Following recent research in historical and cultural studies of “the book” and the practitioner field of book arts, the book is now approached no longer only as a vehicle for content but as a rich and mutable material entity. But in this materialist framework, is it possible to discern a politics of the book? This article addresses that question from two angles. First, it sets out a figure for the analysis of political material culture: the “communist object.” This figure is developed through Russian Constructivist concern with the “intensive expressiveness” of matter, Walter Benjamin's analysis of the “collector” and his critique of use value, and the confounding capacities of the “fetish.” Drawing on the perceptual field of book arts, the article then employs the concept of the communist object to investigate the dynamics of political printed matter, with a focus on the small-press pamphlet. The article concentrates on three contemporary small-press projects of nondoctrinal communist persuasion: Unpopular Books, 56a Archive, and Infopool. Against the anemic image of political media as “counterinformation,” the article seeks to develop an expanded understanding of the material culture of political media, an understanding that foregrounds a communism of organic and inorganic process.
Nicholas Thoburn; Communist Objects and the Values of Printed Matter. Social Text 1 June 2010; 28 (2 (103)): 1–30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2009-065
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