As social movements amplify across the globe, activists and researchers are increasingly interested in the pedagogies of revolutionary transformation. To provide a rich resource for political educators and organizers, this paper formulates what we call an (un)communicative communist pedagogy that is oriented against communicative capitalism. We show that there is a taut connection between capitalism and democracy that consists of a shared logic, pedagogy, and aesthetic that revolves around communication, inclusion, and transparency. Without grasping this aesthetic connection, anti-capitalist struggles are reduced to liberal reforms that end up reinforcing and deepening capitalist production relations. To break out of this trap, we block together several political, philosophical, and aesthetic theories that might otherwise be thought of as mutually exclusive. In particular, we return to Kant and his theory of the beautiful and the sublime to make a case that connections between capitalism and democracy rest on an unexamined aesthetic of the beautiful. To sever this link, and thus to push democratic struggles for equality toward a communist horizon, we suggest a new alignment between radical politics and aesthetics of the sublime via the Communist Party. Importantly, we find in the work of Lyotard the point of intersection between communist pedagogy and sublime aesthetics. In closing, we read this aesthetic communist pedagogy through a communist study group in the Jim Crow South. What we find is a different aesthetic relationship between self and world that is not prefigured in various forms of liberal reformism. Rather, an excessive surplus is discovered that presses beyond the boundaries of what can be known and what can be imaginatively figured, provoking a sense of ineffable sublimity or political opacity. We call this excess the aesthetic dimension of (un)communicative communism.
Originally published in: Cultural Politics 14(1):95-108 https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-4312940