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.
In his stunning, controversial recent article for the New York Times, author China Mieville describes the London Docklands, the definitive Thatcherite regenerated playground of the rich as "a thuggish and hideous middle-finger-flipped glass-and-steel at the poor of the East End, every night a Moloch's urinal dripping sallow light on the Isle of Dogs". London is a city being overbuilt for the advantage of someone, but that someone doesn't appear to be the people who make London breathe. As Mieville writes, "Everyone knows there's a catastrophe unfolding, that few can afford to live in their own city."
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of John Berger's influential Ways of Seeing, the groundbreaking book and television series which have become staples of art critcism, the British Film Institute is staging a series of screenings and events based upon the author's small-screen films.
Berger's stunning series explored the history of representation in Western art, interrogating well-worn tropes of classical art education with a razor-sharp Marxist critique. The book and series cemented Berger's role as one of Britain's most lucid and engaging cultural critics, a role he continues to fill today with his challenging, sharply-written books on aesthetics, culture and contemporary politics, including Hold Everything Dear and Bento's Sketchbook.
As well as screening the original Ways of Seeing in it's entirety, the BFI season also features his early television work for BBC's Monitor and Granada TV, and runs throughout April. A selection of Berger's books will also be on sale at the event.
Visit BFI Online for more information on the series.