Thesis Eleven

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 0725-5136
Publications
Article
Aesthetic experience has been relativized and marginalized by recent social and cultural theory. As less attention has been paid to understanding the nature of aesthetic experience than mapping the distributed social correlates of tastes, its transformative potential and capacity to animate actors' imaginations and actions goes unexplored. In this paper we draw upon a large number of in-depth interviews with performing arts audiences around Australia to investigate the language and discourse used to describe aesthetic experiences. In particular, we begin with theorizations of the subject-object nexus within object-relations theory to consider the transformative potential of aesthetic experience. Using these literatures, and extending them to others within sociology of the arts and materiality, our focus is on the way aesthetic experience can fuse human subjects with aesthetic objects. We examine how viewers take an aesthetic object into themselves and in turn project themselves into the aesthetic object by various visual and imaginative techniques. Our theoretical and empirical analysis bears out the constructive and productive capacity of aesthetic experience. Yes Yes
 
Article
In a previous essay I contrasted Eric Voegelin and Rosenstock-Huessy’s interpretation of Christianity and revolution, essentially arguing that at the heart of their different appraisals of revolution was Eric Voegelin’s Platonism. I wish to review the topic, not because I think that was wrong, but this time I am interested in stressing the virtues of each rather than what I consider the deficiencies of one in relationship to the other. I argue here that Voegelin is primarily the voice of a diagnostician pointing out the historical pathologies of mind that give lead to revolt. He is also deeply opposed to the modern's unreal elevation of the self – its gnostic move – and the denial or imminentization of God into history and progress, the failure to appreciate the symbolic ordered relies upon the necessity of maintaining God as a beyond in relation to society, man and world. Rosenstock-Huessy likewise is concerned that the failure of moderns to understand the sign and significance of God is disastrous. He too is deeply opposed to modern gnosticism and the pathologies that come out of it, but he is also interested in something that is not Voegelin’s primary concern – mainly the role of providence in history. Although I show that Voegelin’s Augustinianism makes him more compatible with Rosenstock-Huessy’s analysis than may at first be realized. Both in their different ways call upon and develop Augustine, and taken together bring out different aspects of what is intrinsic to the Christianization of society.
 
Article
BORN IN Sydney in 1986, Bernard Smith is today widely considered to be Australia's preeminent art historian and a major cultural theorist.¹ While working as a school teacher and artist during the late 1930S and early 1940s, he came under the influences of surrealist aesthetics and communist politics, especially as mediated by refugee intellectuals from Hitler's Europe. During this period his principal literary inspirations were the Bible, Marx, and Toynbee; it was their different takes on history, especially of its unfolding over long durations, that most impressed him.² As an academic and writer through the next half century, Smith produced numerous historically oriented studies of Australian and modernist art, which broadly can be divided into two periods of publishing activity.³ His most acclaimed achievement, however, is European Vision and the South Pacific 1768-1850: A Study in the History of Art and Ideas, first published in 1960 and a work that has continued to grow in stature and influence in the four decades since its original appearance. It is the history of this text, and of its companion-piece, Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of the Cook Voyages, published in 1992, and the contexts in which they were produced and have been consumed, that are the main concerns of the present essay.⁴
 
Article
This article reflects on some themes in Harrison White’s work in the context of China, where the social and cultural construction of markets is quite literal. We explore how we get markets where previously there were no markets and draw on White’s central themes of ‘uncertainty’, ‘value’ and ‘order’. We maintain a distinction, with White and with Frank Knight, of risk, on the one hand, and uncertainty, on the other, where ‘risk’ has to do with entities that are in principle insurable or calculable and ‘uncertainty’ has to do with what is not calculable/insurable. An entrepreneur’s decision to enter a market, to invest in and enter a production market, entails what White calls a ‘commitment to facilities’. This, for White and Knight, is inherently incalculable, and hence uncertain.
 
Article
How is one to understand world history considered as the history of humanity? This is not an easy question to answer, especially given the extraordinary variety of conditions under which human beings live. The reality of cultural diversity would appear to make the task of someone constructing a general history of humanity rather daunting. Yet there is also a great variety in the languages created by human groups, and it is possible to group these languages into families. It has also been the normal practice of historians to group together human units into a number of entities - these include societies, cultures, civilizations and political units such as states that have things in common, and which effectively become the actors of world history. Human history can then be conceptualized as the interaction among such actors, and these interactions can take a number of forms ranging from peaceful trade and the interchange of ideas to war and extermination. It is clear, however, that when we use a term such as 'the state' we are looking at human entities in a different way from when we use the term 'society'. We assume that states, as actors, will interact differently than do societies. States interact as political entities conducting diplomacy and war while social interaction can range from intermarriage to the copying of customs, including dress, diet and social practices.
 
Article
As a precursor to the Enlightenment, early modern European conceptions of being and human alterity formed a critical part of both the birth of modernity and the reception of divergent cultural forms lying beyond the horizon of Western knowledge. The extension of occidental power beyond its familiar shores not only resulted in the coercion and subjugation of countless New World natives but also compelled the Western mind to account for the seemingly radical alterity of `savage' life forms in civilizations hitherto unknown to Europeans. This exacting philosophical demand evidently precluded a recognition initially of cultural difference, largely as a result of a predominantly hierarchical conception of being which, following Lovejoy, we understand as the great Chain of Being. The epistemological, axiological and praxeological dimensions of this essentially metaphysical and hierarchical conception of natural and human alterity are examined to delineate our relation to the other of modernity: the Savage. The latter category of humanity manifests the theoretical difficulty of attempting to explain the nature or being of the `other' human within an exemplary world-historical case of civilizational encounters. Yes Yes
 
Article
Alexander has made a major contribution to the development of a neo-Durkheimian cultural sociology. Two central elements have been: the semiotic analysis of sacred symbols and rituals that evoke the solidarity attached to the idealized nation; analysis of structures and processes that constitute a civil society. Some questions can be raised. The first concerns the tensions between ethnic-nationalisms and the kind of culture of civil society that is said to be congruent with the liberal-democratic state. Secondly, not all groups share the binary constructions of the civil code of liberal democracy. Thirdly, more attention needs to be given to the relationship between the rational public sphere and the spheres of entertainment and popular culture. Cultural studies of popular genre, such as television talk shows, reveal that, rather than exhibiting universal characteristics of liberal-democratic society, these public cultural performances reproduce the particularities of national differences.
 
Article
It is often through conversations about household objects, jewellery or other items that the very subject of death is broached within families. Objects mediate and produce death discourse just as death mediates and produces value and meaning. The movement of objects within, across and between private/personal spaces and relationships, public spaces and relations, and commercial domains and relations is about value transformation. Value is a fluctuating, comparative or relative measure and in the sphere of personal life and spaces objects attain, maintain or transform in both value and meaning through the life course and through events such as death and bereavement. While objects are always on the move in consumer capitalism, bereavement and household disbandment instigate emotionally charged processes of decision-making about what things might mean, their value (and for whom) and where they should go. This paper examines shifting classifications of objects — sacred, profane and abject — in relation to shifting registers of meaning and economies of value. It argues that the same type of object can have quite different, even contradictory, value attributions. Yes Yes
 
Article
The concept of 'radical needs' has been a constant element in Heller's social philosophy over the last 25 years despite the fact that her own perspective moved progressively away from Marxian philosophical anthropology towards the position that she now characterizes as reflective post-modernism. This article charts this theoretical journey with a close examination of her articulation of the concept of radical needs in various phases of her work. Beginning with an attempt to rescue Marxism from the clutches of objectivism and voluntarism, Heller locates Marx's understanding of 'radical needs' as those needs which cannot be satisfied in the bourgeois configuration of society. These needs provide the revolutionary motivation which leads the workers from economic struggle to politicisation. However, a critical distance is already evident in Heller's realization that in Marx these 'radical needs' did not yet actually exist for the proletariat but were a construct of the theory, a product of revolutionary faith in their further development. It is this gap between theory and reality which provides both the concern and the avenue of Heller's later modifications of the concept. She moves from a shared faith in the existence of these needs in contemporary bourgeois society to an attempt to block the potential enlistment of this concept in the service of political substitutionalism and reconstruct it beyond the Marxist philosophy of history amidst the social setting of the welfare state. Finally, the article argues that this reconstruction has only been partially successful as the concept remains awkwardly straddled between normativity and weakened factuality.
 
Article
Explaining the seizure of power by the National Socialist Party and the totalitarian workings of the Nazi regime in the Third Reich is still difficult not only with respect to the atrocities committed but also to understanding whether the German population and society had to be terrorized into complying with the regime or were part and parcel of it. The paper introduces a notion of swarm to advance the idea that the German population was terrorized into a deliberate compliance with the regime. The notion of swarm is sociologically controlled by a complementary notion of form, which serves to reconstruct and model the social calculus realized by the swarm to differentiate and reproduce itself inside a complex society. The data we use are the results of historical research done in the last sixty years.
 
Article
John Locke (1632—1704) and Georges Sorel (1859—1922) are commonly understood as representing opposed positions vis-a-vis revolution — with Locke representing the liberal distinction between violence and politics versus Sorel's rejection of politics in its pacified liberal sense. This interpretation is shown by a close reading of their works to be misleading. Both draw a necessary link between revolution and violence, and both mediate this link through the concept of `war'. They both depoliticize revolution, as for both of them `war' is understood as extra-political. The revolutions of 1989 emphasize what actually is true of previous revolutions: they cannot coherently be thought of as extra-political.
 
Article
Reading the Communist Manifesto against the contemporary background of massive unemployment, the author argues that Marx's theory of work is no longer adequate to tackle the problem of 'workers without work' and suggests that it has to be reformulated in such a way that its normative intuitions and its critical impulses can be maintained. In the first part, he presents a philosophical critique of Marxism that is inspired by Jürgen Habermas and Hannah Arendt. In the second part, he presents a sociological critique of Marxism and argues that the theory of the alienation of work implies a justification of work and the work society. Finally, in the last part, the author presents an ideological critique of Marxism that is inspired by Marcel Mauss' sociology of the gift. Criticising the contractualist assumptions of workfare solutions, he proposes a package solution for a radical decommodification of the labour market by means of a disjunction of income and work.
 
Article
The main purpose of this article is to demonstrate the enduring relevance of the concept of ideology to contemporary sociological analysis. To this end, the article draws upon central arguments put forward by Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski in ‘La production de l’idéologie dominante’ [‘The Production of the Dominant Ideology’]. Yet, the important theoretical contributions made in this enquiry have been largely ignored by contemporary sociologists, even by those who specialize in the critical study of ideology. This article intends to fill this gap in the literature by illustrating that useful lessons can be learned from Bourdieu and Boltanski’s critical investigation, as it provides crucial insights into the principal characteristics and functions of ideologies, including the ways in which they develop and operate in advanced capitalist societies. The article is divided into two main parts: the first part examines various universal features of ideology; the second part aims to shed light on several particular features of dominant ideology. The paper concludes by arguing that the ‘end of ideology’ thesis, despite the fact that it raises valuable sociological questions, is ultimately untenable.
 
Article
Then UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a Passover Seder organised by the radical leftist group, Jewdas, in April 2018, led to a brief but vitriolic controversy involving Anglo-Jewish umbrella organisations concerning who qualifies to speak as a Jew. This article uses this controversy to engage with Judith Butler’s attempt to address this question, suggesting that in decentring Zionist claims to Jewish subjectivity she fails to take account of how different Jewish subjectivities are formed, and thus ends up proposing a ‘good Jew/bad Jew’ binary that dissolves Jewishness into universal humanism. Drawing on the work of the German-Jewish mystical anarchist Gustav Landauer (1870–1919), the article proposes a different way of understanding subjectivity that retains ontological inherency as a plausible precondition for ethical solidarity. As such, the article’s argument has implications not merely for a reworked understanding of Jewish subjectivity but for the politics of subject formation more broadly.
 
Article
Expressions of a current “Marx renaissance”, the three books under review in this article raise crucial questions about memory, knowledge, and power for a new global Left. Traverso’s reflections on Left future-oriented memory, Favilli’s history of Italian Marxism, and Bourrinet’s work on the Dutch and German communist Left explore a variety of “forms of Marxism”. Most centrally, the three works raise still vital questions around Marxism and religion, science and utopia, knowledge and power, nation and globality.
 
Article
In this paper, I aim to determine the place of Marxism in Polish literary studies of the 20th century. The starting point is (1) Czesław Miłosz’s comment on the identity of Marxism and structuralism; (2) the absence of the term ‘Marxism’ in the names of Polish workers’ parties and pro-Marxist academic discourse (except an insignificant short period directly after the Second World War when Marxist rhetoric prevailed). Referring to political history, I suggest an explanation of this state of affairs, revealing the function of Marxism under different names in philosophical texts from the beginning of the 20th century. To support my argument, I draw on documents from the newly discovered archive of Dawid Hopensztand. I use this archive to reconstruct his social biography and justify the main thesis about the permanent presence of Marxism in the works of such thinkers as Leszek Kołakowski, Zygmunt Bauman, and even Czesław Miłosz.
 
Article
In considering the historical treatment of Aboriginal Australians this paper will discuss the different spaces operating in Western Australia’s South West in the late 1920s and the government policies that fed into them. These are the Moore River Native Settlement that is located some 100 km north of Perth and White City, a carnival sideshow located at the bottom of William Street on the banks of the Swan River in Perth. The 1905 Aborigines Act and a provision within that act known as the Proclamation of the Prohibited Area of Perth will be discussed. This will be done by comparing the ways that White City was seen by the government in the 1920s and how in recent years Northbridge has been regulated and discursively constructed. The intent is to look at how Aboriginal people have been treated over time and consider the social, historical and political forces that have shaped that construction.
 
Article
This article examines different intellectual-historical approaches to the work of Georg Lukács, arguing that a methodology similar to that of the Cambridge School is, curiously, that most in line with Lukács’s own approach. I begin with some general methodological comments on intellectual history, before showing that a proper appreciation of the discourses within which Lukács was situated is essential to understanding both the specifics and the overall project of History and Class Consciousness. Finally, I argue that situating thinkers like Lukács properly within their time does not reduce them to museum pieces; rather, by seeking to capture the alterity of the past without reducing it to familiarity, we may de-reify our own world-views.
 
Article
To introduce an archival protocol of a ‘Debate about methods in the social sciences, especially the conception of social science method represented by the Institute’, held on 17 January 1941 at the Institute of Social Research in New York, the article focuses on certain conflicts in substance and terms of discourse among members of the Institute, with special emphasis on Franz Neumann's distinctive approaches, notwithstanding his professed loyalty to Max Horkheimer's theory. These are seen to arise not only from Neumann's assignment as bargaining agent for the Institute and his distinctive relations with American colleagues, but also from their different orientations to the conflicted legacies of Weimar.
 
Article
Over the past 50 years, rock music has been the prime mover of an emergent national recording industry in Australia. In this study, which has two parts, we survey record labels, recording techniques and forms, and the music that was bought and sold. Part One narrates the emergence of modern record production, the rise of rock music, and the development of a local recording industry in Australia between 1945 and 1970. Part Two (to be published in Thesis Eleven 110) recounts the rise and fall of Australian local, regional and national rock music cultures and the ebb and flow of independent labels and their labyrinthine relations to the transatlantic centre of the world-system of the rock music industry. In particular, we focus on four aspects: technological change, infrastructure, business logistics/markets, and musical production/repertoire. Since the digital revolution started eating away firstly and most conspicuously at the recording industry, the 50 years from 1945 to 1995 can now more clearly be seen as the rise and fall of rock music and its major technological form, the vinyl record. This is why we call it 'the vinyl age'. This story has not been told in full previously, and this two-part article is a first step to bridge this gap in the historical and cultural sociology of popular music.
 
Article
Zygmunt Bauman said of 1968 that he could not empathize with the enthusiasm of the Western Left, that this was some kind of party. In Eastern Europe 1968 stood for an end, not a hope. Soon Bauman would be forced into exile, opening a new and brilliant phase of his intellectual trajectory. Sketches in the Theory of Culture was his last Polish book. It was suppressed in 1968, the contract cancelled in retaliation against his support for reforming politics. Now it has been rediscovered, originally in galley proofs, and translated by Dariusz Brzezinski for Polity Press. Like much of Bauman’s work, it is sprawling and inclusive, taking in anthropology, sociology of culture, ethnology and semiotics. It anticipates his life-long enthusiasm for Lévi-Strauss; and it also foreshadows some of the themes much later to be identified as liquid modern, though it may be the case that the theme of continuity is rather social turbulence from postwar reconstruction to the travails of socialist Poland. In this paper I review some of its themes and its status in the body of his work, and offer some introductory remarks on its importance to the study of culture.
 
Article
This paper focuses on the development of the political thought of Czech Marxist philosopher Egon Bondy. It examines his criticism of state socialism in the Eastern Block from a Marxist perspective, and it outlines the development of his analysis. The study covers the period from the late 1960s until the Velvet Revolution in 1989, a period during which Bondy explored the historical constitution and nature of a ‘new ruling class’ in the USSR, as well as deeper trends of convergence between Eastern and Western politico-economical systems. In the 1980s Bondy analysed the reasons for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. Even though Bondy was, during most of the period of state socialism between 1948–89, a forbidden author, he was also one of the main critics of the political approach of Charta 77 and Václav Havel. This criticism is also outlined in the paper.
 
Article
Over the past 50 years, rock music has been the prime mover of an emergent national recording industry in Australia. This is a story in turn of increasing size, complexity, diversity, and sophistication, before its ultimate decline into the 21st century. This story has not been told in full previously and this article is a first step to make good this gap in the historical and cultural sociology of popular music. In this study, which has two parts, we survey record labels, recording techniques and forms, and the music that was bought and sold. In Part One (published in Thesis Eleven 109, 2012: 71-88) we chronicled the emergence of modern record production, the rise of rock music, and the development of a local recording industry in Australia between 1945 and 1970. In Part Two we narrate the rise and fall of Australian local, regional and national rock music cultures and the ebb and flow of independent labels and their labyrinthine relations to the transatlantic centre of the world-system of rock music industry. In particular we focus on four aspects: 1) technological change: the dominance of the vinyl album in the 1970s but its eventual usurpation by cassettes and then compact discs before the ultimate decline of all formats in the rise of the internet and the i-pod; 2) infrastructure: the development of the recording industry as a system of recording studios and record factories; as a system of impresarios and musician management; and also as a system that integrates performance circuits, radio, television, film, and eventually computer, product placement, advertising, and promotion through the cultivation and manipulation of taste markets in consumer culture etc.; 3) business logistics and markets: the tracking of the record labels, their struggles for markets and copyright control, local and global; and 4) musical production and repertoire. Since the digital revolution started eating away firstly and most conspicuously at the recording industry, the 50 years from 1945 to 1995 can now more clearly be seen as the rise and fall of rock music and its major technological form, the vinyl record. This is why we call it 'the vinyl age'.
 
Article
The world of the Hindi heroes of the 1970s, while decked in battle gear, largely belonged to the official state apparatus, either as members of vigilante self-defence squads - of which Bahadur was a pioneer - or bonafide members of the police force, like Inspector Vikram. The costumed superhero only emerged at the end of the Nehruvian period, gradually coming to defy its signature science and rationality. My article seeks to explore questions of the political economy of the superhero genre and the affective valences of the supernatural in imaging/negotiating the national and transnational, through this conjunctural moment of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
 
Top-cited authors
Gernot Böhme
  • Institut für Praxis der Philosophie e.V., IPPh
Terry Flew
  • The University of Sydney
Simon Marginson
  • University College London
Johann Arnason
  • La Trobe University
Johann Arnason
  • La Trobe University