Arcades and Promenades

Along with Wesley Rykalski, I have just embarked on an online project that seeks to examine the role of the seaside promenade in the imagination and practices of late modernity, through a critical encounter with Walter Benjamin‘s ‘The Arcades Project’.   In his final project, Benjamin was attempting to critique the ‘bourgeois experience of nineteenth century history’, partly through exploring the covered arcades of Paris, which he saw as emblematic of the attractions and contradictions of capitalist modernity.  By bringing together the arcades and the promenades we hope to enrich our understanding of both of these spatial responses to the coming together of capital, leisure and public space.

We will be collaboratively reading and responding to Benjamin’s text on the arcades / promenades blog and have posted up some reading for March to get things started.  As time goes on, we will develop a strategy of interspersing reflections on these readings with reflections and documentation on the seaside promenade.  More collaborators are welcome, please get in touch via the blog.

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More on the Marx revival

Comedian / activist Mark Steel writes in the Independent yesterday about the resurgence of interest in Karl Marx that appears to be happening as the economic crisis gathers pace….

“Even Karl Marx himself is in vogue. Most papers have had articles about him in their business sections, commending his analysis of booms and slumps, and he was on the front page of The Times. Soon a Times editorial will begin: ‘As the global downturn gathers pace, perhaps one economic remedy to be considered by our esteemed guardians is a violent workers’ revolution as envisaged by Mister Karl Marx, and championed with consummate aplomb on page 32 by William Rees-Mogg.'”

Continuing on the Marx theme, David Harvey has written on his blog about the US stimulus package and why it is “bound to fail”:

“The prevailing hostility in the United States to “spreading the wealth around” and to administering any sort of relief other than tax cuts to individuals, arises out of hard core neoliberal ideological doctrine (centered in but by no means confined to the Republican Party) that “households know best”. These doctrines have broadly been accepted as gospel by the American public at large after more than thirty years of neoliberal political indoctrination. We are, as I have argued elsewhere, “all neoliberals now” for the most part without even knowing it. There is a tacit acceptance, for example, that “wage repression” – a key component to the present problem – is a “normal” state of affairs in the United States. One of the three legs of a Keynesian solution, greater empowerment of labor, rising wages and redistribution towards the lower classes is politically impossible in the United States at this point in time. The very charge that some such program amounts to “socialism” sends shivers of terror through the political establishment. Labor is not strong enough (after thirty years of being battered by political forces) and no broad social movement is in sight that will force redistributions towards the working classes.”

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