Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Can we have our revolution and eat our Whoppers too?

Will the real American Left, please stand up?

From Peter Brooker's New York Fictions: Modernity, Postmodernism, The New Modern (which is surprisingly not really about fiction OR New York at all, but the multiple ideologies of a non-homogeneous and constantly changing Left throughout the 20th century, with writers and books as case studies sprinkled in). I really liked the section and really helped articulate some of what I've been thinking about:

On the one hand the New Left's enthusiasm for the new media and popular culture, its sympathies for minorities, its involvement in Third World and ecological issues, its "dispersed…multi-centered" narrative as Tallack describes it anticipated much that has become characteristic of the Left Agenda of the 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, life within the all-embracing, ever-expanding walls of mass culture and American military and economic hegemony in this late capitalist phase has posed increasingly taxing problems of intellectual autonomy and political and artistic strategy. This was the problem raised in his own terms by Irving Howe, and more awkwardly for the New Left, by a figure such as Adorno and the School of Social Research whose critique of the Enlightenment and of mass society was being popularized on American campuses at precisely the moment this society was effecting a contrary erosion of distinctions between high and low culture. How could a hatred for US capitalism and a love of American culture coexist? Another, and in the US this has appeared to have a stronger appeal, was supplied by versions of post-structuralism, since this offered a simultaneous critique of false totalities (as of capitalism) and of violent hierarchies (as of high and low culture). Hence, latterly, we might think, the attraction of the vocabulary of deconstruction, whose metaphors of decentring and hybridity, of the borderline and the margin, so aptly describe the Left's attempt to sustain a critical position within and without late capitalism.

This is the second thing of Peter Brooker's I'm reading. I like him lots.