Please Be Sure To Read the First Two Posts on Derrida Before This One
What Follows Is a Much Fuller Version of the Buggy Comment . . .
. . . sent originally in reply to the NYRB post on the life of Jacques Derrida and how it helps to explain much of philosophical work. Click here for the post. Oh, now that prof bug found some time to finish this fuller version, it turns out to be so long that it will have to be divided into two more posts to reach the end.
The Fleshed-Out Buggy Stuff:
Like the rest of the posters here, Ms. Eakin, I [prof bug'] appreciate your illuminating comments on Jacques Derrida's life --- all of which help to make sense of his philosophical writings and public utterances.
They're doubly illuminating, come to that, thanks to the clear and straightforward writing you've used here . . . no pretense whatsoever. Too bad the followers of Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, and all the other post-modernist thinkers in France and elsewhere haven't used a similar writing style. Far from it. One and all, it seems, they have emulated to near-perfection the convoluted verbiage and utterly obscure hot-air prose-style of their intellectual heroes. The same is true of those equally avid devotees who regard Theodore Adorno in his German and American phases during the 1920s through the mid-1940s as a giant philosophical wonder, even if --- as the leading member of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School of Critical (Cultural) Theory --- he wasn't at all a post-modernist and said lots of ludicrously silly things about American life in muddle-headed pompous ways.
In any case, since Adorno (as you'll see soon) is a big heroic thinker in most postmodernist circles, we'll have a fair amount to say about his recklessly nutbin claims before we get down to Derrida's even more preposterously screw-loose hocus-pocus.
We Can Go Further
All of these postmodern superstars and their epigoni here and abroad have done little more than churn out agitated swirls of lengthy gibberish and snobbish harebrained views . . . yes, even when they claim to be championing populist social movements and saving the Others and the rest of the exploited and downtrodden masses in America and Europe: the masses, you see, not just victimized by rabid capitalism and pseudo-democracy of the standard Marxist lingo, but also, for certain groups, by remorseless white racism and male-enforced misogyny.
Adorno was in this vein, but with a twist. Along with the rest of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School specializing in cultural studies, almost all of whom migrated during the Nazi period to Britain or the USA, Adorno himself concentrated in exposing what he called the implacably cunning and nefarious inanities of the new culture-industry . . . and especially in the United States, the vanguard in all aspects of mass popular culture after WWI: above all, thanks to big technological breakthroughs in radio, popular music, records, magazines, and movies. Not to forget, needless to add, TV's relentless spread after WWII before Adorno returned to Frankfurt, Germany in 1949.
For Adorno, almost all of it was horrendous: not just stupid and vacuously anti-intellectual, you understand . . . rather, calculatedly exploitative, the modern equivalent of Roman bread-and-circus stuff for the miserable masses.
Meaning More Concretely?
Meaning that the new popular culture, in all its variety, was at bottom a ruthless form of deliberate brainwashing. The more the populous "standardized pap" spread from the 1920s on, the more the endlessly ruthless moneybags boss-class running the culture-industry could count on brutalizing the minds of the already dimwitted American masses, making them (in Adorno's view) even more unreflective and anti-intellectual than before while, simultaneously, you understand, seducing them, bit by bit, into submissive acceptance of their miserable and oppressive existence in class-ridden American life. And to what end of all this fiendishly furtive mind-control? Nothing more, but also nothing less, than to enshrine monopoly capitalism and the existing status quo as something irrevocable --- totally unchangeable.
With the real beneficiaries, of course, just a tiny few --- the ever richer top-dogs in the culture-industry, along with those in the rest of the new giant corporations, the big banks, the proliferating mass-media, and what have you. Not to overlook, needless to add, the less wealthy but well-off toady politicians at all levels of government in the USA, themselves, in all but name, prisoner-puppets manipulated by their rich donors.
The Political and Economic Fall-Out?
What with the growing impact of the fiendish double-dealing culture-industry, soon joined after WWII by a new prosperity and consumer-industry, socialism ---so Adorno and the other Frankfurt immigrants lamented --- could never be a reality for the American masses. As for Franklyn D. Roosevelt's New-Deal, it was tepid to begin with. Worse, by the time Adorno gathered and published in one book all these mind-controlling insights into the core nature of American society and culture --- in 1944, and in German (a book we'll return to in a few moments) ---the New Deal had lost all its radical reform-aims.
So, politically speaking, what lay ahead for America?
Simply said, Fascism. No, not necessarily in the blatant Hitlerian or Mussolinian militarized jack-booted manner. Rather, so Adorno and lots of other Frankfurt Critical Theorists agreed, in einem im amerikanischen Stil.
Or, as the stalwart Criticial Theorist Herbert Marcuse put it later in a popular 1964 book, One-Dimensional Man, a shallow, banal, mindlessly submissive Fascist-style, with consumerism and ever horrid pop culture that emerged after WWII inisidiously buying off the masses, who --- for all their mindless and dreary existence as exploited underdogs --- came to believe that their meaningless lives weren't so bad after all. And, to ask once again, the daily hit-the-jackpot con-men winners of all this crafty hocus-pocus ? Needless to repeat, the rich big-shots in what Adorno had called two decades earlier the ever more manipulative stage of capitalism --- AKA, advanced industry society. The brainwashing fraud all the more nefarious, from the 1950s on, as the scheming elites in the pop culture-industry were now aided --- so Marcuse argued --- by the moneybags bosses in the fast-growing mass media, the new giant advertising complex, the monopolistic industrial corporations, the behemothic banks, and of course, as before for Adorno, by their strong-armed political sycophants who managed the new industrial-military complex of the cold war.
And it gets worse. What with the masses now inveigled, so Marcuse argued further, into an ever more vapid and submissive life- styles, thanks to the continual spawning by the dominant elites of bamboozling and alluring "false needs" that required ever more consumption, loans, and piled-up debt. In short it was Fascism in an American style all right . . . from which all critical thought had faded away into oblivion.
A buggy exaggeration surely --- surely? --- of what any sane and thoughtful scholar might think in 1944, with a year to go in the global war against Fascism and Militarism, never mind twenty years later on in the cold war, and especially for Marcuse by the mid-1960s.
Nope: No Exaggeration ---Just the Opposite.
Want harder evidence of Adorno's (and other Frankfurt Critical Theorists') views? Then bear with prof bug as he examines a little deeper Adorno's extravagantly pompous, screw-loose animus toward popular culture and its relation to the ultimate outcome of mass-brutality, mass-stupidity and mass-submission sooner or later to some form of Fascism a l'Americain