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New Left Review I/228, March-April 1998


Fredric Jameson

The Brick and the Balloon: Architecture, Idealism and Land Speculation

I want to think aloud today about a fundamental theoretical problem—the relationship between urbanism and architecture—which, alongside its own intrinsic interest and urgency, raises a number of theoretical issues of significance to me, although not necessarily to all of you. [1] This talk was delivered at the seventh annual any conference in Rotterdam, June 1997, and is reprinted with the permission of the organizers from anyhow, Cambridge, Mass. 1998. It is also part of a series of essays to appear in Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998, Verso, London 1998, forthcoming. But I need to ask for some provisional interest in those issues, and in my own work in relationship to them, in order to reach the point of being able to formulate some more general urban and architectural problems. For instance, an investigation of the dynamics of abstraction in postmodern cultural production, and in particular of the radical difference between that structural role of abstraction in postmodernism and the kinds of abstractions at work in what we now call modernism, or if you prefer, the various modernisms, has led me to re-examine the money form—the fundamental source of all abstraction—and to ask whether the very structure of money and its mode of circulation has not been substantially modified in recent years, or in other words during the brief period some of us still refer to as postmodernity. That is, of course, to raise again the question of finance capital and its importance in our own time, and to raise formal questions about the relationships between its peculiar and specialized abstractions and those to be found in cultural texts. I think everyone will agree that finance capital, along with globalization, is one of the distinctive features of late capitalism, or in other words of the distinctive state of things today.

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