In 1972, Robert Venturi helped us to “learn from Las Vegas”, and architecture was no longer the same. Since more than two decades, Kenneth Goldsmith forces us to rethink writing, and one cannot insist enough on the necessity to learn from him.
Some questions in life cut across traditional divisions in academia. What is culture? Who is the global citizen, if he exists at all? What is considered progress and decay in our society? Such questions lie at the heart of the values held by all human kind. They cannot be ‘owned’ by a particular discipline. They are deeply personal, and yet shared.
There are many reasons to consider this book, for now alas only available in a hardback, library-only version, the most important publication in cultural studies of the year 2015.
The founding father of situationism, a highly politicized neo-avant-garde movement that is said to have played a decisive role in the May 68 turmoil and author of the influential essay The Society of the Spectacle, Guy-Ernest Debord is considered one of the most important French thinkers of the second half of the 20th Century.
Since Michel Foucault described how life as such became the object of political attention, planning and intervention – a phenomenon he called biopolitics – his theories have attracted a large amount of academic and non-academic interest. The ideas Foucault developed later in his life have become much more accessible because of the recent publication and translation of his lectures at the Collège de France.
One of Cultural Studies more interesting scholars is Andrew Ross. Besides being an activist, being infamously involved in the Sokal affair (physicist Alan Sokal managed to get a nonsensical article published in the journal with Ross on the editorial board), and being brave enough to ethnographically immerse himself in the life of “Celebration, Florida”, a constructed town by the Disney corporation (as an alternative form of post-Sokal sabbatical reorientation), he also wrote quite a famous book on the conditions of labor in the new neoliberal climate: Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Recently there has been an impressive amount of publications in French on the cultural as well as the societal value of the humanities (Yves Citton) or, more specifically of literature (Tzvetan Todorov, Antoine Compagnon, Jean-Marie Schaeffer, among others). The new book by William Marx, a world-leading voice in the field of literary studies (see for instance his L’Adieu à la littérature, 2005), does just this and simultaneously brings forth something completely different, and that is one of the many reasons to read it urgently.