Surrealist sabotage and the war on work is an art-historical study devoted to international surrealism’s critique of wage labour and its demand for non-alienated work between the 1920s and the 1970s. The Introduction and Chapter 1 frame the genealogy of surrealism’s work refusal in relation to its inter-war investment in ultra-left politics, its repudiation of French nationalism, and the early twentieth-century development of sabotage theory in the labour movement. Chapter 2 proposes an interpretation of surrealist automatism in 1920s France as a subversion of disciplined production in the emerging information society and also reperformance of feminised information labour. Chapter 3 is a study of autoeroticism and autonomy in Spanish surrealist Óscar Domínguez’s depictions of women’s work tools, such as the sewing machine and the typewriter, in works of art across media during the 1930s. Chapter 4 provides a historical account of labour activism in Chicago surrealism during the 1960s and 1970s, including an analysis of the Chicago surrealist epistolary exchange with German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. An Epilogue considers the paintings that German surrealist Konrad Klapheck made depicting sewing machines, typewriters, and other tools of information labour during the 1960s, in conjunction with related works by other surrealists such as Giovanna. As a whole, Surrealist sabotage and the war on work demonstrates that international surrealism critiqued wage labour symbolically, theoretically, and politically, through works of art, aesthetics theories, and direct actions meant to effect immediate social intervention.
Critical theory once offered a powerful, distinctive approach to social research, enabling sociologists to diagnose the irrationalities of the social world across institutions and forms of thought, even within the subject’s deepest desires. Yet, with the work of Axel Honneth, such analytical potency has been lost. The ‘domestication’ of critical theory stems from the programme’s embrace of Honneth’s ‘recognition-cognitivist’ understanding of social problems; where all social maladies are understood to lie, ultimately, within the head of social subjects and within the intersubjective relationships they enact. This book explores the manifold limitations of this dominant understanding of social pathologies and builds towards an alternate theoretical infrastructure, drawn from a marriage of insights from Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. While Honneth’s critical theory leads to researchers exploring all social problems as ‘pathologies of recognition’, a return to Fromm and Marcuse reminds critical theorists that power precedes subjectivation and that a wide range of pressing social problems exists which are invisible to the recognition framework. As such, this book urges critical theorists to once again think beyond recognition.
potential power of these subjects rather than just the effectiveness of the system that is the primary concern.’ 6 From within that radical tradition, this study is particularly indebted to the work of Herbert Marcuse for coordinates towards conceptualising revolutionary forms of consciousness and the related task of reconceptualising sexual freedom. Below and in Chapter 1 , I discuss some of his concepts which I have found most useful for thinking with. Here though we might just note that Marcuse follows Wilde in
in Chapter 3 ), I suggest rebuilding pathology diagnosing social research on Erich Fromm’s insight that the very ‘normalcy’ of today’s social world is itself deeply pathological. While Fromm’s account holds remarkable potential, in this chapter I bring it into dialogue with the writings of his contemporary, and erstwhile rival, Herbert Marcuse
argue that one way this can be achieved is through a nuanced reconstruction of Erich Fromm’s and Herbert Marcuse’s social theory. Renewing critical theory matters as it offers the vehicle for an explicitly normative critique of the social world, precisely when the subject’s capacity for, and inclination towards, critical thought is waning. Yet, as Marcuse wrote in his preface to One Dimensional Man
1966. According to Rosemont, ‘To be effective, the struggle to abolish work must become conscious, vocal, public, organized, and international.’ 2 She invokes Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s mid-nineteenth-century call for the abolition of alienated labour and André Breton’s 1956 condemnation of miserabilism as the ‘deprecation of reality in place of its exaltation’. 3 Rosemont devotes particular attention to Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s notions of the ‘pleasure principle’, the
shiny dreamworld of the automobile showroom. In 1944, Elizabeth Bowen had observed Blitz survivors piecing themselves together by collecting old fragments from the rubble; in 1964, Herbert Marcuse noted: ‘The people recognise themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment.’ 8 One-Dimensional Man , his influential study of consumerism and its ability to penetrate the personal, shows how the new became more important than the old during the intervening decades, yet his
us. 4 Max Horkheimer, ‘Die Philosophie I. Kants und die Aufklärung’, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=KyP6li6AnE0, accessed 29 September 2012. 5 Herbert Marcuse, ‘Im Gespräch’, www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5PU0EASi_Q, accessed 22 October 2012. 6 Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (eds), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (New York: Continuum, 1998), 6. 7 For Horkheimer the state of knowledge of a society defines what each society considers or recognizes as ideological and, moreover, converts it into a supposedly common sense knowledge, which, because of its ideological
all it will tell us; it may also make visible the damage we live with in the present’. 43 Centrally, Behan's and Genet's eroticised idealisation of youthful delinquency – youth irreconcilable with the demands of productive and reproductive mature masculinity – offers a symbolic critique of the dominant temporality of capitalist modernity. Along with Wilde and Genet, a third coordinate for grasping the radical potential of Behan's style of writing homoeroticism is Herbert Marcuse's Eros and
have also been influenced to some degree by the works of Herbert Marcuse, whose Fourier-indebted theories about libidinal work relations in Eros and Civilization were acknowledged by the Paris surrealists by the early 1960s, in some measure because, as we saw in Chapter 4 , Breton himself was quoted there. As Georges Sebbag explained, post-World War II surrealism was profoundly influenced by Fourier’s vision of a future society of ‘luxury and abundance’ and ‘free and harmonious association’, based on a