Rereading Vaneigem

Rereading Raoul Vaneigem is a breath of fresh air. For some years now his ex-comrade-in-situationism Guy Debord has been getting all the attention, but for many of us, me included, it was reading his Traité de savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes gens, translated as The Revolution of Everyday Life (which can be found online here) back in what we did not yet call “the sixties,” that constituteda seminal political prise de conscience. So, just seeing a reference to him on Mark Thwaithe’s excellent ReadySteadyBook blog, I couldn’t resist & read for an hour or so in the book. Can’t say I am very happy with the going translation, but I can’t check as my Traité is packed away in a box that’s still in storage. Here’s the fake-old-fashioned summary pre-text of chapter 20: “Creativity, Spontaneity and Poetry.”

Human beings are in a state of creativity twenty-four hours a day. Once revealed, the scheming use of freedom by the mechanisms of domination produces a backlash in the form of an idea of authentic freedom inseparably bound up with individual creativity. The passion to create which issues from the consciousness of constraint can no longer be pressed into the service of production, consumption or organization. (1). Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity; not an isolated state, but the unmediated experience of subjectivity. Spontaneity concretizes the passion for creation and is the first moment of its practical realization: the precondition of poetry, of the impulse to change the world in accordance with the demands of radical subjectivity. (2). The qualitative exists wherever creative spontaneity manifests itself. It entails the direct communication of the essential. It is poetry’s chance. A crystallization of possibilities, a multiplier of knowledge and practical potential, and the proper modis operandi of intelligence. Its criteria are sui generis. The qualitative leap precipitates a chain reaction which is to be seen in all revolutionary moments; such a reaction must be awoken by the scandal of free and total creativity. (3). Poetry is the organizer of creative spontaneity to the extent that it reinforces spontaneity’s hold on reality. Poetry is an act which engenders new realities; it is the fulfilment of radical theory, the revolutionary act par excellence.

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  1. February 20, 2013

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