Sunday, 15 January 2012


The nature of this sadness stands out more clearly if one asks with whom the adherents of historicism actually empathize. The answer is inevitable: with the victor. And all the rulers are the heirs of those who conquered before them. Hence, empathy with the victor invariably benefits the rulers. Historical materialists know what that means. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession. They are called cultural treasures, and a historical materialist views them with cautious detachment. For without exception the cultural treasures he surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another.A historical materialist therefore dissociates himself from it as far as possible. He regards it as his task to brush history against the grain.

Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

South American Modernism

"In the city’s San Francisco Valley, these slums, where nearly half of Caraqueños live, dramatically run up against a series of gargantuan buildings with punchy red, yellow, blue, and white facades cut out from the hillside—superbloques. Each of these housing projects is forty meters tall and over eighty meters long. Nearly swallowed by ranchos, they are vestiges of modernist urbanism long since colonized by the realities of twentieth-century Caracas."

- Joshua Bauchner, The City That Built Itself