Telling Tales Out of School: Impact, Literature and the Academy

by Duncan Wheeler

In ‘Why I Quit,’ an already infamous piece published in the London Review of Books in Autumn 2014, Marina Warner rallies against the increasingly top-heavy corporate style of modern British universities. I can perfectly understand her frustration, and I agree with many of her complaints about the higher education system – the willingness to take on under-par fee-paying graduate students, an exponential growth in administrators and philistinism – but I was somewhat less convinced by her portrait of my colleagues and me as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. In my experience, the correspondent from the Daily Telegraph was closer to the mark: ‘Most professions harbour rivalry and backbiting, but academics make politicians look like fawning puppies.' [read full essay]

‘In hell everything is hellish'

Werner Bonefeld, Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy: On Subversion and Negative Reason

reviewed by John P. Merrick

Since the financial crisis of 2008 there has been a reinvigoration of discussions around the importance of Marx and Marxism for any understanding of the workings of capitalism. This reassessment has occurred across the social sciences, but perhaps most importantly within the field of economics, where there is a move by many to see this once-maligned figure return to the canon. However, central to Werner Bonefeld's new book, Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy, is the seemingly... [read more]

Siding With The Machines

Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (eds.), #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader

reviewed by Alex Andrews

Pre-hashtagged and pre-branded, Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s ‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’ (MAP) dropped onto an unsuspecting internet last year, occasioning commentary, angry denunciations, satire and some acclaim. The central gambit was that in contrast to ‘a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism’ – the obvious immediate target being 2008’s Occupy protests in the United Kingdom – the political left must embrace... [read more]

The Pure Appearance of the Young Girl

Giorgio Agamben, trans. Leland de la Durantaye, The Unspeakable Girl: The Myth and Mystery of Kore

reviewed by Lara Mancinelli

In 1999, Tiqqun, a French collective of philosophers and activists, published Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, a disjointed text whose grating, repetitious ‘trash theory’ attempts to reveal the consumerist body. This is the body of ‘the Young-Girl’. An ageless, genderless subject, the capitalist system, Empire, constructs her as a ‘model citizen’. Moving within the ‘oblivion of Being’, the Young-Girl is the ‘void’ that ‘THEY maintain in order to hide... [read more]

‘All issues are political issues’

Sarah Lowndes, All Art is Political: Writings on Performative Art

reviewed by Chris Law

‘It’s been more difficult than pleasurable, actually, being so retrospective […] A complete retrospective would include everything from the beginning to the end. As I’m not dead, that can’t happen to me, and my Tate exhibition is really just a large survey of some selected works.’ Susan Hiller’s comments about her survey exhibition at Tate Britain in 2011 come at the very end of an interview conducted in the same year by Sarah Lowndes, which constitutes the fourth of five chapters... [read more]

The Hand, and the Virtual

Matt Ratto and Megan Boler (eds.), DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media

reviewed by Danielle Child

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media is a collection of 28 short essays that address the multi-faceted ideas of making, design, the digital, media, citizenship and participation (both on and offline), through a critical lens. The volume was conceived after the editors convened a conference of the same name held in Toronto in November 2010. In order to help the reader navigate a diverse range of approaches and topics, the book is divided into four sections: DIY and Activism: New... [read more]

Disreputable Scraps

Lisa Appignanesi, Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness

reviewed by Polly Bull

In 1871, Christiana Edmunds laced chocolate creams with strychnine and distributed them throughout her hometown of Brighton, hoping to poison her lover’s wife without attracting suspicion. When a young boy died from eating the chocolates, they were traced back to Edmunds and she was charged with his murder. Edmunds pleaded not guilty, with a defence of insanity. Acquittal on this basis largely rested on proof of her inability, at the time of the crime, to distinguish right from wrong. In... [read more]

Dynamics of Intervention

Patrick Cockburn, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

‘The deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria may now have gone too far to re-create genuinely unitary states.’ So writes Patrick Cockburn towards the end of The Jihadis Return, a remarkably timely intervention that explores the recent history and present dynamics of what Cockburn terms ‘al’Qa’ida type movements’, foremost amongst which is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). It is a gloomy prognosis, one which represents the final nail in the already-rotten coffin of... [read more]

In Search of a Radical Formalism

Eugenie Brinkema, The Forms of the Affects

reviewed by Tom Hastings

Eugenie Brinkema’s The Forms of the Affects is overflowing with words that splice subjects together in numerous, thrilling combinations. At times a nightmare to read (when one wishes to sense something beyond their running form), Brinkema’s use of language otherwise brilliantly materialises the book’s central thesis. And as we shall see, it is important that the readerly movement from pleasuring discomfort, to Angst, to joyful understanding is captured; that it is there, in the form of... [read more]

Who Owns History?

Carolyn Steedman, An Everyday Life of the English Working Class: Work, Self and Sociability in the Early Nineteenth Century

reviewed by Jennifer Upton

Carolyn Steedman has dedicated her academic life to exploring how lives from the past can confound our expectations about history, the way it is written, and the meaning of its silences. Her first book, The Tidy House (Virago, 1982), was about a short story written by three working-class schoolgirls in a primary school where Steedman was a teacher before entering university employment. These girls, though writing a fictional story, were also in an important way writing about their lives, and... [read more]

Matthew Was Right

David Marquand, Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now

reviewed by Abigail Rhodes

The Bible tells us that ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.’ (Matthew 6:24) Mammon is personified in the New Testament as a demon and sometimes included as one of the seven Princes of Hell (Mammon is to greed what Lucifer is to pride). Over the centuries his name has gained currency as a pejorative term to describe unjust worldly gain and is... [read more]