The Necessity of History, the Tragedy of Aesthetics

When we tear down statues, it is an attempt to alter the trajectory of history. Not history as just “what has happened,” which we can never change as much as reinterpret. No, this is history as a great unfolding, as something that is taking place and will take place on one route or another depending … Continue reading The Necessity of History, the Tragedy of Aesthetics

Civilization Never Happened

I. There is a truly noxious moment in Kenneth Clark’s 1969 BBC documentary series Civilisation. The art historian, knight, and life-peer stands across the Seine from Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and ponders the meaning of the series title.   “What is civilization?” he asks before peering over his shoulder. “I don’t know, but I think I can recognize it when I see … Continue reading Civilization Never Happened

Class Struggle and the Limits of the Liberal Imagination

Shutting Down the Shutdown It looks like Trump is ending the government shutdown without getting his precious wall. Good. There are immigrant families and government workers breathing a sigh of relief right now. Which says a lot regarding a real and material common interest. It’s a temporary victory, for sure, but a victory. That being … Continue reading Class Struggle and the Limits of the Liberal Imagination

Detroit’s Exterminating Angel

Before RoboCop was released in theaters thirty years ago this month, it was given an X rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. Director Paul Verhoeven, knowing that this was guaranteed box office death, went back and scrubbed his film no fewer than eleven times trying to achieve its eventual R rating. He toned down at … Continue reading Detroit’s Exterminating Angel