“Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that its possession to any large extent is a bore. In the interest of the rich we must get rid of it.”
Let’s start with a defense of Xmas, or of what is essential to it: that there is a tree, and a gift for a child under a tree, that is “from Santa.” It is a way to enact for a child the opposite of Nietzsche's theory of universal debt. An adult, usually a parent, enacts the possibility that the child owes the world nothing. On the contrary the world can make for the child at least one moment of joy. Something will come from the world for the child.
For the child, Xmas has nothing to do with 'consumerism'. The gift just appears. Its a bit of what the surrealists called the marvelous. For the adult, it is a way to give to the child without expecting the child to be grateful to the parent. Rather, it is so the child can know that world itself could be generous. Nothing is owed in return. At least not yet. Later, the child can be let in on the secret: that we are staging a marvelous ritual about how the world itself could be experienced as bounty and plentitude, but we do so in a long loop through the generations. The gift the child will owe does not come until much later, when the child grows up, and owes a gift in turn to another child. Such long loops are what constitute the plural subject ‘we.’
That the critique of Xmas as 'consumerism' is a pseudo-critique is easily seen. What is supposedly wrong is the 'excessive' consumption of Xmas. This lets supposedly normal consumption off the hook. Genuine critique would of course start from the reverse premise: Only excessive consumption is of any interest because it is outside the realm of calculation. So-called 'normal' consumption is what calls for critique. The purely excessive, aesthetic consumption, the gift from nowhere, is the only defensible form, and not only of consumption, but also of the gift.
Inspired by Patrick Keiller's The Robinson Institute, currently on show at the Tate Britain, we present Verso's guide to political walking. We also draw influence from Will Self's Guardian article in which he pronounces that "walking is political" and suggests that the "contemporary flâneur" can be one "who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control."
1. Wanderlust - Rebecca Solnit
The first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit's book finds a profound relationship between walking and thinking, walking and culture, and argues for the necessity of preserving the time and space in which to walk in an ever more automobile-dependent and accelerated world.
2. Savage Messiah - Laura Oldfield Ford
Savage Messiah collects Laura Oldfield Ford's black and white, cut 'n' paste, punk fanzines that document her drift through London's margins. Illustrated with haunting line drawings of forgotten people and places, Oldfield Ford records the beauty and anger at the city's edges.
As the year draws to a close, newspapers have been asking the great and the good which books have most impressed them in 2011. Here we have collected the Verso books that were featured.
In the New Statesman, Guardian and Observer Books of the Year round ups, Hari Kunzru selected two Verso books as standing out from other books published this year. He explained the appeal of the titles to the New Statesman:
With the Occupy movement gaining ground throughout the world, McKenzie Wark's smart overview of the situationist movement, The Beach Beneath the Street: the Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International, feels particularly timely. For years, Laura Oldfield Ford, who is very influenced by situationism, has produced a fanzine, based on her derives around London, with words and beautiful, confrontational line drawings of the city's forgotten people and neglected places. Now, Savage Messiah has been collected in book form. It is a wake-up call to anyone who can only see modern cities through the lens of gentrification.
In the Guardian feature on the Best Books of 2011, a number of Verso titles were selected by those asked.
Among the 2011 books that came my way I particularly welcomed Owen Jones's Chavs, a passionate and well-documented denunciation of the upper-class contempt for the proles that has recently become so visible in the British class system.
I loved two very different books of criticism...[one was] Owen Hatherley's furiously pro-Modernist A Guide to the New Ruins of Britain
Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked.
I'm reading Chris Harman's A People's History of the World. It's really helpful to zoom out from time to time when you're living massive events at very close quarters.
In the age of the Occupy movement, Situationism has become "the stuff of legend," for it was "one of those rare avant-gardes whose radical arts and radical politics were forged in unison," Alex Danchev writes in a review of McKenzie Wark's The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International for the Times Literary Supplement. According to Danchev, the book is a "marvellous guide to the microsociety of the Situationists." "A devil for the provocative judgement," Wark is able to outline the contours of the Situationist history with "a necessary sympathy, an encyclopaedic knowledge, and a certain stylistic irrepressibility," Danchev points out. Wark's account is "excellent on détournement" and "suitably eccentric," because it focuses not just on big names, but also some less famous figures such as the Danish artist theorist Asger Jorn and the Situationist successor of Tristan Tzara, Isidore Isou.
McKenzie Wark is one of the contributors, together with Franco Berardi and Slavoj Žižek, to the special issue of the journal Theory and Event, devoted to Occupy Wall Street. His piece is vividly entitled 'This Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit,' after one of the banners of the Occupy protesters. In the article, Wark examines the reasons why the Occupy slogan "We are the 99%" has grabbed so much attention:
It's a way of saying: we are not the ruling class. Our solidarity, that fragile thing, orbits what it is not. ... Nobody is quite ready to call the 1% what they are: a ruling class. Nor are they quite ready to identify what kind of ruling class they are: a rentier class. It's not important. It is only ever a minority who are attracted to an analytical language to explain their circumstances. Popular revolt run on affect, and affect runs on images and stories. Still the instincts of Occupy Wall Street have been pretty keen. It has identified its own problems: jobs and debt. It has provisionally identified the problem causing their problems: the 1%.