Human-ities · Social/Politics

The making of a Marx: The life of Eleanor Marx, the mother of socialist feminism

When I set out to write the life of Eleanor Marx in 2006 some friends worried that yet again I’d been seduced by an unfashionable and overly abstruse biographical subject. Either that, or they just said: “Who?” A Marx? The mother of socialist feminism? It didn’t sound catchy in our new century.

Yet Eleanor Marx is one of British history’s great heroes. Born in 1855 in a Soho garret to hard up German immigrant exiles, her arrival was initially a disappointment to her father. He wanted a boy. By her first birthday Eleanor had become his favourite. She was nicknamed Tussy, to rhyme, her parents said, with “pussy” not “fussy”. Cats she adored; fussy she wasn’t. She loved Shakespeare, Ibsen, both the Shelleys, good poetry, bad puns and champagne. She would be delighted to know that we can claim her as the first self-avowed champagne socialist.

Yet during the journey of writing the life of Eleanor Marx I discovered that I was writing about an increasingly topical subject. Friends sent me articles about the resurgence in the reading of the primary work of Marx and Engels amongst the under-50s, particularly in countries where there are currently new movements for social democracy.

Read full article at the Independent

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Philosophy · Theory

Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault

Peter Sloterdijk turns his keen eye to the history of western thought, conducting colorful readings of the lives and ideas of the world’s most influential intellectuals. Featuring nineteen vignettes rich in personal characterizations and theoretical analysis, Sloterdijk’s companionable volume casts the development of philosophical thinking not as a buildup of compelling books and arguments but as a lifelong, intimate struggle with intellectual and spiritual movements, filled with as many pitfalls and derailments as transcendent breakthroughs.

Sloterdijk delves into the work and times of Aristotle, Augustine, Bruno, Descartes, Foucault, Fichte, Hegel, Husserl, Kant, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Marx, Nietzsche, Pascal, Plato, Sartre, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and Wittgenstein. He provocatively juxtaposes Plato against shamanism and Marx against Gnosticism, revealing both the vital external influences shaping these intellectuals’ thought and the excitement and wonder generated by the application of their thinking in the real world. The philosophical “temperament” as conceived by Sloterdijk represents the uniquely creative encounter between the mind and a diverse array of cultures. It marks these philosophers’ singular achievements and the special dynamic at play in philosophy as a whole. Creston Davis’s introduction details Sloterdijk’s own temperament, surveying the celebrated thinker’s intellectual context, rhetorical style, and philosophical persona.

Text and Image via CUP

Art/Aesthetics · Education · Events · Human-ities · Theory

Advertising and Consumer Culture: Postgraduate Symposium

“Commercial speech – advertising – makes up most of what we share as a culture…As the language of commercialism has become louder, the language of high culture has become quieter.” – James B. Twitchell, Twenty Ads that Shook the World

Throughout the modern period, advertising and consumer culture have dominated everyday life; moreover, the trappings of commercialism permeate much of supposed ‘high culture’. Commodities clutter the pages of novels from Dickens and Zola to Bret Easton Ellis; works by Joyce and DeLillo are enlivened by advertising jingles and slogans; brands and trademarks pervade the practice of artists from Picasso to Warhol and the visualisation of consumer desire is appropriated and challenged in the work of Richard Hamilton and Martha Rosler.

Whether celebrating or critiquing advertising and consumer culture, art reflects our enduring fascination with them, despite research into the psychological effects of advertising, concerns over the evils of consumerism, and the often sinister nature of market research. The recent television show Mad Men, for instance, has revivified interest and scholarly debate surrounding the power of advertising and the consumer, as well as restaging debates around sexism, truth and the heteronormative ideal. Meanwhile, sociology in the wake of Erving Goffman continues to explore advertising’s uses and abuses of gender, identity and desire. Countervailing against consumerism and advertising’s many critics, theorists such as Michel de Certeau and the critical movement Thing Theory have endeavoured to examine advertising and consumer culture from a standpoint that goes beyond the model of the ‘passive consumer’ or Marx’s account of commodity fetishism.

Topics for discussion may include but are by no means limited to:

– The ways in which advertising and consumer culture intersect with issues of class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity
– Psychological/psychoanalytic perspectives on advertising and consumer behaviour; how identity is created and reflected through participation in consumer culture; the legacy of Freud and Bernays.
– How artists have appropriated the techniques of advertising, or have been co-opted by advertising and commodity culture (Koons, Rosler, Murakami, Kusama and Hirst) -Theorists who have engaged with advertising and consumer culture (Adorno, Barthes, Baudrillard, Certeau, Fukuyama, Goffman, Klein, Marx, McLuhan).
– The use of music in advertisements.
– The formal innovations literature has adopted to create a poetics of advertising/consumer culture.
– Shopping, the rise of the department store, brand names, and their representation in culture.
– Histories of advertising agencies or ‘ad-men’.
– How the importance of advertising in art may challenge the boundaries between high and low culture and/or modernism and postmodernism.
– Anti-consumerist movements (the Situationist International, Adbusters) and strategies (détournement, culture jamming).
– The recent transformations advertising has undergone as a result of social media -The advert as spectacle or ‘event’ (celebrity endorsements, Christmas advertising, product placement, Pawel Althamer’s Real Time Movie).
– Figures who have worked in advertising, either before or during their artistic careers (Fitzgerald, Rushdie, DeLillo, Warhol, Lynch).
– Political advertising and the roles of politics in advertising.

Submissions are now open for the Advertising and Consumer Culture symposium. More info HERE