Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Forget the Frankfurt School

"Dialectic of Enlightenment, is the pivotal, fundamental textbook of Freudo-Marxist Critical Theory explaining the socio-psychological status quo that had been responsible for, what the Frankfurt School considered, the failure of the Enlightenment, a defeat represented most dramatically by the events of the Holocaust."
"Culture industry is a term coined by Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), who argued that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods to manipulate the masses into passivity; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture make people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances. Adorno and Horkheimer saw this mass-produced culture as a danger to the more difficult high arts. Culture industries may cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, or genuine happiness. Herbert Marcuse was the first to demarcate true needs from false needs."

Paleo-hippies rallied around memes that , by their spreading, would weaken the stronghold of mass culture and rational thought.

With those memes a wave of euphoric freedom is expected to be felt, a new perspective in which the magical and unbounded are available. What can be purchased in the capitalist system is then seen as dirty, caged in, tired and ridden with guilt for the lack of stature of the workers at the origin point of the goods.

Magic, creativity and freedom are enabled.

The second class human emerges. One that can be easily owned and manipulated. Disengaged from symbolic analysis of the corporeal world, the magical class are not easily herded from without but will strongly bind to an inner mission statement or religious icon.

In their minds forever the victors of a war with Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle and any cultural artifact that has an association with the building blocks of the Holocaust. This is the class which suffers recurring defeats in contests with any foe that wields technology powered by symbolic analysis of the corporeal world, but they never perceive themselves as defeated because the use of symbolic analysis of the corporeal world is either beyond the grasp of the lower ranks or taboo for the leaders.

The old joke "Question: Why are so many trees in France? Answer: Because the Germans like to march in the shade" describes the situation for magical and mystical cultures quite well.

Progressive means moving on from caring about this news story. Every day the mystical emerge defeated, with the news that their modus operandi has succeeded once again. All have styles of broadcast for scenes of their martyrdom, and a path for money to follow to reinvigorate their self-image.

Let's spend our money on an iPhone, let's create more wi-fi networks, let's build robots to fight war, let's constantly improve symbolic analysis of the corporeal world.


The Serpent Lord said...

I believe there is a literary rule that causes those who compare something to Hitler to instantly drop through a trap door into a pit of hungry alligators. Compare to H.G. Wells/Alexander Korda's pre-holocaust progressive technocratic visions and Bill Gates new synthesis of Adam Smith, Julian Simon and others.

Gates says capitalism should be influenced by morality as well as profit so corporations should put their best and brightest to work on developing for-profit businesses serving the poorest third within the next year.

Critics have responded with doubt or disgust, falling into roughly two camps:

1. Those who know that capitalism cannot be improved (except possibly by more deregulation and privatization) These folk love to compare every new idea to communism and socialism with an implied Reductio ad Hitlerum.

2. Those who know that capitalism needs to be abolished or changed in a specific way and then all will be well. They deride Gates for being an outsider whose ideas must be ill-informed or insincere.

Few critics in either camp have lived in a country that did not have BOTH a massive profit-centered capitalist economy AND most of the systems proposed in The Communist Manifesto, such as a graduated income tax and universal public education.

Both camps feel threatened by whatever places evolution ahead of dogma. Gates critics reject the possibility that the founder of a software empire and the largest transparently operated charity in the world could have something useful to say. Maybe he will, and maybe he won't, but the critics will contribute nothing but noise as long as they reject change, science, the best parts of capitalism, and any faith deeper than drinking their own Kool-Aid.

(Many a yar ago, I read Gates' The Road Ahead and found it to be dull ponderings about small obvious evolutions in consumerism no more interesting than the Frankfurt School's pondering their own pasty white western navels. Let's hope the next evolution of Gatesian capitalism is more interesting :-)

B. F. said...

Your critique of the left's disempowerment of itself is becoming more clear here. By rejecting traditional rational ways of thinking, they have put themselves in a codependent cycle of failure, much to the advantage of their opposition.

The classic example is say lefty academia vs. corporate whore: because the lefty has disavowed technology whole-sale because it is not mystical, he does not have the corporate advantage of the PDA/Blackberry, and cannot begin to compete with the social networking power of the corporate (even thought the lefty places more moral value on the social networking than does the corporate. Replace "PDA/Blackberry" here with any number of technological tools that could only POTENTIALLY enhance the lefty cause, but which IS enhancing their opposition's cause. Most specifically I see this in the case of open source software - many lefties continue to be so blind to technology that they fail to take advantage of the financial opportunity open source represents, meanwhile their opponents do successfully take advantage of the same opportunity.)

Oracle Arion said...

My first thought is of the Ivy League, in the past I have referred to them as an 'academic bourgeousie', implying that their comfort in positions of authority has led to a placidity where while calling for subversion they subconciously perpetuate the status-quo. I think critical theory is designed, in a way, to provoke a response, even an angry one.

The Frankfurt School used this dialectic method, admittedly with varying degress of success. In an exposition on Communism, I once wrote "...that of the Frankfurt School, a group of neo-marxists critics such as Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Fromm; intellectuals who developed the concepts of Sociology, Psychology, and Postmodern Philosophy."

The mystery to me, is while I think we fundamentally agree, it would appear on the surface that we sharply disagree. Semantics, perhaps, i.e. the term bourgeousie (which has been hotly contested since Marx) Whereas I use the term derisivly, implying a class that controls a sufficient portion in the means-of-production to influence the status-quo but lack the cooperative will to do so. The beta-class in Brave New World, is one example, where they posses the potential and intellect sufficient for rebellion, but are too seduced by sex and soma.

Back to Adorno, its essential that any person attempting toward transmodernism come to a comprehension of his work. Enligtenment as Mass Deception is a revolutionary concept and like any powerful truth its a double edged sword. Voltaire wrote "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Neiztche comes to mind as being infamously misinterpreted, Adorno too I think. I'm not implying that you are misinterpreting him, rather the opposite. Keep in mind the dialectic method; I see your writing as not so much contrary to, but actually further expanding the School's sociology of modernity.