Avoiding the Post-critical

MoC1-EditorialSoon after the financial services firm Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, economics occupied a central position in the media. For decades, the financial sector had been driving a process of de-politicisation of society. However, the exposing domino effect caused by the auto-destructive nature of capitalism allowed it to continue suppressing an already fragile public, political discourse. Terminology such as ‘subprimes’, ‘derivatives’ and ‘collateralised debt obligations’ headlined public statements and TV reports, as infographics attempted to explain what had really happened.

As European countries started to implement severe policy measures and cuts in all areas of public life, civil unrest was imminent. This took form as an outburst on behalf of the people, in response to the pressure exerted by banks, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, to which society felt both powerless and not responsible. Government arrangements with the financial sector under neoliberalism became the norm, attempting to establish a consensual, inevitable state of affairs managed by technocrats. To the condition of eliminating the “proper political,”right 01“Proper politics exists whenever the count of parts and parties of society is disturbed by the inscription of a part of those who have no part.” [Rancière, 1998, p. 123] philosophers such as Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek call the ‘post-political.’ Throughout the media, a shift in the discourse emerged. There was one reality before the global financial crisis started and another one after it begun. A ‘pre’ and a ‘post’-global financial crisis. These prefixes are recurrently used to mark the before and after of a social, political and cultural event in time.

When the main focus of Western governments is a desperately obsessive yearning for economic growth at any cost, the state of crisis naturally spreads not only to all layers of society, but also to all disciplines. Graphic design is no exception. Trapped between disciplinary discourse and personal, private and public interest, graphic design has another opportunity to re-examine its complicity with the current state of affairs. In other words, the present economic, political and social crisis highlights the fragilities, limitations, but also the potential of the discipline. Yet, at a time when it is fundamental to be critical, the very term has become ubiquitous, cool and vague. While it is possible to identify overlapping levels of criticality, as suggested by the personal (reflecting on own work), disciplinary (expanding disciplinary issues) and public (addressing societal phenomena), what is meant by critical is open for debate.

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Full essay in Modes of Criticism 1 – Critical, Uncritical, Post-critical (2015)

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1. “Proper politics exists whenever the count of parts and parties of society is disturbed by the inscription of a part of those who have no part.” [Rancière, 1998, p. 123]

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