Historical Materialism 20.

1 (2012) 31–77


Manfredo Tafuri, Fredric Jameson and the Contestations of Political Memory
Gail Day
University of Leeds g.a.day@leeds.ac.uk

Abstract The Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–94) developed a distinctive Marxist approach of critical analysis, which has prompted extensive responses. The reception of his work in the United States in the 1970s and 80s – the intervention of Fredric Jameson, especially – forms an important moment of historiographical mutation, in which the status of Tafuri’s politics holds an intriguing place: it was eviscerated in the very act of its afffijirmation. At stake is not simply the problems attending the transatlantic migration of a body of architectural theory, but also a question lying at the heart of Tafuri’s analysis: the problems of achieving social reforms, above all, in ‘working-class housing’. The difffijiculties encountered by projects to improve accommodation – from Weimar Germany and Red Vienna in the 1920s to the programmes of postwar Italy – provide the concrete material for Tafuri’s analysis while remaining a signifijicant blind-spot within most of the commentary. Tafuri is here reappraised in the light of the political debates over the ‘neorealist architecture’ of the 1950s and the reform-policies of the Italian centre-Left in the early 1960s. Proceeding as if this formative moment never happened, Tafuri’s critics often engage in debates which confuse his critique of the building projects with political despair, and which appeal to enclave-building despite Tafuri’s explicit questioning of such strategies. Keywords Manfredo Tafuri, Fredric Jameson, Venice School, architecture, urbanism, housing, Ludovico Quaroni, neorealism, Tiburtino, Red Vienna, Austromarxism, Karl Marx-Hof, Weimar, enclave, memory, workerism, Oppositions, Revisions group

1. Manfredo Tafuri From 1968, until his death in 1994, Manfredo Tafuri taught history of architecture at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia.1 At the forefront of modern architectural practice, IUAV was already an establishment of some
1. For their critical input on earlier versions of this essay, my thanks go especially to Andrew Hemingway, Steve Edwards, Alex Potts, colleagues in the Department of Art History at the University of Michigan and organisers of the University of Brighton series ‘Politics Philosophy
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI: 10.1163/156920612X631099


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distinction and a ‘stronghold of progressive activity’ due initially to the presence of Giuseppe Samonà and, later, of other influential architects such as Carlo Aymonino and Aldo Rossi.2 Today, however, allusions to ‘the Venice School’ generally refer to Tafuri and his associates in the Dipartimento di Analisi Critica e Storica dell’Architettura and then the Istituto di Storia dell’Architettura, which he founded.3 In addition to his own theoretical contributions, he played an important rôle in helping to cohere a signifijicant group of scholars and intellectuals who set out to use Marxist analysis – broadly framed by the politics of the New Left and what might be understood as an extended, and militant, Western Marxism – to address the history (and future) of architecture and urbanism. Tafuri pioneered collaborative research-projects on such themes as: the emergence of the American city, with Giorgio Ciucci, Francesco Dal Có, and Mario Manieri-Elia; on the exodus of Weimar social-democratic architects and planners to the USSR, where they worked on constructions associated with the fijirst Five-Year Plan, with Dal Có, Ciucci, Marco de Michelis, and Bruno Cassetti; and, with Paolo Piva and Alfredo Passeri, on the AustroMarxist housing projects of Red Vienna.4 His own work was wide-ranging, with interests spanning from the Renaissance to contemporary architecture.5 He provided one of the most signifijicant theories of the avant-garde and capitalist modernity, and considered architectural practice – past and present – in the context of the increased societal tendencies towards abstraction and reifijication. Tafuri’s ideas crystallised in the context of debates on postwar reconstruction, the repercussions of the ‘economic miracle’ and the disillusion with the policies of the Christian Democrats and, especially, the Left’s disenchantment with the centre-Left government in the early 60s. The debates of the Italian socialist and communist Left, and the internal challenges mounted by the formation known as operaismo, provided the more immediate framework. Tafuri’s writings were disseminated within the English-speaking world in the 70s and 80s. This essay considers, in particular, how Tafuri’s trenchant
Aesthetics’. The anonymous readers for Historical Materialism have prompted further revisions and forced clarifijications, for which I am very grateful. 2. Tafuri 1989b, p. 22. 3. Accordingly, Pier Vittorio Aureli prefers to distinguish an earlier ‘Venice Group’ from the Tafuri-associated ‘Venice School’ (Aureli 2008). 4. See Ciucci, Dal Có, Manieri-Elia and Tafuri 1988 (originally published as Ciucci, Dal Có, Manieri-Elia and Tafuri 1973) and Tafuri (ed.) 1971. Tafuri returned to these subjects in Modern Architecture (Dal Có and Tafuri 1976, 1980a, 1980b) – see especially ‘The Attempts at Urban Reform in Europe between the Wars’ – and in The Sphere and the Labyrinth (Tafuri 1987; originally published as Tafuri 1980a). See also Cohen, De Michelis and Tafuri 1979; Tafuri 1971b; Tafuri (ed.) 1980. 5. Tafuri 1995b (fijirst published in Italian in 1985).

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Marxist critique of architecture and social transformation was made over for, and by, a specifijic anglophone context: principally, those sections of the American liberal academy inspired by the New Left (within which Fredric Jameson’s misrecognition of Tafuri’s project will prove to be central). Addressing modern architectural historiography – and how an important component of it was developed and extended within the wider intellectual framework of critical cultural theory – my emphasis will be on the inscriptions and erasures of social process. It is the relationship between social process and memory in which I am interested, and what might be understood as a bifurcation between the form and content of social process in historiography – or the abstracting of its forms from its contents. This process of abstraction is, of course, not one-dimensional; it is simultaneously a concretisation of the material in question within a new context, in order to answer new political needs. Nevertheless, recognising these transformations is vital for understanding what happens to the processes which, in shorthand, are referred to as ‘68’. In the context of criticising the historical assessments of the French May in the approach to its twentieth anniversary, Cornelius Castoriadis noted that claims to describe ‘ ’68 thought’ were, in fact, better understood as ‘ ’86 thought’.6 The shift addressed in this essay has a similar temporal framework, but the transition is not predicated on the same sort of historical and political dislodgement. Unlike the targets envisaged by Castoriadis, and by Kristin Ross in her book on the embedding of the ‘memory and amnesia’ of May, the primary actors in my story do not intend to refijigure 1968 as an eviscerated ‘cultural’ myth which describes the spiritual growing-pains of a ‘generation’ in their country’s transition from authoritarian to liberal fijinancier-state.7 I consider how an argument already informed by a set of political memories and experiences was reworked and disinvested of its motivating impulse, not by those who would seek to bury it but, on the contrary, by those who believed they were continuing the same broad critical project, who situated themselves as among the staunchest critics of their own culture, and who looked to forms of Italian Marxism developed through the 60s and 70s to help marshal their arguments; their aspirations were to preserve, extend and draw out a political project. Instructive for understanding what happens in the international dissemination of ‘1968’ is the deployment of the resources of critical theory and Marxism, fijields to which the students and worker-intellectuals of the time appealed, and which they studied and reappraised. By focusing on the case of Tafuri’s reception in the United States, we can track how tensions and
6. Cornelius Castoriadis cited in Ross 2002, p. 192. 7. Ross 2002.


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contradictions emerge in the way that anglophone critical cultural theory simultaneously particularises and universalises signifijicant strands of his account – and gain insights into the historiographic production of political memory.8

2. Italy: 1968, 1967, 1963 The industrial and student-unrest in the Veneto was not uniquely a feature of ‘1968’. As most historians of the Italian Left will note, the radicalisation began earlier. Rossana Rossanda has recalled how ‘[f]or us, 1968 began in 1967, in the Architectural Departments of Turin and Venice; exploded in Trento with the occupation of the Sociology Faculty, and spread nearly everywhere from December throughout 1968’.9 Indeed, the developments can be traced back further: to Venice’s antifascist demonstrations of 1960 and to the industrial struggle of Sirma in Marghera in the spring of 1965; both were characterised by joint actions and intercommunication between a new generation of workers and architectural students, which were to be signifijicant for the mobilisations of the late 60s.10 Unrest in architectural colleges around the country had erupted in 1963, partly in reaction to the stifling traditions and hierarchies of education and professional training, and to the continuing legacy of fascism within the university-administrations, but also to the growing sense of disappointment in the limited achievements of postwar urban reconstruction.11 Frustrations with the centre-Left government and the rôle therein of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), and with what was seen as the social-democratic orientation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), contributed to the emergence through the early 60s of the radical-Left current known as operaismo, or Italian workerism. A member at diffferent times of the PSI, the Partito Socialista di Unità Proletaria (PSIUP) and the PCI, Tafuri’s political orientation was shaped
8. A number of theorists have addressed the construction of a variety of ‘American’ Tafuris – for some, a Tafuri inviting a turn to ‘autonomous architecture’, for others a Tafuri identifijied primarily with Architecture and Utopia. See, for example, Ockman 1995; Teyssot and Henninger 1999; Vidler 1999; Ghirardo 2002; Leach 2007. Compare also Aureli’s criticisms of the more recent American reception of Italian workerism and autonomism, and the one-sided obsession with Tafuri (Aureli 2008). 9. Rossanda 2008, p. 94 (this text was an extract from and translation of Rossanda’s 2005 memoir, now published in translation as The Comrade from Milan (Rossanda 2010)). 10. Chinello 1998. 11. See Lumley 1990, p. 64; and for an extended discussion see Leach 2007. It is symptomatic that even a book such as Vittorio Gregotti’s New Directions in Italian Architecture, which scarcely addresses this history, should nevertheless contain a chapter entitled ‘The Revolt in the Schools of Architecture’ (Gregotti 1968).

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by his involvement with student-actions in Rome in 1963 (the experience of which confijirmed in his mind the necessity for involvement in organised collective politics) and by the debates around Raniero Panzieri’s dissidentMarxist journal Quaderni Rossi – the nucleus of early workerist ideas.12 The intersections between workerism and the PCI are at the heart of the moment of 1968 in the Veneto. We will return to the intellectual repercussions of these later, but here it is helpful just to delineate some of the practical efffects. By the late 60s, Italy’s multiple workerist groupings became a signifijicant force. One of these, Potere Operaio [Workers’ Power], was established at the Petrolchimico plant in Porto Marghera in 1967, linking with students and intellectuals from nearby universities in Venice and Padua (some of whom had been leafleting the factories for a while, participating in local Marxist reading groups, and, like Negri and Cacciari, were major fijigures in the theoretical development of operaismo). The type of organisation developed in the IUAV occupation of 1967 – the general assembly, which emphasised direct selfgovernment rather than a politics of representation – was further extended within the industrial context. By the summer of 1968 – following the occupation of Venice’s architecture-school in February, the strike of Valdagno’s textileworkers in April, and with the May events in Paris focusing thoughts – the situation had reached a certain pitch with attempts to coordinate action between students and workers. Their respective struggles were conceived as part of a single battle – ‘operai e studenti uniti nella lotta [workers and students united in struggle]’ – and with the conference ‘Students and Workers’ (which was co-organised by the local PCI and Potere Operaio) they set out to develop a ‘global strategy of class-struggle’. Involved were Dal Có and De Michelis from IUAV and Massimo Cacciari, a philosophy-graduate from Padua (later to be closely associated with, and employed by, Tafuri at IUAV). That summer, marches took place in Venice and Mestre; barricades were erected and pickets held in both St Mark’s Square and Marghera; Mestre’s railway-station was occupied; and pickets took place at the petrochemical plants, while the Venice Biennale, the music-festival and the fijilm-festival were blockaded. The island’s international artistic showpiece and its hidden industrial underbelly across the lagoon were subject to similar collective interventions. A local PCI report
12. Along with others in his milieu, he had joined the PSI in 1962 – by his own account because the PCI was too wedded to Soviet policies and the communists he encountered seemed to form cliques. In contrast, the personalities of Raniero Panzieri and Lelio Basso attracted him, even if he was sceptical of the PSI’s policies of moderation. Tafuri left the PSI with the split of the PSIUP in 1964, and he stood for the latter at a municipal election in Rome in 1966; he left in 1966 (though Leach believes it could have been 1968), joining the PCI (Tafuri 1999, pp. 26–7; Leach 2007, pp. 13, 26–7). On the history of Quaderni Rossi and Classe Operaia, see Wright 2002.


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joined together the parts: ‘No alla cultura della Montedison, del centro-sinistra, della Biennale [No to the culture of Montedison [Petrolchimico’s parentcompany], of the centre-Left, of the Biennial]’.13 Tafuri arrived in Venice in 1968. He offfered a critique of the assumptions – all too common in the ideology of the architectural profession – that fundamental social change could be achieved through good design. Drawing on ideas advanced by the key fijigures of operaismo, Tafuri understood capitalism to have gone through an internal transition.14 This change, they thought, had been prompted by the Russian Revolution and its impact on the development of the international workers’ movement, the growth of workers’ councils and organised labour, and their ability to wrest certain economic gains and political presence. The Wall Street crash was, in this analysis, the event that forced the representatives of capital to take this new situation fully on board; after 1929, policies attempting to rein-in capitalism’s tendencies towards economic crisis were supplanted by ones that sought consciously to work with them. Tafuri adapted this workerist argument to an understanding of the history of architecture and the radical ambitions of the avant-garde. In so doing, he also deployed Cacciari’s reworking of ‘completed nihilism’ as a philosophical and critical-political strategy, and Negri’s insistence that the Left needed to meet capitalism head-on without resorting to illusions in social-democratic reform.15 He furthered this account with a consideration of the rôle of reifijication at the level of the linguistic sign and aesthetic form (an approach clearly indebted, albeit in complex ways, to fijigures such as Georg Lukács and the theorists associated with the Frankfurt School). For instance, he explored how the avantgarde’s paring-down of visual syntax (in order that those signs could be reassembled in a variety of new forms) contributed to the emptying-out of their meaning. That one wing of the avant-garde had sought through such strategies to achieve the very opposite – to evade modernity’s processes of devaluation and actively to recover meaning – was, for Tafuri, typical of dialectical reversal. His attitude towards this ‘disenchantment of the sign’ is signifijicant: he admired those artists who, instead of retreating from modern alienation with a ‘tragic’ air, were prepared to ‘look the negative in the face’. At the same time, his work critically assessed the way that such effforts had, despite their radical ambitions, been subsumed under the interests of capital. His
13. Chinello 1998. 14. Tafuri drew on arguments advanced by Tronti and Negri in the 1960s. See Negri 1988 (the essay fijirst appeared in Contropiano in 1969); Tronti 1966. 15. Cacciari 1993 (the key essays date from the early-to-mid 70s); Negri 1988. For an example of Tafuri’s adoption, see Tafuri 1989b, p. 199. For an incisive exploration of these left-nihilist tendencies, see Mandarini 2008 and 2009.

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project, in other words, explored the diffferent strategies of aesthetic and political negation, questioning what, historically, had been their limiting factors.16

3. Oppositions and Revisions: the American reception For Anglo-American architectural theory, the far-reaching character of Tafuri’s work seemed shocking – and, for some, exhilarating.17 Nevertheless, most English-language reception of Tafuri was essentially blind to the specifijic political dimensions of his account, treating him as architectural historiography’s generic representative of ‘Marxism’. This is, by and large, the position that Tafuri’s work still occupies in this fijield: he is the theoretical bearer of what ‘1968’ – as often as not, in a stilted and reifijied form – represents for the discipline.18 (Needless to say, it is this same conjuncture of 1968 and Marxism that is often used to distance his arguments, to treat them as ‘of the past’.) In the 70s and 80s his American interpreters enciphered their own intellectual and political investments through their engagement with his work. Not that this is unusual – or necessarily problematic – but the particular ways in which this was done help us to understand how the dimensions of Tafuri’s thinking were remapped and in the process transformed into something alien with respect to their original content. Although largely familiar to specialists in modern architectural theory, it is necessary to describe the main aspects of this transatlantic transition for those less familiar with Tafuri’s work. His most well-known publication is the pocketsized book Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development. Based on an essay fijirst published in 1969, ‘Per una critica dell’ideologia architettonica’, the book appeared in Italian in 1973 under the title Progetto e Utopia. Architettura e sviluppo capitalistico. The English translation came out in 1976.19 Tafuri’s earlier 1968 book Teorie e storia dell’architettura [Theories and History of Architecture] only appeared in English editions in 1979 and 1980, prompting most of the critical attention at the level of reviews. Architettura contemporanea (1976), written with Dal Có, was translated in 1980.20 His writing primarily
16. Tafuri 1976a; Tafuri 1981; Tafuri 1987. For further discussion of the anti-tragic attitude (which itself related to a critical engagement with Lukács), and the connections between workerist theory and Tafuri’s arguments, see Day 2005, 2010a and 2010b. 17. Hays (ed.) 1998a, p. xiii. 18. Among the recent literature, which has gone some way to changing this limited picture of Tafuri, Andrew Leach’s important and detailed study is unrivalled (Leach 2007). 19. Tafuri 1969 (translation in Hays (ed.) 1998b, pp. 2–35); Tafuri 1973; Tafuri 1976b. 20. Dal Có and Tafuri 1976; Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a and 1980b.


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fijiltered into English through the journals. Starting with the third issue of the new journal Oppositions in May 1974, fijive articles by Tafuri were published in this forum over as many years: all new work, specially translated for the periodical.21 Subtitled ‘A Journal for Criticism and Ideas in Architecture’, Oppositions was a theoretically-orientated architectural journal, launched in September 1973 under the editorship of Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton and Mario Gandelsonas, and was based at, and published by, the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York.22 Aimed at both theoreticians and practising architects, Oppositions broadly coalesced around an interest in European theory. Tafuri’s introduction to Oppositions is attributed to Diana Agrest, who, having come across his writings in Italian, had invited Tafuri to Princeton in April 1974 to speak in the lecture-series ‘Practice, Theory and Politics in Architecture’.23 Tafuri and his colleagues from Venice represented the main living exemplars of the application of ‘European theory’ to architecture. However, the editorial direction of Oppositions was, according to Kevin Lippert, strained between its editors’ varying preferences for French structuralism, formalism, or approaches drawn from the Frankfurt School.24 One commentator, K. Michael Hays, specifijically uses Tafuri to dramatise the internal tensions within Oppositions by contrasting the journal’s irreconcilable diffference between formalism (the ‘light’ of Colin Rowe) and the ‘darkness’ of

21. Tafuri 1974, 1976b, 1977a and 1979. Five articles by Francesco Dal Có and essays by Giorgio Ciucci, Massimo Cacciari and Georges Teyssot were also translated for the pages of Oppositions. 22. Oppositions: A Journal for Ideas and Criticism in Architecture was produced from the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) in New York from 1973 to 1984. 23. Ockman 1995, footnote 4. It is notable that the important art-journal October – also New York-based and similarly orientated towards European theory, modelling itself on Tel Quel – was launched by Rosalind Krauss, Annette Michelson and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe two-and-a-half years later in Spring 1976. The design of Oppositions, like that of October, adopted an unadorned and pared-down appearance deemed fijitting to this Europhile-intellectual project. No imagery adorned its deep orange, square-format cover. The fijirst ‘p’ of the title was, in contrast to the other letters, rendered only in outline by the designer, Massimo Vignelli, to emphasise an oscillation between ‘Oppositions’ and ‘Positions’. Tempting as it is to see this as poststructuralist or Heideggerian in influence, Ockman argues that awareness of Derrida was, at that point, negligible (Ockman 1995). 24. Lippert 1998, pp. vii–viii. See Lippert for descriptions of the strains: Eisenman’s interest in formalism, Gandelsonas in structuralism, Frampton in modernism as a critical project. Eisenman’s approach emphasises the rôle of ideal forms and was developed in terms of grammar and syntax, the combination of which would lend itself to both formal and structural analysis. See also Ockman 1988, pp. 180–99. Ockman’s contribution to the issue of Casabella devoted to the memory of Tafuri is especially useful and detailed in charting the mutual connections and fantasies between the fijigures at IUAV and IAUS. Ockman 1995; see also Ghirardo 2002.

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Tafuri’s ‘historical determinism’.25 Joan Ockman views the editorial conjunction less antagonistically; describing Rowe and Tafuri as Eisenman’s father-fijigures, she notes how ‘Tafuri’s writings functioned diffferently for each editor while at the same time helping them to unify their program’.26 However, it is noticeable that, by the mid-1980s, the members of the Revisions study-group could still observe that little attention had been given in American architectural theory to the politics of architecture. Formed in Autumn 1981 – initially on the encouragement of Eisenman and also based at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies – the group of young critics and architects developed their project independently and came together specifijically to focus on ‘architecture and politics’.27 They convened a reading group, and in March 1982 organised a symposium on ‘Architecture and Ideology’, which developed into the publication of Architecture, Criticism, Ideology in 1985.28 Both symposium and book focused on Tafuri’s work, and the three keynote-papers at the symposium – by Tomas Llorens, Fredric Jameson and Demetri Porphyrios – were billed as ‘responding in some way to the Tafurian position’.29 Porphyrios was cast as pursuing the Tafurian critique of architectural ideology. Llorens had written one of the most philosophically penetrating critical reviews of Tafuri, charging him with succumbing to a Nietzschean-inspired radical gauchisme, and arguing that Tafuri’s dialectic was not a form of Marxist post-Hegelianism, but pre-Kantian in character.30
25. Hays 1998, p. ix. Eisenman had undertaken doctoral studies at Cambridge with Leslie Martin in the early 1960s; Rowe was in the same school and was influential on Eisenman’s interest in Terragni and Gruppo Sette (Ockman 1995). Tafuri’s approach was certainly attentive – in a strong sense – to the determinations of historical and material processes, but the term ‘historical determinist’, especially when counterposed to ‘formalist’, can be misleading. Tafuri’s project involved a historical analysis of form, and of how form has functioned ideologically and economically. Tafuri was not interested in the semiosis of architectural form – although he was aware of the social meanings invested in certain architectural devices (as we shall see later, for example, with regards to ‘neo-realist’ motifs). Rather, his emphasis is on form per se as it is deployed within the economy of day-to-today planning and development. Tafuri takes formalism very seriously; when faced with modes of populist realism, he invariably raises the spectre of formal autonomy and makes a political analysis of, and even a case for, the autonomy of form (Tafuri 1981). 26. Ockman 1995, p. 59. 27. ‘Editorial Statement’ in Ockman, Berke and McLeod (eds.) 1985, p. 4. They also aimed to organise a series of public discussions ‘on contemporary issues’ and ‘to sponsor a competition for the redesign of an urban space in Manhattan’ (Ibid.). The study-group folded in 1988. See also Ockman 1995, footnote 61. 28. Ockman, Berke and McLeod (eds.) 1985. 29. ‘Editorial Statement’ in Ockman, Berke and McLeod (eds.) 1985, p. 4. 30. Llorens 1981. While picking up some themes also addressed by Tafuri – such as the avantgarde and the empty sign – Llorens presented a paper that probably did not to live up to the hopes and expectations intimated by the invitation to participate in the symposium.


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Jameson prepared a detailed and, as the volume’s editors noted, more ‘sympathetic’ critical analysis of Tafuri. Jameson’s essay – to which we will return – was to become the defijining statement on Tafuri in the anglophone debate.31 While the Revisions group denied having a ‘prescriptive’ political programme, they insisted that they were ‘collectively committed to the introjection of an ideological argument into the current architectural debate. Without it we believe that the practice and criticism of architecture are consigned to perpetuating conservative institutional interests whose underlying values and agendas exploit our very unconsciousness of them.’32 As Mary McLeod argued, ‘we felt the need to examine more seriously the relationship between culture and material conditions – in particular, the nature of architecture as ideology.’33 In her Introduction to the volume, McLeod identifijied the political issue facing the Revisions group as the ‘regressive’ nature of postmodernism: its formal and stylistic nostalgia and its close association with the rising political conservatism of the time.34 No doubt with Oppositions partly in mind, McLeod noted how architectural theory was dominated by formalist methods. The competing approaches provided by European structuralism and phenomenology were, she argued, too ahistorical to dislodge this dominance, but Italian Marxism was identifijied as the beacon of an emergent ‘historical, materialist criticism’.35

31. In addition to the symposium-proceedings, the volume included two responses to the symposium by Beyan Karahan and Jon Michael Schwarting and a third section entitled ‘Theory and Praxis: Berlin’ containing papers by Alan Colquhoun and Joan Ockman. The volume contained an early translation of the chapter on USSR-Berlin from La sfera e il labirinto (Tafuri 1980a). Each external essay – the three symposium-papers and Tafuri’s – was preceded by a summary prepared by a member of the group. 32. ‘Editorial Statement’ in Ockman, Berke and McLeod (eds.) 1985, pp. 4–5. 33. McLeod 1985, p. 8. 34. McLeod 1985, p. 7. 35. McLeod 1985, pp. 9 and 10. McLeod equates Colin Rowe with the rôle of the New Critics in literary theory. Even when the category of ‘history’ was deployed (as it was in popular criticism and in liberal ‘indiscriminate humanism’), she argues, ‘any attempt to understand history as a dialectical process linked to class structures, no less the role of ideology in maintaining power relations, is rejected outright’ (McLeod 1985, p. 9). Revisions focused on Tafuri’s Architecture and Utopia and Theories and Histories of Architecture, with the translation of ‘The Historical Project’ (which had appeared in Oppositions in the summer of 1979) providing the basis for the group’s grasp on ‘later’ and ‘post-Marxist’ Tafuri (see Tafuri 1979). In addition, their key points of reference were Benjamin, Adorno and Horkheimer, and Habermas – thus leaning fijirmly in the direction of one wing of the Oppositions project. Attention to Gramsci and Galvano della Volpe extended the range of Italian Marxism; Althusser and Lefebvre were read along with the literary theory of Raymond Williams.

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Tafuri’s example offfered a means to interrogate architectural ideology and values and their relation to material social processes and power-structures.36 For Revisions, there was a political contrast to be explored between Tafuri, on the one hand, and, on the other, Antonio Gramsci and Galvano della Volpe – a contrast that modifijied the parameters of Tafuri’s rôle considerably from those in Oppositions. His function as a rival to formalist methodologies (or even to a-methodological approaches to architecture) gave way to one in which Tafuri featured as a position within (Italian) Marxism. This shift concerned the issue of political possibility and the rôle of culture in advancing it. McCleod identifijied one wing of Italian Marxism with Della Volpe, Gramsci and the architectural group GRAU – that is, she allied it with a view that concedes a rôle to culture, albeit limited, in creating material relations. Tafuri and his colleagues from the Venice School were understood to reject explicitly and trenchantly this more afffijirmative account. For them, architecture was seen to be thoroughly riddled with the ideology of power; the ‘hopes in design’, so characteristic of the architectural profession, as well as of the Left, were seen as false and naively inefffectual – as well as dangerous in their inevitable paradoxical/dialectical reversal. Italian Marxist approaches provided the Revisions group with a new register, allowing its members to ask how the ‘cultural text’, in this case architecture, ‘despite its explicit ideological functions and place in class domination’ might nevertheless ‘embody a properly utopian impulse’.37 Addressing this question was crucial as a way to understand their place ‘as practicing architects and critics’ in the face of the political and cultural conservatism.38 But McLeod’s question here was also crucial for the way it was introduced. By invoking Jameson’s words from The Political Unconscious and by explicitly asking the question ‘with Fredric Jameson’, Tafuri’s rôle both in the symposium and its publication was already being framed.39 With the passage of Tafuri’s writings into the North-American academy during the onset of the neoliberal onslaught, we might well expect to witness a process of depoliticisation. But, as should already be apparent, this is not quite what happened. On the contrary, it is precisely Tafuri’s ‘politics’ to which both Oppositions and the Revisions group appealed. As we have seen, for Oppositions, Tafuri’s rôle was to be a key signifijier of ‘European theory’, one applied to architecture, and, more particularly, a theoretical model of ‘Marxism’ to contrast with formalist models. The Revisions project was more explicitly political and specifijic: by way of Italian Marxism, it sought to radicalise the
36. McLeod 1985, p. 7. 37. McLeod 1985, p. 11. 38. Ibid. 39. Jameson 1981; McLeod 1985, p. 11.


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American discussions of architecture. For Revisions, Tafuri’s function was to inject ‘historical’ and ‘materialist’ concerns into debates, and to sharpen the political-cultural praxis of working architects and critics. In the context of a theoretical liberalism established by Oppositions, the Revisions group summoned – at least at the rhetorical level – not only history, ideology-critique and dialectical analysis, but also the category of class; the group also raised the question of the possibility of social transformation.40 As the Institute and Oppositions entered, as one commentator has put it, their ‘dying days’, those around Revisions attempted to give a new urgency and political focus to the radical architectural project.41 Nevertheless what transpired was indeed a process in which Tafuri’s writing was divorced from its context of social memory. Paradoxically, this was a depoliticisation that took place by way of an insistence on politics. As we shall see, it is the stakes of what is often called ‘depoliticisation’ that are important for the transferences of political memory. And in this, the rôle of Fredric Jameson was decisive.

4. Jameson’s Tafuri In Archaeologies of the Future, Jameson explicitly afffijirms the importance to him of Tafuri’s writing; specifijically, for showing how capital is ‘invested’ in temporality, colonising not only present and past, but also the future.42 This passing mention nevertheless indicates a great deal: it shows the extent to which, and gives us a clue as to why, Tafuri’s work – or, at least, one interpretation of it – lies behind a number of Jameson’s important essays from the 1990s.43 Jameson has returned to Tafuri’s arguments on a number of occasions.44 His most sustained and explicit engagement occurred in the early 1980s, fijirstly, in his plenary paper for the Revisions symposium in 1982, which was worked up as the essay ‘Architecture and the Critique of Ideology’ for the Revisions book in 1985, and republished three years later in the second volume of Jameson’s The Ideologies of Theory.45 His second engagement with Tafuri took place in an
40. McLeod 1985, pp. 8–9. 41. Lippert 1998, p. vii. 42. Jameson 2007, p. 228. 43. See especially Jameson’s essays ‘The Brick and the Balloon’ and ‘Culture and Finance Capital’, both in Jameson 1998b. 44. See, in addition, ‘The Antinomies of Postmodernism’ – one of Jameson’s 1991 Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory – published in Jameson 1994 (and republished in Jameson 1998b), especially pp. 13–14 and 40. See also Jameson 2001, where he returns to some of themes in his Revisions essay. Jameson himself has been the topic of a recent collection of architectural essays, in which discussion of Tafuri inevitably plays a large part (Lahiji (ed.) 2011). 45. Jameson 1985 (republished in Jameson 1988a).

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essay entitled ‘The Politics of Theory: Ideological Positions in the Postmodern Debate’, which was published in the Autumn 1984 edition of New German Critique, in a special issue devoted to the theme of ‘Modernity and Postmodernity’ (the essay later reappearing under the title ‘Theories of the Postmodern’).46 Jameson is both complimentary towards and critical of the Tafurian argument. Tafuri is attributed the status of being not only the most developed representative of current architectural discussions, but also one of the most important critical theorists of culture, his work situated within the intellectual traditions of Western Marxism. Tafuri fijigures, then, as a supplement to those twentieth-century intellectuals – Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, Marcuse, Lukács, and Sartre – whom Jameson had addressed in Marxism and Form.47 Jameson specifijically compares Architecture and Utopia to Adorno’s Philosophy of Modern Music and to Roland Barthes’s Writing Degree Zero. Along with Pierre Bourdieu and Henri Lefebvre, Tafuri is deemed to offfer the most developed example of a thinker able to move to a dialectical ‘third term’, one who, in the effforts to think about space ideologically and politically, takes us beyond the impasse that, at the time, seemed to have been reached by structuralism and phenomenology.48 In short, Tafuri’s is a body of work with which Jameson believes we must reckon. Indeed, few seem to have recognised the extent to which Tafuri has been a key fijigure in the development of Jameson’s influential account of postmodernism.49 In ‘The Politics of Theory’, Jameson deploys a schematic overview (see Figure 1) to make an analysis of the debate. Tafuri’s position is put into play against those of Jürgen Habermas, Jean-François Lyotard, Tom Wolfe, Charles Jencks, and Hilton Kramer, with plus- and minus-signs indicating Jameson’s sense of the relative progressiveness or reactionary nature of their contribution.50
46. Jameson 1984b (republished in Jameson 1991, pp. 55–66, and in Jameson 1998b). 47. Jameson 1971. 48. Jameson 1985, p. 53. Asking how we might understand space as a political and ideological category, Jameson notes the stand-offf between the approaches of phenomenology and structuralism, and then wonders what (‘dialectical’) ‘third term’ there might be ‘between’ these two theoretical legacies. The work of Pierre Bourdieu (specifijically, Outline of a Theory of Practice) and Henri Lefebvre provide hints at what this third term could be, but, for Jameson, their approaches remained to be tested and developed. Tafuri is the third of Jameson’s ‘third terms’ and the one that he sets out to explore in some detail. 49. The defijining statement is Jameson 1984a. Although this essay does not mention Tafuri, it too should be considered in Jameson’s ‘Tafurian’ context. 50. As we have seen, the problem of postmodernism was felt by Revisions to be the immediate challenge. The modern-postmodern debate became the preoccupation of journals such as New German Critique from about 1981, the year when Jürgen Habermas delivered his lecture ‘Modernity


G. Day / Historical Materialism 20.1 (2012) 31–77 Anti-Modernist Wolfe Lyotard Jencks + Kramer Habermas + + Pro-Modernist -



Tafuri +

Figure 1. Fredric Jameson’s chart from ‘The Politics of Theory’ ( Jameson 1984b, p. 62).

Wolfe appears as a representative of the populist dismissal of the modern movement in architecture, as articulated in his polemic From Bauhaus to Our House; Jencks features as the primary advocate of postmodernism in architecture. Lyotard’s thesis on the end of grand narratives and the postmodern condition perhaps needs no introduction, not least because it became one focus for Habermas’s attempt to describe modernism as a project that, far from being over, was still awaiting completion. Jameson places Wolfe and Jencks in the anti-modern/pro-postmodern sector, registering that he reads Wolfe as politically regressive while seeing Jencks’s version as more progressive. Jameson renders Kramer and Habermas in the same manner (regressive and progressive, respectively), albeit positioned as pro-modern/anti-postmodern. Lyotard occupies the pro-modern/pro-postmodern station. In this scheme of things, Tafuri features as the theoretical representative who is both anti-modernist and anti-postmodernist. As Jameson puts it, Tafuri’s specifijic version of antimodernism (unlike those of Wolfe and Jencks) ‘does not speak from the security of an afffijirmation of some new postmodernist culture, but rather sees even the latter itself as a mere degeneration of the already stigmatized impulses of high modernism proper’.51 Interestingly, we could note that with the sectoral pairings – Wolfe/Jencks, Kramer/Habermas – the attribution of ‘progressive’ and ‘regressive’ qualities echoes a European/American contrast. It is interesting, too, that both Lyotard and Tafuri are able to embrace the double valence. In the discussion, Tafuri is primarily contrasted to Lyotard, not just because he is the diametrical opposite in the schematic grid, but presumably because both Tafuri and Lyotard were, or had been, left-Marxists.
versus Postmodernity’ at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University (5 March 1981; fijirst delivered in German as his Adorno Prize lecture in September 1980). 51. Jameson 1984b, p. 60.

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The locating of Tafuri as a double negative might be enough to explain Jameson’s charge – one that has reverberated through the anglophone reception – that Tafuri presents a pessimistic account of cultural politics; he just looks like a grumpy ‘naysayer’. However, by ‘pessimism’ Jameson means something more precise. It is not just that Tafuri is characterised as being ‘anti’ this-and-that; rather, Jameson brings to the fore the question of political and social transformation. Reading Tafuri through the prism of Dialectic of Enlightenment, Jameson sees him as charting capitalism’s progression to a state of ‘“total” bureaucratisation’.52 In this, the projects of the artists and thinkers of the avant-garde and modern movement contributed not to the critique of capital but to reinforcing its ‘instrumentalizing and desacralizing tendencies’.53 Yet despite noting that terms such as ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism’ were inappropriate for assessing Tafuri, Jameson nevertheless concludes by describing Tafuri’s position as ‘cultural pessimism’.54 And in ‘The Politics of Theory’, Jameson directs his criticism at what he perceives to be ‘the absolute pessimism of Tafuri’s Marxism’ and he presents Tafuri’s argument as ‘perhaps the bleakest of all and the most implacably negative’.55 As Jameson sees it: ‘Tafuri’s account . . . of the increasing closure of late capitalism (beginning in 1931 and intensifying dialectically after World War II), by systematically shutting offf one aesthetic possibility after another, ends up conveying a paralyzing and asphyxiating sense of the futility of any kind of architectural or urbanistic innovation on this side of that equally inconceivable watershed, a total social revolution.’56 Total bureaucratisation; total social revolution. On Jameson’s reading of Tafuri, the notion of capitalism as a ‘total system’ (Jameson repeats this charge on a number of occasions) is necessarily concurrent with an ‘apocalyptic notion of the total social revolution’.57 Analysing capitalism as a totality may be tough, and it may elude the powers of aesthetic fijiguration (or representation), but Jameson has regularly – and against prevailing intellectual trends – defended totality as a concept. Accordingly, we should pause on his attack on ‘total system’.58 His emphasis in the criticism of Tafuri seems to be on the idea of a closed totality, but more especially on the political assessment of such a closure. The outlook of the cultural pessimist rests, Jameson argues, ‘on

52. Jameson 1984b, p. 61. 53. Ibid. 54. Jameson 1985, pp. 58, 87. 55. Jameson 1984b, pp. 62, 60. 56. Jameson 1985, p. 58. 57. Jameson 1984b, p. 61. Cf. Jameson’s description of Tafuri’s vision of history as ‘total system’ or as ‘increasingly total and closed system’ (Jameson 1985, p. 58). 58. Jameson 1988b; Jameson 2002.


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the conviction that nothing new can be done’.59 Thus, as he puts it in ‘The Politics of Theory’: ‘it is only logical that Tafuri should conclude by positing the impossibility of any radical transformation of culture before the radical transformation of social relationships themselves.’60 Jameson’s concern was to warn against the danger of political despair. It was also – note the way it is posed – to warn against the risk of depoliticisation in the Tafurian position itself, a position which in Jameson’s assessment was ‘too fatally destined for the kind of discouragement which has so often led Marxists to a renunciation of the political altogether’. Tafuri’s argument, Jameson insisted, might well be consistent with the classical Marxist tradition, but it remained open to post- or anti-Marxist interpretation of the type associated with Merleau-Ponty, Horkheimer, the ex-Trotskyists of 30s and 40s, and ex-Maoists of the 60s and 70s.61

5. The loss of horizon Sophisticated and compelling in many ways, Jameson’s assessment of Tafuri is nevertheless deeply flawed. Tafuri is not an ‘anti-modernist’ in the way that Jameson’s overly-schematic diagram for New German Critique would suggest. Indeed, it is even questionable whether ‘anti-postmodernist’ is an adequate descriptor for the way Tafuri addresses the phenomenon. He took ‘postmodernism’ simply to be a useless category; in some fijields, he argued, postmodernism ‘can flirt with ambiguity, implying that there is something we have surpassed’, but in architecture ‘it amounts to a fijiction’, ‘a purely poetic invention’.62 He also found deeply suspect those discussions of the ‘crisis of modernism’, which he took to be ‘merely fashionable, social chit-chat’ that trivialised the constitutive compromise of value wrought by capitalism and turned crisis into a reifijied category.63 Ultimately, Tafuri judges both postmodernism and discussions of the crisis of modernism as problematically ‘reassuring’ political discourses. But the flaws in Jameson’s reading – and in historiographical writing on Tafuri – go deeper. Tafuri himself had already commented on the misreadings of his arguments in his Preface to the English edition of Architecture and Utopia in 1975. This passage was one that Jameson surely had read and then promptly forgot. In it,
59. Jameson 1985, p. 87. 60. Jameson 1984b, p. 61. 61. Ibid. 62. Tafuri 1989a, p. 68. 63. Tafuri 1989a, p. 67.

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Tafuri complained that his critics had abstracted his ‘architectural conceptions’ from their political and theoretical situation in a short-lived intellectual quarterly Contropiano: materiali marxisti. Founded in 1968, and initially edited by Alberto Asor Rosa, Antonio Negri and Massimo Cacciari, Contropiano brought together leading fijigures of the then-workerist Left; Tronti, Tafuri, and Dal Có were among its contributors.64 Asor Rosa attests to Tafuri’s rôle on Contropiano from 1969 onwards as ‘continuous, passionate and involved’, and as including active participation in editorial work.65 Reading Tafuri’s arguments alongside the political, philosophical and cultural concerns of Contropiano gives a rather diffferent picture to the one painted by Jameson. The journal became a focus for tensions between those maintaining the stricter workerist line of remaining independent of the PCI and those who thought they might take the critique into the Party. Key fijigures from the group that had formed around Mario Tronti’s Classe Operaia – Tronti, Asor Rosa and Rita di Leo – had moved back into the PCI in 1967 in what was one of the fijirst of workerism’s numerous internal splits; Negri, Cacciari and Potere Operaio remained outside.66 Still, for a brief period Contropiano held together intellectuals from the Rome caucus of Classe Operaia and the Veneto formation of Potere Operaio. In the summer of 1968, some of the Potere Operaio intellectuals in the Veneto also decided to join the PCI; Cacciari – a student of Negri at the University of Padua – followed Tronti’s lead. Signifijicantly, it seems that these decisions to return to the PCI were more commonly made by intellectuals than by worker-activists.67 However, it would be a mistake to assume that these individuals had simply reconciled themselves with the PCI and changed their core-convictions. For some, their decisions seemed to be based on the view that the PCI was the forum in which they might best intersect with, and influence, the greatest number of militants.68 There was also disagreement about, as Asor Rosa recalled, ‘the interpretation to give to the students’ and workers’ struggles’. Negri saw the situation as immediately pre-revolutionary; but although they accepted the importance of these struggles, Tronti and Asor Rosa, in the words of the latter, ‘thought that the fortresses of bourgeois and capitalistic defense demanded a far longer and articulated process, to be built also by means of
64. Contropiano: materiali marxisti was published quarterly from 1968 to 1971 by La Nuova Italia, Firenze, and was formed by intellectuals from Classe Operaia, Tronti’s journal, which was published between 1964 and 1967 (its influence was strongest in Rome and the Veneto). 65. Asor Rosa 1995, p. 29. 66. Some had never formally left the party. For a detailed discussion of the emergence of workerism, see Wright 2002. 67. Thanks to Pier Vittorio Aureli, Matteo Mandarini, Peter Thomas, Massimiliano Tomba, and Alberto Toscano for sharing their opinions and assessments of the period. 68. See Wright 2002.


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theoretical argumentations (plus of course militant organization)’.69 On the ground, tensions between Potere Operaio worker-militants and those of the PCI (and the CGIL) increased over the summer of 1968, and Negri left the board over a dispute as to whether to publish, in Contropiano’s second issue, Tronti’s essay ‘Il partito come problema [The Party as Problem]’.70 Although he continued to cite Negri’s earlier essays approvingly, Tafuri’s politics at this point are best situated as closer to those of Tronti. Shortly after his arrival at IUAV, he helped established a PCI cell.71 His 1970 symposium on the Soviet forays of the Weimar architects centrally involved others from the Rome caucus, Di Leo and Asor Rosa.72 A few years later, in 1976 (the same year he left the PCI), Tafuri spoke of the intellectuals’ project to contribute ‘to the evolution of the party’, and, presumably, to contest its direction.73 He described also the local and regional political rôles held by his colleagues and the intersection they perceived between academic work and public politics. It is certainly the case that Tafuri considers a fundamental social transformation the precondition for the proper efffectivity of cultural ambitions. However, this does not amount to a conception of capitalism as a ‘total system’ in the sense Jameson suggests: as a ‘closed’ or ‘closing’ iron-cage – that is, understood through the lens of the second-generation Frankfurt School. Nor does it mean that Tafuri believes ‘nothing is possible’ in the meantime. Quite the contrary: despite the disagreements among those intellectuals associated with workerism (whether they remained inside or outside the PCI), the evidence of struggles in Marghera-Mestre and beyond demonstrated the immediate efffectiveness of collective action in reclaiming and refijiguring the spatial and temporal coordinates of social reality: communities were being reshaped through struggle. His argument has the horizon of social revolution and he questions projects which evade that longer perspective. Tafuri’s fundamental concern is with the loss of that horizon, and he systematically challenges cultural ambitions that imagine they might circumvent the demands and difffijiculties of advancing social transformation. Finally, we might note that his concern is with the loss of – or failure to learn from – social and political memory. Tafuri was aware of how his writing travelled internationally, and his perspective on the American reception of his work is worth noting. In the 70s,
69. Asor Rosa 1995, p. 29. 70. See Ibid. 71. Tafuri 1999, p. 42. 72. Tafuri (ed.) 1971. Di Leo’s argument and historical evidence caused friction with the PCI (Tafuri 1999, p. 46). 73. Tafuri 1995b, p. 43.

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American architects and theorists, he wrote, used ‘Europe as a reference point, as an explosive element within the interior of American culture’ in order to ‘protest against the flatness of the professional practice of architecture, as well as an attempt to create a cultural debate’.74 Like chinoiserie-porcelain in the eighteenth century, ‘European theory’ functioned as a new exoticism in which what was seen was ‘an “Americanized” Europe’.75 Echoing this, Diane Ghirardo has argued that a ‘displaced and disembodied version of Tafuri’s position’ was subsequently sustained by the US academy (names mentioned include Joan Ockman, K. Michael Hays, Fredric Jameson, and Hal Foster). She challenges the misapprehension of Tafuri’s ‘gloom’, which, she argues, came to legitimate a retreat into ‘autonomous architecture’. As she puts it: ‘the architectural theory machine in the United States ecstatically embraced Tafuri’s despair, deploying it as a trigger for a new architecture, while ignoring the political dimension fundamental to his critique’.76 She suggests that Tafuri’s point was to call for political choices to be made and acted upon. Of course, Tafuri was more than capable of indulging a set of reverse fantasies. Some of these were ‘positive’ ones, fuelled by the operaista valuation – in Tronti’s writings, especially – of the American working class as ‘disenchanted’ and thus free from the damping efffects of the social-democratic and trade-union bureaucracies. This crops up in Tafuri’s work on the American city, where the discourse on the skyscraper ascends to an extraordinary allegory of the proletariat emerging over the horizon – an image that seems to conflate Upton Sinclair’s world of Chicago stockyards (the early skyscrapers, which Tafuri is praising, were in this city), the retribution-posse in American Westerns (one is tempted to imagine those portrayed by Sam Peckinpah or even Sergio Leone), and the anticipatory fijigure of the ‘red glow’ at daybreak.77 But mostly the fantasies were negative, and it was principally this Tafuri who came to be interpellated in the debates on architecture. One of Tafuri’s articles for Oppositions addressed the work of Giuseppe Terragni, the architect of the
74. Tafuri 1989a, pp. 70–1. See also Tafuri 1974 and Ghirardo 2002. 75. Ross, incidentally, argues that European theory was itself Third-World theory (Ross 2002, p. 84). 76. Ghirardo 2002, pp. 43, 40. Focusing primarily on the category of ‘autonomy’, Ghirardo attributes the distorted reading primarily to Peter Eisenman and Oppositions; she is scathing about Eisenman’s ‘entirely self-interested’ adoption of Tafuri. Ghirardo’s argument is an important corrective and I think she is right to read Tafuri as calling for political decisions. The debate on Tafuri’s position on autonomy is likely to be controversial, even among Tafuri’s own students (see, for example, Teyssot and Henninger 1999). The emphasis in the current essay is neither on the discourse on autonomy nor on the treatment of Tafuri as a ‘theory-commodity’. Instead, I focus on the play of specifijicity and generality in these debates, especially among their more progressive participants, and try to situate the pressures on left- or liberal-leaning formations within the US academy. 77. Ciucci, Dal Có, Manieri-Elia and Tafuri 1973.


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Casa del Fascio (Como, 1932–6), whose work has been influential on – and directly alluded to by – Eisenman’s own practice.78 According to Tafuri, however, in Eisenman’s hands Terragni’s buildings became ‘an architecture without human history’ and historical sources were stripped of ‘the human subject’.79 Indeed, he saw the work of the 70s – the type of work promoted through Oppositions – as a direct precursor to the postmodernism of the 80s, that is, the critical context for Revisions and Jameson. Tafuri is reputed to have complained that ‘the United States is not hospitable to dialectics’.80 Ghirardo has also noted a tendency among those interested in Tafuri to focus on his discussions of big-name architects – such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe – and a concomitant elision of his ongoing concern with the projects of social housing and amenities, which Tafuri referred to as architecture with a small ‘a’.81 The diffference with the type of architecture central to Jameson’s essays is notable: a private house built by Frank Gehry in Santa Monica; Portman’s Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles; the ‘extreme isometricity’ of the architecture associated with late-twentieth-century commerce and fijinancial capital (conforming to Jameson’s emphases in his account of postmodernism and late capitalism). Nevertheless, as we will see, Jameson’s argument is animated by Tafuri’s discussion of the ‘small “a” ’ architecture. From Raymond Unwin’s garden-suburbs in Letchworth through to the Weimar Siedlungen [housing estates] and the extensive municipal building programmes conducted in Vienna in the 20s, the question of workingclass housing occupied a signifijicant part of Tafuri’s attention. Michel de Klerk’s Eigen Haard estate in Amsterdam (1918–19); the developments on and around Vienna’s Margaretengürtel (the ‘Ringstrasse des Proletariats’) and Karl Ehn’s famous Karl Marx-Hof (1927) across town; Ernst May’s Römerstadt Siedlung (Frankfurt, 1927–8), Hans Scharoun’s Siemensstadt in Berlin (1929–31), or the Berlin-Britz Siedlung by Fritz Schumacher, Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner (1925–31): these are just a few of the schemes with which he engaged seriously as both social and architectural interventions.82 The housing projects of the postwar period were no less important, among them the residential complexes in Brasilia and Rotterdam, the Brunswick Centre in London’s Bloomsbury (Patrick Hodgkinson, 1968–72), Carlo Aymonino’s Gallaratese Quarter (Milan,
78. This essay was originally commissioned as the Introduction to Eisenman’s planned volume, Giuseppe Terragni, meant to be published by MIT in 1979. The book fijinally appeared as Eisenman 2003. The delay in publication is blamed for the souring of relations between Eisenman and Tafuri in the period prior to the latter’s death in 1994. 79. Tafuri 1986a, p. 9. 80. Forster 1999, p. 63. 81. Tafuri 1995b, p. 43. See also Tafuri 1974. 82. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a; Tafuri (ed.) 1980.

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1967–73) and Giancarlo De Carlo’s Matteotti Village in Terni (1970–5).83 It is worth recalling that though designs for social housing might appear in the trade-magazines of the architectural profession, they were – with the exception of signal pieces, such as Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation – rarely deemed worthy of entry into architecture’s history-books. The point to be made here, however, is not restricted to highlighting the relatively marginal place of such work within the standard histories of architecture. In this regard, Tafuri and his collaborators did not just set out to make a corrective. Rather, the emphasis was on the historical importance of such projects, a signifijicance that Tafuri tied to attempts ‘to redistribute [the] capitalist division of labour’.84 It is important, then, to recognise that it is precisely his commitment to considering the history and problems of mass-housing that leads to Tafuri’s criticisms of the projects involved. Indeed, Georges Teyssot sees the group around Tafuri as ‘looking, with a certain amount of irony, for an “ideological”, even hero, fijigure’ among the ‘small “a” ’ architects.85 For Teyssot, Ernst May – who oversaw the building of the Neue Frankfurt, before heading offf with the ‘May Brigade’ to work in the Urals – fulfijilled this rôle. However, I want to take a slightly diffferent route, and consider not Tafuri’s account of ‘modernist’ architectural tendencies but the so-called ‘realist’ ones, which have attracted even less attention.

6. The housing problem, neorealism and Tiburtino Tafuri’s critique of the limitations of European social-democratic and AustroMarxist projects for urban reform – in Weimar Germany and Vienna in the 20s – had developed, not in the abstract, but in response to the lessons and disappointments of socially-directed architectural practice in postwar Italy, specifijically the disappointments in the ambitions for social reform through housing of Italian architects.86 Indeed, it is the limitations of, and defeats encountered by, the early-twentieth-century projects that Tafuri addressed in a way that seems to be an allegory of contemporary policies on mass-housing. More precisely, he had in mind the ideological and autobiographical investment in these projects by the politicians and architects of the Left, above all by his teacher – and subject of his 1964 publication – the architect Ludovico Quaroni.87
83. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980b; Tafuri 1989b. 84. Tafuri 1995b, p. 43. 85. Teyssot and Henninger 1999, p. 13. 86. See Aureli 2008 and Day 2010b. 87. Tafuri 1964. Quaroni had worked earlier under the fascist administration (‘fijirst from a position of opposition, and later from one of surrender’, Tafuri noted) but became socially engaged after the War, researching the question of poverty for a parliamentary commission.


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Quaroni was a major architect – but, Tafuri noted, not a ‘great’ one – who, along with Mario Ridolfiji, was associated with the period of postwar reconstruction.88 In the 1950s, he was responsible for some of the most signifijicant developments of workers’ housing, including the Tiburtino Quarter outside Rome.89 Tiburtino came to represent the archetypal development of the Gestione INA-Casa, the main body charged with overseeing housing and social welfare. It was set up in 1949 as part of the Fanfani plan, which set out measures to raise employment and expand the stock of workers’ housing.90 Quaroni also worked for UNRRA-Casas, an organisation run on the principles of Adriano Olivetti’s Comunità movement, which advocated capitalism with a humane and socially-responsible face. He designed the new homes for the cave-dwelling population of Matera in the South, a town made infamous by Carlo Levi’s book Christ Stopped at Eboli – and by Togliatti’s and De Gasperi’s denunciations of Matera as the ‘shame of Italy’.91 Matera was also the focus of much research by architects and the new technocracy of behaviourists and sociologists focusing on the ‘Southern problem’.92 Within Italian architectural history, this body of work is crudely classed as ‘neorealist’, echoing, of course, the designation commonly employed for Italian postwar fijilm, and also used for literature and poetry dating from the interwar years.93 Neorealism in architecture connected to the growing anti-rationalist mood – a dislike of the repetition, uniformity and constancy associated with ‘anonymity’ – which was also advocated by Bruno Zevi’s emphasis on ‘organic’ architecture. Interest in vernacular buildings had already been promoted under the fascist régime at the 1936 Triennale in Milan, but after the War architects sought to tap into populist sentiments associated with the Resistance.
88. Tafuri 1999, p. 29. For Tafuri, Quaroni represented ‘an architect who had participated in the whole trajectory of Italian history, the most profound of all of them’ (Tafuri 1999, p. 30). 89. Quaroni and Ridolfiji directed the project, with assistance from Carlo Aymonino, Carlo Chiarini, Mario Fiorentino, Federico Gorio, Maurizio Lanza, Sergio Lenci, Pier Maria Lugli, Carlo Melograni, Gian Carlo Menichetti, Giulio Rinaldi, and Michele Valori. 90. The Fanfani Plan took its name from Amintore Fanfani, National Secretary of the Christian Democrat Party, described by Paul Ginsborg as a ‘diminutive and dynamic university professor with a Fascist past’ (Ginsborg 1990, p. 156). INA-Casa (Istituto Nazionale Abitazioni), which existed for 14 years, organised government-fijinanced low-cost housing. Architectural competitions were set up to assign architects to specifijic projects. It was replaced in 1963 by GESCAL (Gestione Case Lavoratori), which became so infamous for corruption and clientism that it was closed down in the early 70s (Ginsborg 1990, p. 247). 91. The Sassi of Matera are now a UNESCO world-heritage site. 92. Tafuri had participated in events organised by the Comunità movement as a student in Rome, and wrote a number of his early articles for Comunità. For a fuller account of Tafuri’s pre1968 work and activities, see Ciucci 1995 and Leach 2007. 93. See Gregotti 1968, pp. 47–63 (Gregotti calls the phase ‘the striving for reality’); Tafuri 1989b; Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a and 1980b; Reichlin 2001 and 2002.

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Figure 2. Ludovico Quaroni, Mario Ridolfi et al., Quartiere Tiburtino, Rome, 1950–4, aerial view.

Such sentiment included adherence to the ideals of community, a preference for decentralisation, and a sense of radical possibilities arising from the social conjunctures of intellectuals and workers. The architectural forms adopted by this ‘neorealist’ architecture drew on the syntax of regional peasant-building or the ‘minor architecture’ of Rome: details such as external staircases, tiled roofs, ironwork, balconies, and loggias; informal layouts and the irregular massing of volumes; use of traditional materials in varying combinations; ‘obsessive fragmenting of walls and fences’;94 structures that, instead of being built on artifijicially flattened sites, followed the contours and undulations of the local topography. The neorealist aesthetic disavowed its own aesthetic condition, appearing to be the very rejection of design, form and composition. But it was, as Aymonino put it, the belaboured result of ‘studied happenstance’; indeed, he noted how the project-team conceived façades as ‘theatre-decorations’, just as the high architects of the seventeenth century had.95 Through such picturesque devices – tropes of chance and autochthonous spontaneity – the
94. Aymonino 1957, p. 20. 95. Ibid. Quaroni also connected neorealism with the Baroque (Quaroni 1957).


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architects envisaged a ‘realist’ architectural poetics that would ‘communicate’ with those who would live in the new homes.96 It is the fantasies, sentimentality and false utopias associated with this discourse – one generated by the new technocratic intelligentsia – with which Tafuri’s criticisms engaged. Tafuri charted the architects’ involvement with these housing schemes and the sequence of disappointments Quaroni and others experienced: the inability of these projects to deliver what they had promised. More particularly, what he traced – from the INA-Casa projects and Olivetti’s bourgeois humanism of the 50s, and the Vanoni Plan of 1954, through to the work of GESCAL and Progetto 80 in 1970s – was the recurring illusion in the ‘myth of equilibrium’.97 The myth crops up in various forms: Catholic, social-democratic, realist, technocratic, or simply as a quotidian desire for peace or retreat from capital’s turbulence. Housing-reform took place in the context of rampant land-speculation. In a pattern that has become familiar in the history of urban redevelopment, ‘rehousing’ became a means to displace communities. Accommodation-costs went up; despite the construction of millions of new homes (according to Tafuri, between 1951 and 1961 there were on average 1.4 million units built annually) the quantity of afffordable housing declined.98 Speculation on land suitable for construction caused a tripling of building costs in the decade from 1953.99 Compared to 8.2% growth in the industrial sector in general, growth in the construction-industry ran at 12.1%; meanwhile, construction-employees (who accounted for 28% of the industrial workforce) saw wages rise by only 4.5%.100 The economic imbalance and the unequal share of growth rather put paid to the political claims being made by the administration, and underpinned
96. The reference to ‘poetics’ is not casual. Writing supporting the culture of neorealism from 1941 poses the matter thus: ‘We too are persuaded that one day we shall create our fijinest fijilm by following the slow and tired steps of a factory worker returning home at the end of the day, narrating the essential poetry of a new and pure life that contains within itself the secret of its beauty.’ (Mario Alicata and Giuseppe De Santis, cited in Reichlin 2001, p. 82.) 97. The Vanoni Plan of December 1954 – named after Ezio Vanoni, the Christian-Democrat Minister of Finance – set out a ten-year plan (1955–64) to achieve full employment, shrink the economic gap between North and South, and escape from the defijicit in the balance of payments. It aimed to increase non-agricultural employment, create 4 million jobs, and improve the efffijiciency and capacity of production. The idea was to achieve rational planning of the economy on the basis of fijive per cent annual growth. The latter was exceeded, but on the basis of export-led growth generated under the influence of the emerging Common Market (formalised in 1957), which compromised Vanoni’s designs. See Tafuri 1989b, pp. 41fff.; Ginsborg 1990, pp. 165–6. 98. Reichlin cites fijigures indicating that 150,000 units were constructed for working-class families between 1949 and 1956, the fijirst seven-year period of the Fanfani Plan (Reichlin 2001, p. 99, n. 14). 99. Tafuri 1989b, p. 42; Ginsborg 1990, pp. 246–7. 100. Tafuri 1989b, p. 42. In the 50s only 120,000 industrial jobs were created, but 400,000–500,000 emerged in the construction and transportation-sectors (Reichlin 2001, p. 99, n. 14).

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Figure 3. Ludovico Quaroni, Mario Ridolfi et al., Quartiere Tiburtino, Rome, 1950–4, diagram of row-houses.

the wave of disillusion and radicalisation among young architects in the early 60s. There was a particular sting in the tail in the case of La Martella, the village built to rehouse the cave-dwellers of Matera, a scheme in which Quaroni and other architects from the Tiburtino projects were involved from 1951. The aim had been to relocate the community to higher-standard modern dwellings. But this was more than an architectural project. The plan was also to address the unevenness of national development through agricultural reform.101 Tafuri noted how – due to local political-institutional conflicts, but especially the vagueness of the political plans – underdevelopment was exacerbated; the South’s agricultural vocation and its service-sector were actually intensifijied and artifijicially expanded. The displacement of the Sassi’s residents was not just their move from the caves to the new village on a nearby landed estate; it also ended up, Tafuri argued, further contributing to the Northern cities’ reserve-army of cheap labour. Southern workers provided much of the raw manpower for the ‘pre-industrial’ trades that were constructing the new urban projects. Tafuri’s judgement on Tiburtino was damning. At the level of Tiburtino’s form, Tafuri observed how a ‘popular lexicon’ was ‘distorted’, and ‘elevated to a linguistic norm’.102 This may have been a ‘realist’ project rather than a ‘formalist’ one (of the kind that he discussed through the early-twentiethcentury examples of Tatlin, El Lissitzky and Shklovsky), but the efffects were much the same: far from ‘communicating’ – a central aim of the architects and prominent in the architectural discourse of ‘neorealism’ – meaning was drained out of their architectural languages and forms. Tafuri also noted the demise of the realist ideal into a set of mannered efffects. The post-Resistance culture of
101. Tafuri 1989b, pp. 23–5. 102. Tafuri 1989b, p. 17.


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‘pride in modesty’, he argued, was transformed by the technocrats into the ‘immodesty of a frustrated will to power’. The ideal did little more than assuage the consciences of certain intellectuals, offfering them (rather than those for whom they designed) a sense of meaning and connection, giving them the impression of ‘roots in the peasant hearth’, which ameliorated their own disorientation within, and alienation from, mass-society.103 To some commentators today, such remarks seem outrageous. It is understandable why – in the context of ongoing neoliberal initiatives and the current round of attacks on postwar welfarism or social-democratic reforms – any criticisms of similar agendas could be regarded as ill-advised. But it would be grossly ahistorical to judge Tafuri’s arguments in this light; or, worse still, to imagine them as actually paving the way, as if by some fatalistic teleology, to neoliberalism. It is easy to lose sight of the extent to which these criticisms had traction in a situation where intense debates were taking place over policies on reform, and over the positions taken by the PSI and PCI in response to these. Tafuri gave an analysis of these problems, and presented them in terms of a dialectical struggle, but his outlook was hardly novel. The political problems were there for all to see and, in 1968, Vittorio Gregotti – once the editor of Casabella – related them to an English-speaking readership. He bluntly declared INA-Casa ‘failed’.104 But among the biggest critics of architectural neorealism were the neorealist architects themselves. Quaroni published a self-criticism of Tiburtino in 1957, where he presented the quarter as a grotesque ‘city-town of the baroque’ and as a scenography of sentimentalism.105 Tafuri’s own criticisms closely echo those presented in Aymonino’s ‘Storia e cronaca del Quartiere Tiburtino’ – from the same 1957 issue of Casabella continuità as Quaroni’s piece – which described the scheme as adopting ‘a language appropriate to a context of austerity, and the pride of a renunciation’, and commented on ‘the paradox of “inventing” a dialectical discourse at the drawing board, as substitute for an impossible direct invention by the inhabitants of those houses’.106 What most offfends critics is how Tafuri described the hopes of reform turning against those who invested in them: ‘the encirclement of the ‘districts’ by the speculating city – a predictable and calculated phenomenon – soon revealed that architectural design had not managed to produce even islands of realized utopia. Realism showed itself for
103. Tafuri 1989b, pp. 10, 11. 104. Gregotti 1968, p. 44. 105. Quaroni 1957, p. 24. 106. Aymonino 1957, p. 20 (translations follow Reichlin 2001). Self-criticism by architects – including Quaroni, Giancarlo De Carlo, Federico Gorio – questioning their involvement in the project at La Martella appeared from 1954 onwards.

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what it was, the product of a useless compromise.’107 His argument against the desires for ‘islands of realized utopia’ – social-political enclaves – interrupted the very strategies in which, at a later moment, many have invested their desires for social transformation. Even in the case of the alternative cooperative-movement – a far from minor phenomenon in the Italian context – the inability of cooperative-production to produce goods at prices accessible for cooperative-consumption pointed to the severe limitations of instituting socialist ideals without confronting the larger socio-economic context. For Tafuri the historian, these problems echoed the difffijiculties encountered by socially-inspired modernisation in central Europe in the 20s. Capitalism and the metropolis may be chaotic and (in the everyday sense of the term) ‘unplannable’, but, as he put it, the efffects of the ‘speculating city’ on well-intentioned radical aspirations were both predictable and calculable. Read historically – attending to his analysis of the 20s and of the Italian context in the 50s and 60s – Tafuri’s position becomes less one-dimensional; architecture’s reforms are resituated within a larger struggle for social transformation. The central issue was the recurrent failure to conceive architecture within the frame of urban planning, and to situate both within the wider processes of capital-restructuring. Tafuri glossed the efffects of the Fanfani Plan: ‘The aims of the plan were clear: to stem the increasing rate of unemployment; to place housing in a subordinate role relative to sluggish sectors, holding it fijirm to a preindustrial level and tying it to the development of small business; to keep stable for as long as possible a fluctuating sector of the working class that could be blackmailed but never organized; and to make public intervention a support for private intervention.’108 Architectural projects, then, were read as symptoms within the wider context of ill-conceived, badly-executed or actively-scuppered reforms. The dislodging of the privileged object of ‘architecture’ – the conception of architectural entities as self-contained – was an approach that Quaroni, Carlo Doglio and Giancarlo De Carlo had already initiated at the 1954 Milan Triennale, proposing attention to wider urban planning, and seeking ‘a confrontation with reality’ and an ‘efffective participation of the collectivity’.109 Tafuri recognised that the scope of political analysis needed to be advanced and that intervention would have to be broader still; it would need to engage with the ‘web of plans, institutions, and structural reforms’. The wave of Fanfani reforms came to an end in 1962 and Law 167, proposing state-acquisition of land by
107. Tafuri 1989b, p. 33. 108. Tafuri 1989b, p. 16. 109. Tafuri 1989b, p. 40.


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compulsory purchase-order, was initiated. The idea was to install the infrastructure and then to sell back the plots for private development but at controlled prices; accordingly, it was hoped that the impact of urban speculators would be mitigated. Yet, as Tafuri noted, prices were actually forced up in response to the law’s ‘freezing’ of sections of the urban fabric.110 The disafffection that set in among architectural students in the early 60s was a response to this sequence of perceived failures. And it was the failure of the left-parties to exercise the potentiality of those circumstances for organising resistance that came increasingly into focus for many militants. The socialists entered into coalition with Christian Democrats in Aldo Moro’s government in 1963, prompting, in January 1964, a split of almost one-third of the PSI to join the new PSIUP (and, following the example of the Secretary of the CGIL, a larger proportion of losses among trade-unionists). The statement by one of the departees – Lelio Basso, who impressed Tafuri – indicates a widespread mood: ‘there is only one thing that cannot be done, and that is to sacrifijice the autonomy of the working-class movement, to subordinate its political choices to the overall plan of the dominant class’.111 The lessons of Tiburtino – and other projects like it – were similar to those that had contributed to frustrations in the architectural schools in the early 60s (and which contributed to the left-rejection of the policies of the PSI’s coalition with the Christian Democrats, and its disappointment with the PCI’s incapacity to propose an alternative). Essentially, what concerned the operaisti – and those taken by their ideas – was the way in which ‘reform’ and ‘development’, led under the socially-orientated struggles of the offfijicial Left, became, in practice, leverage for capitalist developers. From the workerist perspective, the PCI and PSI were too beholden to a ‘tragic’ political position, which was judged to be politically disabling. Instead, they advocated that the workers’ movement adopt an anti-tragic position. This revision was long overdue, in their view, because capitalism’s own representatives had started to abandon the tragic response to modernity in the 30s; as Tronti and Negri would argue, the failure of the workers’ movement to recognise this recalibration of the ruling classes’ agenda put it at a strategic disadvantage. Tafuri situated the avant-garde, social-democratic urban projects, and twentieth-century architectural practice in general, within this framework, exploring how the avant-garde’s practices of negation had – often contrary to the intentions of its practitioners – become isomorphic with capital. His point was that, without a radically anti-tragic politics and the broader perspective of revolutionary social transformation,
110. Tafuri 1989b, p. 84. See also Ginsborg 1990, pp. 267fff. 111. Lelio Basso cited in Ginsborg 1990, p. 274.

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what was intended as ‘anticapitalist’ practices by avant-garde cultural activists would turn against their authors and end up serving the needs of capital. The experiences of the postwar reconstruction by architect-intellectuals seemed to uphold this analysis. The fear was that the political and social memory of these experiences would be erased. Quaroni, apparently, complained that Tafuri ‘never forgot anything’, and Ciucci has observed how ‘[t]his prodigious mnemonic capacity for the things of the past was both Tafuri’s strength and his cross to bear, because all things were always present for him . . . in constant tension, all the contradictions passed before his eyes, and returned inside him.’112 Ciucci’s comments may be a bit overblown, although understandable given that they had been penned after Tafuri’s death for a memorial-publication. Nevertheless, we can extend away from a focus on Tafuri’s personal attributes to bring to the fore the difffijiculties in transmitting the experiences of social processes and communicate something of the fragility of conveying political memory.

7. Enclaves and utopia However, the specifijic pitch and content of Tafuri’s arguments – and, more especially, his articulation of the contradictions – could not be heard or understood in the context of the North-American receptions of the 80s. The Americans faced an assault on notions of political and cultural negation, an agenda which determined the misreading of Tafuri’s arguments and the erasure of the memories embedded within them. Jameson’s immediate concern – and that of the Revisions group – was to defend the immediate viability of radical cultural projects. Their situation was the period of the ‘culture-wars’, the neoconservative attacks on liberal values and the phenomenon sometimes dubbed ‘reactionary postmodernism’ or ‘neoconservative postmodernism’.113 For many, articulating a more left- or liberal-leaning critical position was pressing, and this often took the form of, to use Hal Foster’s term, a ‘postmodernism of resistance’.114 Surface readings of Architecture and Utopia – and ones conducted in the specifijic context of ‘left-postmodern’ discourse – could conclude that Tafuri’s critical exploration of particular histories of
112. Ciucci 1995, p. 25. The issues of memory and time are recurring themes in the literature on Tafuri since his death, starting with the double commemorative volume of Casabella in early 1995 (Numbers 619–20) and continuing, for example, in the journal Architecture New York in 1999 (Numbers 25–26). They are thematically addressed in Leach 2007 and Vidler 2008. 113. Foster 1984. 114. Foster 1983/Foster 1985b, p. xii. Foster used alternative designations, such as ‘poststructuralist postmodernism’ or ‘critical postmodernist’. See also Foster 1984.


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European architecture and politics amounted to the total condemnation of all possibility. But Tafuri’s position here was not an argument that sees social practice as necessarily predestined for ‘appropriation’ (a favourite theme within the left-postmodern debates); it was a political assessment based on historical analysis and the specifijic experiences of a social movement. Jameson advanced his own account of postmodernism not simply as a diagnostic of late capitalism’s unique cultural logic, but, more signifijicantly, as a political prognosis, which treated postmodernism as the horizon against which contemporary political resistance must be set. For those, like Jameson – himself predisposed to the notion of capitalism as ‘total bureaucratisation’ (via Dialectic of Enlightenment and the Weberian notion of the ‘iron-cage’) – identifying chinks of light, or looking for signs of critical consciousness and ‘seeds of the future’, was important as a means to preserve those fleeting moments of critical distance. In his essays of the 1980s, Jameson argued that the world was entirely ‘within the culture of postmodernism’; the radical project, he insisted, was no longer to make ‘absolute moralizing’ or ‘global moral judgments’ but to focus on the more limited task of assessing the culture before us.115 Although Tafuri’s account cannot be reconciled with Jameson’s agenda, the latter has continued to shape the reception of his work. Jameson argued in favour of ‘enclaves’ – potential radical social forms that might be ‘emergent’ within capitalism – allowing him to insist that something is possible this side of revolutionary rupture. This argument entails having to ignore aspects of Tafuri’s argument of which Jameson could not have been unaware: a series of unsuccessful attempts at building enclaves was precisely what Tafuri was discussing. Furthermore, Tafuri represented a ‘critical refusal of utopian speculation’,116 which seemed to threaten the progressive purpose that Jameson especially attributed to utopian thought (and which still remains central to his intellectual endeavour). Arguably, attitudes towards the idea of utopia wax or wane in relation to judgements made about the possibility or viability of collective political action.117 Reflecting back on this period as one of neoliberal
115. Jameson 1984b, pp. 63, 62, 63. The task, Jameson elaborates, is ‘to assess the new cultural production within the working hypothesis of a general modifijication of culture itself with the social restructuring of late capitalism as a system’ (Jameson 1984b, p. 63). 116. Jameson 1985, p. 73. In the republished version in The Ideologies of Theory the word ‘utopia’ is capitalised. 117. This is not the place to rehearse the arguments for or against utopian thought – whether the critiques of utopian socialism by Marx and Engels, or the reactions to the outpouring of artistic imagination prompted by the 1917 Revolution (‘unrealistic’ in the face of material and economic constraints). Tafuri himself describes a history in which the concept of utopia becomes

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ascendancy, it is hard not to read Jameson’s attachment to utopian fijigures as signalling simultaneously both a sense of recalcitrance and one of defeat. In his reading of Tafuri, Jameson’s approach does not so much abstract the architectural argument from the political one (as Tafuri had once observed of the earlier Italian critics of his work), but abstracts Tafuri’s politics from social process. As already noted, the irony is that this was done in the name of emphasising the political dimension of Tafuri’s thought. Indeed, it is Jameson’s abstraction of such conceptions as ‘hope’ and ‘utopia’ from a politics of social process that might be seen to be symptomatic of the bleakest of positions (which is not to deny that his impulse to summon those terms is understandable). Attractive as they are, abstracted and displaced from social agency, these terms too easily become vacuous and ungrounded – a project of negation under duress. Tafuri’s explicit challenge to utopianism – more precisely, his challenge to the substitutionist and reassuring dimensions of utopias – was read by Jameson as a ‘paralyzing and asphyxiating sense of . . . futility’.118 By seeing Tafuri’s argument in terms of capital’s unstoppable appropriation of dissent and critique, Jameson positioned Tafuri’s perception of capitalism as ‘total’, judging it oppressive in its rendering of resistance near-impossible from the outset.119 But we should be clear here: Tafuri’s argument is not an ‘anti-modernist’ dismissal of, or ‘moral judgement’ on, such projects, but a critical exploration of the disjunction between their aims and achievements, between the hopes set forth and the resulting realities; he was interested in why they did not succeed, in order to set out more propitious ways forward. Tafuri himself, we should recall, is repeatedly critical of moralising approaches (and an important aspect of his approach is to chart modernity’s turn to a constitutive amorality). If one really wants to make an argument for a Tafurian sense of fateful ‘inevitability’ it is this: the predictability of capital’s success when the opposition restricts its aim to delivering reforms or to ameliorating capital’s efffects, or when these come to substitute for the goal of social transformation. The point he was making was not the inevitability of appropriation, but the problems that resulted from half-applied strategies, the limitations on social goals. In this regard, Tafuri made some interesting comments in the mid-70s, using the example of the cooperative building programmes of Italy’s red municipalities:
eviscerated in the modern period (Tafuri 1976a). To my mind, the opposition between ‘realism’ and ‘utopia’ is too often turned into a rigidly formulaic contrast. For some initial reflections on how this developed in the Lukács-Adorno debate, see ‘Afterword: Abstract and Transitive Possibilities’ in Day 2010a. 118. Jameson 1985, p. 58. Tafuri thought Adorno’s dialectic ‘too simplistic’ (Tafuri 1995b, p. 37). 119. Jameson 1985, p. 58.


G. Day / Historical Materialism 20.1 (2012) 31–77 The movement is more important than the results achieved. . . . When you aim for result, you think you have to resolve something. The term ‘resolve’ itself implies the desire to appease, to master a theme once and for all. If we know one thing that’s important, it’s the movement that tends to, and this tends to contains, I wouldn’t say the truth in idealist terms, but the rectitude of all political activity. . . . Another way of putting it is: we know historically that the cooperative movement is intrinsically incapable of resolving the problem of the working class movement. We know so much about the poverty of attempts to resolve the housing, but there is no doubt that the cooperative movement regroups and shapes a working class movement that is otherwise divided. So it’s not so much what’s done that is important, but the movement created in the process, something that cannot be seen or touched.120

Looked at this way, he argued, the criterion of judgement is transformed: is the movement being
helped or hindered in its struggles? That is the question. Historical experience can teach us things, but it’s far from clear that history must always repeat itself.121

He concludes by noting that, in both Weimar and Red Vienna, the cooperativemovements contributed more to instilling the illusion of resolution than to the advancement of the struggle to supersede capitalism.122 This is a contentious judgement on these movements – and there are reasons not to conflate the social-democratic context with that of Austro-Marxism – but the issue, for Tafuri, was to ensure that this history did not repeat itself and that such shortfall-‘resolution’ did not become the aim of struggle.

8. Red Vienna and the Karl Marx-Hof Despite his criticisms of the project, Tafuri remained alert to the contradictions involved in Tiburtino. Built several kilometres away from Rome on cheap land, it was neither town nor suburb; it was, he argued (alluding to an old Russian Futurist text), ‘a slap in the face of petit-bourgeois respectability’. For all its limitations, he thought Tiburtino was nevertheless ‘an afffijirmation of both rage and hope’.123 To grasp this double take on Tiburtino – a recognition of both its practical-critical limitations and its symbolic force – is to understand a
120. Tafuri 1995b, p. 43. 121. Ibid. 122. Tafuri calls this ‘the “resolve” illusion’, a social-democratic inflection on the ‘myth of equilibrium’ and belief that the problem of housing could be ‘resolved’ by modifying capitalist structures. 123. Tafuri 1989b, p. 17.

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core-aspect of Tafuri’s approach. We could compare his description of the Karl Marx-Hof, designed in 1927 by Karl Ehn, an architect in Vienna’s municipalplanning department. The place became internationally known as an iconic representation of Viennese social democracy and a symbol of resistance to fascism when, during the 1934 civil war, the Social Democrats’ Schutzbund fought the Austrian army and the Austro-fascist Heimwehr. The battle, in efffect, fulfijilled the pre-existing fantasies of the Viennese Right who imagined that the buildings constructed under the Gemeinde Wien (Vienna’s municipal council) were ‘fortresses’ from which the working class would launch their revolution. According to one writer, as the Karl Marx-Hof was built, the Right unleashed an ‘orgy of hatred’.124 The small openings that appeared on the façades – windows to provide light and ventilation for indoor lavatories (then still a new feature of working-class apartments) – were imagined to be ‘fijiring slits’ for proletarian snipers. Many of the Viennese superblocks were large, but, whilst not the largest, the Karl Marx-Hof remains notable for its immense size, its visual presence and its physical monumentality. Built to house fijive to sixthousand people in 1,382 flats, and with extensive communal facilities, this development is on the scale of a small township. Occupying a narrow site, a double run of apartment-blocks extends over a kilometre in length, enclosing most of the area into sizable courtyards containing the shared amenities. The central court remains open on one side, setting the building’s ‘towers’ and ‘triumphal arches’ against a ‘parade-ground’.125 The red Höfe of Vienna were conceived as environments – physical and cultural – in which workers might prepare for a new way of social being.126 Karl Marx-Hof is also distinguished by its situation. Being on the main arterial approach to the city from the north, its position was strategically charged, and the development remains visible from afar. Located not in one of Vienna’s traditional working-class quarters, where most other Höfe are congregated, it was built at the foot of a well-heeled hillside-district in the North-West of the city. It interrupted the course of anyone who wanted to get to the neighbourhood railway-station at Heiligenstadt, requiring them either
124. Förster 2010, p. 39. 125. Competitions for designs specifijically called for ‘triumphal architecture’ (Weihsmann 2009, p. 14). The monumentalism was desired ideologically – these were to be ‘people’s palaces’ – but also owed much to the influence of the school of Otto Wagner, and to the typology of courtyard-buildings, including monastic, aristocratic and residential models. See Haiko 2010. 126. Detailed studies of the Red Vienna project include Blau 1999 (focused on architecture) and Gruber 1991 (which addresses the entire political and cultural project of the SPAD). I leave aside the political debate over whether Höfe (apartments built around courtyards) were more appropriate than Siedlungen (estates or settlements, which in Vienna focused on two-storey family-homes).


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Figure 4. Karl Ehn, Karl Marx-Hof, Vienna, 1927–30, view of towers, arches, flagpoles and statues on façade of central square (photo: Steve Edwards, 2010).

to circumnavigate its extensive outer perimeter or to pass directly through its territory and under one of its splayed arches. The arches form the base of a series of tower-forms, each mounted by a large blue ‘machine-aesthetic’ style flagpole. On the keystones above the four central arches stand allegorical fijigures, sculpted by Josef Franz Riedl, to freedom, enlightenment, welfare, and physical culture. To break up the volume, and to make its ideological point, the tower-elements were painted ox-blood red. It was, clearly, a class-marker; the most confrontational and polemical of all Vienna’s ‘pugnacious islands’ – although the 40,000 football-supporters who passed through the arches on

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Sundays probably found the transit across the Karl Marx-Hof a somewhat diffferent experience to local bourgeois residents.127 It was a bigger slap to the bourgeois face than Tiburtino, where the symbolic assertiveness was geographically distanced and the balance of local political power less favourable to the working class. For Tafuri, the Karl Marx-Hof presented itself as an ‘event’ and an ‘epic’.128 The complex’s rhythm of arches and towers, he noted, celebrated a victory, but not the military success of an emperor; this was a ‘red citadel’ jealously preserving and asserting its autonomy as a centre of working-class selforganisation.129 Tafuri interprets the Karl Marx-Hof as if it were a musical score, with major and minor keys, a choral-play and a diminuendo.130 Then he addresses Karl Marx-Hof as a written text whose omissions must be read symptomatically: as the ‘city of man’ (as opposed to the ‘city of the bourgeoisie’), it gave form to the conscious producer or to the educated worker who challenges capitalism’s reduction of existence to mass-production.131 Like an angel opposing spiritual poverty, the Karl Marx-Hof, for Tafuri, parallels the themes set out in Ernst Bloch’s Spirit of Utopia: registering collective sufffering, calling out in the silence, and anticipating emancipation.132 Like a proud individual who had discovered her ‘plenitude’, the Karl Marx-Hof loudly and defijiantly declared her diffference.133 Invoking Lukács’s analyses of the classic bourgeois novel, Tafuri compares the Karl Marx-Hof to the hero-protagonist opposed to society; here, the architectural form opposes the city around it. Karl Marx-Hof, Tafuri asserts, was ‘the greatest novel-in-architecture. . . . The most complete “Magic Mountain” of Austrian Marxism’.134 As Tafuri tells it, the nature of the tragedy was twofold. First, there were problems with the development itself. Although he discusses the ‘proletarianism’ and ‘social realism’ of the Karl Marx-Hof, Tafuri’s criticism does not turn simply on the issue of stylistic regressiveness, as has sometimes been suggested.135 (In fact, compared to other Viennese developments – with styles including folksy, pan-Germanic Heimatschutzstil – he fijinds in the ‘utopia of the Karl Marx-Hof ’ echoes of Behrens, Loos, Mendelsohn, albeit retuned to a ‘new realism’.)136
127. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 164. 128. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 93; Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 164. 129. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 86, 90. 130. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 90. 131. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 93. 132. Ibid. 133. Ibid. 134. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 164; cf. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, pp. 93, 95. 135. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 166. 136. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 86.


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Figure 5. Karl Ehn, Karl Marx-Hof, Vienna, 1927–30, view of an interior courtyard (photo: Steve Edwards, 2010).

Tafuri argues that the design had learned nothing from the modern movement and from the researches of Existenzminimum. The issue concerns a range of interconnected problems, which are established in the literature on the development: limitations caused by the municipality’s adherence to the courtyard-typology; the building techniques used; poor resolution of the interior floorplans (caused by the aesthetic demands of the exterior’s tectonic solutions of modulated cubic volumes); lack of facilities within the cramped flats; problems with ventilation in the flats occupying the ‘towers’; and a limited imagination with regard to what collectivist life could be.137 (For example, the lack of central heating obliged women to trudge up and down stairs for fuel, just as they had in the old tenements.) Tafuri attributes the problems of the Karl Marx-Hof primarily to the policy-decisions taken by the Viennese administration, decisions which, he thinks, short-changed the project’s potential achievements. Secondly, his criticism has a wider scope. Tafuri describes the ‘dramatic impasse’ that Red Vienna ‘created for itself ’.138 He notes there were positive aspects to the Austro-Marxist project: land-speculation was eliminated; rents were subject to control; a programme of mass-housing commenced; and there
137. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 94. 138. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 162.

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was a public requisition of buildings for redistribution. The Viennese situation was, he insisted, ‘exceptional’ – for the historical conjunction it inherited; for the range of economic and administrative instruments deployed by the socialists; for the aims to which these instruments were turned; for the theoretical sophistication of Austro-Marxism and its willingness to engage concrete political difffijiculties; for the contradictions emerging between technique, ideology and form. And it was exceptional within the context of Europe’s other left-social projects at the time.139 Tafuri is clear that the Viennese programme of building made a dramatic improvement to working-class living conditions.140 However, in exchange for the right to housing, wages were held down, and the hold on labour-costs was intended to encourage exports. Tafuri continues: ‘The cost of operation was high, however, and in fact contributed to reducing even more the mass of credit circulating in Austria, thus exacerbating the economic crisis already afffecting the productive sectors.’141 The dampingdown of wages, designed by Otto Bauer, was not such an issue for those who found their rents dropping from an average of 25% of their income to 2% – and the policies did lead to a rise in political support, from both working class and petit bourgeoisie.142 However, the economy stagnated, the labour-force became less mobile, and the Right mobilised in retaliation for the restrictions on property-owners. Tafuri concludes that ‘the policy of reform failed because it was applied to a single sector, housing’; above all, he assesses this failure in terms of the growing working-class disillusion with the party.143 It is difffijicult to deny the achievements of Vienna’s red municipality: almost 65,000 housing units constructed between 1919 and 1934; comparable advances made in social welfare, health and education; an extensive network of cultural organisations and facilities. As scholars have noted, it ‘succeeded as no other metropolis had in improving and innovating social reforms and cultural activities for its working class within the political limits of a polity hostile to such effforts’.144 Of course, Red Vienna has the status of a ‘test-case’ in social
139. Tafuri (ed.) 1981, p. 7. 140. Already at the start of the century, Vienna’s housing conditions were notoriously bad, and the situation became exacerbated immediately after the War with the collapse of the Empire, leading to a signifijicant squatter-movement. See Blau 1999. 141. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 162. 142. Gruber questions the gains: rent-control was applied in the new municipal blocks but not in the non-regulated sector, to which the mass of former working-class subtenants was consigned (if not made homeless). Homelessness went up threefold between 1924 and 1934. The SDAP focused all energies on the new buildings, putting little into renovating existing housing stock. Gruber suspects this was largely for ideological reasons. Gruber also criticises the SDAP’s failure even to try to socialise the construction-industry. See Gruber 1991. 143. Dal Có and Tafuri 1980a, p. 166. 144. Gruber 1991, p. 180.


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transformation. Accordingly, commentators have also pointed to problems, among them: the missed opportunities, in 1920, to nationalise the banks and primary industries, to separate church from state, and to legalise the status of factory-councils as active agents within industrial democracy; the AustroMarxists’ faith in the neutrality of the state, which came into crisis after 1927; their attempt to compensate for declining political support by focusing on cultural policy; their bourgeois-paternalist attitude towards workers; the oligarchic structure of the SDAP and its discouragement of consultation, let alone participatory democracy, and its preference for workers modelled as passive consumers; its conservative social vision of the neue Menschen and ordentliche Familien; its failure to learn from comparable projects elsewhere; its crowing exaggeration of its successes, and creation of its own obfuscatory myth.145 While distinctive for its flights of poeticism and its reading of the Höfe as architectural expressions of Austro-Marxism’s political isolation and interiorisation, Tafuri’s analysis is – once again – far from atypical, so it is worth considering why his discussion of the Viennese experiment should have drawn such anxious responses. Red Vienna was not just a historical test-case; the debates over its experience also have a status for the period in which Tafuri was writing, when Rote Wien became a token within Eurocommunist arguments, posed as a ‘third way’ between social-democratic reformism and Soviet communism. Specifijically, it emerged as coin in the revival of Gramsci’s arguments over proletarian counterhegemony. Gramsci appeared across the American discussions, although one gets the sense that it is not even his Eurocommunist incarnation that we fijind there, but its fantasised and displaced version. In addition to challenging the phenomenon dubbed ‘reactionary postmodernism’, Hal Foster was critical of the Left’s politics of ‘transgression’, which he also associated with the productivist avant-garde; it is ‘Gramsci’ who provided Foster with another model.146 The Revisions participants appear to have been more sympathetic to Marxian debates, but they also appealed to Gramsci to advance an alternative form of resistance. Jameson likewise summoned Gramsci to aid his argument, where Gramsci fijigures ‘optimism’ to Tafuri’s supposed ‘pessimism’. It is by mobilising Gramsci and Marx’s writing on the Commune that Jameson argues for counter-hegemonic enclaves. This has been at the core of debates over Tafuri ever since – fijiguring as a constant presence, a call to
145. For an extensive and detailed discussion, see Gruber 1991. For situating Red Vienna within twentieth-century left-politics, see Eley 2002, pp. 210–15, and the chapter on ‘Thwarted Alternatives’ in Sassoon 1996, pp. 60–82. 146. On postmodernism, see Foster 1983/Foster 1985b and Foster 1984. On replacing ‘transgression’ with ‘resistance’, see Foster 1985a, pp. 149–55.

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common sense and refusal to conceive as futile the idea of architecture-associal-change. Historical accounts of Red Vienna often take the opposite view: they separate Gramsci from the later appropriation of his work, and they see Vienna not as ‘optimism’ in the face of capital’s expansion but as exposing uncomfortable political problems of transition. In the close to his detailed study of Red Vienna, Gruber notes that ‘[p]erhaps the most signifijicant legacy of the Vienna experience is the concrete challenge it presents to the once fashionable interpretation of Gramsci’s hegemony theory, which suggests that the workers could create a counter-hegemonic culture before they succeeded in capturing state power’.147 Meanwhile, Geofff Eley argues that the prioritisation of cultural movements ‘stopped short of the fully integrated conception of “anticipatory socialism” that a genuinely “Gramscian” centring of cultural struggle would imply’ (and he concludes, ‘As Gramsci knew, culture was too important to leave to culture’).148 But if the intellectual trends of the 70s lost traction as political arguments, the same is not always true of their cultural legacies.

9. Rhetorics and dialectics On close analysis, it transpires that Jameson does not, as has been widely assumed, even advance arguments for the political strategy of ‘enclavebuilding’. He reveals that he is less interested in the possibility of enclaves as actual challenges to spatial hegemony than he is in preserving just the idea of them. What is ‘essential’, he argues, is ‘to form conceptions and utopian images of such projects, against which to develop a self-consciousness of their concrete activities in this society’.149 Jameson turns the problem into one of the preservation of critical thought as such, that is, a problem of remembering the possibility that our world might be otherwise. The contrast with the dimensions and temporalities of Tafuri’s political mnemonic is striking. Jameson’s analysis of Tafuri fijinally turns out to be an argument concerning the rhetorical mode of dialectical writing. The central purpose of the essay ‘Architecture and the Critique of Ideology’ is to explore the issue of historiography, and specifijically the discursive form adopted by dialectically sensitive theorists. These latter are seen as works with a particular ‘intensity
147. Gruber 1991, p. 185. According to Sassoon, ‘Austro-Marxism resurfaced briefly in the 1970s when, once again, a “third way” between Soviet-style communism and reformist social democracy was being sought. . . . In retrospect, it appears to have been a passing fashion rather than a real revival’ (Sassoon 1996, p. 73). 148. Eley 2002, p. 215. 149. Jameson 1985, p. 72.


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and intellectual energy’, ‘a peculiar, condensed, allusive discursive form, a kind of textual genre’.150 Jameson notes two features of such dialectical writing: fijirst, its emphasis on necessity and failure; and secondly, its focus on contradiction and reversal.151 He argues that the Tafurian conception of ‘total system’ must be understood as ‘a formal necessity of the generic structure of his text’ – that is, as the inevitable result of his ‘dialectical historiography’.152 It is the formal result of this ‘kind of textual genre’, its structuring around historical ‘necessity’, which, despite his own commitment to dialectical thought, he fijinds oppressive.153 What he means by this is that the key ‘event’ of dialectical historiography – the moment of contradiction and reversal – predetermines the narrative closure. This rhetorical ploy, Jameson argues, shapes the present as ‘the fijinal and most absolute contradiction’ and endows the ‘historical situation with an absolute power’.154 This may well be an appropriate warning for certain dialecticians in the Western-Marxist tradition, but it is misplaced in the case of Tafuri.155 In 2001 Jameson returned to the issues of dialectical writing, narrative closure, utopia, Tafurian pessimism and the ‘enclave-architecture’ of the interwar Siedlungen and Höfe. On this occasion, Tafuri and Dal Có’s Modern Architecture serves as a key example within a discussion of metaphor and allegory. (The other examples are, signifijicantly, T.J. Clark’s Farewell to an Idea and Rem Koolhaas’s S,M,L,XL). Specifijically, Jameson focuses on Tafuri’s passage concerning the Karl Marx-Hof as ‘magic mountain’. Essentially, Jameson makes the argument for allegory as a ‘narrative dynamism’ that registers a contradiction-embodying crisis which is manifest both in representation and narrative.156 On this occasion, he takes Tafuri’s writing as a fijine example of a dialectically tensile and flexible form of allegory, which narrates a story where ‘architectural innovation grows ever more desperate, its attempts become
150. Jameson 1985, p. 57. 151. Jameson 1985, pp. 59fff. 152. Jameson 1985, p. 65. 153. Jameson 1985, p. 57. 154. Jameson 1985, pp. 64, 62 (Jameson’s emphasis). Readers of Jameson will note how ‘formal necessity’, while not identical with, nevertheless closely parallels his emphasis on ‘cultural logic’, which has itself been criticised for its deterministic sense of history. 155. Guerra and Tessari 1995 and Cacciari 1995 recall his insistence on struggle. This does not mean that Tafuri held to popular positions, however. He describes those who abandoned architecture for leftist splinter-groups in 1968 as affflicted by the ‘childhood sickness of extremism’. It is important to see this comment in context: if one side of the coin was ‘radicalism’ (then a term of derision), the other was deemed to be a fascination with ‘autonomous architecture’ and its ‘syndrome of specifijicity’ (Tafuri 1995b, p. 37). 156. Jameson 2001, p. 30. Allegory, he argues, forces the critic beyond the static nature of metaphor and symbol, allowing us to ‘construct a whole history’ and ‘reconstruct a fundamental contradiction’ – and thus to give meaning to architecture (Jameson 2001, p. 33).

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grander and more impressive, its failures become more conclusive’.157 The examples of Mies van der Rohe and the Siedlungen/Höfe are read by Jameson as two narrative climaxes for Dal Có and Tafuri. Jameson identifijies a number of contradictions thematised in Modern Architecture – above all, that between the individual building and the city. The various architectural-urban attempts to overcome this contradiction ‘inevitably’ lead to ‘failure’.158 However, although he continues to read Tafuri as ‘hostile to the avant-gardes’ and as ‘pessimistic about the intellectual forces of modernity’, Jameson nevertheless reappraises Tafuri’s assessments. Tafuri’s ‘implacably negative judgments’, he suggests, ‘are not demoralizing or paralyzing but rather energizing and productive of future praxis’.159 With the Siedlungen/Höfe ‘the enclave stood as an allegory of revolutionary society as a whole’, but because the enclave cannot be tolerated by the system ‘the allegory ends up undoing itself ’.160 Thus: ‘from an act that symbolically resolves the fundamental contradiction between the building and the city, it turns back into an act that offfers a merely symbolic resolution, leaving the contradiction intact and indeed more virulent in its operation and efffects than it was before.’161 In many ways, this intervention represents a change of tack for Jameson’s assessment of Tafuri. But Jameson’s standard modern-postmodern argument remains intact and, within this, Tafuri’s work is allied to the modernist past. In Jameson’s view, the contradiction between building and city ‘no longer exists’. Under conditions of postmodern globalisation, contradiction has given way to antinomy; but unlike contradiction, he argues, antinomy offfers ‘no solution’ and no prospect of mediation.162 The connecting of Tafuri to the past is part of a distinctive rhetorical strategy adopted by Jameson, and one that characterised the earlier essays: in order to deploy Tafuri at the general level of Anglo-American theory (or, more precisely, of the anglophone appropriation of European theory), crucial aspects of Tafuri’s argument have to be distanced and treated as being too particular, that is, as uniquely ‘Italian’ or as too tied to the context of, say, the 60s.163 If, for
157. Jameson 2001, p. 30. 158. Jameson 2001, p. 29. Jameson thinks the Siedlungen ‘failed’ precisely because they were successful, by which he seems to mean that they were subject to gentrifijication (Jameson 2001, p. 33). It is not at all clear which Siedlungen or Höfe he has in mind. 159. Jameson 2001, pp. 31, 30. 160. Jameson 2001, p. 33. 161. Ibid. 162. Jameson 2001, pp. 33–4. As he concludes: ‘Perhaps the utopian approach today is not the older modernist one of projecting a possible solution to an impossible contradiction but rather one of reconstructing the problem and the contradiction itself in the fijirst place’ (Jameson 2001, p. 36). 163. And here one detects a diffference in emphasis to that of Revisions. Jameson pulls Tafuri onto a stage of international fijigures, but limits his relevance by alluding to his specifijicities; the


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Jameson in the 1980s, Tafuri’s own theoretical and political framework could be distanced by being seen as too tied to the unique politics of the Italian situation, today such an argument would be much harder to maintain. Recently, the politics initiated by workerism – and especially that form which developed in the 70s as autonomism – have been revived and updated as the theory of ‘exodus’.164 This renewed interest in the Italian-Left debates of the 60s and 70s is not understood as specifijic to Italy, but has itself become deployed by many sections of the current anticapitalist movement as a mode of resistance and struggle, a strategy of ‘counter-empire’. Leaving aside debates over the adequacy of this politics, what is striking is the transference of what was once deemed ‘particular’ to the status of a ‘universalised’ claim. Other aspects of the moment of operaismo have also acquired a sense of prescience. The theme of precarious labour, the fijight to protect workers from the toxicity of their employment, and the resistance to the practice of subcontracting (with its structural evasion of responsibility): these aspects of the struggles of the workers of the Veneto industrial zones have acquired fresh relevance in the twenty-fijirst century.165 The central place of migration in the Italian experience and for the development of workerist Marxism (with its attention to class-composition) is now posited as a prelude to the recent wave of ‘new enclosures’ or ‘accumulation by dispossession’; the urbanisation of Italy is still part of living memory. In short, what was once cast as Italy’s historical belatedness – its delayed modernisation – is now refijigured as its historical signifijicance for the round of neoliberal globalised accumulation initiated in the late-twentieth century. This shift in perceived historical ‘relevance’ can be seen as something of an ironic reversal. Notably, however, the turnaround has done little to transform the conception of enclave-politics. Indeed, recent discussions seem to place the problem before us with ever-greater insistence – and not so much as attempted architectural answers to a housing crisis, but rather as political ‘solutions’ to a political impasse. Today the problem is posed not as part of a debate over the strategies of ‘reform’: such discussions are eclipsed where many radicals refuse politically to engage state-structures and institutions, or express outright distrust in the very idea of organised resistance. Moreover, it cannot escape notice how many of the recent calls for enclaves amount to little more than an invocation of ‘the possible’ – a genuine expression of desire for a

members of Revisions, in contrast, view this Italian context more positively, as ‘contemporaneous’, and as a politics worth translating to their own context. 164. Hardt and Negri 2000, pp. 210–14. 165. See Wildcat 2007 and Manuela Pellarin’s documentary Porto Marghera – gli ultimi fuochi (translated as Porto Marghera: The Last Firebrands).

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postcapitalist world, but, in most cases, a summons dislocated from collective projects of social construction.166 It is interesting, I think, that Tafuri adopts his most rhetorical modes of expression when arguing for the strengths of the Viennese experiment whereas the critiques of the reforms are, relatively speaking, of a much more sober character. It is the same with his discussion of Tiburtino, where the assertions of proletarian aspiration and recalcitrance are among the most highly fijigured passages in his writing. In the end, the discussions are caught on a crux between marshalling specifijic socio-economic critiques of housing projects, on the one hand, and, on the other, a rhetoric nevertheless afffijirming an architecture that wishes to participate in changing the division of labour. The analytic precision and rhetoric always go together, of course, but the detail that seems to ground the one is matched by the overwrought symbolic flourishes that seem to anchor the other: Tiburtino’s elevation to collective subjecthood, its raging and hoping, and its anti-bourgeois gesture; the declarations of the proletariat emerging over the American skyline.167 Highly memorable fijigurations, rousing even – and maybe admirable ‘wagers’ on the status such buildings could acquire retrospectively – but they are subject to their own dislodgement from practical reason. The poetic spell is cast but it seems not to connect to its target. The historico-philosophical claims raise Tafuri’s writings onto the plane of the great Marxist cultural intellectuals, but – as often in theirs too – these claims hover over their material, as if willing social transformation against the odds. Looked at in this way, the problem with Tafuri is not that diffferent from the problem with Jameson. There are certainly limitations to Tafuri’s account, but it is remarkable the extent to which they are discussed as if they floated in political ether, severed from the discourses and histories that animated them. As an intervention into the reassessment of key political moments of the twentieth century, his work was always likely to be provocative, but it remains curious how the historical specifijics are themselves translated into the lingua franca of cultural theory. The problems with Tafuri are addressed neither by the routine casting of him as despondent declarer of ‘futility’, nor by countering his arguments with calls for ‘hope’ and ‘enclaves’. Until the debates over Tafuri go beyond this simplistic

166. A distinctive approach has been intimated in Aureli’s The Project of Autonomy, which explores the operaista legacy from a perspective sympathetic to Tronti, while trying to steer clear of the popular anglophone appeals to ‘autonomy’. Aureli also cites Tronti’s criticism of Tafuri for underestimating how the municipality represented a ‘state of exception’ and an expression of worker-autonomy. See Aureli 2008 and, for more detailed consideration, Day 2010b. 167. Tafuri in Ciucci 1988, p. 503.


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contrast, their misprision will continue to evade the central difffijiculties raised by his critique.

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