cosmopolitanism


…Frank Loyd Wright['s] design for Broadacre City … was based both on his wholesome appreciation of the hygienic and domestic values of rural life, and his Jeffersonian contempt for the many-sided corporate and institutional life of the city. In the name of the first, he was ready to shrink the acreage of productive soils and break down the special human values of the rural landscape, with the functional divisions of meadow, pasture, and woodland, of cultivated land and wild land, in order to give every house and family a subsistence garden; and he was no less ready to break down the natural coagulations of life in villages and country towns, in a new fashion that made every social activity call for long distance transportation and therefore the incessant use of the motor car….The high price of such remote lots automatically turns the farmer into a real-estate speculator, and results, as in California, in the slaughter of orchards, vineyards, and market gardens that once gave both health and delight–to say nothing of fresh food–to the nearby urban communities.

… the anti-city combines two contradictory and almost irreconcilable aspects of modern civilization: an expanding economy that calls for the constant employment of the machine (motor car, radio, television, telephone, automated factory, and assembly line) to secure both both full production and a minimal counterfeit of normal social life; and as a necessary offset to these demands, an effort to escape from the over-regulated routines, the impoverished personal choices, the monotonous prospects of this regime by daily withdrawal to a private rural asylum, where bureaucratic compulsions give way to exurban relaxation and permissiveness, in a purely family environment as much unlike the metropolis as possible. Thus the anti-city produces an illusory image of freedom at the very moment all the screws of organization are being tightened….

Because the anti-city is by nature fragmentary, any part can be built by anybody anywhere at any time. This is the ideal formula for promoting total urban disintegration.

Not the least factor in this development, certainly in America, is the persistent residue of the curious pioneer belief in space and mobility as a panacea for the ills of social life…. [which] is the current doctrine of space for space’s sake…. This has become the “space age” with a vengeance: in architecture space has become a substitute for urbane design….

No secondary modes of intercourse, neither the printed page, the telephone, nor television, can take the place of that direct face-to-face intercourse whose occasions the city, when it remains close to the human scale, multiplies. Without an urban container deliberately planned for such intercourse, the dominant economic and technical pressures of our time tend to form a multitude of over-specialized, non-cooperating, and non-communicating enclaves, whose spatial remoteness and social segregation favor the totalitarian automatism of our time….

Though the isolated institutional parts might be as hyper-productive as those computers whose data is already too abundant to be assembled and interpreted, the cultural creativity that fosters further human development is bound to drop, within a generation or two, toward zero.

– Lewis Mumford, “The Megalopolis as Anti-City” [c.1962-3]. In Jeanne M. Davern (ed.). Lewis Mumford. Architecture as a Home for Man: Essays for Architectural Record. New York: Architectural Record Books, 1975, pp. 121-128.

“[In our era] the computer screen [becomes] the ultimate window, but a window [that] not so much allow[s] you to receive data as to view the horizon of globalization, the space of  its accelerated virtualization…”

Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2000), 16.

Let us … look at that land, where, although not perhaps its birthplace, the cinema found the soil in which to grow to unprecedented and unimagined dimensions.

We know from whence the cinema appeared first as a worldwide phenomenon. We know the inseparable link between the cinema and the industrial development of America. We know how production, art and literature reflect the capitalist breadth and construction of the United States of America. And we also know that American capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive forms in the American cinema….

[Yet] in the [American] metropolis, … the high-powered automobiles are so jammed together that they can’t move much faster than snails creeping from block to block …. As you make your merely minute progress amidst a tightly packed glacier of other humans, sitting in similarly high-powered and imperceptibly moving machines, you have plenty of time to ponder the duality behind the dynamic face of America, and the profound interdependence of this duality in everybody and everything American…. as your eyes wander over the smooth surfaces of the skyscrapers …. you suddenly realize what “trick” the skyscrapers play on you: although they have many floors, each floor is quite low. Immediately the soaring skyscraper appears to have been built of a number of small-town buildings, piled up on top of each other….

The threads of both Americas are interwoven in the style and personality of [D.W.] Griffith–as in the most fantastic of his own parallel montage sequences.

– Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Translated by Jay Leyda. New York: Harcourt, 1979, pp. 195-198.

The power of superior intelligence rests upon the communistic character of its quality: because, in terms of its content, intelligence is universally valid and everywhere effective and recognized, the mere quantity of intellectual endowment of the individual confers a more unconditional advantage than can any more individual possession, which, because of its individuality, cannot be universally used or cannot find some domain for itself anywhere in the practical world.

– Georg Simmel. The Philosophy of Money. Trans. David Frisby.  3rd enl. ed. London ; New York: Routledge, 2004: 438.

… the world is a multiplicity of worlds, and its unity is the mutual sharing and exposition of all its worlds—
within this world.

– Jean-Luc Nancy. Being Singular Plural. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000: 185.

Why is ending the silence on Hegel and Haiti important? Given Hegel’s ultimate concession to slavery’s continuance–moreover, given the fact that Hegel’s philosophy of history has provided for two centuries a justification for the most complacent forms of Eurocentrism (Hegel was perhaps always a cultural racist if not a biological one)–why is it of more than arcane interest to retrieve from oblivion this fragment of history, the truth of which has managed to slip away from us? There are many possible answers, but one is surely the potential for rescuing the idea of universal human history from the uses to which white domination has put it. If the historical facts about freedom can be ripped out of the narratives told by the victors and salvaged for our own time, then the project of universal freedom does not need to be discarded but, rather, redeemed and reconstituted on a different basis. Hegel’s moment of clarity of thought would need to be juxtaposed to that of others at the time: Toussaint-Louverture, Wordsworth, the Abbe Gregoire, even Dessalines. For all his brutality and revenge against whites, Dessalines saw the realities of European racism most clearly. Even more, Hegel’s moment would need to be juxtaposed to the moments of clarity in action: the French soldiers sent by Napoleon to the colony who, upon hearing these former slaves singing the “Marseillaise,” wondered aloud if they were not fighting on the wrong side; the Polish regiment under Leclerc’s command who disobeyed orders and refused to drown six hundred captured Saint-Domiguans. There are many examples of such clarity, and they belong to no side, no one group exclusively. What if every time that the consciousness of individuals surpassed the confines of present constellations of power in perceiving the concrete meaning of freedom, this were valued as a moment, however transitory, of the realization of absolute spirit? What other silences would need to be broken? What undisciplined stories would be told?

– Susan Buck-Morss. “Hegel and Haiti.” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 4 (2000): 864-65.

The Hagley Library Postcards of Motels and Roadside Attractions Collection includes the postcard “Greetings from California” circa 1941. On the back of the card are the words, “California’s famous orange industry produced forty-six million boxes of this golden fruit last year. The large Navel orange (seedless) is a native of California, and prized the world over for its fine flavor.

Description on back of a postcard of “Plaza in China City, Los Angeles” circa 1930: “Interesting shops displaying everything from genuine Chinese art to curios and firecrackers, and numerous restaurants serving delicately flavored Chinese food, attract throngs of visitors to China City, in Los Angeles.” Found in the Hagley Library Postcards of Motels and Roadside Attractions Collection.

“There is no exquisite beauty,” says Bacon, “without some strangeness in the proportions.” The philosopher had reference, here, to beauty in its common acceptation; but the remark is equally applicable to all the forms of beauty — that is to say, to everything which arouses profound interest in the heart or intellect of man. In every such thing, strangeness — in other words novelty — will be found a principal element; and so universal is this law that it has no exception even in the case of this principal element itself. Nothing, unless it be novel — not even novelty itself — will be the source of very intense excitement among men. Thus the ennyue who travels in the hope of dissipating his ennui by the perpetual succession of novelties, will invariably be disappointed in the end. He receives the impression of novelty so continuously that it is at length no novelty to receive it. And the man, in general, of the nineteenth century — more especially of our own particular epoch of it — is very much in the predicament of the traveller in question. We are so habituated to new inventions, that we no longer get from newness the vivid interest which should appertain to the new — and no example could be adduced more distinctly showing that the mere importance of a novelty will not suffice to gain for it universal attention, than we find in the invention of Anastatic Printing. It excites not one fiftieth part of the comment which was excited by the comparatively frivolous invention of Sennefelder; — but he lived in the good old days when a novelty was novel. Nevertheless, while Lithography opened the way for a very agreeable pastime, it is the province of Anastatic Printing to revolutionize the world.

By means of this discovery anything written, drawn, or printed, can be made to stereotype itself, with absolute accuracy, in five minutes.

….

The value of every book is a compound of its literary value and its physical or mechanical value as the product of physical labor applied to the physical material. But at present the latter value immensely predominates, even in the works of the most esteemed authors. It will be seen, however, that the new condition of things will at once give the ascendency to the literary value, and thus by their literary values will books come to be estimated among men. The wealthy gentleman of elegant leisure will lose the vantage-ground now afforded him, and will be forced to tilt on terms of equality with the poor devil author. At present the literary world is a species of anomalous Congress, in which the majority of the members are constrained to listen in silence while all the eloquence proceeds from a privileged few. In the new regime, the humblest will speak as often and as freely as the most exalted, and will be sure of receiving just that amount of attention which the intrinsic merit of their speeches may deserve.

– Edgar Allan Poe, “Anastatic Printing,” Broadway Journal, April 12, 1845, 1:229-231

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