Architecture and Revolution: Contemporary Perspectives on Central and Eastern Europe

By Neil Leach | Go to book overview

3

Notes for a manifesto

Jonathan Charley


From the safe haven of relativism

Permission to speak of revolution is granted on the precondition that the protagonist does not transgress the rules of historical relativism. This is the defeat of reason when no history can claim authenticity and truth.

A revolution against the aesthetic of the political replaces the concept of political revolution itself. Locked in the field of representation, the aesthetic finally achieves autonomy, not from capital within which it remains wholly locked, but from the critique of capital.

Imprisoned in the embrace of utopian reason, discussions of revolution became confined to the shifting games associated with representing objects. Neither the object nor the social relations they mirror are any longer worthy of consideration. The soft critique of the bourgeois world is operative in this safe haven, unconscious of the fact that however menacing, it can rarely escape assimilation.


The dilution of meaning

Far from having been removed from the late twentieth-century political lexicon, the word 'revolution' made an unexpected comeback. The years from 1980 to 1995 were peppered with talk of revolutions in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the old USSR. There were Velvet, Thatcherite, Reaganite and even 'Blairite' revolutions, and under the guise of postmodernism we were led to believe that a revolution had occurred in ways of thinking and seeing.

Anything that denoted some kind of change could be labelled revolutionary, and alongside the digital revolution sat revolutionary perfume, cars and washing machines. As the true heirs to Debord's spectators, we were saturated with a daily media diet of revolutionary activity, the high point being the live filming of a gun battle around the Bucharest Television station during the Romanian uprising of 1989.

Haunted by the scars left by fascist and state capitalist dictatorships, the European adapted to the ideological trickery of the slogans 'new consensus', 'new realism', 'new pragmatism' and 'new Europe', content to accept that we had finally entered a time that had no need for the 'other' big political idea.

-53-

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