The Faith of the Faithless, Simon Critchley's new book on political theology, continues to stir up debate across academia and the media with its critical and insightful take on the nexus of religion, anarchism and violence.
Creston Davis, writing for PoliticalTheology.com, sees Critchley's reading of Wilde's De Profundis as Critchley's "extraordinary insight": a profound understanding of the point in Wilde's imprisonment where "traditional, passive faith becomes activated on the ground-zero level of the subject-void who enacts faith aesthetically, creatively, and inventively". It was this moment, when Wilde had lost the most, that he could develop a "a political-subjective socialistic consciousness." As Davis writes,
The political and religious subject in Simon's book is the individual who discovers himself or herself paradoxically when they are socially lost, abandoned, and alienated from social norms and general consciousness.
I still believe in the old values of the 18th Century Enlightenment; in Reason, in education, in the improvement, if not the perfectability, of human beings, and in the attempts, at any rate, to establish "liberty, equality, fraternity", or "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness" or any other these other marvellous slogans which we owe to the late 18th Century.
BBC's Archive on 4 special feature on historian Eric Hobsbawm opens with his own words, spoken to Desert Island Discs in 1995. The programme, an hour-long profile of the outspoken Marxist historian, was presented by Simon Schama and laid out the story of Hobsbawm's colourful life: a life which has traced a line alongside the great fissures and faults of 20th Century. The esteemed author, who celebrates his 95th birthday this year, also talks about the life-changing effect that reading The Communist Manifesto had upon him at an early age. That influence continues to this day: eighty years after first picking up Marx's text in his school library, Hobsbawm has written the introduction to a new, modern edition of the Manifesto.
Despite their divergent starting points, Owen Hatherley, writing for the Guardian, and Edwin Heathcote, architecture editor for the Financial Times, find common ground in their appreciation of David Harvey's new book on the politics of the urban environment, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.
Eric Hobsbawm is an icon of the British Left: an eminent historian, a prolific author and an unabashed communist, he remains a stalwart critic of capitalism and a controversial voice within academia.
Hobsbawm's introduction to The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels is being published in paperback for the first time by Verso on International Worker's Day, May 1st. In the run-up to the launch, Archive on 4 will profile Hobsbawm in a one-hour episode drawing on his life and work.
"The sheer idiocy of a mass product created especially for you assumes the character of a ghastly necessity. Individual needs have been so ruthlessly eliminated from the product that they have to be invoked like magic formulae to prevent the customer from becoming aware of the murderous ritual of which he is the victim. The entire life of a lover is proclaimed to have been produced for the first person who happens to pass by. ‘Especially for you that's all I live for / Especially for you that's all I'm here for'... The truth is made clear in the first instance by a warning prominently placed beneath the title of the hit song: ‘Any copying of the words or music of this song or any portion thereof, makes the infringer liable to criminal prosecution under U.S. copyright law.' After reading this, anyone who harboured the illusion that an object existed especially for him, and who had bought it on that assumption, will dismiss the idea that it actually belonged to him. If he wished to change this situation he would be locked up, if he weren't locked up already."
— Theodor Adorno in 'Commodity Music Analysed'.
Critical theorist Theodor Adorno wrote extensively, and passionately, about the radical potential of music. His writing itself continues to provoke such passions: at Verso's recent panel discussion, held at Cafe Oto on March 18th, music writers Adam Harper and Ben Watson, and curator Irene Revell, talked frankly about his relevance to contemporary music today. The discussion took Adorno's essay 'Commodity Music Analysed', a scathing attack on commercial popular music, as a controversial starting point, and the participants went on to discuss his attitude to jazz, what constitutes "real" working-class culture and the modern music journalism industry.
NTS Live was there to record the ensuing debate, and have made the event available as a podcast. Visit the NTS website to listen to the broadcast. 'Commodity Music Analysed' is a key essay in Adorno's own anthology of music writing, Quasi Una Fantasia.