Friday, December 09, 2005

How counterculture became consumer culture.

William Voegeli reviews of Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter.


"It's bad enough that the countercultural rebels are wasting their time and energies on "dramatic gestures that are devoid of any progressive political or economic consequences and that detract from the urgent task of building a more just society."

"What's worse, say Heath and Potter, is that the would-be progressives imagine their posturing is undermining capitalism, and all the while it is just strengthening it. Nation of Rebels argues that "the cultural contradictions of capitalism," described by Daniel Bell in 1975, have all been resolved—in capitalism's favor. Following Thomas Frank in The Conquest of Cool (1997) and David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise (2000), Heath and Potter claim that the counterculture—bohemianism on steroids—has rendered the practice of capitalism vastly more profitable, without making the results of capitalism even slightly more admirable."

The review gives a rather harsh assesment to the failures of communism, but makes it point regarding the rise of our consumerist society from the bowels of the counter-revolution of the 1960's.

I have just sat down with State and Revolution again and Lennin's discussion in the opening paragraphs about thow moderates emasculate the revolutionary side of Marxism parralled with this review interestingly.

I was just thinking how we on the left need to embrace a revolutionary understanding of Marx, but we must be wary of a critique "so vast and all-encompassing that it is difficult to imagine what could possibly count as 'fixing things."

Part of the problem here is the psychological make-up of the activists and leftists that usually offer up such proposals. This personality insists on seeing the world or object
"be it homo sapiens or a mere representation of an organism, as valued only to the degree that the object contains some measure of the inner Essence or greater Good. Doing a good deed, for example, may provide intrinsic satisfaction which is only secondary to the greater good of striking a blow against Man's Inhumanity to Mankind."

Voegeli goes on to ask the essntial question regarding leftist personality flaws "is an ameliorative Left possible?If liberals' self-marginalizing narcissism is an accidental quality, one that can be cut away to leave behind a stronger determination to enact a better reform agenda, their efforts might succeed. If it's an essential attribute that can't be removed without killing the patient, then the task is hopeless.

Let's hope our task is not hopeless, but at some point I will discuss the personlity traits of revolutionaries.

1 comment:

P-BS-Watcher said...

For a view of Heath and Potter from the right, see What If You Are Wrong?