[Marxism] Re: Cardew and Marxist aesthetics of contemporary

Michael Catolico mcatolico at mindspring.com
Sun Aug 7 01:19:13 MDT 2005

Ian, i really appreciate your thoughtful analysis. i might add one more 
issue with regards to adorno. while the "pessimism" of his thought is 
legion, it is quite understandable given the historic circumstances in 
which his thought evolved. while i agree to some extent with your posing 
the possibility for some cathartic value in cultural experiences that 
appeal to the barbaric, i also can see that given the background of the 
rise of fascism and later the transformation of the soviet experiment to 
repressive ends, adorno might take a rigid  stance against such works - 
if only to as a stark moral and intellectual contrast to the status quo 
and the ideological apologists for capitalism.

i am not naive enough to believe that absent reality tv and the latest 
jerry bruckheimer explosion extravaganza people would be more likely to 
channel alienation and discontent in a progressive manner. in fact i 
believe the alternative is most likely to be self-directed violence 
(think how after a team wins a championship, riots, looting and other 
forms of violence often occur with the usual victims being the very same 
communities and classes that the offenders live in and among). so i'm 
willing to take a tentative "it's possible" attitude toward your 
position. if mass cultural products  have a progressive cathartic effect 
or function, we should identify how it functions and find ways to 
develop it.

i have struggled with this issue on and off for a number of years. on 
the one hand these cultural forms and products have, by definition, an 
appeal to mass numbers of individuals. that alone makes them worthy of 
careful study by progressives. yet all too often the left dismisses 
these cultural products as pure manipulation or ideological 
indoctrination.  on the other hand, the po-mo crowd of liberal 
academicians and cultural critics have embraced many popular cultural 
forms for their supposed subliminal progressive (or transgressive) 
content. while this contingent has broken through the surface of  many 
"texts," the consequences are often trivial and in many ways a 
backhanded reinforcement of the status quo. if there is to be a third 
way, i'd suggest that the germ of  progressive aspects in mass cultural 
products might be in the simple fact that they attract the attention of 
so many people. you cannot have social change without attracting the 
interest and support of large numbers of people. perhaps there is some 
lesson to be learned in studying the "culture industry" from this 
regard? i'm not trying to penetrate and dissect the tools of 
manipulation used by these institutions. if it exists, i'm trying to 
find what is the source or cause of unification and appeal to masses and 
find a way to translate that appeal to a cogent political message and 
organizational framework. i don't have the answers. but i appreciate the 
importance of the inquiry.


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