- Series: MIT Press
- Paperback: 386 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (March 7, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262523310
- ISBN-13: 978-0262523318
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West Reprint Edition
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From Kirkus Reviews
Buck-Morss (The Dialectics of Seeing, 1989) turns her Benjaminian eye on the often surprising convergence of the Western and Soviet utopian imaginaries, to dazzling effect. Reading this book is like receiving a fascinating annotated scrapbook from your really smart friend in Moscow. From 1988 to 1993, Buck-Morss was a visiting scholar there, at what was first called the Institute of Philosophy of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The fact that, by the end of her tenure, it was known as the Russian Academy of Sciences attests to the ideological turbulence of those years and to the dynamism and relevance of her task. Buck-Morss's previous book was a daring attempt to reverse-engineer Walter Benjamins Paris Arcades Project out of the more than one thousand fragments left behind at his death. If Benjamin's project was, as he put it, ``concerned with awakening from the nineteenth century,'' Buck-Morss's current undertaking is a none-too-gentle attempt to shake us out of the nightmare that has been our 20th. The scope of her research, often breathtaking, more than justifies a certain measure of methodological madness: with an irreverent collagist sensibility worthy of the high modernism at issue here, she nimbly leaps from a blackly hilarious and terrifying chronology of the policy decisions surrounding Lenin's embalming, to a mini-history of the figure of the square in avant-garde art on both sides of the Cold War, to a visual pun that compares the architectural sketch for a never-built ``Palace of the Supreme Soviets,'' topped by a monumental Lenin statue, with a film still of King Kong atop the Empire State Building. There's even an early-1990s attempt at ``hypertext'': scholarly footnotes that threaten to overtake the page. This experiment, however, works less well than those parts of the book that devote themselves to a clear-eyed reading of the visual detritus of mass culture. An ambitious book with the courage to take on the images that complacent post-capitalism might prefer to forget, and the erudition to read them with rigor and wit. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Reading the dominant narrative of Western triumphalism after 1989 against the grain, Susan Buck-Morss reaches back to the moment when the dreamworlds of mass utopia were not yet revealed as recipes for disaster. Boldly blasting their residues into new constellations of fragile hope, she unsettles our conventional wisdom about the lessons of the 20th century and provides arresting new ways to think about the possibilities of the 21st.(Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley)
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The second half of the book, a kind of diary of cross-cultural US/Soviet cultural exchanges prior to and after the Berlin Wall, is interesting but less intellectually energizing. Still, there is a great deal of wit in Ms. Buck-Morss's observation that Western Marxist critics such as Frederick Jameson (who attended some of the same seminars with Soviet intellectuals that Buck-Morss did) seem less willing to give up on the socialist dreamscape than their Soviet counterparts.
A great companion read is Michael Hardt's and Antonio Negri's "Empire" which really has an interesting take on the near simultaneous end of Fordism and the disciplinary state in both the U.S. and Soviet Union. They suggest it was the "multitude" or proletariat in both nations who rebelled against the industrial factory/modern project and destabilized both, an argument which runs counter to the usual top-down explanations for the rise of postmodern economics.
Interesting how we're told these days that the Soviets, now suffering in the hot bath of capitalism, are nostalgic for the certainty of the Daddy Stalin years. Perhaps their nostalgia is not so different than Baby Boomer Americans' nostalgia for the lost innocence of the early 50s/60s, the Golden Age of American economic hegemony, before the New Deal project finally collapsed. Now that the veil has dropped it seems we had a lot more in common with "them"(us) than we ever thought we did. And still do!