One for whom I have no debt

Lying awake at night I pondered that oft-quoted line of Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘I am responsible for everything, except for my very responsibility’. In a moment of gripped curiosity I reached for a phone, laptop or anything connected to the Wi-Fi in order to google the reference. Yes there it was, but it was, like almost

Crown of Thorns III: Soteriology in British Biopolitics

When a public figure—tasked with the democratic, modern liberal job of holding government to account on behalf of the people—instead openly and publicly expresses the eugenic question of whom the government should let die for the sake of the economy, then it has become clear just how far the public sphere has shifted from being

Microscopic image of Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Crown of Thorns pt. I: A Viral Outbreak of Plenitude

Here we are, politicising a health crisis. And here we are repeating the obvious: a crisis, of any kind, is already a lens in which politics invariably appears, usually clarified, sometimes magnified, and always polarising. The global pandemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoV-2 (popularly Covid-19 or Coronavirus) is exactly such a lens.

Fig. 1: A View of the Temple of Comus in Vauxhall Gardens, 1751, coloured engraving by Johann Sebastian Müller

Space and Gesture: researching Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

With the ‘urban renaissance’ of the eighteenth century came new forms of sociality which included unprecedented levels of social mixing.1 One of the spaces in which these forms occurred is the pleasure garden, and this literature review collates varying perspectives on Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in the mid eighteenth century. While Vauxhall has been studied far

Emblems VIII

I’ll tell you who I want, what I really really want.

In the 14th Century a man named Francesco Petrarca, surprised at the sophistication and subtlety of the classical works he was beginning to read, came to feel that he was living in a dark age. Petrarch could not have known that six centuries later a similar feeling would wash across the academic world; a feeling

From Faded Glory to Sadism

Cruelty and vulgarity are being normalised as acceptable forms of entertainment. I accept that entertainment has by its very nature a dark side — which I will admit to enjoying up to a certain point. We have invented collocations and terms like ‘biting wit’ and ‘mordant perspicuity’ to cover this ancient tradition of enjoying a

Moonlight, Shadows

A lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on

Mark Twain probably never said this. It’s another case of the Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect, or if you prefer, the Mandela Effect, or still again, cultural mnemohistory (this is my preferred term). It’s strangely ‘meta’ then that the saying describes its own social genesis as a saying. Knowledge spreads, with many loud and knowledgeable people

Joseph Mallord William Turner, English - The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834 - Google Art Project

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

The Need-Fire (alt. Force-Fire, meaning ‘forced fire’) tradition depended on a structure of exception. In a superstition widely chronicled across Old Europe it was popularly believed that the efficacy of the need-fire (to cure ills, to establish normality where sickness — of animals, relations, etc — had taken hold) depended on the extinguishment of all

Postcapitalism: yes, but which one?

Today no-one can in good conscience doubt that we are heading for a postcapitalist future. The question is what form this future will take. The old market-driven dream of competitive private individual entrepreneurialism is dead in the water, but the new tendency has not been towards socialisation but towards massive monopolistic rentism.