Moten is impatient with detractors who accuse him of difficulty and lack of clarity. Many writers once thought to be impenetrable are now considered canonical, he points out. “The critics I loved and who were influential to me were all weird: Empson, Burke, Benjamin, Adorno—they all had a sound, and it wasn’t like a PMLA, academic-journal sound.” The other critics who influenced him, he continues, were poets: Charles Olson, Amiri Baraka, Nathaniel Mackey, and especially Susan Howe—who, he says, has a different understanding of how the sentence works. “Miles [Davis] said: You gotta have a sound. I knew I wanted to sound like something. That was more important to me than anything.” One could argue that Moten’s sound resonates with the “golden era” of hip-hop of the late eighties and early nineties, when it was still audibly a wild collage of jazz, R&B, late disco and funk: “Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have,” the late Phife Dawg raps on A Tribe Called Quest’s celebrated 1991 album The Low End Theory.
Photograph by Robert Adam Mayer
Harvard Magazine published Jesse McCarthy’s essay on the subversive black-studies scholarship of Fred Moten.
“The changes associated with the re-imagining of social reproduction, for example, are not seen as an endpoint in and of themselves, but are presented as one crucial field of operations in a series of other radical alterations in lived experience. In this truly Promethean feminism, love, work, leisure, the family, science, art, and sexual reproduction are all equally mutable, contestable, and available for species-wide re-engineering. The home can be reconceived of as a site of Promethean potentiality rather than as an example of stubbornly embedded material hegemony; that is to say, it is a space that can be mutated to facilitate a Promethean politics rather than a site of risk aversion inherently obstructive to the development of the solidarities that such a politics demands.”
Research shows that groups produce the richest, most accurate information when they are involved at multiple points throughout a design process. The rapid prototyping and recurrent user testing at the heart of the lean startup methodology affirms this.15 Most social sector organizations do little if any prototyping. Most largescale development projects, for example, do not allow the public to comment until a plan has been largely decided and significant sums of money have already been invested in feasibility and preparatory studies, at which point what is actually open for public input is “everything but the essentials.”16
Steve Paulson interviews feminist, Marxist, and post-colonial studies scholar Gayatri Spivak.
It refers to those who don’t give orders; they only receive orders. That comes from Antonio Gramsci, who made the word current. He was looking at people who were not in fact working-class folks or victims of capitalism.
Ethics are to an extent something that cannot be taught because ethics are not just doing the right thing. Remember, democracy is a political system, not necessarily an ethical system as such.