modernization in Mars & Medak 2019

mmodification into care, we detect a
radical gesture comparable to that of the historical avant-garde. To better understand how
the university and the public library ended up in this crisis, we re-trace their development
starting with the capitalist modernization around the turn of the 20th century, a period of
accelerated technological innovation that also birthed historical avant-garde. Drawing on
Perry Anderson’s ‘Modernity and Revolution’, we interpret that uniquely creative period
as a period of am

adical transformation were
historically changing, bringing us to the present conjuncture where the library
and the university can reclaim the legacy of the avant-gardes by seemingly doing
its exact opposite: refusing innovation.

1917 – Industrial modernization,
revolutionary subjectivity




In his text on ‘Modernity and Revolution’ Perry Anderson (1984) provides an
unexpected, yet the cogent explanation of the immense explosion of artistic
creativity in the short span of ti

ere still in their promising
infancy and not fully integrated into the exigencies of capitalist accumulation and
3) a fundamental ambivalence vis-à-vis the future social formation – capitalism or
socialism, state or soviet – that the process of modernization would eventually
lead to. As Anderson summarizes:
European modernism in the first years of this century thus flowered in the space
between a still usable classical past, a still indeterminate technical present, and a
still unpredictable political fut

e transformations. In the spirit of the October Revolution, its
revolutionary subjectivity approached social reality as eminently transformable.
And yet, a recurrent concern of artists was with the practical challenges and
innovations of accelerated modernization: how to control, coordinate and socially
integrate the immense expansionary forces of early industrialization. This was an
invitation to insert one’s own radical visions into life and create new forms of
standardization and rationality that would b

divested from the radical gestures and
has assumed a relation to the transformation of social reality that is much more
complicated than its erstwhile cohort in disruptive change – technological
innovation – continues to offer. If technological modernization and the avantgarde were traveling companions at the turn of the twentieth century, after the
WWII they gradually parted their ways. While the avant-garde rather critically
inflects what capitalist modernity is doing at a particular moment of its

wing labor power at home and decolonization abroad make the leading
capitalist economies increasingly struggle to keep profits rates at levels of the
previous two decades. Socialist economies struggle to overcome the initial
disadvantages of belated modernization and instill the discipline over labor in
order to compete in the dual world-system. It is still a couple of years before the
first oil crisis will break out and the neo-liberal retrenchment begin.
The revolutionary subjectivity of 1917 is now replace

no rate of technological change can realistically
mitigate (Loftus et al., 2015). Betting on settling on Mars is equally plausible.

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So, if the avant-garde has at the beginning of the 20th century responded to the
mutations of early modernization, in the 1960s to the integrated spectacle of the
mature capitalism, where is the avant-garde in the present?
Before we try to address the question, we need to return to our two public
institutions of mass education and research – the university and


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