Communication and class struggle

Title Communication and class struggle
Location New York; Bagnolet
Publisher International General; International Mass Media Research Center
Periodicity Irregular
URL International General Website
Published Since 1979-1983
Indexed Holdings 1979-1983


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Periodical's Overview

Communication and class struggle, a two-volume work, is the first general marxist anthology of writings on communication, information and culture. Its purpose is to analyse the relationship between the practice and theory of communication and their development with the context of class struggle. Armand Mattelart and Seth Siegelaub, the editors, have selected more than 120 essential marxist and progressive texts originating in over 50 countries and written since the mid-nineteenth century to explain three interrelated phenomena: (1) how basic social, economic and cultural processes condition communication; (2) how bourgeois communication practice and theory have developed as part of the capitalistic mode of production; and (3) how in the struggle against exploitation and oppression, the popular and working classes have developed their own communication practice and theory, liberated mode of communication, culture and daily life.”

“With its 128 texts—almost one-half published for the first time in English, and bibliographies, almost 900 pages and 800,000 words, this two-volume anthology is by far the most important attempt to date to lay the groundwork for a critical theory of communication and culture... Destined to be a classic!”

Selected Subject Headings

  • American University (Washington, D.C.). Special Operations Research Office
  • Anti-imperialist movements - Africa
  • Der Arbeiter-Fotograf (periodical)
  • Commodity fetishism
  • Cultural imperialism
  • Decolonization - Philippines
  • Government, Resistance to - Chile
  • IBM, International Business Machines Corporation
  • Internationalism
  • Information - political aspects
  • Libraries and society
  • Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola
  • Nazi propaganda
  • Printing - history
  • Psychological warfare - Vietnam
  • Social control - United States
  • Surplus value
  • Technology and state - China
  • Third Cinema
  • Tourism - political aspects - West Indies
  • Underground press publications - Spain - history
  • Working class - intellectual life


Edited by scholar Armand Mattelart & bibliographer and publisher Seth Siegelaub, Communication and class struggle two dense and handsome volumes provide via documents an excellent historical account of the complexities faced when considering information and communication in its socio-historical contexts. To grapple with these complexities the series is divided in two: 1. Capitalism, imperialism & 2. Liberation, socialism. With an emphasis on Marxist texts, readings, hermeneutics and historically contingent evolutions, the first volume gives an indication of the many factors (economic, ideological, political, and social) that have conditioned these supposedly neutral pneumas known as mass media and information, as in information society; from ownership of the electricity operations that power the different production and distribution processes and that allow one to read these words wherever one has an internet connection, to the geopolitics of paper; it also offered prescient glimpses to the then incipient role of computers as relays of new forms of liberation, and oppression.

The second volume, Liberation, socialism, provides an index of specific liberation struggles and the different plans of action, policy documents, and concrete enactions put in place once power was accessed by the liberated. All around the world. Read from a time distance these different attempts and its diverse mutations attest for the irrepressible human strive towards emancipation, no matter what the results were, are or will be.

True to these universal concerns and to the publishers' names, Communication and class struggle is an international compendium, before the term global came to be used to categorize a shift in economic and cultural relations, fueled in this instance not by paper but by computers. To give an idea of the international and trans-historical range of authors included in the series, we will list just a few: Karl Marx, Frederich Engels, Vladimir Il’ich Lenin, Antonio Gramsci, Leon Troski, Fidel Castro, Bertol Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Ariel Dorfman, Frantz Fanon, Fernando Solanas, Mao Zedong, Salvador Allende, Henri Lefebvre, Pierre Bourdieu, El Lissitzky, Frelimo, Jorge Rebelo, Leonardo Acosta, Jürgen Habermas, Amílcar Cabral & John Lindsay, with his remarkable text Radical librarianship.[1]

For those unfamiliar with art history, Seth Siegelaub occupies a seminal role in the development of what has been designated as Conceptual art, in its U.S. incarnation.[2]If one were to read current accounts of his activities now that this development is being historized, it can be puzzling to observe that his role as a bibliographer and creator of libraries has been neglected or simply absent;[3] puzzling specially if one is able to discern the threads between his work as an instigator of new forms of art perception and distribution (“the exhibition catalogue as site”), and his subsequent involvement with the Women's Movement and the anti-war movement[4], meaning the 1960s U.S. led war in Vietnam; this involvement with the political aspects of art prompted his co-authoring with Robert Projansky of the The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, still used by artists and collectors. Seth Siegelaub was born in 1941, and was educated in the New York City public school system.

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[1]John Lindsay. "Radical librarianship (UK, 1977)." In: Communication and class struggle. Vol. 2 Liberation, socialism. New York; Bagnolet: International General; International Mass Media Research Center, 1983: 408-412.

[2]For a detailed account see: Alexander Alberro. Conceptual art and the politics of publicity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003; Sophie Richard. Unconcealed, the international network of conceptual artists 1967-77: dealers, exhibitions and public collections. London: Ridinghouse, 2009; and Global conceptualism: points of origin, 1950s-1980s. New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999.

[3]There is no questions nor analysis of his non-art related bibliographic endeavors in the interviews with Siegelaub that appear in three valuable books: Hans-Ulrich Obrist. A brief history of curating. Zurich: JRP / Ringier; Dijon: Les Presses du réel, 2008: 116-130; Sophie Richard. “4.13 Conversation with Seth Siegelaub. Amsterdam, 27 April 2005.” In: Unconcealed, the international network of conceptual artists 1967-77: dealers, exhibitions and public collections. London: Ridinghouse, 2009: 466-473; and L’art conceptuel, une perspective. Paris: Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989. 2nd ed.: 91-94.

[4]In Siegelaub’s Addendum published in the second edition of L’art conceptuel, une perspective exhibition catalogue, a rebuttal to Benjamin E. Buchloh “formalistic and idealistic” text ends in the form of a list, which we reproduce here:

“[...] will have to wait for a more thorough and serious study of “conceptual art” and its relation to its historical moment. For our moment, I will limit myself to a random list of some actors “missing in action”--dematerialized?-- who contributed, in one way or another, to the formation of the art historical moment called, for lack of a better term, “conceptual art”: Carl Andre, John Baldessari, Robert Hout, Jack and Nell Wendler, Hollis Frampton, John Chamberlain, Ron Wolin, Harald Szeemann, VH101, Jean-Luc Godard, Edward Keinholz, Lucy Lippard, Jan Dibbets, Prague 1968, Eugene Goosens, Art & Project, Dennis Oppenheim, “Art and Industry”, Gian Enzo Sperone, Christo, Wim Beeren, Richard Serra, Art Workers Coalition, Robert Smithson, Walter König, Avalanche, Vito Acconci, Germano Celant, Robert Irwin, Jennifer Licht, Lotta Continua, Stanley and Elyse Grinstein, Joseph Beuys, Ray Dirks, Yvonne Rainer, Prospect, Niele Toroni, Donald Burgy, “Process Art”, Woodstock Guiseppe Panza, Peter Townsend, “Art of the Real”, Willougby Sharp, Keith Arnatt, Michel Claura, Konrad Fisher, May ’68, Frederick Barthelme, Jack Burnham, Peter Downsborough, Barry Flanagan, Christine Kozlov, Pulsa, Hamish Fulton, Guerrilla Art Action Group, Stanley Brouwn, John Chandler, Enno Develing, N.E. Things Co., the Black Panthers, David Askevold, Hanne Darboven, Richard Long, Terry Fox, “Land art”, Billy Kluver, Johannes Cladders, Michael Asher, Gilbert & George, Piero Gilardi, Peter Hutchinson, Michael Harvey, Al Hansen, “Antiform”, Luis Camitzer, Micahel Heizer, David Lamelas, Allen [sic] Kaprow, Ger Van Elk, Stephen Kaltenbach, Artits’ Rights Movement, the Rosario Group, Bruce McLean, Mario Merz, Ursula Meyer, Walter de Maria, Barry Le Va, Roelof Louw, Adrian Piper, Gerry Schum, Les Levine, Franz Erhard Walther, The Bay of Pigs, Ian Wilson, Klaus Rinke, Keith Sonnier, William Wiley, Michael Snow, “Video Art”, William Wegman, John Gibson, Tony Schafrazi, James Lee Byars, Abbie Hoffman, Sigmar Polke, Herman Daled, the U.S. Servicemen’s Fund, Tomasso Trini, Eugenia Butler Gene Beery, Lee Lozano, John Perrault, Majorie Strider, Alan Ruppersberg, John Latham, Gene Swenson, Kent State, the Beatles, and, lest we forget, the Vietnam War.”

L’art conceptuel, une perspective. Paris: Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989. 2nd ed.: 258. Art historian Buchloh did respond to the rebuttal. The polemic between Buchloh, Joseph Kosuth and Siegelaub was reproduced in October (New York), no. 57 (Summer 1991): 152-161.