Architecture and the Subject of Capital: A Critique of Symptomatics and Spectacle

author: Douglas Spencer, Iowa State University
published: Jan. 20, 2020,   recorded: January 2020,   views: 12

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Conceptions of architecture as spectacle or symptom, respectively, the legacies of Guy Debord’s situationism and Fredric Jameson’s Marxian formalism, still serve as default modes for the operation of architectural critique. Under-theorized in terms of the relationship between the political and the economic, over-invested in moralizing denouncements of the iconic, and premised on stagist, technologically determinist, and financially fixated accounts of capitalist development, a critique of such models and methods themselves is overdue. This paper draws upon alternative and heterodox understandings of capital in order to rethink the part played by architecture in its contemporary operation. Drawing upon the work of Ellen Meiksins Wood, Moishe Postone, and Etienne Balibar, it explores the potential for an alternative optic on the power of architecture as a power of, and for, capital.

Douglas Spencer is associate professor and director of graduate education at Iowa State University’s Department of Architecture.

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