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Susan Buck Morss Dreamworld And Catastrophe Pdf

susan buck morss dreamworld and catastrophe pdf

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B ehind the ideological differences that for so long seemed to divide them, did Soviet communism and American capitalism share some fundamental dream of modernity? Author of two distinguished works on the Frankfurt School and Walter Benjamin, The Origin of Negative Dialectics and Dialectics of Seeing , Buck-Morss breaks quite new ground here, with an ambitious comparison of state legitimations, industrial technologies and popular culture in the USSR and USA, focused mainly—though not exclusively—on the s and s. She brings to this project a set of concerns and methods inspired by a deep immersion in Benjamin , whose Arcades Project was the subject of her second book, and whose traces are visible everywhere in this one. In the age of Ford and Stakhanov, dreams of another and happier world had unpredictable impulses and longings in common, best sounded with the instruments Benjamin used to plumb the oneiric layers and recesses of nineteenth-century Paris.

Journal of Cold War Studies

Access options available:. Journal of Cold War Studies 6. There is much to learn from this beautifully produced, elegant work, which is a combination of art history, philosophical speculation, political analysis, and cultural critique.

Some readers, those unfamiliar with the cultural innovations of the early Bolshevik period, will be interested in the portrayal of the doomed utopian visions put forward by architects, poets, dramatists, filmmakers, painters, and other artists who flourished in Soviet Russia in the s. They will be struck to learn how most of these artists suffered as Stalinist repression and growing cultural conservatism forced Soviet society to turn to the more practical goal of constructing a war economy based on heavy industry and pervasive consumer shortages.

Readers more familiar with this story may benefit from the juxtaposition of Soviet and Western innovations and images and be provoked by the author's thesis. Susan Buck-Morss argues that Stalinism crushed utopian innovation in favor of Western materialism and that once this happened the Soviet experiment was doomed because it had chosen to compete with the West on Western terms, thus excluding its original utopian promise. Perhaps even more, this book tells us a lot about postmodernist critics of Western capitalism.

Buck-Morss's main point is the usual one about capitalism—that it is bad, vulgar, materialistic, deceitful, sexist, racist, destructive, and exploitative, and that it deserved to die. Why, then, did the proposed remedy, socialism, fail? Given the main premise, and the history of the twentieth century, there are no easy answers. Instead, the book retreats into evocative citations of the sacred texts of postmodernism, especially from Walter Benjamin's work, in an attempt to show that Western illusions about democracy and prosperity are imposed frauds that need to be deconstructed in order to rescue the utopian dreams of modernity.

Throughout the text one finds the theme that has preoccupied the left since Surely the Western version of modernity could not have triumphed. On the contrary, "Industrial modernity in both really existing forms, capitalist and socialist, created a hostile environment for human life, precisely the opposite of the dream of modernity" p.

As for the competition between capitalism and socialism, in the Cold War "Good was defined as the other that is, as what the enemy rejected , entwining them in a dialectical death embrace that ensured neither side would escape the binaries of discursive frame that contained them both" pp.

For readers who do not appreciate postmodernist flourishes, the book can occasionally be hard going. The first chapter, on the political history of Communism, rehashes quite a bit of conventional history to put the main thesis in some kind of context, but this is distasteful to Buck-Morss because it suggests that, after all, "facts" exist.

Hence, she presents the material as one huge footnote neatly labeled "hypertext" taking up the bottom half of thirty-eight pages in very small print. One assumes she did this to spare herself the pain of admitting that old-fashioned narrative history has its uses. Nor is the solipsism and worship of the usual French intellectuals always enlightening. Derrida's ten-day visit took place in April He has since written a book about his trip or rather, written about not writing about it in an essay entitled 'Back from Moscow, in the USSR'" p.

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Susan Buck-Morss Dreamworld and Catastrophe the Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West

Developing the notion of dreamworld as both a poetic description of a collective mental state and an analytical concept, Susan Buck-Morss attempts to come to terms with mass dreamworlds at the moment of their passing. The dream of the twentieth century was the construction of mass utopia. As the century closes, this dream is being left behind; the belief that industrial modernization can bring about the good society by overcoming material scarcity for all has been challenged by the disintegration of European socialism, capitalist restructuring, and ecological constraints. The larger social vision has given way to private dreams of material happiness and to political cynicism. She shows how dreamworlds became dangerous when their energy was used by the structures of power as an instrument of force against the masses. Stressing the similarities between the East and West and using the end of the Cold War as her point of departure, she examines both extremes of mass utopia, dreamworld and catastrophe.

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Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, Susan Buck-Morss

ISBN 13: 9780262024648

The dream of the twentieth century was the construction of mass utopia. As the century closes, this dream is being left behind; the belief that industrial modernization can bring about the good society by overcoming material scarcity for all has been challenged by the disintegration of European socialism, capitalist restructuring, and ecological constraints. The larger social vision has given way to private dreams of material happiness and to political cynicism. Developing the notion of dreamworld as both a poetic description of a collective mental state and an analytical concept, Susan Buck-Morss attempts to come to terms with mass dreamworlds at the moment of their passing.

Access options available:. Journal of Cold War Studies 6. There is much to learn from this beautifully produced, elegant work, which is a combination of art history, philosophical speculation, political analysis, and cultural critique. Some readers, those unfamiliar with the cultural innovations of the early Bolshevik period, will be interested in the portrayal of the doomed utopian visions put forward by architects, poets, dramatists, filmmakers, painters, and other artists who flourished in Soviet Russia in the s. They will be struck to learn how most of these artists suffered as Stalinist repression and growing cultural conservatism forced Soviet society to turn to the more practical goal of constructing a war economy based on heavy industry and pervasive consumer shortages.


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For more on her visit and seminar, click here. Abstract: Thinking the origins of three monotheisms within one temporal arc makes visible a changed structure of history that not only critiques Western-centrism but offers an alternative, the philosophical implications of which escape the cul-de-sac of the post-periods post-modernism, post-colonialism, post-secularism. Skip to main content.

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