Against Value in the Arts and Education proposes that it is often the staunchest defenders of art who do it the most harm, by suppressing or mollifying its dissenting voice, by neutralizing its painful truths, and by instrumentalizing its ambivalence. The result is that rather than expanding the autonomy of thought and feeling of the artist and the audience, art’s defenders make art self-satisfied, or otherwise an echo-chamber for the limited and limiting self-description of people’s lives lived in an “audit culture”, a culture pervaded by the direct and indirect excrescence of practices of accountability.
This book diagnoses the counter-intuitive effects of the rhetoric of value. It posits that the auditing of values pervades the fabric of people’s work-lives, their education, and increasingly their everyday experience. The book uncovers figures of resentment, disenchantment and alienation fostered by the dogma of value. It argues instead that value judgments can behave insidiously, and incorporate aesthetic, ethical or ideological values fundamentally opposed to the “value” they purportedly name and describe. The collection contains contributions from leading scholars in the UK and US with contributions from anthropology, the history of art, literature, education, musicology, political science, and philosophy.
Acknowledgements / 1. Introduction: Against Value, Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay and Emile Bojesen / Part I. Critique / 2. The Authority of Value, and Abjection from Value, Marilyn Strathern / 3. Post-critical, Hal Foster / 4. Invaluable Elephants, or The Against-Value of Critique (for Animals), Robert McKay / 5. Enlightenment Against Value? Two Intuitions and Hume’s ‘Of the Standard of Taste’, Tom Jones / 6. Bargain-Basement Thought, Jonathan P. Eburne / 7. Techno-Criticism and/against the Value of the Flesh, Fabienne Collignon / Part II. Arts / 8. Useless Commodities, Disposable Bodies: An Essay on Value and Waste, Rob Halpern / 9. Art and Devalorization: Asger Jorn’s Theory of Value, Karen Kurczynski / 10. Art = Capital? Reflections on Joseph Beuys’ Das Kapital Raum 1970–1977, Christian Lotz /11. Value and Abjection: Listening to Music with Edward W. Said, Rachel Beckles Willson / 12. Intransigent Play: Detail, Form and Interpretation in the Music of Derek Bailey, Dominic Lash / 13. ‘The nice thing about value is that everyone has it’: Art & Anthropology Despite Culture, Sam Ladkin / 14. Rimbaud, the Occasion of Poetry, and the Walls of Our Schools, Geoff Gilbert / Part III. Education / 15. Saying No! Profligacy versus Austerity, or Metaphor against Model in Justifying the Arts and Humanities in the Contemporary University, Griselda Pollock / 16. The Teleology of Education and the Metaphysics of Contingency, Peter Thompson / 17. Value: Critical Pedagogy, Participatory Art and Higher Education — A New Measure and Meaning of the Common(s), Mike Neary / 18. Educational Value: Contingency and the Learning ‘Subject’, Marie Morgan / 19. Negative Aesthetic Education, Emile Bojesen / Index
This challenging collection explores the aporias of value with great energy and gusto, questions the social consensus implied by ethical criticism via negative dialectics enlisting Kant, Hegel, Blanchot, Derrida, Beuys, Nancy, Foster and a few others. Such an effort calls up Geulincx’s motto of Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis (“Where your value is nothing, you will want nothing”) upon which Beckett founded his refusals. If values are ubiquitous in our market societies, it is up to a contrarian “Nothing” to interrupt the circuits of power and open new portals of discovery.
The tyranny of value, of calculability, is evident in every facet of contemporary education. This book contests that tyranny through critique and refusal. It is relentless and passionate, full of disgust. It reads like a manifesto, a call to arms. For anyone seeking to understand what we have come to and what we have lost this is the place to start – this is a serious and searing counterblast to the cruelty of numbers.
Against Value is a remarkably astute critical intervention, and one that our contemporary moment - both cultural and political - desperately needs. The language of ‘value’ has itself become a means through which the essential threat that art poses to our social norms can be contained and constrained. This book menaces that political conservatism, restoring the very possibility of a criticism that might actually go towards changing our society. That, though not the value of the book, is the point.
This fascinating and multifaceted collection questions the audit culture currently destroying the arts and education. The assembled authors expose a pervasive and allegiance-demanding regime of “value” that parades itself as rational but is deeply and madly self-referential and empty. These arguments are frightening in a sense, as they ask us to take the first halting steps into an unknown territory where we re-learn how properly to defend what we really love--without regard to everything's serviceability to some externally imposed “value.” This first-rate volume helps to provide an initial vocabulary for describing what so many of us feel in our bones but cannot quite articulate.
This book is a tonic for those tired of the pieties of value-talk in the fields of education and the arts. It suggests that the very notion of value is totally compromised, unthinkingly reflecting, rather than challenging, the ills of neoliberalised society. Bravo to the editors for bringing together such a simulating collection of essays.
An ultra-narrow notion of value dominates contemporary art and education. The old adage that our time knows the price of everything and the value of nothing is more germane now than ever. Against Value in the Arts and Education assembles a brilliant array of commentators to sketch out a coming future, one in which the spent figure of homo economicus is finally abandoned, but also free of the false criticality and faux nostalgia that has functioned as neoliberalism’s twin for too long. This remarkable and prescient book will fundamentally reshape the debate to come.
How could anyone be against value? What could this mean? The counter-intuitive thesis heralded in the title of Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay and Emile Bojesen’s provocative and insightful book constitutes a bold and cogent attack on the culture of accountability. The insistence on “values” that today pervades the arts, education, and so much else is exposed here in all its hollowness. The essays collected in the volume, complemented by a powerful introduction, work with and through the arts to reveal what is at stake and what matters, in original, sometimes disturbing, and always thought-provoking ways.
For some time now, the field of Design has been preoccupied with demonstrating its value to and its role in society, articulated in endless projects that evaluate the “impact” of Design and designers on business and social problems. And yet somehow we never quite get to the answer, so the cycle starts again, while other aspects of the field would benefit from sustained inquiry. This book provides useful challenges to even thinking about this question. It opens up the context in which questions of value and valuing have come to dominate, and hobble, the arts and education. The argument in the book shift attention away from the methods and practices for determining value - which people in my field often reach for - towards a critical exploration of the worldviews and assumptions that shape and drive evaluation. By proposing that the arts and education resist value, this book opens up new ways of thinking about the nature of art and design practice and the worlds they help bring into being. This links helpfully to recent research about the value of ignorance in doing research and inventing new social arrangements and provides new directions for research, practice and policy.
Sam Ladkin is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at the University of Sheffield.
Robert McKay is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Sheffield.
Emile Bojesen is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Winchester.