Future Public - Michael Stone-Richards - Care Comes in the Wake of Retreat

Care Comes in the Wake of Retreat

Michael Stone-Richards

Anonymous, Le Monde au Temps des Surrealistes (The Surrealist Map of the World), 1929.

Future Public
September 2017

The West is in abandonment.
—Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet1

That abandoned being, for us—and by us, perhaps—corresponds to the exhaustion of transcendentals signifies thereby a cessation or a suspension of discourses, of categorizations, of interpellations and of invocations the expansion [foisonnement] of which constituted the being of being.
—Jean-Luc Nancy2

1. Abandonment and Crisis

When I was a student, I internalized the old idea about crisis as a necessary feature of what one called the historic avant-garde, and tried—whether reading Quentin Skinner, or Hayden White, or Michel Foucault, or Georges Didi-Huberman—to practice a certain historiographic imagining in order to grasp something of the historical difference from our own contemporaneity. From this distance—here, now, in Detroit, a once civilizational city still struggling for organic recovery whilst “celebrating” the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 collapse of order brought on by a form of police brutality bordering on the psychotic; here, now, during the time of President Trump, ecological collapse, nuclear tension between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and NATO, the Saudi-led humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, the willful refusal to acknowledge Russia’s fear of military encirclement, the zombie haunting Europe named NATO, and the near-daily instigation of war with Iran; here, now, witnessing the moral and political confusion that led to the civil war(s) of Syria, and feeling the black hole tremors of the re-installation of authoritarian demagoguery presque partout—what strikes me is no longer the stunning wonderment, the sense of horror that I once had about the crises of 1789, 1917, the Great War, the Depression, or World War II (and this is just the Western part of the scheme of things)—that anyone or anything worthwhile could survive such total and murderous engagement of ideological civil war—but rather puzzlement that I should have ever thought it so difficult to imagine, to grasp the historical appearance of totalitarianism, of cultural and civilizational collapse. As Paul Valéry wrote in 1919 in “The Crisis of the Mind”:

Elam, Nineveh, Babylon were but beautiful vague names, and the total ruin of those worlds had as little significance for us as their very existence. But France, England, Russia … these too would be beautiful names.3

We in the West and the World beyond Western modes and habits of thought, now linked existentially by the economic and technical structures of globalization, are living through simultaneously multiple and overlapping crises, in complex temporalities and causalities. The West, all of it (“Tout l’occident”), as Nancy quoted from the eighteenth-century bishop and prose stylist Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, is in abandonment, and in our late modernity, is taking everything else with it. The crises are in the news and optically delivered on high definition screens in the palms of our hands. But what escapes the news is causation, and the attempts to improvise new languages and symbolic forms to enable the envisioning of futures beyond the violence of a late modernity captured in the wasteful logic of para-state vampirism.

Film still of John Akomfrah, Nine Muses, 2010.

2. Crisis, the Form of Retreat

Though anti-foundationalism has become the norm in contemporary meta-theory, for any sense of crisis as epochal, as a rupture in measure, we might use the limpid characterization of Jan Patočka when he speaks of the (irretrievable) loss of ground.4 Paul Valéry spoke of the crisis of the mind—meaning the European mind—whilst for the avant-garde, André Breton in in his 1935 Prague Lecture will speak of the crisis of the object as symptomatic of larger cultural crisis, and Edmund Husserl, also in Prague in 1935, will deliver the lectures that will subsequently be published as The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology,5 all of which address the loss of ground, the rupture in measure as an epochal event not yet re-absorbed into reflexive habits.6 This crisis in late modernity signified by abandonment encompasses many aspects: the loss of any notion of self-coincidence of representation and being, the loss of a common political vocabulary for justice, the very loss, too, of what the meaning of the political might be and thereby of what kind of action or form might be properly political. Here one should consider the role of violence in the thought of someone like Carl Schmitt or the refusal of violence as anti-political in the thought of Hannah Arendt and with it, that is, the role of violence,7 the increasing importance of decisionism, the commitment to action against conventions of constraint and proceduralism as the definition of revolutionary action.8 These are key questions in the thinking of modernity in the inter-war years 1919–1939, but they come to be embodied, especially in the European tradition—of Rilke, Simone Weil, and Günther Anders, for example—in the question of technological agency grasped as encroaching upon a notion of being previously understood as above or apart from technique,9 where the agency of technology assumes a life of its own and thereby transforms quantity into quality—into being. Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus (1923) expressed this transformation in biopolitical form:

All we have gained the machine threatens, as long
as it dares to exist in the mind and not in obedience.

Nowhere does it stay behind; we cannot escape it at last
as it rules, self-guided, self-oiled, from its factory.
It thinks it is life.10

The contemporary crisis of global modernity in ecology, displacements of population, of the fragmentation of political authority, is the continuation of this logic of abandonment which, in our late modernity, has come to be emblematically figured in architectural and spatial terms. Confronted with collapse, transfer, expulsion, extra-territorial space of flows, global space, dark spaces, dark nets, and archives,11 the refugee—or the internally displaced person—has become the privileged instantiation of the logic of this condition as our politics search for new architectures and foundations through practices. The architectural figurations here are expressive of the very nature of abandonment and abandoned being; of what Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe have termed retrait: retreat, withdrawal, collapse, voiding, the act of disappearing appearing, but also re-treating, re-tracing.12 In “Le Peuple juif ne rêve pas” (“The Jewish People Do Not Dream”), Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe write: “A retreat [retrait], that is not to say an absence, that is, a presence simply removed. To be in retreat [se retirer] is not to disappear, and properly speaking is in no way a mode of being. … let’s say that the retreat [le retrait] is the act of appearing disappearing. Not only of appearing in disappearing, but to appear as disappearance as such, in the very act of disappearance.”13 The movement and language of spectrality thought through the retreat is strictly concomitant with, and in part made possible by, the technical and globalized logics of abandonment, separations, and flows. But this architecture of retreat and abandonment no longer permits classical democratic conceptions of space or a space that can be captured, held, and symbolically invested. Hence the need for discourse (or experimental practice) to move beyond an idea of public space as something constituted or granted by right (that is, a right granted by a state compromised by neo-liberal ideology), and beyond the limitations inherent in an idea of the commons as something claimed or made by will. Political panic confronted with the effects of globalization is the structural homology of uncanniness. It is, however, in the uncanniness produced by radical crisis, indeed, anxiety, that the phenomenon of Care—that is, mutually interconnected radical exposure—becomes manifest, and through it the potential of a politics of visibility and a politics of care—eliciting new modes of participation whose models are not yet fully grasped, not yet fully elaborated—as anxiety directs my attention to what can no longer be ignored, overlooked, or dismissed.14 Joan Tronto, in developing an ethic of care as a precondition of a possible politics of care, acknowledges the characterization of attention—the act of noticing, no less than the way in which the object of attention is allowed to be—as developed by Simone Weil, whom she quotes:

Attention consists in suspending thought, leaving it available, empty and ready to be entered by its object … thought must be empty, waiting, seeking nothing, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object that is about to penetrate it.15

The object of attention here is not to be understood primarily as a thing but as whatever commands the attention impersonally. As Weil puts it: “When one is attentive to the object, one is no longer paying attention to oneself.”16 I may not care about many things—the effects of nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima, tsunamis in Indonesia, Katrina in New Orleans, Grenfell Tower in London, or the effect of tax policies on the poor—because I am (willfully?) inattentive and so the nature of the damage remains invisible to me. But when the event breaks through and occupies my attention, I care not because I chose to care, just as I did not first choose to pay attention. The object or event, in Weil’s language as quoted by Tronto, penetrates me. This experience in which the attention is radically commandeered and re-configured by an event or circumstance is a condition of mutuality with the stranger. I cannot, for example, love whom (or what) I do not know, but it is manifestly obvious that I can care for (be affected by) those whom I do not know, for the stranger, if you will, as attention opens the way to participation, the ontological movement that allows the apperception of mutuality. Here, we are dealing with a phenomenon at the anthropological level; what, following Tronto, I shall characterize as a politics of care (to be mediated by an ethic of care or attention). An ethic of care is the dramaturgy (or performance) of visibility, since what does not or cannot receive attention fails to reach from the liminal to the political, remains concealed, and so fails, in short, to become participative.

Film still of John Akomfrah, Nine Muses, 2010.

3. Anxiety and Care

That in the face of which one has anxiety is characterized by the fact that what threatens is nowhere. Anxiety “does not know” what that in the face of which it is anxious is. “Nowhere,” however, does not signify nothing: this is where any region lies, and there too lies any disclosedness of the world for essentially spatial Being-in. Therefore that which threatens cannot bring itself close from a definite direction within what is close by; it is already “there,” and yet nowhere; it is so close that it is oppressive and stifles one’s breath, and yet it is nowhere.

In that in the face of which one has anxiety, the “It is nothing and nowhere” becomes manifest.17

In Heidegger’s account of care in Being and Time, anxiety is said to lead to the collapse of familiarity—all that is encompassed in the established everyday—and through this collapse of familiarity, Dasein (existence) becomes exposed to its “ownmost potentiality-for-Being.”18 Because Heidegger’s thinking is ontological it makes sense for him then to say that “The obstinacy of the ‘nothing and nowhere within-the-world’ means as a phenomenon that the world as such is that in the face of which one has anxiety.”19 The “world as such” is not as an ethical phenomenon, as for Heidegger there is not an ethic of care, but rather a clear basis for an ethic for the phenomenon of exposure, whereby the everyday familiarity that collapses, leaves Dasein not-being-at-home (uncanny) and being-alongside what is in the world. We cannot, as I mentioned above, love what or whom we do not know, but we can care for others whom we do not know or things that are distant from us, as in certain situations distance collapses, norms of behavioral containment are voided, and through anxiety we feel radically exposed, thrown into the open. From Detroit to Copenhagen, one did not need to know the miners trapped underground in Chile in 2010, nor anyone in Indonesia at the time of the tsunami in 2004, nor anyone in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear meltdown in 2011, and likewise in New Orleans during Katrina in 2005, yet upon learning of these catastrophes, we cared, felt distress, and even at times felt ourselves implicated. We felt, indeed, exposed, and in some obscure sense endangered as the phenomenon of worldliness was made to appear fragile. Likewise, we cared upon learning of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, London, when “Katrina” became the language of measure, the standard for recognizing the universalizing of the dis-appearing of care. “Is this (Prime Minister) Theresa May’s Katrina?” went the British headlines.

It essential, however, that we understand that Care (Sorge in German), in Heidegger, is not something primarily personal—Heidegger has a range of terms, such as solicitude, concern, whose usage allows the connotation of personal engagement, but this is not the what the phenomenon of Care is in Being and Time. Care is impersonal, and as a phenomenon not restricted to the human alone. Indeed, in a strictly Heideggerian sense one cannot choose not to care, that is, not to have an intentional relationship to the surrounding world (Umwelt); one cannot not think about the future—in practices, in being-with others, in the approach of one’s own death and not the death of others. This thinking-ahead made possible by the intentional projection of Dasein is revealed by Care. Temporality, therefore, is the ontological meaning of care.20 We may not be able not to think like this, but we can live as though such is not the case, whence the demand to live in truth—that is, in disclosedness, as Heidegger terms it—and anxiety—radical anxiety of the kind in which the everyday familiarity collapses—is the agent of being pulled out of oblivion, concealment, inattentiveness. On Heidegger’s account, though, to be pulled out of unconcealment, which is to be brought into clarity, to become self-attentive, is to be pulled out of the everyday into a world of possibilities, the basis of what Jacques Derrida called Heideggerian hope.21 Thus far one can go with Heidegger, but the distinctively Heideggerian turn is pure decisionism as he makes the future subject to heroic anticipatory resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) on the part of Dasein.22

The collapse of familiarity reveals what would be ignored, invisible in the everyday, yet once brought to attention, in a world that remains a world of shared being, there ensues a competition for attention; no longer an ontology of care but a politics of attention. To say that care is ontologically constitutive is to say, in this context, that it is a feature of human existence that we can experience the fragility of exposure and so be mutually vulnerable one to another, strangers, even, in the event and experience of truth that marks the possibility of equality. But the competition for attention that then ensues is political, not ontological, and so points to the inescapability of conflict in the contest for visibility in the demand for the endurance of the attentiveness of others towards one’s plight. Consider, for example, the worldwide phenomenon of Cecil the Lion from 2015—the Zimbabwean lion killed by an American dentist turned big game hunter—and the pathos of the following headline from the Atlanta Black Star: “Dead lion generates more social media buzz than dead black people.”23 Of course, we can say that the dead lion also generates more buzz than many other things, too—fiscal policies that negatively impact the poor, climate change, the destruction of the environment—but the point cannot be that any one thing is self-evidently more worthy of attention than another. Rather, as finite beings we cannot grasp or embody the innumerably large number of worthy claims upon the attention, but since attention can command resources it will necessarily be a subject of conflict.24 25 There is, in other words, an inescapable equivocation in the concept of care: ontologically we are made to care (if not in any personal sense), but morally and politically we are made to contest the objects of our attention. Tronto’s definition of care—as she acknowledges, however reluctantly, in her footnotes—is not so far from Heidegger when she says that her conception of care “is not restricted to human interaction with others”; but she is clear that the ethical quality of caring—being attentive, for example—entails a politics (socially conditioned conflict).

Where Heidegger’s ontology addresses the collapse of familiarity that uncovers, unconceals or brings into visibility a common condition, it can be noted that the conception of care in both Heidegger and Tronto draws upon a condition of non-ownership (world, environment, being) as precondition for communally participative techniques for the construction of a life-world when confronted with radical withdrawal or competition over attention. For Tronto, in seeking a transition from Heidegger’s ontology of the phenomenon to a possible ethic, to care “includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environments, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”26 To speak of participation here is first to draw upon the etymological sense of participation, namely, to have a share or a part in something. Participation is also a movement—intentional, affectively expressive—by which we grasp possibilities and meanings always a part from the locus of movement. Yet above all, participation is world-building practice. Here participation reveals an important feature of our existence, namely, that human existence is always existence or movement in a world beyond bare life. We should more properly speak of an event of participation between partners in the community of being, and as such a phenomenon of shared and complex creation. The restriction of movement is the restriction of existence itself, and this is the basis of being able to say that participation is existence. It is, for example, when the City is in retreat, is in need—after ruination, abandonment, or simply subject to force in “natural” disasters or as found in conflicts civil or otherwise—that the political and affective language of participation becomes manifest and at the same time the “organic” language of the City as body emerges so that all that could be said of the body can simultaneously be said of both the City and the political world: proximity, reciprocity, the work of the hands, shared affective work, the imagination of possible futures. This is the language of care, which in an ethical context, is first and foremost attention: the precondition of visibility.27

Film still of John Akomfrah, Nine Muses, 2010.

4. On Care and Sorrow

He comes to my table in his hungry wounds
and his hunger.
—Robert Hayden28

But hunger was a more immediate sorrow.
—W.H. Auden29

Famously, when W.H. Auden first published “September 1, 1939” in 1940, he wrote that “We must love one another or die,” but would remove the verse in 1945. When asked why he had done this, his brisk reply was: “Because we will die anyway.” Auden’s self-critique had no doubt to do with the banality of the sentiment. Might one instead say that now We must care for one another or die? The standard (Germanic) etymology of the English word care points to “Anxiety, sorrow,” heedfulness, attention, even to lament, or to sorrow. Care is both affect and capacity, and one consonant with the global political condition. Everywhere today, the political is marked by retreat, collapse, withdrawal—treaties, systems, values, social compacts—and no country or region is spared, not even the most privileged, which can often be the most hysterical. And as the globalizing condition leaves retreat and social collapse in its wake, we can witness a weak “power” (weak in the way that gravity is said to be a weak force) emerge as the refusal of dominion in favor of care. In the most fundamental sense, the radical anxiety produced by retreat and the collapse of social compacts and values has produced an equally radical awareness of mutual interconnectedness—with environments, nature, peoples—the exposure of which is what we can name Care. In the sestina of 1933, “Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,” Auden explored the desire to escape the City and its condition in pursuit of innocence (“Where love was innocent being far from cities”) and the way in which this pursuit of innocence itself conduces to violence, for “So many, fearful took with them their sorrow / Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities.” There is no innocence, declares the poem; but the poem also explores the shared movement of affect, the participation in affect as “We honour founders of these starving cities, / Whose honour is the image of our sorrow.” And then the envoi, the concluding three lines of the sestina, depicts the acknowledgement of the sorrow in which we all participate as a motive for the return from retreat and withdrawal to worldly movement:

It is our sorrow; shall it melt? Ah, water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.30

Film still of League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Finally Got the News, 1970, depicting the foundry in Diego Riviera's Detroit Industry Murals, 1933.

5. (In)-Hospitality and a Politics of Care

Care as a political concept requires that we recognize how care … marks relations of power in our society and marks the intersection of gender, race, and class with care-giving.31

A transition must be made from an ethic of care to a politics of care where the ethic of care takes the form of actions to dramatize in/visibility as part of a broader spatial practice of justice. Art, whether studio-based art or the many forms of post-studio art, can be grasped phenomenologically as the practice of making manifest, the showing of the passage of sensibility from the limitless and the boundless to structures graspable through expressive configuration and as such a privileged means for reflecting upon and grasping the contestation of visibility in ethics and politics. Post-studio practices, especially, have made of architecture the master-form of articulation, for all practice of art beyond the studio has become today a practice of the rebuild of our cities, a thinking of the architecture of care. By way of illustrating—and briefly reflecting upon—the import of the ethical act of making visible, of dramatizing in/visibility, I should like to consider a particular economy of movement, namely, the role of migration in two quite different but related films that make the migration of bodies their subject. For the movement and global economics of migration—what is part-and-parcel of the economy of the transport of goods for accumulation through labor—it does not matter whether migrations of bodies are transnational—as in John Akomfrah’s essay-film The Nine Muses (2010)—or internal—as in the League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ (LRBW) documentary film Finally got the news (1970). Where The Nine Muses explores the movement of labor-bodies across the seas from the West Indies and India to the United Kingdom and particularly Birmingham, Finally got the news opens with a montage sequence that shows the movement of Africans across the oceans—the Middle Passage—to North America, followed by the movement of Black Americans from the South to the factories and auto industry in the North (the Great Migration, circa 1910–1970), the locus of which is of course Detroit.32 Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals, 1932-1933, have, since their inauguration, become both synecdoche and metonym associated with Detroit industry, and by implication, industry under modern conditions of production. For LRBW, modern conditions of production become manifest at the point of production, the fight against which, can be construed as a demand for a politics of care for the heirs of the original arrivals/arrivants of migration, who are met with a founding failure of hospitality built into the foundations of modernity.

Both Finally got the news and The Nine Muses see the migration of labor-bodies, treated as objects on trade routes, destined to enclosures away from social visibility, as the foundation of the modern world. Without the migration of labor-bodies there is no modern industry and hence no modernity. Both films open with the implicit equation of migration and dangerous factory work through the signifier of industrial molten and fire. From the mere fact that Finally got the news incorporates details of Detroit Industry Murals into its opening montage it would be a mistake to confer the common interpretation of Detroit Industry Murals as a celebration of labor and technology upon Finally got the news. Nothing in the form or the structure of the film works in this way. The opening montage of Africans, ships, the Middle Passage, cotton farms, black women child-caring white children, fragments of maps indicating the location of the Rouge Plant in Detroit and finally details of Detroit Industry Murals function as a species of mapping to show how black bodies were containerized and shipped as part of globalized trade to end in the Rouge Plant. For my argument, the key moment in the opening mapping sequence of Finally got the news is the depiction, through quotation from film and details from Detroit Industry Murals of the foundry, that is, the most dangerous place for workers and the place where Black workers were most likely to be placed. The movement of molten fire in film serves to lift the aura idealization from the heroic worker in the foundry in Rivera’s Mural by returning the image of the foundry in Rivera to its naked danger. Barely seven minutes into Finally the got the news, a blues song is played that speaks about the threat of death in the workplace of the industrial factory in Detroit:

Please, Mr Foreman, slow down your assembly line.
Please, Mr. Foreman, slow down your assembly line.
No, I don’t mind workin’, but I do mind dyin’.33

Furthermore, John Watson, one of the founders of LRBW, contextualizes its work in an interview titled “To the Point of Production” in the following way:

Working conditions are deplorable. What’s been happening over the last fifteen or twenty years in industry in general, but especially in the auto industry, is the increase in productivity. … what’s been going on is “nigger-mation” [not automation]. … They are constantly attempting to speed up the production line. They are constantly attempting to cut down the number of people who work on the line. [As a result] they have negated all considerations of the welfare and safety of the workers in the plant, especially the black workers. As a result, in the foundries for instance, almost 95 per cent of the workers in those plants have some sort of industrial illness.34

We should understand the management and union’s negation of “the welfare and safety of the workers of the plant, especially the black workers” as the refusal of an ethic of care, evidence for which can be found in the Health Research Group Study of Disease among Workers in the Auto Industry of 1973 that drew upon figures from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to estimate “65 on-the-job deaths per day among auto workers, for a total of some 16,000 annually. Even these limited figures made clear that more auto workers were killed and injured each year on the job than soldiers were killed and injured during any year in Vietnam.”35 This is an extraordinary figure. It is quite clear that the factory floor, the foundry, is a primal scene of dead bodies, broken bodies, injured bodies, indeed, a machine for the production of wasted lives, but this place of broken and dead bodies is not only neglected by management and tolerated by the union, but it remains fundamentally invisible to the city of Detroit and society at large whose wealth is built on this tomb.

Film still of John Akomfrah, Nine Muses, 2010.

Finally got the news dramatizes a form of slavery as social death in a context where the only language available to agents of social justice is the bureaucratic language of management and union. There is not, in other words, a politics available to them, and so the demand of care for the welfare and safety of the workers in the plant cannot remain only an ethical demand, for this is already mediated and contained by the union. In order to have a future, the ethical demand must therefore be articulated in political action as the means for breaking out of the nightmare—the cave—of the liminal condition of invisibility, continuous low-level violence, monotony, boredom. Finally got the news is the dynamic repressed of the Detroit Industry Murals. Imagine, if you will, Finally got the news being projected within and upon the Rivera’s murals: the movement of the film would un-conceal the dead, broken, damaged, and injured bodies that are being polished and smoothed over by the marvelous technique and intentionally idealized image in the murals of harmony between “man” and technology, between the “races,” and between workers and management, revealing the mural as a vision of something like a death-machine. Rivera was no capitalist, but like Stalin he admired Ford and Fordism and imagined that this technology for civilization-building could be deflected towards revolutionary ends, and as such it was a price worth paying for technological progress. Hence the importance of the very idea of sacrifice in Rivera’s conception of the mural and the odious references to Aztec ritual.36

Rivera’s Murals are a very important, defining, self-image of Detroit. Yet it demands a change in its reception such that a Black experience—the ruination of lives—becomes central to an intellectual and cultural critique of that very image. The Murals are, after all, at least as formulated by the LRBW, not in any way a workers’ image, but rather an image of murderous conditions.Conceptually, Finally got the news can be understood as an attempt, a practice, to formulate the transformation from an ethic of care—witnessed in this negation of “the welfare and safety”—to a politics of care in the act of making-visible and commanding attention. But more to the point is that no ethic of care can be articulated in the competition for attention without a politics of care. Fundamental to this ethic and politics of care is the recognition that for industrial modernity, in-hospitality, inattentiveness, and carelessness are built into the point of production, and as such into the foundations of modernity itself from which our contemporaneity has not escaped. Care, then, can only arrive in the wake of [à la dérive] retreat (retrait), that is, collapse, withdrawal, but also re-tracing which offers possibilities of new, historically conditioned, projections of hope, where hope is understood as a horizon of possibilities. Care has become the nexus of a pursuit for new or experimental forms of practice and politics cognizant of mutuality, but also conflict.37


Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, quoted by Jean-Luc Nancy, in “L’être abandonné,” Argile (1981):193.


Jean-Luc Nancy, “L’être abandonné,” 194.


Paul Valéry, “The Crisis of the Mind,” in Paul Valéry: An Anthology, ed. James R. Lawler (London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), 94.


See Jan Patočka, Plato and Europe, trans. Petr Lom (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 77.


See André Breton, “Surrealist Situation of the Object,” Manifestoes of Surrealism, trans. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969); and Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970).


This language and conception of crisis is qualitatively different than that to be found in the well-established discourse of Naomi Klein or more recently Janet Roitman on the 2008-2010 economic crisis. See Janet Roitman, Anti-Crisis (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014).


The work of a liberal political theorist like Paul Kahn is especially valuable on the crisis of modernity as a crisis of the role of theological and political violence embodied in fundamentally incompatible notions of sovereignty and law with a post-Enlightenment democratic framework. See Paul W. Kahn, “Violence and the Architecture of the Political Imagination,” Sacred Violence: Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).


Though the question of decisionism is most commonly discussed in relation to the radical Right (for example, Carl Schmitt), it is also a feature of the radical Left. I have discussed this extensively in relation to Frantz Fanon. See Michael Stone-Richards, “Frantz Fanon in Question,” Logics of Separation: Exile and Transcendence in Aesthetic Modernity (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011), 303-403.


The League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW) in Detroit in 1970 will address this same problematic of technology / automation as niggermation in terms remarkably consonant with the language of Rilke and the inter-war years, particularly where workers come to see themselves as interchangeable parts for the machine. This is the historical context (Futurism, Stalin, Ford) for Diego Rivera’s views on technology and sacrifice and the LRBW’s views on the murderousness attached to the Detroit Industry Murals of 1932-33. See Michael Stone-Richards, “Rilke in Detroit: The League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Politics of Care,” Care of the City: Ruination, Abandonment, and Hospitality in Contemporary Practice (forthcoming), and Dan Georgakis and Marvin Surkin, “Niggermation at Eldon,” Detroit: I do Mind Dying. A Study in Urban Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1998).


Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus, in The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: Vintage Books, 2009), 153.


The conception of the archive as developed by Foucault in the Archéologie du savoir (1969) is not primarily a collection of things, or even a collection of items marked or marginalized by power, but a new logic of places marked by a near law of inevitability, an inevitability that Foucault will come to conceptualize as a feature of the biopolitical form of modernity and its spatialized logics dominated by a technology of power centered on life.


See João Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Elizabeth Povinelli, Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011); Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Retreating the Political, ed. Simon Sparks (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).


Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, “Le Peuple juif ne rêve pas,” La Panique politique (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 2013), 72.


For the sense of uncanniness as the unhomelike, see Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973), 233.


Simone Weil, quoted in Joan Tronto, “An Ethic of Care,” Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), 128.


Simone Weil, “L’Attention,” Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), 1:392.


Heidegger, Being and Time, 231.


Ibid., 232.


Ibid., 231.


See Ibid., Heidegger, Being and Time, 370-380.


See Lisa D. Campolo, “Derrida and Heidegger: The Critique of Technology and the Call to Care,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 53.3 (Sept. 1985): 431–448.


Ibid., Heidegger, Being and Time, 378.


See .


On the epistemological problems accompanying attention and “the absence of attentiveness [as


a moral failing,” see Tronto, “Elements of an Ethic of Care,” Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (New York: Routledge, 1994), 127-137.


Ibid., Tronto, Moral Boundaries, 103. The modern tradition of ethic of care begins with the work of Carol Gilligan extending to Joan Tronto. The ethic of care approach rejects abstract, criteriological approaches to questions of justice—principles—in favor of practices. Its approach is embodied, gendered, situational, and narratively based. Above all, in Tronto’s words, it affirms the central role of caring in human life. See Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).


On the ethics of attention, See Simone Weil, “Réflexion sur le bon usage des études scolaires en vue de l’amour de Dieu,” Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 2008), 4:2, 255–262, and also Tronto, “An Ethic of Care,” Moral Boundaries, 126-132.


Robert Hayden, “Words in the Mourning Time, III” (1970).


W.H. Auden, “Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys” (May, 1933).


W. H Auden, “Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,” On this Island (New York: Random House, 1937), 22–23.


Ibid., Tronto, “Care and Political Theory,” Moral Boundaries, 168–169.


I believe this montage sequence from Finally got the news to be the inspiration for the much noticed (and otherwise odd?) animated sequence opening Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit (Annapurna Pictures), 2017.


Song composed and recorded by Joe L. Carter, 1965, quoted in Dan Georgakis and Marvin Surkin, “Finally Got the News,” Detroit: I do Mind Dying. A Study in Urban Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1998), 107.


John Watson, To The Point of Production (Detroit: Radical Education Project, 1969).


Authors emphasis. Georgakis and Surkin, Detroit: I do Mind Dying, 88.


On Rivera’s use of the language of sacrifice, see Linda Bank Downs, Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals (Detroit and New York: DIA and Norton, 1999), 165–171.


See Caring Culture: Art, Architecture and the Politics of Public Health, eds. Andrea Phillips and Markus Miessen (Amsterdam: SKOR, and Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011), and Art + Care: A Future, ed. Janna Graham (London: Serpentine Gallery and Koenig Books, 2013).

Future Public is a collaboration between the New Museum’s IdeasCity initiative and e-flux Architecture for IdeasCity New York, 2017.

Crisis, Modernity, Violence, Ethics, Contemporaneity
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Future Public is a collaboration between the New Museum’s IdeasCity initiative and e-flux Architecture for IdeasCity New York, 2017.

Michael Stone-Richards is Professor of Critical Theory at the College for Creative Studies, Chair of the Committee on Critical Studies at CCS, and most recently founding editor of the journal Detroit Research. His book Logics of Separation was published by Peter Lang in 2011. He is currently completing a book Care of the City: Ruination, Abandonment, and Hospitality in Contemporary Practice.

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