We’ve all probably imbibed, in one form or another, a left-wing culture criticism that draws, in one way or another, on Adorno and Horkheimer’s analysis of the culture industry; even I find it difficult to like Paris Hilton sometimes. But their essay is more interesting than the reflexive anti-commodification that is now so common. As Owen pointed out when I mentioned this before, you can occasionally see a glimpse of utopian possibilities in popular culture in the Frankfurt School, and this strain is even more pronounced in Benjamin. I talked to our local Marxism reading group about this a couple of weeks ago; here’s what I said: Read more↴
Maybe it’s just distance giving me more perspective, but I don’t remember that Start The Week used to be quite so offensively gliberal. A friend pointed me to last week’s edition, in which Simon Sebag Montefiore and Robert Service discuss whether or not Stalin was literally a pirate, and all the most unthinking anti-communist cliches are wheeled out. Sebag Montefiore unveiled his exciting archival research that showed that Stalin used to rob banks for the Bolsheviks (research presumably carried out in a GCSE history text-book), while Service made the controversial claim that, if it hadn’t been for the outcome of the Second World War, Eastern Europe would not have become communist (yes, I think it’s fair to say communism would have done less well in Eastern Europe if the Nazis had won the war). Read more↴
Adam points to the annoying habit among people doing academic work of moralizing about the “relevance” or accessibility of their work, and, I think, gets to the heart of what’s wrong with the way this usually proceeds. By positioning themselves in opposition to academic “irrelevance”
the speaker can make a double assertion:
The common people are right to be suspicious of some intellectual work, which really is useless at best or counterproductive at worst.
I, however, do not do that kind of intellectual work and am very suspicious of it myself.
The problem with this is that by focusing on the individual’s choice of academic style, this kind of move distracts from a critique of the exclusionary power structures of academia. Read more↴