of our technological being and a new ethics and politics of the earth.

In challenging architectural theory, these historical factors hold the capacity to reenergize and rethink its relationship to its traditional concerns, frameworks, authors, organizations, and geographies that shape its curricula. They might even force the most basic of existential questions for architectural theory itself: what is it for, today? At its very minimum, we can understand theory to be an instrument for socializing architects into a shared vocabulary and tradition, both within and outside of the discipline, as well as a means for providing a forum for ideological debate between the many conflicting practices that compose the field of architecture. But should architectural theory seek to renew the projective avant-garde project which it was understood to be a couple of decades ago, one capable of challenging and reorienting studio culture and professional practice more widely? Or should it keep a critical distance from design, and instead focus its lens upon the formation of the subjectivity, critical consciousness, ethical comportment, and civic duty of the architect themselves?

Theory’s Curriculum is an extra-academic initiative that seeks to provide theory with a means to challenge its existing methods of pedagogical reproduction. It seeks to build a collaborative project that brings together isolated laborers to pool ideas and methods across dispersed institutions and geographies, to compare inherited models, to detect received assumptions, and to ask fundamental questions about what and how we should teach and learn when we teach and learn architectural theory.

Collaboration is inevitably a heuristic fiction, promising what is often difficult to sustain against the dominant structures of modern individuation, today’s entrepreneurialization of the self, and the semiotic capital of discourse. It inevitably cuts across the values of wage-labor and attribution, and blurs the boundaries between professional roles, friendship, and community spirit. Yet, as McKenzie Wark has argued, the conditions of intellectual laboring in the academy today necessitate that we adopt a more realist approach to theorizing as the cumulative task of many smaller efforts, rather than the great leaps forward once marked by grand philosophical systems or public intellectuals. With these syllabi, Theory’s Curriculum seeks to reconceptualize intellectual work as the function of a general intellect, an ecology of contributions on particular themes and ideas that, when exchanged and debated, evolve as a collective project.

These syllabi aim to indicate potential avenues for progress, and in so doing prompt a debate. They are far from exhaustive, yet are free to be used, recycled, hacked, and plundered. They are offered in the spirit of further collaboration, and with the hope that they will invite others to join this nascent enterprise in the rearticulation and teaching of architectural theory today. Ultimately, they suggest that pedagogy is not secondary to theory, but that rethinking how we teach and learn theory might be central to how we theorize anew."
syllabus  syllabi  curriculum  architecture  education  highered  deign  highereducation  academia  theory  nickaxel  josephbedford  nikolaushirsch  mckenziewark  collaboration  individuation  labor  progress  pedagogy  anthropocene  neoliberalism  globalization  economics  migration  thecanon 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"



"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."



"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.



As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing  jedediahbritton-purdy 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Birth of Thanaticism | Public Seminar
"I don’t know why we still call it capitalism. It seems to be some sort of failure or blockage of the poetic function of critical thought.

Even its adherents have no problem calling it capitalism any more. Its critics seem to be reduced to adding modifiers to it: postfordist, neoliberal, or the rather charmingly optimistic ‘late’ capitalism. A bittersweet term, that one, as capitalism seems destined to outlive us all.

I awoke from a dream with the notion that it might make more sense to call it thanatism, after Thanatos, son of Nyx (night) and Erebos(darkness), twin of Hypnos (sleep), as Homer and Hesiod seem more or less to agree.

I tried thanatism out on twitter, where Jennifer Mills wrote: “yeah, I think we have something more enthusiastically suicidal. Thanaticism?”

That seems like a handy word. Thanaticism: like a fanaticism, a gleeful, overly enthusiastic will to death. The slight echo of Thatcherism is useful also.

Thanaticism: a social order which subordinates the production of use values to the production of exchange value, to the point that the production of exchange value threatens to extinguish the conditions of existence of use value. That might do as a first approximation.

Bill McKibben has suggested that climate scientists should go on strike. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2013 report recently. It basically says what the last one said, with a bit more evidence, more detail, and worse projections. And still nothing much seems to be happening to stop Thanaticism. Why issue another report? It is not the science, it’s the political science that’s failed. Or maybe the political economy.

In the same week, BP quietly signaled their intention to fully exploit the carbon deposits to which it owns the rights. A large part of the value of the company, after all, is the value of those rights. To not dig or suck or frack carbon out of the ground for fuel would be suicide for the company, and yet to turn it all into fuel and have that fuel burned, releasing the carbon into the air, puts the climate into a truly dangerous zone.

But that can’t stand in the way of the production of exchange value. Exchange value has to unreel its own inner logic to the end: to mass extinction. The tail that is capital is wagging the dog that is earth.

Perhaps its no accident that the privatization of space appears on the horizon as an investment opportunity at just this moment when earth is going to the dogs. The ruling class must know it is presiding over the depletion of the earth. So they are dreaming of space-hotels. They want to not be touched by this, but to still have excellent views.

It makes perfect sense that in these times agencies like the NSA are basically spying on everybody. The ruling class must know that they are the enemies now of our entire species. They are traitors to our species being. So not surprisingly they are panicky and paranoid. They imagine we’re all out to get them.

And so the state becomes an agent of generalized surveillance and armed force for the defense of property. The role of the state is no longer managing biopower. It cares less and less about the wellbeing of populations. Life is a threat to capital and has to be treated as such.

The role of the state is not to manage biopower but to manage thanopower. From whom is the maintenance of life to be withdrawn first? Which populations should fester and die off? First, those of no use as labor or consumers, and who have ceased already to be physically and mentally fit for the armed forces.

Much of these populations can no longer vote. They may shortly loose food stamps and other biopolitical support regimes. Only those willing and able to defend death to the death will have a right to live.

And that’s just in the over-developed world. Hundreds of millions now live in danger of rising seas, desertification and other metabolic rifts. Everyone knows this: those populations are henceforth to be treated as expendable.

Everybody knows things can’t go on as they are. Its obvious. Nobody likes to think about it too much. We all like our distractions. We’ll all take the click-bait. But really, everybody knows. There’s a good living to be made in the service of death, however. Any hint of an excuse for thanaticism as a way of life is heaped with Niagras of praise.

We no longer have public intellectuals; we have public idiots. Anybody with a story or a ‘game-changing’ idea can have some screen time, so long as it either deflects attention from thanaticism, or better – justifies it. Even the best of this era’s public idiots come off like used car salesmen. It is not a great age for the rhetorical arts.

It is clear that the university as we know it has to go. The sciences, social sciences and the humanities, each in their own ways, were dedicated to the struggle for knowledge. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, no matter what one’s discipline, that the reigning order is a kind of thanatcisim.

The best traditional knowledge disciplines can do is to focus in tightly on some small, subsidiary problem, to just avoid the big picture and look at some detail. That no longer suffices. Traditional forms of knowledge production, which focus on minor or subsidiary kinds of knowledge are still too dangerous. All of them start to discover the traces of thanaticism at work.

So the university mast be destroyed. In its place, a celebration of all kinds of non-knowledge. Whole new disciplines are emerging, such as the inhumanities and the antisocial sciences. Their object is not the problem of the human or the social. Their object is thanaticism, its description and justification. We are to identify with, and celebrate, that which is inimical to life. Such an implausible and dysfunctional belief system can only succeed by abolishing its rivals.

All of which could be depressing. But depression is a subsidiary aspect of thanaticism. You are supposed to be depressed, and you are supposed to think that’s your individual failing or problem. Your bright illusory fantasy-world is ripped away from you, and the thanatic reality is bared – you are supposed to think its your fault. You have failed to believe. See a shrink. Take some drugs. Do some retail therapy.

Thanaticism also tries to incorporate those who doubt its rule with a make-over of their critique as new iterations of thatatic production. Buy a hybrid car! Do the recycling! No, do it properly! Separate that shit! Again, its reduced to personal virtue and responsibility. Its your fault that thanaticism wants to destroy the world. Its your fault as a consumer, and yet you have not choice but to consume.

“We later civilizations… know too that we are mortal,” Valery said in 1919. At that moment, after the most vicious and useless war hitherto, such a thing could appear with some clarity. But we lost that clarity. And so: a modest proposal. Let’s at least name the thing after its primary attribute.

This is the era of the rule of thanaticism: the mode of production of non-life. Wake me when its over."
capital  capitalism  porperty  well-being  2015  mckenziewark  civilization  society  consumerism  death  thanaticism  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  thanatos  jennifermills  thatcherism  billmckibben  climatechange  economics  politics  politicaleconomy  exchangevalue  privatization  space  biopower  thanopower  gamechanging  socialscience  knowledge  disciplines  non-knowledge  humanities  universities  highered  highereducation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
CTheory.net: Conversations in Critical Making: 6 Critique and Making
"GH: What useful things can be taken from the concept of critical design as established by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby?

AG: Critical design is a bit silly. Designers have always been great at branding, and this is no exception. Design is a fundamentally critical process from the get-go. That's what the design process means. Design is an iterative process in which one revisits ideas, refashions them, recalibrates them, and produces multiple versions. That's why people say "everyone is a designer" today. We live in the age when everyone is a curator, everyone is a DJ, and everyone is a designer. We need to take seriously the notion that, whereas a generation ago critique was more or less outside mainstream life, today critique is absolutely coterminous with the mainstream. Hence a designer might engage with a so-called critical design project on Monday, but on Tuesday produce client work for IKEA. It's normal.

GH: Do you have the same response to speculative design?

AG: I'm interested in communism. And love. And darkness. I'm interested in smashing the state. And the total elimination of petroleum. I'm interested in the end of racism. I'm interested in the next 44 presidents being women--fair is fair! Speculation is mostly harmless, I suppose. But speculative thinking has been affiliated with idealist philosophy and bourgeois thought for so long--think of Marx's aversion to Hegel--that it's difficult for me to see much hope there. I've said it many times before: we don't have a speculation deficit; we have a motivation deficit. We should keep imagining new worlds, yes absolutely! But it's supplemental. Any child can tell you how to make the world just and fair and joyful. This is not to denigrate the creative work of Dunne and Raby, who are very talented at what they do. But rather to direct the focus where it should aim. The problem is not in our imagination. The problem is in our activity."
alexandergalloway  garnethertz  speculativedesign  criticaldesign  communism  motivation  capitalism  economics  makers  making  makermovement  2015  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  christopheralexander  geertlovink  matthewfuller  tizianaterranova  criticalartensemble  mckenziewark  guydebord  gilledeleuze  digitalculture  diy  culture  richardsennett  matthewcrawford  markfrauenfelder  phenomenology  karlmarx  kant 
august 2015 by robertogreco

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