Bert Olivier

The capitalist

One gets a clue regarding the status of the capitalist subject in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (1987: 457-458) where the downside of capitalism is put in clearer perspective than in Anti-Oedipus (where capital is depicted as a gigantic “body-without-organs” to which “desiring-machines” attach themselves intermittently, at different points – something that lends itself…

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The art paradox

Theodor Adorno captured the paradoxical nature of art nicely when he remarked that it goes without saying that nothing about art goes without saying. What his observation does not make explicit (although it is implied) is that art’s paradoxical character lends itself to being elaborated upon by identifying several paradoxes at the heart of this…

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The genius of Foucault

Few 20th century thinkers have provided as much food for thought on the humanities and the social sciences (that is, the “human sciences”) as Michel Foucault. And the way he does it rescues the human sciences from those uninformed people who contrast them with the so-called “hard (natural) sciences”, the object-field of which – as…

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What Lacan can teach us about capitalism

Jacques Lacan’s theory of discourse is every bit as heuristically powerful as Michel Foucault’s, and in some respects more sophisticated and subtle, although the two theories are compatible. Broadly speaking, Foucault thinks of discourse as language in so far as it bears the imprint of (conflicting) interests – which means that discourse is inseparable from…

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The technology and theology of ‘Battlestar Galactica’

One of my all-time favourite science-fiction series, Ronald D Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, which ran for four seasons in the US – from 2003 to 2009 – and was an expansion of and imaginative re-elaboration on the Glen Larson 1978 television series by the same name, is much more than meets the eye. This is true…

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Farewell, my queen, farewell greed

The French Revolution, triggered by the storming of the Bastille in 1789, was an “event” in Badiou’s sense of a history-changing occurrence made possible by a large number of individuals acting in concert to achieve a certain goal. This event is vividly brought to life – albeit from a distance – in Benoit Jacquot’s wonderfully…

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The ‘crystals’ of time

It seems to me undeniable that the human sciences – short for the social sciences and the humanities – are facing a crisis of perceived irrelevance in a world suffused in unreflective technophilia and, concomitantly, indifference to the potential value of the humanistic knowledge represented by, and archived in these sciences. Among the many ways…

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Lennon and Laing – kindred spirits

John Lennon and RD Laing – two individuals who worked in entirely different cultural fields; the one a singer, songwriter and pop star, the other a psychiatrist (perhaps experimental psychiatrist), writer and radical thinker of the left. What they had in common, was arguably the fact that they were both utopian visionaries, and both were…

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Prague on the Vltava

New York used to be my favourite city, until I discovered Istanbul. Along the way I visited Prague (in 1999), and was fleetingly charmed by this Bohemian city on the Vltava, but my experience was vitiated by the stifling rationalism of the social theory conference I was attending at the time, where the Rawls and…

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For the love of church architecture

Visiting a city as old and history-rich as Prague is indescribably rewarding for an architecture lover because the history of western architecture from the early Middle Ages until the 20th century is graphically inscribed in its urban texture. Romanesque architecture stands side by side with Gothic, baroque and even — incongruously, when it comes to…

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