Category Archives: economics

I was three years old when May 68 happened

May 1968

burning Citroën DS during May 68 from here.

I was three years old when May 68 happened. May 68 was the direct precursor of the hippie movement here in Western Europe. Most of our teachers had been brought up in the “hippie” climate.

Yesterday E-L-I-S-E posted this burning Citroën DS (the photo is new to me and is unsourced at E-L-I-S-E). It brings me to repost one of my favorite quotes on art and politics.This is from one year before May 68.

The juvenile delinquents — not the pop artists — are the true inheritors of Dada. Instinctively grasping their exclusion from the whole of social life, they have denounced its products, ridiculed, degraded and destroyed them.

A smashed telephone, a burnt car, a terrorised cripple are the living denial of the ‘values’ in the name of which life is eliminated. Delinquent violence is a spontaneous overthrow of the abstract and contemplative role imposed on everyone, but the delinquents’ inability to grasp any possibility of really changing things once and for all forces them, like the Dadaists, to remain purely nihilistic.

They can neither understand nor find a coherent form for the direct participation in the reality they have discovered, for the intoxication and sense of purpose they feel, for the revolutionary values they embody. The Stockholm riots, the Hell’s Angels, the riots of Mods and Rockers — all are the assertion of the desire to play in a situation where it is totally impossible.

All reveal quite clearly the relationship between pure destructivity and the desire to play: the destruction of the game can only be avenged by destruction. Destructivity is the only passionate use to which one can put everything that remains irremediably separated. It is the only game the nihilist can play; the bloodbath of the 120 Days of Sodom proletarianised along with the rest. —Timothy Clark, Christopher Gray, Donald Nicholson-Smith & Charles Radcliffe in The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution (1967) via

Barbie @50

In 1959 the Barbie doll debuts.

There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do by you.

There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do

Today, Barbie has come to symbolize any stunningly beautiful, but stupid or shallow young woman (see bimbo and dumb blonde). Likewise her male counterpart Ken symbolizes an American college football jock. They both major in a Mickey Mouse course and are emblematic of American popular culture.

More specifically Barbie has been criticized for promoting a false female body image due to Barbie’s size zero (see heroin chic), perhaps most vociferously at the 2006 Madrid Fashion Week. Commercial appropriations have included The Body Shop‘s “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do” campaign; satirical variants include Todd Haynes‘s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. For an innocuous satire check “I’m a Barbie Girl.”

See also: stereotypes of white people and stereotypes of Americans.

Disney’s self-disneyfication

Does he not remind you of The Tramp?

WALL-E[1] is an American satire of polluted environments, human obesity, and retail corporate domination.

In a future world, people have been Cocacolonized, Disneyficated, McDonaldized and Walmarted. Robots come to their help. Reverse dystopia comes to mind.

The film is very benevolent, it’s Disney after all. But it’s a treat, a real treat. Watch out for the 2001 allusion. Also, hints of Silent Running[2].

Plants in space.

WALL-E is World Cinema Classic #55, Silent Running #56

Staying with corporate domination and consumerism, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction[3] (Devo‘s version here, slightly more danceable) is World Music Classic # 58.

‘Sumptuary moments’ are revolutionary in themselves

Unidentified gold toilet

This is my third post on Georges Bataille‘s general economy. The first was here[1], the second here[2].

This post consists of a quote by the designer Nic Hughes I believe, author of the blog Haunted Geographies.[3]. Yes. Haunted. As in hauntology.

“In ‘The notion of expenditureGeorges Bataille concentrates on the more destructive expressions of potlatch, specifically ‘non-productive expenditure’- the type of ‘Killing wealth’ only rarely experienced these days. For instance, the KLF’s burning of a million pounds[4] or Ryoei Saito’s cremation[5] of 160 million dollars of fine art. For Bataille, sumptuary moments’ are revolutionary in themselves, purely because they are the antithesis of use. Games, war, spectacle, art, non-reproductive sex, all challenge the tyranny of utility. They ‘represent activities which, at least in primitive circumstances, have no end beyond themselves’ (Bataille, 2004, p118). Later he spins off on a more Nietzschean tact, extending the metaphor to genocide and the destruction of a whole class- the power elite potlatch.” –Nic Hughes at Haunted Geographies [6]

It must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically

Furthering my research on Georges Bataille‘s general economy[1], helped by Valter‘s kind comment, it occured to me that the Marxian notion of surplus product is very similar to Bataille’s excess. The two notions and can only lead to wasteful spending such as luxury or war.

Thus, we read on page 21 of volume 1 of The Accursed Share:

“The living organism, in a situation determined by the play of energy on the surface of the globe, ordinarily receives more energy than is necessary for maintaining life; the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (e.g., an organism); if the system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely absorbed in its growth, it must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically” (v. 1 p. 21).

If the “excess energy” or “surplus product” is spent “gloriously”, we call it luxury, if spent “catastrophically”, it is war. Notions that connect are pure war by French philosopher Paul Virilio and the military-industrial complex.

While researching The Accursed Share, I also happened on the blog with the same name[3] by Nick Srnicek and Kieran Aarons, which features two astounding photos, a shot of Cairo with the Pyramids as backdrop [4] by unknown (credits anyone?) and a photo[5] by German-born photographer Michael Wolf belonging to his “densities” project.

Message on the general economy to Tony

The trial of Gilles de Rais

The Trial of Gilles de Rais

Radical Passivity

Radical Passivity

Message to Tony:

Hi Tony, sorry, I lost your email address. And while I am not interested in your offer, I was very much interested by your questions regarding the general economy of Georges Bataille and the link you provided to Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology after Bohr and Derrida.

While I am familiar with Bataille’s thought, I cannot claim to be an expert on him, my infatuation with him is purely instinctual. The current blogosphere expert is Valter from Surreal Documents. He’s helped me many times regarding Bataille, the last time when I had questions regarding Against Architecture[1].

I did decide to check up on Bataille’s general economy, and found that the theory is propounded most systematically in The Accursed Share.

While I was checking, I came across Radical Passivity, both a book by Thomas Carl Wall and a colloquium by Benda Hofmeyr, as well as some interesting looking work by Dutch academic Joost de Bloois, author of the doctoral thesis L’economie generale: Derrida sur les traces de Bataille (Utrecht, 2003).

Also, while researching, I found some appealing visuals.

  • Exhibit A: a rather nice and understated but at the same time menacing cover[2] of The Trial of Gilles de Rais, the blotches of blood stains are very Rorschach.
  • Exhibit B is the poster to the colloquium[3], which depicts a pixelated version of Death by a Thousand Cuts, the image Bataille is most readily associated with. The only image I can think of outside of the gruesome three of the blogosphere, of which I am also glad I see it censored [4] for obvious reasons.
  • Exhibit C: A nice cover of a work by Joost de Bloois[5].

Valter, if you are reading this, and if you find the time to comment, what is the most current interpretation of Bataille general economy?

Everything feels fucked up. The environment, the economy, war, terrorism, …

It is time for WMC #54


You Can’t Always Get What You Want“by Soulwax

I may have dismissed Philip Sherburne‘s piece on the current state of beats too quickly in my recent comment.[1]

The piece came my way via Simon Reynolds[2] a couple of days back:

Philip Sherburne addresses the malaise in electronic dance culture (i didn’t know the economic side of it had gotten that parlous) and convenes a kind of brain trust to come up with remedies.” —Simon Reynolds

And thus starts Sherburne’s piece:

Everything feels fucked up. The environment, the economy, war, terrorism, …” Philip Sherburne [3]

Regarding the economic side Sherburne says:

“Still, dance music is suffering from some very real maladies, many of them economic. Record sales are declining– labels that once could confidently move 1,000 copies of a 12″ single now struggle to sell 250– and legal downloads, while presumably growing, aren’t taking up the slack.”

As I said in my comment I find it hard to imagine that beats are going out of fashion.

Witness these beats set to The Stones‘s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want[4] remix[5] by Belgian dance-punkers Soulwax. Listen for the choral arrangements by Jack Nitzsche.

Regarding beats going out of fashion from a theoretical point of view.

The beat is a celebration of dance, dance is a celebration of hedonism. Hedonism flourishes in economic booms. Today is an era of poverty. Beats do not fit in poverty. Perhaps. But. Counter example one: the beats of Lindy Hop during Depression America. So evidence inconclusive, but if I had to investigate I would follow the economic boom/malaise route.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in its original Stones version is WMC #54

What Andrew Keen does not understand

Via a local newspaper last Friday I was introduced to the reactionary thought of Andrew Keen (a self-proclaimed “leading contemporary critic of the Internet”) who is doing a book tour through Europe to launch his 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur in which – among other things – he states that “real” writers do not blog. A conspirator of thought of Keen, Marshall Poe, states that Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, but a repository of common knowledge.”

Both Andrew Keen and Marshall Poe completely miss the point of blogging, Wikipedia and the nature of the internet in general. Even more, it’s not just that they don’t understand. The fact is is that they are fundamentally and ethically wrong.

1) A. Keen and M. Poe underestimate the importance of information access in the third and fourth worlds (and poor people everywhere) to a repository of books, encyclopedias and common knowledge:

Extremely knowledgeable people are paraphrasing information from a canonical list of books into Wikipedia, towards a new and yet unseen educational perennialism . People in such countries as Chad, Burkina Faso now have access to verifiable info and would not have it, if it were not for Wikipedia.

2) A. Keen and M. Poe underestimate the importance of common knowledge.

Common knowledge is good. We need common ground when discussing subjects. An encyclopedia=common knowledge copied from books (or from expert’s own minds). When Marshall Poe states that “Wikipedia is … not an encyclopedia, but a repository of common knowledge,” he forgets that people such as David Hume before him stated that “nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach on the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words, while they imagine they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern.”

3) A. Keen and M. Poe fail to see what makes Wikipedia an interesting place for people who do have access to physical libraries:

For those of us who live in the First World, who do have access to the physical books, Wikipedia discloses info on the nature of knowledge and the social construction of knowledge via such features as the “what links here” and “disambiguation” pages.

I do not feel that strongly about points 2 and 3, which is intellectual nitpicking which makes no difference to the stomachs of people in the world, but point one, information access in the third and fourth worlds, is something I feel very strongly about and leads me to conclude that Keen and Poe do not have their hearts in the right places.

The breeding of money

Donald Kuspit on contemporary art in Artnet:

By way of introduction, I want to quote some lines from the tenth and final Duino Elegy of Rainer Maria Rilke. Describing the “booths” in a fair — let’s call it an art fair — “that can please the most curious tastes,” he asserts that there’s one “especially worth seeing (for adults only): the breeding of Money! Anatomy made amusing! Money’s organs on view! Nothing concealed! Instructive, and guaranteed to increase fertility!”

I will suggest that the irrational exuberance of the contemporary art market is about the breeding of money, not the fertility of art, and that commercially precious works of art have become the organ grinder’s monkeys of money. They exist to increase the generative value and staying power of money — the power of money to breed money, to fertilize itself — not the value and staying power of art. —Donald Kuspit