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Just gonna leave this here http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/BUGGER
makes so much sense
so it comes up in my Board Posts lists so I can remember to read this hopefully at some point tomorrow
If you have a smartphone it's worth installing Instagram or Pocket to save stuff like this to read later. If you don't then bookmarks or diary reminders... I forget to read loadsa things. Seems like the web is lacking some clever organisational system still...
But, yeah, Pocket is great for maintaining a reading list of long form articles. And not just on a phone. Add the bookmarklet to your browser, too.
Yeah. I meant Instapaper (not very awake yet)
Might watch them later
The others make for intensely uncomfortable viewing
and that's without making a call on what's real and what's made up.
curtis has managed to package the telling of our perverse recent history in such a compelling way that i'm not sure i even need to know the extent to which his narratives reflect reality, seeing as all possible scenarios (his or otherwise) tend to be so gloriously hideous.
...Machines of Loving Grace was about 2.5 years ago now right? He's due another.
He keeps his blog regularly updated with pieces like this but tends to go some time between major projects. Given that he's just finished the Massive Attack collaboration, I'd guess that he's not really been working on a series.
would love for him to make this a series, love spy shit, especially spies being useless/fallible humans
Does he have any original ideas? I went to see him play with massive attack and left feeling really unsatisfied (at his essay film part, the music was excellent). What makes him so good that I can't read in a social theory book?
If you prefer reading social theory then... just do that. He attempts to deliver his branch of social theory (using your definition) in a populist way using television/video as his primary medium. If you prefer an academic analysis of society/culture etc. then stick to that. No point in trying to `get` something if you don't feel it...
cf. oldham's finest, professor brian cox
as an interesting and effective way of expressing ideas. In the same way I like other art (literature, music, visual art) that can distill ideas I'm interested in.
I know a lot of people thought the MA collaboration lacked coherence and just wondered if I'm missing certain themes or political analyses. I guess I was just left to wonder if he was angling at a critique of capitalism or not. Obviously it's possible that he's consciously eschewing 'the academy' but I'm not sure it strengthens his artistic vision. Find it a bit kitsch too.
If you want to sink your teeth into Adam Curtis then watch `The Trap`, `The Power of Nightmares` or `All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace` or something.
For me, he analyses society, media and culture in an attempt to explain mass changes in the attitudes of the hivemind in British society (for what of a better phrase). He's similar to Foucault in a way, in that he can be seen as a historian of ideas/analyser of prominent societal discourse.
His work isn't per se a critique of capitalism (I think he'd describe himself as a classical libertarian politically) but can't not analyse capitalism because it's the dominant market logic through which everything has to be seen in contemporary Britain in particular.
For me, I think most of his work is trying to understand something quite narrow - for a notable part of the 20th Century, people in Britain thought they had the power to change the world. They believed in emancipatory politics, and in the ability to challenge political elites and titanic corporations in the name of creating a fairer society. Nowadays, very few people think that way, and it's always fascinated him to the extent where he endlessly tries to explain it...
Bit rambly that, apologies. Bottom line - I think he's brilliant.
Which isn't to say that he's socialist or anarchist or whatever. His work is primarily a critique and subsequently a message of empowerment. I think it would confuse his message to then actively advocate something. It would be, in its own way, somewhat disempowering.
I think he prefers to stay out of the whole murky debate myself. What is for sure neither the state nor the unregulated procession of individualism come out smelling of roses in any of his work!
Basically all he is doing is encouraging people to have power and be free? Power and freedom to do what, he doesn't say.
Foucault gives us the tools to analyse society - not an architectonic description of the nature of society. There's a good Foucault quote though ''the irony is in having us believe that our liberation is in the balance'' which seems to chime with what you're saying. I think the trouble is I can never get behind something that suspends normative engagement to that degree(ie without the norm of human emancipation). Even if its not in an anticapitalist tradition,
I think it needs to give a bit more of himself away or be a bit more comprehensive.
Also I think understanding society as a 'hive mind ' is weak and extremely reductive (I know you said you didn't have a better word, but if that's how AC understands the public sphere and ideology, that's pretty crap).
I think you should watch his stuff and reach your own conclusions, myself. I've drastically oversimplified him, I fear, so there's little to be gained from a further conversation.
He's not an academic though, and he doesn't purport to be. Just to make that clear.
I still think we can ask/expect art and the ideas it explores/expounds to actually cohere but I shall give him a chance :)
To implore us to realise we have it within ourselves as a collection of individuals to achieve our own empowerment is to engage normatively.
In The Trap, for example, the last episode has a really strong normative argument in this way. He focuses on a dichotomy between positive and negative freedom. Negative freedom argues for a compromise; that we should establish basic freedoms yet sacrifice others for the sake of safety from atrocity. Positive freedom, on the other hand, sees this argument as a justification for oppression, and optimistically pursues a more expansive version of freedom, at the risk of said atrocities occurring. Being the naturally cautious liberals that we generally are, western democracies embraced the former model.
The problem as curtis sees it is that negative freedom has been distorted over time. In promoting this idea of basic, laissez faire society we have embraced nihilism, but as society has developed and become more complex the structure that upholds this 'freedom' has become abhorrent and oppressive. Ultimately, the structure that upholds it eventually overwhelms it, and the paradox of a society and its norms being both nihilistic and abhorrent is overcome because negative freedom as a concept has become completely meaningless.
As a result, he argues at the end of the program that we have to embrace positive freedom. We may well still end up with abhorrence- we can't erase the risk that positive freedom as an idea is burdened with- but at least we no longer live with nihilism. And ultimately the abhorrence will only be as bad as that which the path we're on now will lead to.
..yeah imo that's a very heavily normatively engaged argument. Yet he's not actively advocating anything- his call for us to embrace positive freedom is little more than a call for us to realise our own potential for empowerment, albeit *shared* empowerment
'To implore us to realise we have it within ourselves as a collection of individuals to achieve our own empowerment is to engage normatively.'
^ unless you unpack what you mean by empowerment and what it's place in a wider vision of society is, I'm not gonna get what you're on about. What differentiates it from other forms of emancipatory politics ie marxism? What is its relation to materialism? Can't get behind a dichotomy of 'postitive' and 'negative' freedom at all. It's far far too abstract for me to discuss this properly (I don't know what you mean by 'atrocities' and I don't know whose oppression he's looking out for or what type of oppression). Don't know how the ruling class figures in this, or anything like that. he doesn't sound very radical though.
I just don't find what still_here is describing a compelling theory.
Was just clarifying that, as a means of making sure your expectations are reasonable if you do ever sit down to watch his stuff...
the dichotomy isn't one that he argues actually exists and is exemplified in world events (quite the opposite), but rather a tool that people have used to understand the world and how it should be organised. When he says we should embrace positive freedom i take it to mean, like i said, that we should embrace a certain sort of empowerment and a spirit of optimism rather than the idea of positive freedom as outlined by Isaiah Berlin.
With regards to this empowerment, its probably better to watch a number of his documentaries rather than have me explain it to you, but even then i think to an extent he leaves it open. Which is fine. I personally think he provides a good framework for people to develop good opinions from. I don't see that he needs to or should do any more than that.
He's definitely not Marxist though. And it's really obvious that he takes inspiration from radical thinkers. Not being overtly radical isn't something that should be criticised imo. Especially given that it isn't necessary within the remit he has given himself.
no it isn't
``I sometimes get criticised for believing too much that ideas change the world. That mostly comes from The Left, the Marxists, who see it as economic forces that really change the world. I think that ideas do have effects. They don't always have the effects that they are intended to do, which is really the stories I tell.``
Someone like Brian Cox literally just reports 'facts' that other people have discovered or whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if Curtis borrows very heavily from other academics, but i don't doubt that a large part of his documentaries are original. At the same time, the medium itself that he conducts his argument through is a key component to grasping the meaning he intends to convey. I personally think he conveys this meaning excellently, and that its often quite profound. The disparate nature of his documentaries reflect the type of narrative he thinks helps us make the best sense of the world. I don't see it as a negative at all.
who makes persuasive, informative and aesthetically enjoyable arguments about how things are how they are. dunno what more you want
I paid £36 for the pleasure of seeing this guy, after being told it was gonna fucking blow my mind. I want answers.
Struggle to find anything particularly normative in what I've seen of his. Don't think its radical either. that the BBC have been happy to broadcast it for the last ten years is a clue. The mode in which he operates is another one - the use of disjointed archive footage puts together a the same mystifying narrative that he's trying to express in broad strokes, which may be because meaning in this respect could never be enunciated in terms of clarity and logic but idk. Suppose he's like a non fiction godard in that way. The authorial voice is omnipotent but clouded due to the
So yeah I guess im just agreeing with what dd was saying about Foucault. Guess his approach is relevant now due to the nature of access to information these days and so called pluralistic narrative of history