e-flux lectures: Keti Chukhrov, “What Makes Communism Unbearable, or a Few Notes on the Political Economy of the Common Good”

e-flux lectures: Keti Chukhrov, “What Makes Communism Unbearable, or a Few Notes on the Political Economy of the Common Good”

It is traditionally thought that the demise of the project of communism was due to the bureaucratization of the commons. Another supposed basis was the supremacy of ideology over grass-roots democracy, which had failed to maintain its agency subject to the rule of party apparatuses. The libertarian interpretation instead defines communism completely as the language of ideology, imposed on society from above, while material life has always craved freedoms, including those of commerce and circulation. In both cases the distinction is between the falseness of communism as an ideology and the genuine empirical dimension of the commons as movement. Such an interpretation prevails in the work of Louis Althusser, Étienne Balibar, Antonio Negri, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, and others. This, however, does not evade the classical construct of bourgeois modernity which divides society into negative apparatuses and subversive liberating acts, and that remains seminal since Althusser’s and Michel Foucault’s analyses of ideology. Boris Groys was the first to allege in his book The Communist Postscript that communism was not a futurist utopia—rather, it had already taken place. Paradoxically then, the demise of communism was due to the excess of its components, rather than to their insufficiency and lack. Can it be then, that amidst capitalism, communism has always functioned as an abstract “deity”? And, that the historical socialist experiment of embodying such a “deity” could not but fail amidst capitalism's libidinal quest for power, instead of the common good?

Keti Chukhrov is Associate Professor at the Department of Сultural Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economic (Moscow), and currently a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at Wolverhampton University (UK). Between 2012–2017 she was head of the Theory and Research department at the National Center of Contemporary Art (Moscow). Her books include To Be – to Perform: Theatre in Philosophical Criticism of Art (2011); Pound & £ (1999); and two volumes of dramatic poetry: Just Humans (2010) and War of Quantities (2004). Her research spans performance studies and post-human theory, with a current focus on the impact of Soviet economy on the ethical epistemes of historical socialism. Chukhrov is the author of the video play Love Machines (2013), shown at the 1st Bergen Assembly and at Specters of Communism, James Gallery (New York); and of Communion (2016), shown at the 15th International Kansk Video Festival (Moscow) and at Beyond the Globe: 8th Triennial of Contemporary Art – U3 (Ljubljana).

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Communism, Ideology, Philosophy
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