Introduction: Intellectual Improprieties

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Is this issue supposed to be a manual for overcoming the alienation imposed upon intellectuals by capitalist economic structures?

Joel Schalit and Geoff Sauer, issue editors

Issue #52, November 2000


When we first decided to dedicate an entire issue of Bad Subjects to the theme "Intellectual Property/Improper Intellectuals," Joel received several letters from prospective contributors asking why we had tied intellectual impropriety to the subject of intellectual property. Were we trying to define the status of intellectuals who transgressed private property relations?, one letter queried. Were we going to do an issue dedicated to culture jamming? asked another inquirer, who claimed to be one of the leading proponents of copyright infringement in Lichtenstein. Or was this issue supposed to be a manual for overcoming the alienation imposed upon intellectuals by capitalist economic structures, queried a wayward socialist scholar from India.

In response, Bad Subjects' 52nd issue ends up answering all of these questions in its own collage-like way. Rick Prelinger's "Beyond Copyright Consciousness," and first-time contributor Mary Kelly's "Wanted: New Subject of Knowledge — No Alienated Intellectuals, Please," make the connection between intellectual labor and the reproduction of intellectual property, suggesting that all intellectual work is essentially dependent on appropriating the work of others in one form or another. The idea is that there is never any intellectual labor done in isolation, whether it be through the consumption of cultural commodities or the process of exchanging ideas as a form of borrowing, or imitation. In either case, ideas are always lifted.

not hunter thompson Other essays focus on the alienation of the intellectual, both as a laboring individual in the academy — such as in Steven Rubio's and first time contributor Scott Schaffer's articles; and in terms of abstract political categories such as Charlie Bertsch's piece on Foucault's materialist critique of French intellectuals. Amanda Shoemaker's article metaphorically brings it all back home in an essay where she describes her own personal alienation within the sphere of interpersonal relations -- in this case, in her relationship with her boyfriend. Canadian artist/activist Min Sook Lee discusses artistic alienation in an essay on a young local graffiti artist in the increasingly conservative city of Toronto.

BS #52 would not be complete, however without an interrogation of artistic property itself, and to that end Bad Subjects Co-Director John Brady provides a review of Boston singer/songwriter Don Lennon's most recent album, while Joe Lockard writes about the re-issue of Matmos's first album. For those BS readers who dig reading these short essays on 'new product,' we'd like to encourage you to check out the reviews section of our web site, where BS critically interrogates the world of private cultural relations on everything from new Marxist theory to instructional recordings from the 1950s. After all, that's why we call it Bad Reviews. Or, to riff off that worn out slogan from the New York Times, we feature all the culture that's not too hip to still transmit.

Copyright © 2000 by Joel Schalit and Geoffrey Sauer. All rights reserved.

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