Cover: Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form, from Harvard University PressCover: Theory of the Gimmick in HARDCOVER

Theory of the Gimmick

Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form

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Product Details

HARDCOVER

$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674984547

Publication Date: 06/16/2020

Academic Trade

416 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

38 photos, 4 illus.

Belknap Press

World

Ngai tracks the gimmick through a number of guises: stage props, wigs, stainless-steel banana slicers, temp agencies, fraudulent photographs, subprime loans, technological doodads, the novel of ideas… [She] has slowly been building a reputation as one of America’s most original and penetrating cultural theorists.—Charlie Tyson, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Ngai is a keen analyst of overlooked or denigrated categories in art and life… Moves quickly from the fantastical contraptions of Rube Goldberg to the philosophical machinery in Kant or Marx that might explain their appeal… Highly original in theme and suggestive in approach.—Brian Dillon, 4Columns

Theory of the Gimmick is a masterpiece—a culmination of the dazzling project begun in Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings and elaborated in Our Aesthetic Categories, both celebrated books that have anchored affect theory to a strong account of tone and form. It is a major advance in aesthetic theory, and Marxist theory in particular, one that could help us all get over our Frankfurt melancholy and down to the garrulous work of actually naming the dynamics that produce art and artistic judgment under capitalism.—Christopher Nealon, author of The Matter of Capital

It is the simplicity and vernacular quality of Sianne Ngai’s central concept that elevates this book to a classic in the making. Ngai’s most important contribution to Marxist cultural and economic theory comes from her insight that—like the judgment of the beautiful for Kant—the gimmick is a subjective category, neither cognitive nor ethical, but historical through and through. The gimmick is a way to bring together the theory of the commodity with Kant’s category of judgment. Through Ngai, we are able to vernacularize Marx and to understand the most basic but enigmatic proposition: that truth and appearance are identical in the commodity.—Timothy Bewes, author of Reification: Or, The Anxiety of Late Capitalism

Books of this ambition and accomplishment are rare! Theory of the Gimmick continues the work of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and others in seriously putting together aesthetic theory and Marxist theories of capital. In an impossibly erudite, wide-ranging, and theoretically sophisticated argument, Ngai gives us a unique insight into the relationship between labor, time, and value in a capitalist economy. This book is a major event in American intellectual life.—Jonathan Flatley, author of Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism

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The Vivian’s Door Initiative is inspired by the courage and legacy of the late Vivian Malone Jones. She was the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama and was responsible for ending the segregation of public universities in the state of Alabama. Vivian’s courage and will power to create change for her brothers and sisters of color inspired the creation of a nonprofit project called Vivian’s Door. In March 2020, Vivian’s Door started a book club; their first pick was The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran. In June, over 50 people joined the online discussion of the book