Work in progress

Well done to those of you who have uploaded a second attempt at the pechakucha – you are all making progress, which is good to see, but don’t stop – keep working!

Those of you that haven’t uploaded anything, please do so.

This friday we will be following on from our talk in Cambridge and looking at report-writing techniques and examples.  The following week we will have tutorials and you need to bring material to discuss.  If you only bring your original pechakucha, you will have lost 3 weeks opportunity to develop your ideas.

Roland and Alan

Trip to Cambridge and next week


Thanks to Sue Oosterhuizen for the fascinating talk about the development of Cambridge and the weather for being unseasonal.  By understanding the role of geology, river courses, landscape and economy in the development of Cambridge, where the traces remain quite obvious today, the hope is that you can apply the same detective skills in London, where similar evidence may be less apparent.

Tasks for next week: once you have addressed the comments on your pechakucha and uploaded your new version on your blog, please download the document in the widget which is a student’s report from a furniture course.  The student makes an attempt to develop a more sustainable form of furniture and sets out his method in a clear manner, but what is wrong with this report?  Work through it carefully and highlight areas that you think are problematic.

Excellent interpretation of Berman from Reuben


Comment posted by rolandkarthaus on November 10, 2011

Excellent interpretation Reuben. My only comment is that he does use Marxist critique in the early parts, which is essentially scientific in methodology as it rests on the notion of dialectical materialism; that society and the material world are bound together through processes of production, that reveal their internal contradictions over time. Although not simple, it is still a fundamentally mechanistic view of the world and people and relies on the belief that Marxist critique can reveal these processes, contradictions and societal structures in the form of a model which can be acted upon. This makes it essentially reductivist and so has its limitations (eg. Communism!). Berman’s allegorical and first-person observation and reflection techniques counterbalance his Marxist critique to help identify the ‘experience’ of modernity, taking us beyond a scientific model. The Marxist method is used very powerfully to critique Faust and to open up and reveal these processes, so we have some higher-level understanding of the actions that he then goes on to observe in contemporary life. Marxism is a means to an end: the critique is undertaken in order to overthrow these structures. Berman’s mission becomes more about identifying and describing a sense of being within the contradictions identified by the critique.

How does this relate to ‘all watched over by machines of loving grace?’


Berman describes how Goethe’s version of the Faust story can be seen as an allegory for the state of modernity as increasingly experienced by humans in recent times: ‘The distinctive environment that formed the stage for Faust’s last act – the immense construction site, stretching out boundlessly in every direction, constantly changing and forcing the characters in the foreground themselves to change – has become the stage for world history in our time. Faust the Developer, still only marginal in Goethe’s world, would be completely at home in our own’ (p75). Faust’s metamorphosis into ‘Developer’ represents changes that occurred with the decline of Feudalism and the rise of the industrial revolution ‘a nodal point in the history of modern self-awareness. We are witnessing the birth of a new social division of labour, a new vocation, a new relationship between ideas and practical life’ (p62). Berman describes this as ‘a new model of authority, authority that derives from the leader’s capacity to satisfy modern people’s persistent need for adventurous, open-ended, ever-renewed development (p74)’. When relating this model to the optimism of 1960s America Berman describes the notion, or perhaps fear of impasse without the perceived need for development, he quotes Norman O. Brown: ”The Faustian restlessness of man in history shows that men are not satisfied by the satisfaction of their conscious desires”(p79).

Fausts’ transformation into ‘Developer’ begins with his initial metamorphosis from isolated ‘Dreamer’ to ‘Lover’ that consecrates his involvement with wider society. What comes before his lover Gretchen is ambition: ‘ He must participate in society in a way that will give his adventurous spirit room to soar and grow. But it will take “the powers of the underworld” to pull these polarities together, to make such a synthesis work’ (p46). Thus, with Fausts’ ambition to exert power over the world arrives the devil Mephisto. It is initially suggested that this engagement with society and natural resources inherently leads to evil downfall when Berman relates Faust to post 1960s sentiments where we begin to see the nature of contemporary modernity, and the environmental discourse that has grown to the present day: ‘for may people, the whole centuries-long project of modernization appeared as a disastrous mistake’ (p82). Berman later suggests a more benign approach to development – how humanity might organise ‘the survival of mankind ’ by following the Faustian approach of ‘guilt and care’ rather than the ‘Mephistophelean claim that men could do great things in the world only be blotting out their sense of guilt and care’ (p84). Berman describes this intense appetite for development as often resulting in ‘pseudo-development (p77)’ He interprets the Faust story both as a self-destructive ‘tragedy’ and also ‘a challenge – to our world even more than to Goethe’s own – to imagine and to create new modes of modernity, in which man will not exist for the sake of development, but development for the sake of man (p86)’.

Although Berman does make reference to a number of writers and scientists, his technique is more allegorical than scientific, as if Berman’s writing is an extension of that of Goethe. This appears to be suitable manner for communicating ideas, as already demonstrated by writers such as Orwell and Shakespeare. After all, the multifaceted nature of the narrative would likely become reduced down to too few dimensions if it were quantified in a dry scientific text. Furthermore, the emotional depth and intensity of Berman’s work would appear to be necessary to communicate the contained ideas with a wide variety of people. After all, Berman states: ‘Our society will never be able to control its eruptive “powers of the underworld” if it pretends that its scientists are the only ones out of control. One of the basic facts of modern life is that we are all “long-haired” boys today (p85)’.