Saturday, August 13, 2005


Yes, that's right, yet another "theorist" whose name begins with "B". As I may or may not have been saying ever since, oh, around 2003, there really are a lot of them. I bet in 100 years people will still be pointing this odd fact out to each other, from time to time (though hopefully not as if they are the first, though then again maybe that is all too much to hope for)...In any case, I am reading about Blanqui. Maybe Hugh would like to read him too, in which case this (a strange text quoted liberally by Benjamin in his later musings on historiography), this and this (and from here) are probably as good a place to start as any. Interesting stuff. This will have been the shit and garbage/poseur post, as usual to be updated and edited later as however its author sees fit.

From here:
Blanqui [1805-1881] a political activist, wrote L'Éternité par les Astres [Eternity Through the Stars] (1872) when imprisoned following his involvement in the Paris Commune. Benjamin considered this little-known text to be a work of major philosophical significance, declaring in The Arcades Project: "This book completes the century's constellation of phantasmagorias with one last, cosmic phantasmagoria which implicitly comprehends the severest critique of all the others". [97] Blanqui's book is a piece of cosmological speculation which curiously prefigures the Borges of "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius". It alternates rather restlessly between a dark vision of the universe as endless repetition - a series of "duplicata tirés à milliards" ["duplicates produced by the billion"] [98] - and a less oppressive notion of the cosmos as a set of elaborately gradated combinations and variations. Benjamin reads this text as an overpowering nightmare or anti-utopia; other readings are, however, possible, and one approach could be to foreground Blanqui's incessant oscillation between the rival notions of standardisation (paralleling industrial mass-production) and variation (pointing to a utopian future). Today's Internet partakes in both phenomena: it permits the infinite reproduction of the same text and its diffusion to a potentially unlimited number of recipients, while also allowing multiple discourses to bloom worldwide. In an arresting passage that suggests a cosmic utopia of communication between like-minded beings over huge distances, and thus curiously foreshadows the Internet, Blanqui declares: "Il nous importe assez peu que nos sosies soient nos voisins. Fussent-ils dans la lune, la conversation n'en serait pas plus commode, ni la connaissance plus aisée à faire" ["It scarcely matters whether our doubles are our neighbours. Even if they lived on the moon, the conversation would be just as comfortable and it would be just as easy to get to know each other"]. [99]

Is that a star on his lapel?

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