[iDC] IPF09 Conference thoughts

Saul Ostrow sostrow at cia.edu
Wed Dec 9 19:14:50 UTC 2009

While the conjunction of culture and politics were elaborated and critiqued advanced by Guy duBord in the Society of the Spectacle has become connical - the work of Daniel Bell the ultra-conservative cultural theorist perhaps better demonstrates how the cultural sphere under-capitalism is used primarily a force of social control. The cultural contradictions of Capital, as Bell understood them  lay in the fact that that if left unchecked, liberalism's unrestrained belief in the value of a community of individuals committed to improving the common good by social and cultural means would bring down western civilization by unraveling the duplicity which forms the fabric of capitalism's political economy. Bell formulated this analysis - cum plan just as progressive workers allied with the civil rights, women's and gay movements had successfully turned cultural demands into political demands. Bell in turn radically proposed that this process of cultural self-realization self-representation, expression, and the nominal freedoms of cultural equality and emancipation could be used to divert liberal labor and the middle classes from the struggle for economic and political justice. For the good of "society" what was needed was to detached the cultural domain from that of real politics so that liberals might  safely (harmlessly), and systematically examine the opposition between the symbolic desirability of bourgeois ideals and how these antithetically are registered in the economic domains. This could be done by sustaining the disenfranchised, liberal middle-classes' ambition of one day gaining the necessary power to improve the lot of the vast majority of the people most affected by the desperate state of affairs created by the laws of Capitalism. Reciprocally, Bell's strategy was for the Right to exploit the inherent contradiction in the modern liberal cause, which by seeking to resolve class conflict by cultural means further obscured and strengthened class division along economic lines. What liberals fail to notice is that the values they promoted are ideologically consistent with the self-image of Capitalism, which in word and not deed has traditionally promoted cultural development as a progressive force in the struggle against backwardness. The irony of course is that the advocates of cultural change are represented to those they seek to help, as being a foolish, extravagant, and self-indulgent elite whose concerns are detached from everyday reality.  This was to result in the vast majority seeking relief in ideological models of self, and well being circulated by the mass media and the culture industry. Personally, I believe that this is what is replicated in most cases both here and in the class room when we seek to engage in theorizing cultural critique and its practices without the benefit of self-reflexivity, which leaves them vulnerable to their subjectivities and good  intentions.
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