A panel discussion held at Left Forum 2013, at Pace University, on June 9, 2013.
This panel was transcripted in Platypus Review #61 (Click on banner below to see):
Bourgeois society came into full recognition with Rousseau, who in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and On the Social Contract, opened its radical critique. Hegel wrote: "The principle of freedom dawned on the world in Rousseau." Marx quoted Rousseau favorably that "Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature... to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men." Rousseau posed the question of society, which Adorno wrote is a "concept of the Third Estate." Marx recognized the crisis of bourgeois society in the Industrial Revolution and workers' call for socialism. But proletarian socialism is no longer the rising force it was in Marx's time. So what remains of thinking the unrealized radicalism of bourgeois society without Marx? Kant stated that if the potential of bourgeois society was not fully achieved as the “mid-point” of freedom then Rousseau may have been right to prefer savagery against civilization’s “glittering misery.” Nietzsche warned that we might continue to be "living at the expense of the future:" "Perhaps more comfortably, less dangerously, but at the same time in a meaner style, more basely." How have thinkers of the revolutionary epoch after Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, Hegel, Benjamin Constant, and Nietzsche himself, contributed to the possibility of emancipation in a world after Marxism?
A talk and guided discussion held at Left Forum 2013, at Pace University, on June 8th, 2013.
If it is true that the 'commodity-structure' (Lukacs) is the defining feature of modern capitalism down through the present, then it stands to reason that it has no less impacted the way art is produced, consumed, circulated, and exchanged. This shift in art's character happened both objectively (e.g., as in an article produced for exchange on the market), and subjectively (i.e., as a kind of experience and form of expression for the social and individual body). However, art's relationship to its status as a commodity is an ambivalent one: Art has become at once more free from past forms of domination, but its freedom is constrained when subject to the dynamics of capital. Art as a commodity is both its cure and poison, and has become a social problem for its practice. Since becoming aware of this problem, artists, philosophers, curators, and critics have taken various approaches in seeking to overcome it. How has art under a capitalist society changed from its pre-capitalist practices? What is the commodity-form, and what is art's relationship to its logic? Must art seek emancipation from the commodity-form, or is it at home in it? In what sense does art take part in the Left and emancipatory politics -- a practice also seeking to overcome the commodity-form -- if at all? By asking these questions, this panel seeks to reinvestigate art's relationship to the commodity form, and make intelligible how this problematic relationship still sticks with us today.
1. How do you define the terms ‘art,’ and ‘commodity?’ In what ways does art in capitalist society differ from art in precapitalist society? How would you posit the relationship between art and the ‘commodity-structure’ of capitalism? Is art already a commodity from the start, or does it get ‘commodified’ only when integrated in the market? Are there ways that art can resist its commodification, and if so, how?
2. Acknowledging that the issue of art and commodity is not a new question, what troubles this discourse today? How has art’s relationship to the commodity-form changed over time, and what does it look like now? Do we understand the problem better than our predecessors, or are we in a worse mode of understanding?
3. If emancipatory politics is the objective, does overcoming capitalism necessarily follow the abolition of art’s status as a commodity? Do contemporary attempts in ‘dematerialized’ or ‘process-based’ art practices (e.g., social practice, pedagogical projects, or institutional critique) challenge the commodity status of the art object, and if so, how? Should art even seek emancipation from the commodity? In what sense does art take part in the Left and emancipatory politics -- a practice also seeking to overcome the commodity-form -- if at all? 4. How do you position yourself as cultural production within this dialogue? If this is a question about the work of arts’ mode of production in society, and opens up the question of class, then in what ways specifically does your work—or other contemporary art work—respond to class consciousness? What role does criticism or art play towards an emancipatory politics?
Sammy Medina, Pam C. Nogales C., and Ross Wolfe gave teach-ins as part of the Free University during the Day of Action against Cooper Union's unprecedented tuition requirements. Pam did a teach-in on 19th-century American history and struggles for emancipation, while Sammy and Ross talked about the sociohistoric project of early modernist architecture.
Both teach-ins are available on our media site!
See the latest support from the faculty for a FREE Cooper Union at their UStream channel, or press play below.
Find out more on the Free Cooper Union FB page.
NYU Kimmel Center, Room 805
60 Washington Square South
Manhattan, New York 10011
Thursday // 11.15.2012 // 7:00-9:00 PM
The Platypus Review recently celebrated the publication of its fiftieth issue. Come join members of the Platypus Review at a launch party to celebrate this momentous occasion, also the start of our international Radical Interpretations of the Present Crisis panel series. We will be enjoying sumptious Vietnamese sandwiches in the NYU Kimmel Center at 7 PM, followed by drinks in Vol de Nuit at 148 West 4th St after 9 PM.
We will also be video conferencing with a range of speakers from London, Greece, Germany, Austria, Chicago, and discussing some of our very own Platypus Review staff from New York!
Statement of purpose
Taking stock of the universe of positions and goals that constitutes leftist politics today, we are left with the disquieting suspicion that a deep commonality underlies the apparent variety: What exists today is built upon the desiccated remains of what was once possible.
In order to make sense of the present, we find it necessary to disentangle the vast accumulation of positions on the Left and to evaluate their saliency for the possible reconstitution of emancipatory politics in the present. Doing this implies a reconsideration of what is meant by the Left.
Our task begins from what we see as the general disenchantment with the present state of progressive politics. We feel that this disenchantment cannot be cast off by sheer will, by simply “carrying on the fight,” but must be addressed and itself made an object of critique. Thus we begin with what immediately confronts us.
The Platypus Review is motivated by its sense that the Left is disoriented. We seek to be a forum among a variety of tendencies and approaches on the Left—not out of a concern with inclusion for its own sake, but rather to provoke disagreement and to open shared goals as sites of contestation. In this way, the recriminations and accusations arising from political disputes of the past may be harnessed to the project of clarifying the object of leftist critique.
The Platypus Review hopes to create and sustain a space for interrogating and clarifying positions and orientations currently represented on the Left, a space in which questions may be raised and discussions pursued that would not otherwise take place. As long as submissions exhibit a genuine commitment to this project, all kinds of content will be considered for publication.
Articles in the Platypus Review will typically range in length from 750–4,500 words, but longer pieces will also be considered. Please send article submissions and inquiries about the project to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style.
Readable PDFs of past issues
- The Platypus Review, № 1 — November 2007
- The Platypus Review, № 2 — February 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 3 — March 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 4 — April-May 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 5 — May-June 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 6 — July 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 7 — October 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 8 — November 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 9 — December 2008
- The Platypus Review, № 10 — February 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 11 — March 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 12 — May 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 13 — July 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 14 — August 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 15 — September 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 16 — October 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 17 — November 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 18 — December 2009
- The Platypus Review, № 19 — January 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 20 — February 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 20, Supplement on the Iranian Revolution — February 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 21 — March 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 22 — April 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 23 — May 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 24 — June 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 25 — July 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 26 — August 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 27 — September 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 28 — October 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 29 — November 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 30 — December 2010
- The Platypus Review, № 31 — January 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 32 — February 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 33 — March 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 34 — April 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 35 — May 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 36 — June 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 37 — July 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 38 — August 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 38, Supplement on the Legacy of Trotskyism — August 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 39 — September 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 40 — October 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 41 — November 2011
- The Platypus Review, № 42 — December 2011-January 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 43 — February 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 44 — March 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 45 — April 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 46 — May 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 47 — June 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 48 — July-August 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 49 — September 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 50 — October 2012
- The Platypus Review, № 51, Special Issue on the Election — November 2012