Cultural Theory Greatest Hits

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I find a lot of it consists of inserting the phrase "... as ... " with no real explanation because it sounds cool as it is: text as fortress, currency as exoskeleton and so on.
 

blissblogger

Well-known member
Baudrillard wrote about 50 books (i've not counted but that's what feels like). Yet - and this is just a hunch - I suspect the kernel of most everything is contained in this short essay, "The Ecstasy of Communication"
http://criticaltheoryindex.org/assets/baudrillard,-jean-ecstasy-of-communication.pdf
Which must have been written in the late 70s or early 80s but in a feat of unintentional prophecy explains the internet and its effect on culture and psychology.

One of JB's books in that highly fetish-able Semiotexte Foreign Agents series of black pocket-sized volumes was titled Forget Foucault - which always tickled me, the French-crit-theory equivalent of a diss track.

But I could never forget Michel Foucault - the prose is arid next to Barthes, but the ideas have so many applications.

The History of Sexuality Vol. 1 is not a sexy read, but it rearranged my mind - put out of contention, out of their misery, all those lingering Sixties ideas about Eros as inherently revolutionary.

The Archaelogy of Knowledge is a grim slog right up until the final chapter which is styled as a dialogue between ice-veined Michel and an imaginary humanist interlocutor whose objections are patiently remorselessly demolished. It ends with a wonderful flourish of chilling anti-humanist rhetoric. I struggled resolutely through the whole thing during my lunch breaks while working a summer job in a factory, packing aerosols of fly-spray, and the final chapter felt like the pay-off.

He was a much better interviewee than a writer and the anthology of dialogues Power / Knowledge is a very good way in.
 
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blissblogger

Well-known member
I have read some really interesting books in the last decade or so - things that have sent me down unexpected thought-paths - but they tend to be more like obscure scholarly works, things that have slipped out of the discourse - as opposed to "Cultural Theory", or the kind of stuff that is setting the pace in academia nowadays.

Nothing hits you quite as hard as when you're young and mind-malleable and so for me it would be the French lot. It also seemed to work really well with what was going in music at that time, or at least it was irresistible for me to glom one onto the other, and there seemed to be a fit, or a friction that created sparks.

Strangely though, much as I love all that French stuff still, it doesn't seem to have much explanatory power, any resonance or purchase on current popular culture.

I'm not sure what does, on the theory front - who are the useful thinkers of recent times when it comes to music etc?
 

john eden

male pale and stale
Yeah at the risk of turning this into a creepthread I would say Retromania was pretty key for where music is at now.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
I remember Simon’s description of coming off this stuff as like being a lapsed Catholic. It somehow always stays in you, directing your thought patterns, however far you get away from it.
 

woops

is not like other people
Strangely though, much as I love all that French stuff still, it doesn't seem to have much explanatory power, any resonance or purchase on current popular culture.
You'd think as a pretentious nerd with a French degree I'd be well up on this stuff. But I'm not. Don't understand a word of it.

What's it for? Maybe Luke is right
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
You'd think as a pretentious nerd with a French degree I'd be well up on this stuff. But I'm not. Don't understand a word of it.

What's it for? Maybe Luke is right
Understanding is overrated and for squares.
 

blissblogger

Well-known member
Look in the mirror. Also a few decent ones on www.dissensus.com
Well that's nice of you to say, but what I meant was - theorists and philosophers and critical thinkers who don't actually write about music, but their concepts open it up in interesting ways, or can be repurposed by the likes of us.

The Barthes stuff about jouissance etc seemed to have loads of uses and applications at that time. (Also Barthes did actually write about music, he was passionate about it... in particular "The Grain of the Voice" was, and maybe still is, very fruitful - although AutoTune, because it interferes with the grain by putting something in between the body and the vocal output as it reaches the listener's ear complicates that...).

Bataille similarly, and Kristeva.

And then Deleuze & Guattari, and Virilio, seemed to have a lot of potential - particularly with rave culture.

Then you had your Donna Haraways and so forth.

But that is over 25 years ago.

Not sure who or what are the reigning or upcoming figures or zones within current critical theory - Badiou and Zizek have been established names for a long time now, and I never noticed much use being made of them in terms of popular or underground music.

Is queer theory and radical gender theory still the cutting edge zone?

I guess Robin James of It's Her Factory is probably at the cutting edge of applying these ideas to music, and to very bang up to date, mainstream music too.

I did this thing on my website back at the end of the Nineties called the Rave Theory Tool Kit, it was a half-jokey half-serious collection of all these left over quotes I'd gathered and typed out, things that seemed to have applications to music but I'd never found a place to put them. Some going back as far as Nietzsche but mostly the French crit crew and then 90s cybertheory types like Arthur Kroker.

I wonder if I was to do it again, what names could be added to the litany?
 

blissblogger

Well-known member
incidentally i've been interviewing a bunch of conceptronica artists for a piece, people like Lee Gamble and Chino Amobi - people who are very enthusiastic about theory, ravenous autodidacts in an endearing way - and the names that came up in their conversation were mostly long established ones - Deleuze & Guattari... Baudrillard .... the CCRU came up surprisingly often... Mark Fisher came up, he seems to have made the List, as it were, in a big way
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I dunno how much influence any of them have, but I often see people like Reza Negarestani, Benjamin H. Bratton and Robin Mackay come up in relation to people like Florian Hecker, Holly Herndon and Lee Gamble.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Nowadays people spoil it a bit by saying "of course Baudrillard acknowledged that bombs were dropped, people died etc, he was just saying that 'the Gulf War' was largely a media spectacle, and what really happened was a rather one-sided succession of applications of US firepower", but this is a bit pacifying - the argument is that our entire social apparatus for grasping and representing reality now deals wholly in simulacra, so the issue is less "what really happened" versus the media image, and more the fact that what really happened, happened to a large extent for and in the media. "Smart bombs" were detonated, and filmed detonating, as much for the sake of the image of their detonation as for the tactical effects of blowing up whatever and whoever they were being used to blow up...
This is a great start and demonstrates good understanding of what Barty wants (I.e don't spoil it don't deflate) A*.
Can we have some more please? Barty hasn't read a book since he was 14 so it's vital we encourage him here.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
This is where I want to see people's nurturing, paternal side and also their Inspirational teacher dead poets society side.
 
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