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Dialectical Passions: Negation in Postwar Art Theory, Gail Day, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010

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Abstract Gail Day’s Dialectical Passions not only traces the trajectories of leading New Left critics of art and architecture – T.J. Clark, Manfredo Tafuri, Massimo Cacciari, Craig Owens, Fredric Jameson and Hal Foster – it also provides a meditation on the problem of negation and the experience of defeat. This review retraces Day’s arguments, reflecting on her recovery and re-interrogation of negation and dialectics in postwar art theory. In particular, it aims to critically assess her stress on the ‘negative thought’ of Tafuri and Cacciari and the possibilities of reactivating a thought of negativity in the contemporary moment.

1. Badiou Alain Toscano Alberto The Century 2007 [2005] Cambridge Polity
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3. Bürger Peter Shaw Michael Theory of the Avant-Garde 1984 [1974] Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press
4. Clark Timothy James Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism 1999 New Haven Yale University Press
5. Clark Timothy James "‘A Left with No Future’" 2011 ‘The Luddites, Without Condescension’ 6 May Birkbeck College, The University of London audio recording available at: < >
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7. Derrida Jacques Bass Alan "‘From Restricted to General Economy’" Writing and Difference 1978 [1967] Chicago Chicago University Press
8. Endnotes Endnotes 2: Misery and the Value Form 2010 available at: < >
9. Jameson Fredric Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism 1991 London Verso
10. Jameson Fredric Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions 2006 London Verso
11. Jameson Fredric Valences of the Dialectic 2009 London Verso
12. Noys Benjamin The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory 2010 Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press
13. Rancière Jacques Elliott Gregory The Emancipated Spectator 2009 [2008] London Verso
14. Rancière Jacques Battista Emiliano Althusser’s Lesson 2011 [1974] London Continuum
15. Theorié Communiste "‘Much Ado About Nothing’" Endnotes 1: Preliminary Materials for a Balance Sheet of the Twentieth Century 2008 available at: < >
16. Toscano Alberto "‘The Sensuous Religion of the Multitude: Art and Abstraction in Negri’" Third Text 2009 Vol 23 4 369 382
17. Wright Steve Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism 2002 London Pluto
18. FN1 1. Noys 2010.
19. FN2 2. For a classic statement, see Derrida 1978.
20. FN3 3. Deleuze and Guattari 1986.
21. FN4 4. Badiou 2007.
22. FN5 5. This is the thesis of Peter Bürger’s Theory of the Avant-Garde(Bürger 1984), which is, as Day notes, absent from her discussion. It would be possible, however, to consider her work an ‘indirect’ response to this thesis.
23. FN6 6. This assessment was made in Clark’s lecture ‘A Left with No Future’ (Clark 2011).
24. FN7 7. See Wright 2002.
25. FN8 8. Noys 2010, pp. 5–8.
26. FN9 9. Toscano 2009, p. 370.
27. FN10 10. Baudrillard 1975.
28. FN11 11. Rancière 2009, p. 33.
29. FN12 12. In fact, the invocation of such ‘disruptions’ by Rancière dates back to his first book, Althusser’s Lesson, when he wrote ‘The “duty” of workers is no longer to exceed productivity norms; it is, instead, to invent a new world through their barely perceptible gestures.’ (Rancière 2011, p. 15.) In a declension, this is now the role of artists.
30. FN13 13. Jameson 1991.
31. FN14 14. Jameson 2006.
32. FN15 15. Jameson 2009, pp. 410–34.
33. FN16 16. Theorié Communiste 2008.
34. FN17 17. For an attempt to do this, from within the problematic of ‘communisation’ proposed by Theorié Communiste, see Endnotes 2010.

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