Archive for November, 2010

In this lecture we discussed the idea of a crises of modernity. Odserving Jeremy Bentham’s panoptican prision. In the panoptican prison a gaurd is allowed to watch over all the prisoners while remaining unseen. Focult writes that ‘visability is a trap’, a way of modern society enforcing power and controll. Foucult takes this modern progession and suggests a crisis of legitamisation.

Our Daily Bread (2005) is a documentary by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. It depicts the modern food industry, following the proses from beginning to end. This film displays a crisis of modernity.

‘The crisis of modernity is the sense that modernity is a problem , that traditional ways of life have been replaced with uncontrollable change and unmanageable alternatives. The crisis itself is merely the sense that the present is a transitional point not focussed on a clear goal in the future but simply changing through forces outside our control.’

While watching Our Daily bread i connected with it from a postmodern position. I recently visited an abattoir for a photography project. Already having a negative postmodern attitude to this development in the food industry my experience only justified my outlook. A main text i analysed for this project was John Bergers Why Look At Animals? In which he states that the treatment of animals as manufactured commodities is a 19th century thought.

‘The 19th century, in western Europe and North America, saw the beginning of a process, today being completed by 20th century corporate capitalism, by which every tradition which has previously mediated between man and nature was broken. ‘ (Berger)

Berger goes on to explain that before the industrial revolution animals were treated differently. They were messengers, promises, and together with man at the centre of the earth.

Eric Hobsbawn, a British marxist historian, discusses this change of agriculture in the industrial revolution. He see’s the industrial revolution as a driving force, a progression towards liberal capitalism.

‘Interpellation is the mechanism that produces subjects in such a way that they recognize their own existence in terms of the dominant ideology of the society in which they live.’ (Macey. pg.203)

Interpellation is a term described by Althusser in his theory of ideology. We subconsciously recognise what is socially correct and incorrect in society by being constituted as a subject. This idea relates to Jeremy Bentham’s prison as it constructs a recognition of internal discipline.



J. Berger. 1980. About Looking.

Macey.D.2000. Dictionary of Critical Theory.


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The Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt school refers to a group of neo-marxist social theorists that attempt underline critical theory. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno were two leading theorists. The Frankfurt school would describe critical theory as social emancipation through enlightenment.

Enlightenment: ‘A broad term within European philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries… an important aspect of the enlightenment period is the compilation of the first modern encyclopedias, which claimed to provide a compendium of the whole of human knowledge’ (Macey.D)

Adorno and Horkheimer wrote the Dialectic of Enlightenment, a core text of critical theory that highlights the failures of enlightenment. It explains the self-destructive form of the enlightenment and of western thought by comparing the myth with enlightenment. Their work is grounded on the concept that, ‘Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.’

The Frankfurt school were among the first to apply critical theory to mass culture. They explain that magazines, film, radio are all uniform and such control suppresses the individual consciousness.

‘This is the result not of a law of movement in technology as such but of its function in today’s economy. The need which might resist central control has already been suppressed by the control of the individual consciousness. The step from the telephone to the radio has clearly distinguished the roles. The former still allowed the subscriber to play the role of subject, and was liberal. The latter is democratic: it turns all participants into listeners and authoritatively subjects them to broadcast programs which are all exactly the same. No machinery of rejoinder has been devised, and private broadcasters are denied any freedom. They are confined to the apocryphal field of the “amateur,” and also have to accept organisation from above.’ (Horkheime.Adorno)


Macey.D.2000.Critical Theory.

Horkheime.Adorno.1947. Dialectic of Enlightenment.

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In this lecture Graham discussed Gender within modern practices. To further this i will also be looking at race and ideology referring to the social movements, Marxism, colonialism and feminism.

Black Skin, White Masks

Franz Fanon’s Black skin white masks (1952) uses psychoanalytical theory to describe isolation and inadequacy black people have in a white society. It uses psychoanalytical analysis to explain colonial relations. Black Skin White Masks was a major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements. Fanon describes how a black man must wear a white mask to escape the collective concious of a society, creating a fault of a black mans conciousness and his body. Fanon presents a much more unsympathetic reflection of women, and many post-colonial feminists dismiss  his words.

“I have no wish to be the victim of the Fraud of a black world.
My life should not be devoted to drawing up the balance sheet of Negro values.
There is no white world, there is no white ethic, any more than there is a white intelligence
There are in every part of the world men who search.
I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny.
I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introduction invention into existence.
In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.”

Feminism was ‘one of the most important forced in twentieth-century politics and thought, can take many different forms, its common core is the thesis that the relationship between the sexes is one of inequality or oppression’ (Macey.D)

The Beauty Myth

The Beauty Myth (1991) is a book by Naomi Woolf. It examins how modern concepts of beauty in the western word effect women. what Wolf calls ‘beauty pornography’ is the the images of women presented to us in the media that unaccuratly give us an ideology, these images ultimatly oppress us. Wolf explains that there are political and economic forces that mantain this ideological representaion.

“In drawing attention to the physical characteristics of women leaders, they can be dismissed as either too pretty or too ugly. The net effect is to prevent women’s identification with the issues. If the public women is stigmatized as too ‘pretty,’ she’s a threat, a rival–or simply not serious; if derided as too ‘ugly,’ one risks tarring oneself with the same brush by identifying oneself with her agenda.” (Woolf.)

Marxism: ‘ the body of thought associated with and inspired by the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, comprising a system of political economy, a theory of politics and a materialist philosophy of history and nature.’ (Macey.D)

To make Marxist concepts more digestible Graham showed us this RSA animation.


Franz Fanon. 1952. Black skin white masks.

Macey.D. 2000.Dictionary of Critical Theory

Naomi Woolf. 1991.The Beauty Myth.

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In today’s lecture Graham discussed how the foundations of knowledge are challenged through the works of theorists commonly associated with structuralism. I am going to focus on these theorists, looking at the divergence and convergence of their ideas.

Ferdinand de Saussure: Saussure used structural linguists to analyse human culture in a system of signs. The sign has two components; the signifier and the signified.

Barthes: Barthes employed the principles and methods derived from Saussure by looking at the semiology of the process of myth creation. He explained a second-order sign, or connotations. Barthes suggested that this second-order sign are designed to perpetuate society and the current ideologies. This is the naturalisation of cultural artifacts and representation.

Jacques Lacan: As a post fruedian structuralist Lacan’s work features the theory of the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego, identification and language as a system. Like Barthes Lacan suggests that we are not the central point of the universe but evolve around social ideological culture of language. Lacan extends and alters Plato’s theory of the cave to explain the unconscious.

Lacan- Plato's Cave

‘Whenever we arrive at the cave of the unconscious, it is always closing time; the only way we have of gaining access is to be inside already. The structure of the unconscious is knowable only by those who are prepared to admit and espouse its exhaustible capacity for displacement.’ (Strurrock.J)

Jacques Derrida: Unlike the above theorists Derrida is considered a post-structuralist. He interprets and analyses such texts as Plato and Saussure to concentrate on the signifier. In his dealings with philosophical texts Derrida produced a critical account of western thought. Logocenterism or the metaphysics of presence. Logocenterism suggests the limitations of knowledge, that our knowledge is rooted in a superia signifier which

‘nothing is identical with itself; the moment something is thought, said, written or intended, it becomes a trace of itself, no longer itself, no longer present…’ (Fortier.M.)

Julia Kristeva: Alike Derrida, Kristeva is a post-structuralist theorist. Kristeva is heavily influenced by Lacan in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia UP, 1982) Kristeva explains that oppression of women as they can not abject the maternal body.


Fortier M. Theory/Theatre. p.39

J.Strurrock. 1979.Structuralism and Since. pg 119

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