T. J. Clark’s landmark study, Farewell to an Idea, takes the art of modernism to be a convulsive attempt to imagine modernity in forms other than the triumph of capitalism. Malcolm Bull suggests it might be better conceived as a fold in the overlap between two contrasting cultures of capitalism, classical and commodity, of which only one is left today.
BETWEEN THE CULTURES OF CAPITAL
Modernism in its various forms has generated a body of critical and historical writing that is without equal. Within this field, the work of T. J. Clark—on Courbet, on Manet, and now in a sequence of essays on painters from David to Pollock—is as exciting as it gets, indeed, as exciting as art history has any reason to be. What makes his achievement unique is not his sensitivity to the nuances of the primary sources, or his almost physical engagement with the surfaces of paintings, but the conjunction of these qualities with a revolutionary’s instinct for the limitless potential of particular historical moments. And if he sometimes writes (as he says Pissarro paints) ‘on a knife-edge, between simplicity and portentiousness, or strong expression and souped-up emotion’, so much the better. No one else would dare.
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Softening Up the State
What advice might Machiavelli offer critics of the contemporary market nation-state? In this striking reconstruction, lessons on corruption, inequality, immigration, mobilization—from Rome and Sparta, Florence and the Venetian Republic—yield proposals for open borders and universal basic income.
The Decline of Decadence
From Nietzsche to Lukács, decadence was a matter of cultural disintegration and social atomization under pressure of capitalist modernity, but such talk has dwindled. Malcolm Bull asks whether the private languages of conceptual art are decadent or undecadent. And is the market a substitute communicator of shared values?
The Politics of Falling
In conclusion, Bull replies to his critics, discussing the status of valuation and the scope of will to power; Heidegger and the question of nihilism; and the logic of extra-egalitarianism.
Beyond existing arguments about equality, might the praxes of permanent and passive revolution offer a way to conceptualize a more expansionary levelling? Drawing on motifs from Nietzsche, Babeuf, Marx and Gramsci, Malcolm Bull traces the contours and consequences of extra-egalitarianism.
Green Cabinet, White Cube
The necessity of Arcadia, as fabular vantage-point for clear vision of the world we inhabit. Malcolm Bull follows a wooded path leading from the mythological parallels of Renaissance art to the modern gallery space.
Vectors of the Biopolitical
Taking coordinates from Aristotle, Malcolm Bull finds in Agamben’s biopolitics and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach the disconnected fragments of a lost vision of society, adumbrated by Marx, glimpsed and rejected by Arendt. Strange meetings as the trajectories of the disenfranchised and the empowered, human and non-human, converge.
Introduction to Special Issue on Globalization and Biopolitics
States of Failure
The question of agency remains the central lacuna in the construction of systemic alternatives. Building on ‘The Limits of Multitude’ in NLR 35, Malcolm Bull proposes a reconceptualization of the relation between collective will and invisible hand. Can bearings drawn from Hegel, Gramsci, Sartre indicate the route to a new global order through dissolution of the Western imperial state?
The Limits of Multitude
What, if any, agencies of political change exist today—and how should they be conceived? Tracing the long tradition of contrasts between a ‘people’ and a ‘multitude’, Malcolm Bull argues that the differing resolutions of them by Hobbes and Spinoza have descended to the twenty-first century, issuing into a contemporary stand-off between market globalization and populist reactions to it.
Where is the Anti-Nietzsche?
If uncritically lyrical receptions of Nietzsche are receding, who has truly resisted his ultimate seduction—‘reading for victory’? Mere rejection of Nietzsche’s ideals does not escape his lure, Malcolm Bull argues. Only the standpoint of the subhuman is proof against his ecology of value.