Claes War


Also known as Déficit Des Années Antérieures, which means in accounting language ‘previous years deficit’. 

The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

Bbc news report today (phone won’t link).

Oh ok then if you say so. People must just be getting hungrier.

(via averagehumanmale)

"only going to make a tinder if incredibly bored"

"yr in central london though
everyone will be out of your league
kate middleton etc.”

so many hours over the last couple years working at the library spent staring at these bank of canada financial report pamphlets, which I’ve always thought look like plants

The pessimistic turn in Clark’s writing seems to me bound up with his basic understanding of what modernity is. To avoid the reformist or arguably reactionary conclusions in his most recent statements on politics (in addition to Picasso and Truth I especially have in mind his 2012 essay, “For a Left with No Future”), it will not be necessary to affirm any greater optimism of the will, but rather to change the terms of the debate. I will bracket Picasso and Truth because it seems to me no longer to offer an all-embracing concept of recent history except as tragedy, catastrophe, and this does not invite critique — only assent or futile protestation. In Farewell to an Idea, though, Clark makes a few attempts at a definition of modernity. It’s notable that his language is mostly not Marxist but Weberian. Here is a patchwork of quotes from the book’s introduction:

"Modernity" means contingency. It points to a social order which has turned from the worship of ancestors and past authorities to the pursuit of a projected future — of goods, pleasures, freedoms, forms of control over nature, or infinities of information. This process goes along with a great emptying and sanitising of the imagination. Without ancestor-worship, meaning is in short supply — "meaning" here meaning agreed-on and instituted forms of value and understanding, implicit orders, stories and images in which a culture crystallizes its sense of hte struggle with the realm of necessity and the reality of pain and death. The phrase Max Weber borrowed from Schiller, "the disenchantment of the world," still seems to me to sum up this side of modernity best. 

[…] “Secularization” is a nice technical term for this blankness. It means specialization and abstraction; social life driven by a calculus of large-scale statistical chances, with everyone accepting (or resenting) a high level of risk. […] I should say straightaway that this cluster of features seems to me tied to, and propelled by, one central process: the accumulation of capital, and the spread of capitalist markets into more and more of the world and the texture of human dealings. […] And the true terror of this new order has to do with its being ruled — and obscurely felt to be ruled — by sheer concatenation of profit and loss, bids and bargains: that is, by a system without any focusing purpose to it, or any compelling image or ritualization of that purpose.

To sum up: modernity is privative. It builds wondrous things but they do not belong to the people who live in and amongst them. It drains the world of meaning and offers nothing but calculation in its place. This threatens to align Clark with a critique of modernity from the right rather than the left: and indeed Eliot and Pound, to take the strongest examples, are omnipresent touchstones for him. Modernism, if understood as issuing from this state of affairs, must reflect, resist, or attempt to compensate for such a loss. Sometimes it aims to accelerate modernization in the mostly deluded hope of thereby gaining control over it. Its struggle will almost necessarily be a losing one.

What if, however, we shift the weight of Clark’s emphasis away from “disenchantment” towards the “accumulation of capital” — what if the latter were to be put centre-stage, taken as central from start to finish in our analysis, rather than reduced to a parenthetical aside? What if we were to describe capitalism itself not as the spread of certain habits of mind or patterns of relation (means-end rationality; speculation and hedging against contingency; decay of traditional authority), nor yet as a chain of unfathomable catastrophes, but rather as the determination of a social totality by its progressively thoroughgoing subordination to a specific social form, namely, to the relation crystallized in the value-form of the commodity? Modernity would then no longer appear as an unaccountable calamity (though in its experienced effects it does surely remain this) but rather as that shape of society produced by the dominance of the most basic mediation specific to capitalism and capitalism alone: the making-comparable of all commodities by means of their expression in something called exchange value, and the extension of this relation to practically the entire globe. No teleology needed: only the fairly obvious point that the decay of “bourgeois society” — in the narrow sense of the term, that is, more or less as a synonym for the European nineteenth century — did not leave nothing behind, but rather a different social totality with its own characteristics, its own mode of reproduction. (Otherwise the death of nineteenth-century bourgeois culture would have been a literal apocalypse: human extinction.) Such a world is not a priori resistant to theorization. To conceive Marxism as concerned with the description of such mediations, such real abstractions, as constitute the changing phenomenal form of the class-relation (the antagonism as well as the fundamentally linked reproduction of labour and capital, and the development of this relation over time), is very different from conceiving it as essentially “a theory — a set of descriptions — of bourgeois society and the way it would come to grief.” Though this may be, for Clark, what Marxism was “most productively,” it is not what Marxism has to be now. Clark’s definition is parlous; I prefer another, but not abandonment of the bitter acknowledgements that Clark’s work has made possible.

In this I am exactly opposed to what has long been majority art historical opinion: I think Clark’s project is not determinist, not Marxist enough. And it gets worse the farther he retreats from Marxism and determinacy. But in saying so I am not insisting on doctrinaire application of a set of Marxist cliches (paging Comrade Zhdanov). I am insisting on the potential of Marxist theory, and Marxist art history, to be more than a period style. Anyone making such a claim should be careful to say what is not meant, because philistinism looms here. I saw one review of Picasso and Truth in which the author held up Picasso’s entry into the French Communist Party — in 1944 — as a rebuke to Clark’s “retreat into an art for art’s sake.” It would hardly be worth noting this absurdity if it did not index in a pungent way a certain leftist ignorance of history that is one side of the double-bind to which Clark’s book has fallen victim. The other side is the ignorance of (some) art historians. For the latter, Clark’s work (essentially his prose style) has always been excessive, a crime against decorum. All that doom and gloom, all that fussing about the world-historical significance of this or that patch of paint: isn’t it a big much? What’s wrong with good old-fashioned semiotics, anyway? And on the other side: Picasso was a communist, full stop. Speak no ill of the dead. The repressed term in either discourse might as well be Stalin. I am asking for a criticism that is smart enough to know who Stalin was and still want to destroy capitalism anyway.

—Daniel Spaulding, 'Towards an Apotropaic Avant-Garde', review of T.J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica