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text 2018-01-11 02:26
Tapping out a third of the way through
Modernity Britain: 1957-1962 - David Kynaston

That I'm moving this to my "DNF" pile isn't a knock on the book; it's every bit as evocative and illuminating as his previous three volumes (even if he dwells a lot on housing). But deadlines are starting to appear and I just don't have the commitment to finish the hundreds of pages still ahead of me,


I'm kicking myself for not starting this last month. I decided to read it after watching season 2 of The Crown (which covers almost exactly the same number of years as this book), and i definitely would have had the momentum then to finish it quickly. Now it will await finishing on a later date -- and reside on my "to read" shelf until then (grr).

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review 2015-04-24 00:00
Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity
Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Moderni... Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity - Barry Bergdoll,Leah Dickerman Director's Foreword, by Glenn D. Lowry
Lenders to the Exhibition
Curator's Preface, by Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman

--Bauhaus Fundaments, Leah Dickerman
--Bauhaus Multiplied: Paradoxes of Architecture and Design in and after the Bauhaus, Barry Bergdoll

--Walter Gropius and Lyonel Feininger: Bauhaus Manifesto. 1919, Charles W. Haxthausen
--Lothar Schreyer: Death House for a Woman. c.1920, Klaus Weber
--Walter Determann: Bauhaus Settlement Weimar. 1920, Marco de Michelis
--Josef Albers: Lattice Picture. 1921, Peter Nisbet
--Marcel Breuer and Gunta Stölzl: "African" Chair. 1921, Christopher Wilk
--Theodor Bogler: Teapots. 1923, Juliet Kinchin
--Unknown Weaver, possibly Else Mögelin Wall Hanging. 1923, T'ai Smith
--Vasily Kandinsky: Designs for Wall Paintings. 1922, Christine Mehring
--László Moholy-Nagy: Constructions in Enamel. 1923, Brigid Doherty
--Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker: Table Lamp. 1923-24, Frederic J. Schwartz
--Joseph Hartwig: Chess Sets. 1922-24, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh
--Alma Buscher: "Ship" Building Toy. 1923, Christine Mehring
--Oskar Schlemmer: Grotesque I. 1923, Paul Paret
--Oskar Schlemmer: Study for the Triadic Ballet. 1924, Paul Paret
--Herbert Bayer: Advertising Structures. 1924-25, Hal Foster
--Color Plans for Architecture. 1925-26, Marco de Michelis
--Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy: Bauhaus Book Series. 1925-30, Adrian Sudhalter
--Herbert Bayer: Designs for "Universal" Lettering. 1925 and 1927, Ellen Lupton
--Gunta Stölzl: 5 Choirs. 1928, T'ai Smith
--László Moholy-Nagy: Photograms, Michael W. Jennings
--Marcel Breuer: Club Chair, Frederic J. Schwartz
--Lucia Moholy: Photograph of Georg Muche. 1927, Matthew S. Witkovsky
--Marianne Brandt: Our Unnerving City. 1926, Matthew S. Witkovsky
--Hannes Meyer: German Trade Unions School, Bernau. 1928-30, Detlef Mertins
--Exercises for Color Theory Courses, Hal Foster
--László Moholy-Nagy: Light Prop for an Electric Stage. 1930, Alex Potts
--Wallpaper Design, Juliet Kinchin
--Paul Klee: Fire in the Evening. 1929, Alex Potts
--Pius Pahl: House C. 1932-33, Detlef Mertins
--Oskar Schlemmer: Bauhaus Stairway. 1932, Andreas Huyssen

--14 Years Bauhaus: A Chronicle, Adrian Sudhalter with Research Contributions by Dara Kiese

Photograph Credits
Trustees of The Museum of Modern Art
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text 2015-02-21 07:09
Notes: Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman

The Duty to Remember--But What?: Afterword to the 2000 Edition

- The precept of staying alive as the sole thing that counts, as the supreme value that dwarfs all other values, is among the most tempting, and the most common, interpretations of the lesson of the Holocaust.

- Soon after the end of the war psychiatrists coined the concept of survivor's guilt--a complex psychical ailment which they ascribed to the survivors' asking themselves why they had stayed alive when so many of their near and dear had perished. According to that interpretation, the joy of escaping death was permanently and incurably poisoned among the survivors by uncertainty about the propriety of sailing safe out of the sea of perdition--with disastrous consequences for the survivors will to live and to succeed in life after their rescue.

- In the course of time the "guilt" aspect, so prominent in the original diagnoses, has been progressively exorcised from the model of the "survival complex", leaving behind the pure and unalloyed, unambiguous and no longer contested approval of self-preservation for self-preservation's sake. It is just the haunting pain left by the sufferings that staying alive required that is now blamed for the persistence of the "syndrome".

- Such a shift brings us dangerously close to the spine-chilling image of the survivor as painted by Elias Canetti--as the person for whom "the most elementary and obvious form of success is to remain alive". At the far end of the obsession, Canetti's survivor wants to kill so that he can survive others; he wants to stay alive so as not to have others surviving him...

- The lessons of the Holocaust are reduced for popular consumption to a simple formula, "who strikes first, survives"; or to an even simpler one, "the stronger lives". The awesome, two-pronged legacy of the Holocaust is, on the one hand, the tendency to treat survival as the sole, or at any rate the topmost value and purpose of life, and, on the other, to the positing of issue of survival as that of competition for a scarce resource, and so of survival itself as a site of conflict between incompatible interests--a kind of conflict in which the success of some depends on the defeat of others in the race to survive.

- The ethics of hereditary victimhood reverses the logic of the law: the accused remain criminals until proved innocent.

- The pernicious legacy of the Holocaust is that today's persecutors may inflict new pains and create new generations of victims eagerly awaiting their chance to do the same, while acting under the conviction that they are avenging yesterday's pain and warding off the pains of tomorrow; while being convinced, in other words, that ethics is on their side.

The most important lesson of Holocaust is that in our modern society people who are neither morally corrupt nor prejudiced may also still partake with vigour and dedication in the destruction of targeted categories of human beings; and that their participation, far from calling for mobilization of their moral or any other convictions, demands on the contrary their suspension, obliteration and irrelevance.

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text 2015-02-19 23:30
Notes: Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman

Chapter 8
Afterthought: Rationality and Shame

- Terror remains effective as long as the balloon of rationality has not been pricked. The most sinister, cruel, bloody-minded ruler must remain a staunch preacher and defender of rationality--or perish. Addressing his subjects, he must 'speak to reason'. He must protect reason, eulogize on the virtues of the calculus of costs and effects, defend logic against passions and values which, unreasonably, do not count costs and refuse to obey logic. By and large, all rulers can count on rationality being on their side. But the Nazi rulers, additionally, twisted the stakes of the game so that the rationality of survival would render all other motives of human action irrational. Inside the Nazi-made world, reason was the enemy of morality. Logic required consent to crime. Rational defence of one's survival called for non-resistance to the other's destruction. This rationality pitched the sufferers against each other and obliterated their joint humanity. Graciously, the noble creed of rationality absolved both the victims and the bystanders from the charge of immorality and from guilty conscience. Having reduced human life to the calculus of self-preservation, this rationality robbed human life of humanity.

- The lesson of the Holocaust is the facility with which most people, put into a situation that does not contain a good choice, or renders such a good choice very costly, argue themselves away from the issue of moral duty (or fail to argue themselves towards it), adopting instead the precepts of rational interest and self-preservation. In a system where rationality and ethics point in opposite directions, humanity is the main loser. Evil needs neither enthusiastic followers nor an applauding audience--the instinct of self-preservation will do.- The second lesson of the Holocaust is that putting self-preservation above moral duty is in no way predetermined, inevitable and inescapable. One can be pressed to do it, but one cannot be forced to do it, and thus one cannot really shift the responsibility for doing it on to those who exerted the pressure. It does not matter how many people chose moral duty over the rationality of self-preservation--what does matter is that some did. Evil is not all-powerful. It can be resisted. The testimony of the few who did resist shatters the authority of the logic of self-preservation. It shows it for what it is in the end--a choice.

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text 2015-02-19 08:22
Notes: Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman

Chapter 7: Towards a Sociological Theory of Morality

- Durkheim (whose treatment of moral phenomena turned into the canon of sociological wisdom, and virtually defined the meaning of the specifically sociological approach to the study of morality) debunks all pretentions that there is substance in evil other than its rejection by a force powerful enough to make its will into a binding rule. But the warm patriot and devout believer in the superiority and progress of civilized life cannot but feel that what has been rejected is indeed evil, and that the rejection must have been an emancipating and dignifying act.

- The appearance of immoral conduct is understood as the manifestation of pre-social or a-social drives bursting out from their socially manufactured cages, or escaping enclosure in the first place. Immoral conduct is always a return to a pre-social state, or a failure to depart from it.

- This theory of morality concedes the right of society to impose its own substantive version of moral behaviour; and concurs with the practice in which social authority claims the monopoly of moral judgement. It tacitly accepts the theoretical illegitimacy of all judgements that are not grounded in the exercise of such monopoly; so that for all practical intents and purposes moral behaviour becomes synonymous with social conformity and obedience to the norms observed by the majority.

- In the aftermath of the Holocaust, legal practice, and thus also moral theory, faced the possibility that morality may manifest itself in insubordination towards socially upheld principles, and in an action openly defying social solidarity and consensus. For sociological theory, the very idea of pre-social grounds of moral behaviour augurs the necessity of a radical revision of traditional interpretations of the origins of the sources of moral norms and their obligatory power.

- Hannah Arendt had articulated the question of moral responsibility for resisting socialization. The moot issue of the social foundations of morality had been cast aside; whatever the solution offered to that issue, the authority and binding force of the distinction between good and evil cannot be legitimized by reference to social powers which sanction and enforce it. Even if condemned by the group--by all groups, as a matter of fact--individual conduct may still be moral; an action recommended by society--even by the whole of the society in unison--may still be immoral.

- The socially enforced moral systems are communally based and promoted--and hence in a pluralist, heterogeneous world, irreparably relative. This relativism, however, does not apply to human "ability to tell right from wrong". Such an ability must be grounded in something other than the conscience collective of society.

- The process of socialization consists in the manipulation of moral capacity--not in its production. And the moral capacity that is manipulated entails not only certain principles which later become a passive object of social processing; it includes as well the ability to resist, escape and survive the processing, so that at the end of the day the authority and the responsibility for moral choices rests where they resided at the start: with the human person. If this view of moral capacity is accepted, the apparently resolved and closed problems of the sociology of morality are thrown wide open again. The issue of morality must be relocated; from the problematics of socialization, education or civilization--in other words, from the realm of socially administered "humanizing processes"--it ought to be shifted to the area of repressive, pattern-maintaining and tension-managing processes and institutions, as one of the "problems" they are designed to handle and accommodate or transform. The moral capacity--the object, but not the product of such processes and institutions--would then have to disclose its alternative origin.

- Once the explanation of moral tendency as a conscious or unconscious drive towards the solution of the "Hobbesian problem" is rejected, the factors responsible for the presence of moral capacity must be sought in the social, but not societal sphere. Moral behaviour is conceivable only in the context of coexistence, of "being with others", that is, a social context; but it does not owe its appearance to the presence of supra-individual agencies of training and enforcement, that is, of a societal context.

- Emmanuel Levinas describes the existential condition of "being with others" with a quotation from Dostoyevsky: "We are all responsible for all and for all men before all, and I more than all the others."

- According to Levinas, responsibility is the essential, primary and fundamental structure of subjectivity. Responsibility, which means "responsibility for the Other", and hence a responsibility "for what is not my deed, or for what does not even matter to me". This existential responsibility, the only meaning of subjectivity, of being a subject, has nothing to do with contractual obligation. Because of what my responsibility is not, I do not bear it as a burden. I become responsible while I constitute myself into a subject. Becoming responsible is the constitution of me as a subject. Hence it is my affair, and mine only.

- Responsibility being the existential mode of the human subject, morality is the primary structure of intersubjective relation in its most pristine form, unaffected by any non-moral factors (like interest, calculation of benefit, rational search for optimal solutions, or surrender to coercion). The substance of morality being a duty towards the other (as distinct from an obligation), and a duty which precedes all interestedness--the roots of morality reach well beneath societal arrangements, like structures of domination or culture. Societal processes start when the structure of morality (tantamount to intersubjectivity) is already there. Morality is not a product of society. Morality is something society manipulates--exploits, redirects, jams.

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