What Does Revolution Look Like?

April 14, 2011

Foam City – Peter Sloterdijk

Through this essay Sloterdijk questions the way in which we think in terms of society as ‘mass’ populous and the twentieth century ‘enthusiasm for the so called whole’, instead proposing that we need a different metaphor to describe the ‘interactive wholes’ of interconnected individuals, the metaphor of Foam. Sloterdijk argues that to think of society in terms of the ‘masses’ underlies ‘the most harmful ideologies of the last two-centuries’, referring to National Socialism and European Fascists, the powerful bourgeoisie that employ Reactionary Politics to whip the masses into a frenzy. The Foam metaphor depicts ‘multiplicity of loosely touching cells … we share at least one partition wall with an adjacent world-cell’. By re-thinking society in these terms the focus changes from mass as a ‘dough’ that can be shaped to a foam network of communication between individuals that is potentially tapped in to.

By unpacking the formal metaphors describing the contemporary condition of society Sloterdijk is emphasising architecture’s problematic formative role with ‘the challenge of creating spatial conditions that enable both the isolation of individuals, and the concentration of isolated entities into the collective ensembles of cooperation and contemplation’. This ‘new commitment’ of architecture that Sloterdijk recognises is positioned as an alternative to the architecture of ‘geometric formalism’ that prioritised the mass assembly over the last two centuries to the detriment of the individual.


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