Monthly Archives: September 2009


Preliminary Bibliography:  The Glamour-Gaze

Andy Warhol.  Ed. Annette Michelson.  Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c2001.

Barnard, Malcolm.  Fashion Theory: a Reader.  London; New York: Routledge, 2007.

Berger, John.  About Looking. New York: Vintage International, 1991.

Berger, John.  The Sense of Sight. New York: Pantheon, c1985.

Berger, John.  Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation; New York:  Penguin Books, 1997, c1972.

Brown, Judith.  Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009.

Clark, Kenneth.  Feminine Beauty. New York: Rizzoli, 1980.

Cresap, Kelly.  Pop Trickster Fool: Warhol Performs Naivete. Urbana: University of  Illinois Press, c2004.

Critical Response to Andy Warhol, The. Ed. Alan Pratt.  Westport, Conn.: Greenwood  Press, 1997.

DeJean, Joan.  The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion.  New  York: Free Press, c2005.

Francis, Mark and Margery King.  The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion. Boston:    Little, Brown, 1997.

Gundle, Stephen.  Glamour: a History.  Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Howe, James.  I Create Glamour.  Mount Morris, IL: P. & S. Pub., 1941.

Hughes, Robert.  Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists.  New York: A.A. Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 1991, c1990.

Ideals of Feminine Beauty: Philosophical, Social, and Cultural Dimensions.  Ed. Karen A. Callaghan.  Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Illouz, Eva.  Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery: an Essay on Popular Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, c2003.

Roberts, John.  Philosophizing the Everyday: Revolutionary Praxis and the Fate of Cultural Theory.  London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Unseen Warhol.  [Interviews by] John O’Connor and Benjamin Liu.  New York: Rizzoli, 1996.

Wilk, Richard.  Economies and cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology. Boulder: CO: Westview Press, c2007.

Free Culture Bibliography

Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Hyperion, 2009.

Crypto anarchy, cyberstates, and pirate utopias. Cambridge, Mass: MIT, 2001.

Engels, Karl Marx, Frederick. The Communist Manifesto. Filiquarian, 2007.

Fuchs, Christian. Internet and society social theory in the information age. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin P HC, The, 2008.

Lessig, Lawrence. Code Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

Lessig, Lawrence. Free culture how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. New York: Penguin P, 2004.

Terms from Contradiction & Overdetermination

(I actually wrote this before the lecture, I just didn’t get to type it up b/c I was out of town and computerless!)

Detangling of some terms:

“Contradiction” in the Hegelian dialectic is “simple” (103).  Based on passed reading of Hegel, I would describe this contradiction as between the internal consciousness, “Spirit,” and the external lived reality.  Althusser echoes this and points out the implications:  “…the reduction…to one principle of internal untiy,…possible on the absolute condition of taking the concrete life of a people for the externalization-alienation” (103).

This Hegelian contradition is related to the “superstructure,” which is basically the State.  Hegel describes the mission of this apparatus as being: “to consummate itself in art, religion, and philosophy,” to be “the ‘truth of’ civil society” (110).  In other words, the state externalizes the internal experience of civil society; it is an expression of the Spirit.

For Marx, “contradiction” is historical and is described as the basis of revolution.   As series of historical contradictions; their “accumulation and exacerbation” caused “the weakness of Tsarist Russia” (95).  For Engles, “superstructure” is composed of “various elements” of “the political forms of the class struggle and its results [such as] constitutions,…, juridical forms…, regligious views and their further development into systems of dogmas..”(112).  This seems to encompass the State, which is placed as one of many elements of civil society (rather than the superstructure, as in the case of Hegel).

Yet for Marx/Engles, the state is very different: it is “an instrument of coercion in the service of the ruling exploiting class” (110).  It is just one of many superstructures through which “History ‘asserts itself’,” or really, through which the economy, or mode of production asserts itself.

She’s gonna blow

I am currently overwhelmed by the plentitude of compelling – yet slippery, impossible to hold onto – claims contained in Althusser’s two essays, and so I will pull on a tiny thread that has very little connection to any of these other compelling ideas: the idea of cultural expansion.

Althusser only lightly touches on this concept in one small passage of “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”: “But in the social formations of that mode of production characterized by ‘serfdom’…we observe that…the number of Ideological State Apparatuses is smaller and their individual types are different” (1493).  Here Althusser makes a distinction between the IDA’s of economic systems past (namely feudalism) and those of our current capitalist system: not only are our current IDAs different in type, but they are also more numerous.

This line stood out to me because of the way it echoed a similar claim in Williams’s essay “Culture is Ordinary.”  Williams makes the argument of ever-expanding culture more explicitly, stating, “we live in an expanding culture, and all the elements in this culture are themselves expanding” (14).  Upon reading this statement, I couldn’t help but think about our universe and its own progressive expansion – but, at least according to Williams, there is a difference between the spreading of our planets and the growth of our culture.  Culture isn’t simply spreading out (and this visual makes me think of ideas reaching more and more people, “taste” and products being shared globally instead of locally), but increasing in quantity, in density.  There is simply more cultural production.

If we are to go along with Marx and say that the root cause of this (as with everything else) must ultimately be mode of production, then it seems that the cause of this increase of culture is directly linked to changes in technology – and here we end up back at claims made during our discussion of the internet.  Expanding technology (the internet!) leads to expanding cultural production created by an expanding number of cultural authors (bloggers, website creators, etc).  The central question of this debate was whether or not this expansion allowed for resistance, led to any greater freedom of movement within ideology.  Althusser’s framing of this expansion as an increase of Ideological State Apparatuses – institutions that are means for continuing the relations of production and reasserting the dominance of the ruling class – leads me to think that more culture = more means of subjection.  But I can’t get past the visual.  Ever expanding, blowing up and blowing out – culture may become too numerous to be harnessed for a single goal, to be controllable.  Perhaps, as those Benjaminists were arguing on Wednesday, it is expansion that is key to revolution…

Tentative tentaive bibliography

I don’t think I was quite searching for the right thing…most of what I found is about the impact f the interent on personal relationships. I suppose I can narrow it down after I do more reading. But at this point I’m not quite sure where Marx will come in…

McCormick, N. B. Computer friends and foes: Content of undergraduate’s electronic mail. Computers in Human Behavior; 1992 Vol. 8, p379-405, 27p.

The Weakest Link

I completely sympathize with what many of you are saying and felt slightly overwhelmed by Althusser’s essay “Contradiction and Overdetermination.” Although some portions of the text stood out to me and made sense, I felt lost while reading others and do not feel like I fully grasped all of the concepts. For one, I know that I would benefit from an explanation of the Marxist inversion of the Hegelian dialectic.

In terms of concepts that did make an impression, I particularly liked Althusser’s reference to Lenin’s theory of the “weakest link”. I think that this passage stood out to me because it was a practical application of the rather dense Marxist concept of contradiction.  Althusser explains, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link. In general, anyone who wants to control a given situation will look out for a weak point, in case it should render the whole system vulnerable. On the other hand, anyone who wants to attack it, even if the odds are apparently against him, need only discover this one weakness to make all its power precarious” (p. 94). Thus, the weakest point in a system is the most important, whether it be from an angle of protection or attack.

Lenin’s application is really hammered home with the example of the possibility for revolution in Russia. In the chain of imperialist nations, Russia was “the most backward country in Europe”, leading to an “objectively revolutionary situation” (p. 95). The fact that Russia was “simultaneously at least a century behind the imperialist world, and at the peak of its development” made revolution imminent (p. 97). The historical contradictions that existed within Russia in the early 20th century led to an unavoidable weakness in the string of imperialist states.

Contradiction: Between My Brain and This Reading

I want to understand Althusser’s “Contradiction.” I really do. I read over the italicized text and cannot figure out why some of those words are so damn important. So I’m going to use a blog as a tool for mental excavation.

Possibly the most important statements Althusser seems to make concern historical “points of rupture” (100). He uses Lenin’s concept of the weakest link to examine why oppositional forces/ideologies/individuals come together to generate a historical tidal wave of change. Because of contradictions inherent in Russian and world society, Russia itself was the weakest link from whence capitalism was attacked and overthrown. He points out that the Russian Revolution occured because Russia was simultaneously the “most and least advanced” (99) industrialized country – a giant contradiction waiting to explode from the weight of smaller contradictions occuring within the nation. How this was the case with Russia remains beyond me, but Althusser says it both results from and is dependent on means of production. In other words, historical contradictions all occur as a result of some kind of disharmony in the realm of production; eventually, this may lead to the fall of an entire ideology.

Althusser also references a kind of internal truth and logic which is present in all facets of human existence – “customs, habits, financial, commercial, and economic regimes” (102). From perhaps one institution arises a contradiction, and that contradiction is caught in the matrix of all institutions which arise from a society. He “reduces [them] to a single internal principle” – what we might call an ideology. If I am reading this right, Althusser is confirming Marx’s theory that a dominant ideology both determines the mechanisms of production and arises from it.

Basically the last part I understood about this reading (before it seemed to collapse into an unintelligble discussion of abstraction, truth, phenomena, and survival) was Althusser’s explication of the inversion of Hegel by Marx. While Hegel insisted that the mental and spiritual realm – the consciousness – determines history and our perception of our contemporary existence, Marx says that ideas arise from activities in the material realm. In other words, Althusser says that we have an idea about a table and we manufacture it in order to see it and discuss it; Marx thinks that all thoughts about the table only occur after the physical thing is put in front of our eyes.

I am turning myself around in circles. So many questions. I am most fervently wondering: what is overdetermination? Althusser talks about it constantly and I have no idea what it means, still. My vote for lecture = a whimpering yes.


I was interested in Althusser’s Epilogue in which he criticizes Engels’s explanation of the movement of history.  Engels sets up a geometrical (‘natural’) metaphor—that the movement of history is a transcendent resultant, decided by the individual direction and magnitude of millions of individual wills. Althusser points out that beginning a view of history by looking at such a small scale is impossible, that the answer will be a tautology or a representation of the problem that does nothing to answer it. Althusser goes on to critique a number of famous enlightenment philosophers for the same thing: “What is the starting-point for this classical ideology, whether it is Hobbes on the composition of the conatus, Locke and Rousseau on the generation of the general will, Helvetius and Holbach on the production of the general interest, Smith and Ricardo (the texts abound) on atomistic behaviour, what is the starting-point if not precisely the confrontation of these famous individual wills which are by no means the starting-point for reality, but for a representation of reality for a myth intended to provide a basis (for all eternity) in nature (that is, for all eternity) for the objectives of the bourgeoisie (125)”? What interests me about this passage is that Althusser is performing a Marxist critique on Engels (which he subsequently extends broadly to other philosophers), accusing him of the same thing Marx and Engels accused the German idealists of, namely thinking of history as a history of ideas instead of “historical” facts. What makes an event “historical”, he reminds us, “is not the fact that it is an event, but precisely its insertion into forms which are themselves historical, into forms which have nothing to do with the bad infinity which Engels retains even when he has left the vicinity of his original model, forms which, on the contrary, are perfectly definable and knowable (knowable, Marx insisted, and Lenin after him, through empirical, that is, non-philosophical, scientific disciplines)” (126). From this, as well as other passages, it became evident to me that Althusser is so strict a Marxist that he even accuses Marx himself of misrepresenting himself, when he says he will perform an inversion of Hegel’s terms (by this, he means he will begin with the economic system as the base and then explain how that informs the ideas of the period). Really, Althusser tells us, Marx changed both Hegel’s terms and relations.

It seems to me like Althusser has more faith in Marxism in the first article (1962) than the second (1969). This is evident in his critique of Engels, in which he supports scientific views of history over any other. In the second article, he doesn’t hold up the science of history as a model of perfection for philosophers and historians. Also, the system he sets up in the second article, in which the subject is already a subject to his family (one of the ISAs he lists) before he is even born, offers a pessimistic view on the prospect of a global revolution.

Prelim Bibliography: Green Products/Economy

Some sources to start things off:

John, Grant. The Green Marketing Manifesto. Chichester, England; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

Johnston, Josee. “The Citizen-Consumer Hybrid: Ideological tensions and the case of Whole Foods Market.” Theory and Society 37.3 (2008): 229-270.

Stolle, Dietlind, and Michele Micheletti. “The Gender Gap Reversed: Political consumerism as a women-friendly form of civic and political engagement.” Gender and Social Capital Conference, St. John’s College, Manitoba. 2-3 May 2003. <>

Micheletti, Michele, and Dietlind Stolle. “Mobilizing Consumers to Take Responsibility for Global Social Justice.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 611.1 (2007): 157-175.

Micheletti, Michele. Political Virtue and Shopping: Individuals, consumerism, and collective action. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Nelson, Michelle R., Mark A. Rademacher, and Hye-Jin Paek. “Downshifting Consumer = Upshifting Citizen? An Examination of a Local Freecycle Economy.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 611.1 (2007): 141-156.

Prothero, Andrea, and James A. Fitchett. “Greening Capitalism: Opportunities for a Green Commodity.” Journal of Macromarketing 20.1 (2000): 46-55.

Szasz, Andrew.  Shopping Our Way to Safety: How we changed from protecting the environment to protecting ourselves. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

And, yeah, there was absolutely no reason for me to abbreviate “preliminary” in my title, other than the fact that I like to stand out.

Preliminary bibliography

Ludlow, Peter, ed. Crypto anarchy, cyberstates, and pirate utopias. Cambridge, Mass.; London: MIT Press, 2001. Print.