Time and the Labor of the Negative

Volume 28, No. 1 Fall 2014

Editors' Note


Vincent Adiutori: The Road Is Mapped: Cormac McCarthy’s Modernist Irony

Why should contemporary aesthetic production be concerned with making time, rather than history, appear? Vincent Adiutori argues that contemporary aesthetic production’s imperative is to produce rather than resolve contradiction. At a time when making history appear would seem the political task par excellence, to make time appear—as he argues Cormac McCarthy’s The Road does—is the negative task of aesthetics read politically. In short, irony is to time as allegory is to history.

Brent Ryan Bellamy: Figuring Terminal Crisis in Steven Amsterdam’s
Things We Didn’t See Coming

The formal limit to imagining a post-catastrophic future remains a historical one: how can a novel bent on representing an after, bent on imagining the movement of history as such, do so “in an age,” as Fredric Jameson puts it, “that has forgotten to think historically in the first place.” Brent Ryan Bellamy’s claim is that Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming struggles to represent the present historically and that in doing so it strikes at the very limits of post-apocalyptic narrative form.

Marija Cetinic: House and Field: The Aesthetics of Saturation

Marija Cetinic looks to instances of aesthetic figurations of saturation that formalize overaccumulation, indexing the form of our contemporary conditions as well as opening a field of abstraction within which new ruptures might be figured. Unemployment is such a site of saturation when understood not just as a reserve army of labor, but as a political strategy to unemploy constitutive elements or materials of surplus-value from a system of circulation—that is, unemployment as dense blockage, as the inoperative, as “dead capital."

Jeff Diamanti: The Cultural Work of Architecture: Fixed and Social Capital at Fiat

Jeff Diamanti offers a new reading of Renzo Piano’s 1970s retrofit of the FIAT car company’s marquee factory in Lingotto-Turin in relation to current debates about the cultural, political, and economic content of postindustrial value. In addition to arguing that theories of immaterial production have missed something fundamental about the function material assets serve in the postindustrial economy, Diamanti also insists that a Marxist exegesis appropriate to today’s political-economic relations is one that attends not just to the distribution of value, but to its representability as well. This means checking in on the accountants in order to better grasp what architects have been up to.

Sasha X: Occupy Nothing: Utopia, History, and the Common Abject

Occupy Wall Street uprooted the vacant ambivalence not only of our parks and squares but our frustrated hearts and minds. “Occupy Nothing” is an inquiry into the logic of OWS’s formal emergence through the aesthetics of tent-city and its images of abjection. Beginning with a discussion of Fredric Jameson’s theorizations of “utopian impulse,” this essay argues that a dark way lies forward for a politics aesthetically committed to a spectacular generalization of crisis and poverty.

Fredric Jameson: On the Power of the Negative

Frederic Jameson writes an afterword to Time and the Labor of the Negative.

Maria Elisa Cevasco: The São Paulo Fraction: The Lineaments
of a Cultural Formation

Taking the lead from Raymond Williams’ study of the Bloomsbury group, Maria Elisa Cevasco aims at presenting a group of Brazilian Leftist intellectuals whose output has created a new interpretation of Brazilian social reality.

Carolyn Elerding: Mass Online Education: Dialectic of Enlightenment 2.0

Though Benjamin and Adorno’s various engagements with mass media suggest many possibilities for constructing approaches to descriptive and prescriptive critique, they have remained underexplored in media theory. Taken together, Adorno and Benjamin’s often incompatible views on the social significance of technological mediation offer a powerful framework for critical analysis of the political economies of contemporary socio-technological systems and practices, including mass online education, and for addressing persistent forms of technological determinism.

Julie A. Fiorelli: Imagination Run Riot: Apocalyptic Race-War
Novels of the Late 1960s

In the late 1960s to early 1970s, when hopes for social and economic equality in the U.S. raised by the Civil Rights movement remained unsatisfied, a burst of African American novels responded by narrating apocalyptic race war. John Williams’s Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light; Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door; and Chester Himes’s Plan B imagine attempts to use national information and distribution networks to foment black revolt. Their catastrophic outcomes are narrated through a formal shift from an initial framework of thriller, spy fiction, or detective fiction to apocalyptic fiction, which entails the destruction of urban and national space. Ending with apocalyptic race war in progress, these novels reveal the constraints and contradictions of the binary logic of 1960s racial discourses.

Book Reviews

Joshua Clover: Realizing Capital

Joshua Clover reviews Anna Kornbluh's Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form.

Oded Nir: In Search of Collectivity: Contemporary Israeli Leftist Critique

Oded Nir reviews Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland and Eyal Weizman's The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza.

Davis A. Smith-Brecheisen: Inventing Economies

Davis A. Smith-Brecheisen reviews Diane Coyle's GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History and Zachary Karabell's The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers that Rule Our World.