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I want to plural, to discuss not the novel but novels, not the future, but futures.
August 21, 2012 8:50 AM   Subscribe


 
A collection of artists and activists advocating the neoliberalisation of children's minds. That is scandalous and stupid.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love China Miéville? Because it's a lot.
posted by stet at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Coincidentally, I am currently reading Miéville's Kraken on Kindle as a library book. What a delightful writer.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:00 AM on August 21, 2012


Despite my love of his books, "Middlebrowmageddon" kinda ruined it for me. Anyone who's seriously committed to radical-left politics shouldn't dismiss the not-quite-elite quite so quickly.
posted by LMGM at 11:00 AM on August 21, 2012


Though I am pretty much entirely on the same political side as Mieville, I still find the economic arguments of that "future of the novel" piece pretty weak sauce — it seems caught between the occasion of the piece, which largely calls for descriptive forecasting of what's going to happen to the economics of publishing under a new disruptive form of information capitalism, and an overwhelming desire to make a hortatory to-the-barricades speech anyhow, occasion and topic be damned. I mean, at the same time he's calling for government arts funding and bigger grants to allow artists to divorce their artistic success from the marketplace (certainly, unarguably, a worthy social-democratic goal) and insinuating that we need to overthrow capitalism before the arts can find their right footing: "an unresentful sense of writers as people among people, and a fidelity to literature, require political and economic transformation." I can't help but think that this ambivalence, this inability to say much of concrete use about the difficult situation of actually existing publishing, is tied to Mieville's own weird personal situation, as a guy who's sort of romantically attached to academic and government funding for art and culture while actually making his own money selling commercial fiction — he doesn't seem able to address the contradictions of his own position as an anticapitalist who's done very well indeed in the marketplace that he still wants to repudiate.
posted by RogerB at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the most China Miéville-y thing I've ever read.
posted by deathpanels at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


he doesn't seem able to address the contradictions of his own position as an anticapitalist who's done very well indeed in the marketplace that he still wants to repudiate.

I would think less of him if he had less company in this position. Considering how many artists you could say exactly this about, I just note it as a quirk of his personality and go back to reading his stuff.
posted by kjs3 at 11:41 AM on August 21, 2012


Just curious, how many of us feel like we are able to address the contradictions of our own positions as simply a thing that exists?

I myself fail to do this, and I see China failing to do this, but I'm curious about all these humans who've succeeded.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 11:52 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But who decides who qualifies as a writer? Does it take one sonnet? Of what quality? Ten novels? 50,000 readers? Ten, but the right readers? God knows we shouldn't trust the state to make that kind of decision. So we should democratise that boisterous debate, as widely and vigorously as possible.

We should remove the market and replace it with.... a somewhat tighter-regulated market?
posted by chimaera at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2012


Yeah the main problem I see with that is it'll be all down to those who are great at social networking and the dreaded 'platform-building'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I myself fail to do this, and I see China failing to do this, but I'm curious about all these humans who've succeeded.

My point is just that it'd be nice to see him try. He has, in my view of at least this particular piece, some non-trivial blind spots about the economics of publishing — blind spots that I suspect have something to do with how much and how easy commercial success his own writing has had. And so it seems to me he's therefore occasionally prone to being a bit cavalier about other writers' and hopeful writers' fears (and consequent defensiveness) for their own livelihoods:
The blurring of boundaries between writers, books, and readers, self-publishing, the fanfication of fiction, doesn't mean some people won't be better than others at the whole writing thing, or unable to pay their rent that way – it should, though, undermine that patina of specialness. Most of us aren't that special, and the underlining of that is a good thing, the start of a great future. In which we can maybe focus more on the books. Which might even rarely be special.
I don't know, despite the egalitarian sentiment behind it this just seems a bit cloying and un-self-reflexive coming from a writer whose books have been lauded as "special" so loudly. It's a bit unpleasantly easy for a bestselling critical darling to invite us all to be charmingly ordinary together, because all our work isn't so special and praiseworthy after all.
posted by RogerB at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2012


...he doesn't seem able to address the contradictions of his own position as an anticapitalist who's done very well indeed in the marketplace that he still wants to repudiate.

Does the part where he suggests that being a writer should/could be a salaried position and notes that such a system would lead to a significant reduction in income for some (presumably including himself) not answer your point to some extent?
posted by knapah at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


A basic income guarantee, then. I agree.
posted by mek at 6:10 PM on August 21, 2012


A basic income guarantee, then. I agree.
posted by mek


This has been tried before, of course; see the state-sponsored "professional kunstenaar" of the Benelux in the 70s and early 80s. You started by registering with the town council and the state that you were a full-time card carrying artist. This would invariably lead to the government throwing a bunch of yearly money at you which was enough to sustain a family of four in comfort, if not in luxury.

The artist was expected to produce work, which was typically "objects" as Broodthaers put it. These would go into the national public collections and you'd have a show every now and then and the critics and the pundits would be trotted out and the whole thing was well jolly and everybody had a shindig.

This fell out of favour in the eighties in the face of rapid immigration and the rise of the New Right which led to a direct cut in arts spending. This is symptomatic of any such system: in the face of change, institutions tend towards being conservative. The fat is cut out. "Kunst is Kapital" is relegated to graffiti glossed over.

Let aside the problems this created artistically: the stubborn Calvinist attitude of:

WORK = GOOD
NO WORK = BAD

where "work" being consistently seen as artefacts, tangible objects to be appraised, flying in the face of art historical truth. Let aside the all-enveloping embrace of the bourgeoisie, subsuming the idea of art as a praxis of life (as intended by the Dadaists).

The central problem of a "basic income guarantee" is that you remain answerable to those who pay your cheques. This is not to say that this does not happen today; of course it does. There are (thankfully) no "guarantees" of any sort. There shouldn't be.
posted by beshtya at 9:57 AM on August 22, 2012


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