Help Fund CTRN in 2018!

To contribute, visit the campaign page here.

In Short

Founded in October, 2016, the Critical Theory Research Network (CTRN) helps connect people interested in Critical Theory from all over the world. CTRN does not charge member dues, and is not beholden to the distorting demands of outside companies or institutions. It is a public sphere where Critical Theory scholars can meet, exchange ideas, and coordinate projects. Spaces like this are a crucial way to keep communities of scholarly inquiry vibrant and free from the neoliberal pressures that constrain so many of today’s universities.

Keeping the website up costs money. Since CTRN does not generate revenue, the website is currently funded by one person out-of-pocket. In 2017 it cost $496 to maintain. With a modest number of donations to this campaign, the community could generate funding top cover all costs for the website through 2018.


What We Need & What You Get

To cover costs of the website for another year, we need to raise $496. This includes:

  • web hosting ($6/month)
  • wordpress site ($9/month)
  • premium theme ($24/year)
  • Jetpack Premium ($9/month)
  • domain ($35/year)
  • a certificate to keep the website secure ($149/year)

The campaign includes a “Gramsci Raffle” – contributors who give $10 or more are entered for the chance to win a complete 3-volume, 2000+ page set of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, normally available for $77. There will be only one winner, but any number of people can enter the raffle until our goal amount of $573 – the cost of website plus cost of Prison Notebooks – is reached.

To contribute, visit the campaign page here.


Other Ways You Can Help

Even if you cannot afford a contribution, you can still provide key support by letting others know about this campaign. Please share on social media to help us reach our goal!

Authoritarian Populism contra Bildung: Anti-Intellectualism and the Neoliberal Assault on the Liberal Arts

The following regards my recent article from Cadernos CIMEAC – v. 7. n. 2, 2017. Abstract A synergistic movement is taking place in American society combining authoritarian populism, the neoliberal transformation of the university, and anti-intellectualism. In the first part of this paper, I pin my notion of intellectualism (and hence anti-intellectualism) to a specific frame … Read more

Marcuse Society newsletter #16 (October 2017)

  MARCUSE SOCIETY Conference: York University, Toronto, CANADA. “The Dialectics of Liberation in an Age of Neoliberal Capitalism.” October 26-28, 2017  October 2017  /  No. 16 Critical Highlights   Special Issue NEW POLITICAL SCIENCE:Marcuse in the Twenty-First Century  Radical Politics, Critical Theory, and Revolutionary PraxisVolume 38, Number 4, 2016 Guest Co-Editors Robert Kirsch and Sarah Surak … Read more

‘It only needs all’: re-reading Dialectic of Enlightenment at 70

This article by Marcel Stoetzler* was originally published on openDemocracy. Seventy years ago, Querido Verlag published a densely written book that has become a key title of modern social philosophy. Underneath its pessimistic granite surface a strangely sanguine message awaits us. Horkheimer left, Adorno right, Habermas background right, running hand through hair. Max Weber-Soziologentag, Heidelberg,April,1964. Wikicommons/Jeremy … Read more

Tim Keane: “Walter Benjamin on How to Stop Worrying and Love Late Capitalism”

*The following article by Tim Keane is reposted from Hyperallergic.

Around 1925, the Passage de l’Opéra in Paris, a glass-roofed structure housing shops, known as magasin de nouveautés, was slated for demolition. This particular arcade contained a bathhouse, itinerant lodgings, a brothel or two, small restaurants, and Café Certa, a gathering spot for Dadaist and Surrealist writers and artists. Like many an outraged French writer before and since, the poet Louis Aragon blamed the demolition on the United States, complaining that France’s Boulevard Haussman Building Society had caved to “the great American penchant for city planning.”

In response, Aragon wrote Paris Peasant (1926), immortalizing the soon-to-be obliterated Passage de l’Opéra. The novel inventories the arcade’s “glaucous gleam” and “outlaw principle,” the shops’ exotic merchandise and accessories, the tempting menus, posters, magazines and advertisements, and the sly expressions of passersby — the “fauna of human fantasies,” and “unrecognized sphinxes” embodying Paris’ “contempt for prohibitions” and “irrepressible sense of delinquency.”

Walter Benjamin, a German-born intellectual temporarily living in Paris, was an immediate admirer of this new book. In a letter to Theodor W. Adorno, his friend and eventual executor, Benjamin recalled being galvanized by Paris Peasant. “I could never read more than two or three pages in bed at night,” he admits, “before my heart started to beat so strongly that I had to lay the book aside.”

Of course, that was 1928. How feasible, today, is Benjamin’s hopefulness about humanity and technology? Earlier this year the Bulletin of Atomic Scientistsmoved its doomsday clock closer to midnight, meaning that the risks of a human wipeout via nuclear weapons has become much more likely. And, if that were not dire enough, as a result of human industry and its toxic waste, the habitability of our planet has deteriorated at a faster rate than climate scientists had previously predicted.Benjamin captured his own urban wanderlust in One Way Street (Belknap/Harvard 2016). This book-length essay about aimless walks in Weimar-era Berlin, like Paris Peasant,replicates the arbitrariness of a city, describing encountered shops and objects, and mapping connections among simultaneous activities — walking, looking, thinking, joking, free associating, daydreaming and composing. Reflecting on how the “bloodbath” of World War I had been facilitated by industrialization, Benjamin closes out One Way Streeton a rousingly positive note. He proposes that technology, epitomized by the modern city, can be emancipated from the grasp of “the ruling class” and “the imperialists” with their “lust for profit.” The essay rethinks technology as reconciliatory rather than destructive, not a means for conquering nature but an instrument for mastering “the relation between nature and man.”

Meanwhile, despite its undeniable efficiencies and freedoms, digital media proceeds apace with fracturing face-to-face solidarities while accelerating the fictionalization of crucial facts. Computer hackers threaten the legitimacy of democratic elections. The current American President is an Internet troll. Given such large-scale technological malpractice, even sympathetic contemporary critics question the ongoing relevance of Benjamin, the prophet who found glimmers of hope in the “mutual penetration of art and science” heralded by what he called our “age of mechanical reproduction.”

In an attempt to save Benjamin from being eclipsed by the very cultural theories and media studies he pioneered, The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin at The Jewish Museum situates his thought in relation to current — and largely American — photography, painting, film, and sculpture, as well as appropriated texts collaged into bewildering typographic arrangements by Kenneth Goldsmith.

Each gallery room is devoted to a given section – what Benjamin called a “convolute” — in his thousand-plus page tome Das Passagen-Werk (1982), known in English translation as The Arcades Project (Belknap/Harvard 1999), a speculative dive into modernity through Paris’s 19th-century shopping arcades. Lobbing a history lesson into a multimedia funhouse, this uneven yet colorful and busy exhibition provides the prospective reader of the byzantine Arcades Project with timelines of the author’s life, as well as explicatory wall charts, print photographs, and reproductions of handwritten manuscripts, lists, journals and other keepsakes. It turns out that Benjamin’s road to TheArcades Project was a long and winding one.

Born in 1892 into an affluent and secular Jewish family whose father was a sometime art dealer, Benjamin was a devoted student, specializing in the volatility of Baroque and Romantic literature. He preserved traces of religious mysticism in his writing even as he turned into a practical philosopher, social commentator, and cultural journalist. Having left an early marriage and promising academic career behind in Germany, Benjamin’s personal relationships and fact-finding travels in Europe in the 1920s and ‘30s — especially excursions to Russia and to Italy — reinforced the revolutionary beliefs about mass industrialization and rapid urbanization that he had gleaned from his reading of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and George Simmel.

And he absorbed work by contemporaries like Siegfried Kracauer, a fellow member of the Frankfurt School, who ushered in the study of film and pop culture, and Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, who ridiculed the lies and boneheaded practices of exploitative journalism. Probably the most influential contemporary guiding Benjamin’s evolution was Hungarian philosopher György Lukács. As literary critic, Lukács examined how longings for a lost utopia shaped modern literature. After converting to Marxism, he theorized about the neutering of human self-awareness and initiative by consumer capitalism. This alienating psychosocial development, sometimes known as “reification,” conditions the members of a society to be docile and contemplative once they have conceptualized their existence in terms of a commodity, functioning passively and moving “automatically,” one more object in the capitalist sphere of everyday production and exchange.

In the streets of Paris, Benjamin earned a living as a journalist while hunting out concrete examples on which to field test and then synthesize cutting-edge social theories. Encouraged by fellow German expatriate author Franz Hessel, he learned how to wander Paris with a voyeuristic curiosity modeled on that of the flaneur — a detached, attentive spectator who believed in the “religious intoxication of great cities” — who passed through every line of Charles Baudelaire’s poetry, especially the groundbreaking volume Les Fleurs du Mal (1857).

Read the full post here (about 1500 more words)

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