“Fragments of the Political or How we Deal With Wonder”

Dutton, Michael. 2012. “Fragments of the Political or How we Deal With Wonder”. Social Text, 30(1), pp. 109-141. [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

The Eiffel Tower, the Ferris Wheel and Tatlin's tower. Three very different monuments to modernity opening onto three very different political inflections. One, as Benjamin notes, begins not just the era of iron and glass but also of science, reason and engineering brilliance. The second, the Ferris Wheel would spin toward another of Benjamin's themes. Through amusement parks and cityscapes the Ferris Wheel leads into a tale of 'the phantasmagorical. Here was a monument to American capitalism that would lead the dreams of politics away from intensity. If this domesticated politics, that other monumental response to Eiffel and to modernity, Tatlin's tower, told a very different story. This offered a picture of modernity inflected back into the realm of the political not via intensity but through the `politico-artistic' notion of 'estrangement.' and a literal and quite structural commitment to scientific socialism through its form.. `Where then political intensity? This requires a visit to Mao's China and to a different dream of socialism. There, the Rent Collection Courtyard artwork takes us to the heart of the telluric quality that drives that country's revolution but in so doing, opens more profoundly onto the general question of telluric intensity. Here the telluric transcends the concrete concerns of Chinese soil to found a realm of theory that is more concerned with a form of political spirit rather than a connection to terrae. .In this, one discovers an on-going form of the political that modernities many voices exclude.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Research Office > REF2014



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 May 2013 01:29

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 10:24

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



Edit Record Edit Record (login required)