:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Cities in the Sky: Re-evaluating Yona Friedman published 19/04/2016

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The Friedman revived by relational aesthetics is the theorist of the individual, of adjustable prefab, self-design and spatial indeterminism. And yet there’s another side to Friedman, global in outlook and indebted to the heady days of the modernism he rose to prominence within, a side insisting on the state obligation to democratic public infrastructure alongside indeterminacy and a lucid registration of the need for economical solutions.

By Will Harris.

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Dandy Highwaymen published 15/04/2016

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The idea of the urban jihadist as martial and racialized – continually reproduced by both apologists and detractors – harbours a series of paradoxes which lock this figure in a tortuous circle: having a self-image of hyper-masculinity, but engaging in effete practices (in a kind of inverted form of dysmorphic syndrome); wanting to be different and noticed, yet needing to be hidden and secretive; and identifying with global subaltern resistance, but displaying personal signs of bourgeois aspiration through careful attentiveness to public appearance. This circularity may signal a kind of cognitive dissonance but not one commonly deployed by radicalization experts to explain the mental disconnect between behaviour and beliefs in jihadist psychology.

Zaheer Kazmi on the pristine, genderless souls of the male urban jihadists.

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Hilary Putnam: Compassion and Questioning as a Guide to Life published 07/04/2016

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Hilary as a young man resisted World War II and became a Trotskyist. He later helped lead a movement in Cambridge against the Vietnam war, and, learning from his colleague Roderick Firth, wrote brilliantly on how to think about war. Even given that in close families rebellion by children is normal and has an edge, Sam’s initial response was harsh; his father threw Hilary out of the house (in addition to patriarchal abuse, there is no fine moral judgment here since Stalin had murdered Trotsky in Mexico not so long before and many others). When Hilary had a fever, however, his mom went and brought him home…

Alan Gilbert remembers his friend the philosopher Hilary Putnam.

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Talking to the Dead published 06/04/2016

In the current American climate, while Donald Trump lunges for the White House by ranting from platforms, screens, and newsfeeds against the women, the immigrants, the refugees who must be identical with his contempt for their differences from him, as if a word matched its referent, always without slippage, I talk to the dead. To two long gone, especially: to Virginia Woolf and Plato, their resonances stretched across the millennia separating them.

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Thought As Style: Montaigne’s Essays published 04/04/2016

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Inventing a literary form is an honor bestowed upon few. We may speak of Don Quixote as the “first novel,” or Emerson as the “father” of American poetry, or Augustine’s Confessions as the earliest example of autobiography, and enjoy doing so because it exercises our desire to create ranks, build consensus and celebrate true originality, even if we know full well that American poetry didn’t begin at any one point, nor was there a first novel. Still, this hyperbole is fun, and lists need to be made. So when it comes to the essay, it should be said that the verdict is essentially unanimous: it belongs to Michel de Montaigne.

Jared Marcel Pollen on Montaigne.

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The Crisis in Capital Cruelty or How Europe is Slowly Banning the American Death Penalty published 22/03/2016

The firing squad is so last-century, far too static and literary for modern death culture. For a generation raised on Grand Theft Auto and POV porno, there is little meaning in lining some human up against a wall and ordering five slugs banged into them. No, much better to go all Hunger Games on their ass, set them free on the streets, give ‘em a head start and then call the cops to try and gun them down. Oh, and remember to film then post the whole thing.

William Watkin analyses the ambivalent status of capital punishment in contemporary America in relation to theories of power, control and transatlantic political relations.

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Recapturing the Technical published 21/03/2016

What the internet provides, then, is the potential for a collective unity of psychic individuals that step beyond the hyper-industrial categories of proletarianised consumers and producers. It is their interconnected desires that have the potential to provide the libidinal energy that is necessary to counteract the negative tendencies of the pharmakon.

Matt Bluemink continues his research into the work of Bernard Stiegler by focussing on the transformative properties of libidinal energy as part of the ‘third industrial revolution’.

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The Sick Chirpse Alphabet of Cannabis Prohibition in the UK published 13/03/2016

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Prince Harry was caught smoking cannabis as a youth, as was the current Prime Minister, yet neither received any legal ramifications for their childhood discrepancies. Prohibition allows certain individuals to be above the law, yet countless working-class minors are prosecuted for possession of cannabis every year.

Simon Doherty on why prohibition sucks.

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Lunch with Mr Hobbes: what a 17th century monarchist has to say to modern democrats published 12/03/2016

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For warre consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of warre; as it is in the nature of weather. For the nature of foule weather lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together; so the nature of warre consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Michael McManus on what Hobbes would make of us now.

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Amateur Porn: The End of Secrecy in the 1990s published

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The late 1990’s were the beginning of the end of everything clandestine. There were no tweets back then. No snaps, or apps. Likes and pokes were a twinkle in 14-year-old Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. In just a few short years, however, smoky back room deals would never be again, and everything would go on display for all to see, all the time. 1998 was the dawning of the age of transparency.

Taylor Garcia on the end of secrecy.

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