Critique of Architecture: Essays on Theory, Autonomy, and Political Economy

Douglas Spencer

Birkhäuser, Basel 2021, 227 pp., €29,95 pb
ISBN 9783035621631

Reviewed by Lukas Meisner

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books | December 07, 2021

Being a ‘critique of architecture’, Douglas Spencer’s new essay collection is ‘necessarily part and parcel of the critique of capitalism’ (190) as well. This is because architecture provides exemplary material for a critique of capital’s material(-ised) ideology – a critique that sets ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ not as two separate units unilaterally determined but as a fundamentally reciprocal relationship. As David Cunningham writes in his foreword: ‘Positioned in complex ways between the “infrastructural” and “superstructural”, and consequently mediating between them, architecture is, it may be argued, a privileged site for an interrogation of the productive operations of capital.’ (15) Understanding architecture in this way, Spencer questions not only the positivist, affirmative or immersive takes of his discipline but also its alternatives – like Fredric Jameson’s neo-Althusserian quasi-mystification of the economic sphere as something theoretically impenetrable yet allegorically catchable. Hence, with its persistent counter-hegemonic sensitivities, Spencer’s book is an excellent specimen of critical theory. With it, he is seated between the early Frankfurt School, highly complex Marxisms and critical architectural theory. Accordingly, the essays in the volume are historically finetuned to the developments of the present and its continuities with the past: from the (late) Fordist ‘production of the producer’ (203) to the neoliberal ‘politics of depoliticization’ (101).

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Adorno and the Ban on Images

Sebastian Truskolaski

Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2021. 232 pp., $35.95 pb
ISBN 9781350129221

Reviewed by Iaan Reynolds

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books | November 29, 2021

In three thematically distinct but closely interwoven chapters, Sebastian Truskolaski organizes the work of Theodor W. Adorno around the Old Testament ‘ban on images’ [Bilderverbot], treating the figure of this ban as an overlooked ‘leitmotif’ of Adorno’s work. As the author notes, this monograph’s intention is not a comprehensive overview of Adorno’s work, but a ‘reorganization’ of his ‘uncomfortably systematic “anti-system”’ (8). Through attention to the figure of the image ban, Truskolaski claims, we can understand the way in which Adorno’s political thought differs from those of his contemporaries, as well as ours. Tracing out the metaphysical, theological and aesthetic implications of the prohibition on images, Truskolaski’s masterful treatment of Adorno’s project thus works against dominant interpretations of the latter as a politically quietist or normatively impoverished project. This book is valuable not only as a contribution to ongoing debates concerning the political orientation of critical theory, however, but also as a well-structured introduction to a wide range of Adorno’s concerns.

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Interrupting sleep after a few minutes can boost creativity

Clare Wilson

New Scientist | December 08, 2021

Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali thought an unusual sleep state could boost creativity
Photo12 / Alamy

Where does creativity come from? According to people such as the US inventor Thomas Edison, our inventiveness surges during an unusual state of mind as we drift into sleep.

New support for this idea comes from a study that finds people gain insight into a tricky maths problem if they are allowed to enter the initial stages of sleep, then woken up.

When people fall asleep they may spend a few minutes in a state called hypnagogia or “N1”, often characterised by vivid dreams – although usually people progress into deep sleep and forget the dreams when they wake.

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