Powering Up / Powering Down 1/30/04-2/1/04
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George Lipsitz

Closing Lecture
“The Rebellion of Technology: Aesthetics, Destruction, and Democracy”

In a seldom quoted passage from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin argues that “human self-alienation has reached a point where we can experience our own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.” Benjamin believed that modern societies resort to war because only armed conflict enables states to mobilize the full resources of technology while leaving the property system intact. Yet he noted that it was precisely the democratic potential of technology that made it necessary for elites to mobilize it for destructive ends, or as C.L.R. James remarked in another context “Only such barbarism could repress such democracy.” In my remarks I will explore the battle between destruction and democracy in the context of the technological properties of the perpetual war that our leaders have declared.


George Lipsitz is Professor of American Studies at UC, Santa Cruz. He is the author of several books including American Studies in a Moment of Danger, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, Dangerous Crossroads, Time Passages, and Rainbow at Midnight.

“Powering Up/Powering Down” is sponsored in part by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), and the UC San Diego Department of Music in connection with the departments of Visual Arts, Music, and Literature at UCSD along with the UC Riverside and Los Angeles campuses.