Saturday, November 10, 2012

Contents













Note.  Most Recent Addition: Lecture V, Part I of IV added August 2, 2012.  

November 10, 2012 update:  As it now seems that I will be returning to teach the course on occasion, I'll continue to post the original lectures once the course begins again in the Spring 2013 semester.

In the meantime, here are two talks related to these lectures: 

Remarks on the Successful Institutionalization and the Political Failure of Cultural Studies (2008)

Honoring and Engaging Aronowitz: Remaking the Knowledge Factory (2011)
 

Introduction

Lecture I 

Lecture II 
  
Lecture III 
Borges: Fragments, Dreams, and the Meaning of Tradition - Part I
Borges: Fragments, Dreams, and the Meaning of Tradition - Part II (TBA)

Lecture IV  
Kafka and the Crisis of the Society of Discipline

Lecture V 
Degeneracy, Culture, and Critique, Part II (Notes)

Lecture VI  
Fetishism and Popular Culture - Umberto Eco's Casablanca

Lecture VII (TBA - notes only)  
The Frankfurt School and Cultural Studies

Lecture IX  (TBA)
Intellectuals, Power, and Commitment

Lecture X  (TBA)
The American Reception -- Social and Cultural Context

Lecture XI  (TBA)
The American Reception - Identity, Authenticity, and "Multiculturalism"

Lecture XII  (TBA)
Societies of Control

Lecture XIII  (TBA) 
Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies 
 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lecture Eight – The Origins of Cultural Studies in the U.K.



Lecture Eight – The Origins of Cultural Studies in the U.K.  [DRAFT - Last updated December 18, 2014]






_____________________
Readings: 
Stanley Aronowitz. “British Cultural Studies”from Roll Over Beethoven – The Return of Cultural Strife.


For the limited purposes of our discussion, two important tendencies arose from the Frankfurt School’s critique. The first is a conservative one arising from a partial and conservative reading of Critical Theory, but especially Adorno’s writings on Jazz. The work associated with this tendency has ranged the moderate conservatism of Daniel Bell or Christopher Lasch.

This first tendency is found in the work of those who denounce the consumerism of what they term “mass culture” as well as the hedonism of the the post World War II era. This tendency obviously has a long history, but throughout it is consistently implicated in the series of “culture wars” that have characterized American politics since Richard Nixon’s declaration that the existed a vast “Silent Majority” of middle class American’s that supported his policies and which would later coalesce with the Christian Right around Ronald Reagan and every subsequent Republican administration. In its moderate form, such as Daniel Bell’s The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism or Lasch’s, The Culture of Narcissism (1979) or the more recent Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (1995/2000) by Robert Putnam.

The second tendency is an all together radical one that saw culture as a material force in society and, by extension, in nature. A force that had been seized away from that other material force: the working classes, in the words of the more orthodox, and to the less rigidly ideological, relations of human social production.

The second tendency can also be traced back to Adorno’s wrings on music and more specifically his argument that with the phonograph there began a loss of active engagement with music along with a democratization of listening that tended to produce passive listeners while fostering the commercialization of listener, musician, and performance.  In contradiction to Adorno, "Birmingham" rejected this assumption of passivity and instead proposed that hegemony is being constantly actively resisted by innovations of working class culture. 

To be fair, though, Adorno’s critique was directed at the middle and not the working class. he makes it explicitly in his discussion of the Nazi appropriation of Wagner and his music. On the one hand, one can not ignore those elements of Wagner’s music that align with Nazi ideology, but music can not be reduced to simple ideology or even Wagner’s personal enthusiasm for German nationalism. Nationalism was not peculiar to Wagner – after all, the Grimm Brothers were motivated by the same Germanic ideology and yet the Tales are not seen as proto-Nazi collections of volk tales. Adorno argues that Wagner’s music was available for the Nazis’ appropriation and promotion precisely because music was no longer being performed by the middle classes, but rather consumed. During the time when Wagner’s music could be played by amateurs in their parlors, its authoritarian aspects could be recognized and resisted through the performance. When, however, music became not an activity in the parlor or porch but rather a spectacle of the theater, the relation of the audience to the music obviously shifted. As a passive consumer of the music – as what might be called a hearer as opposed to an active listener – the audience could only encounter the music at the level that Nazi ideology demanded. So, Wagner’s music becomes fascist music not because of Wagner’s Germanism and reworking of Teutonic mythologies of which the Grimm’s salvaged Tales were be a degenerate residue of that true Germanic religion, but because of changes in the middle class consumption of music and entertainment coupled with new technologies and new techniques of propaganda.


 According to Stanley Aronowitz in Roll Over Beethoven, which is arguably the best study of the origins of Cultural Studies in the United States, finds both tendencies in Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy. Indeed, I should pause to note, these two tendencies remain at least as echos and traces, if not overt politics, in the legacies of Cultural Studies, e. g., the preservation of the English working class through its preservation of traditions and loyalty to family and neighborhood (at least in the cities) despite the “all pervading culture” attributed to the upper classes.


And wrongfully at that. Just as the wealth of the upper classes results from the exploitative relations of capital, so too does its culture depend on the constant inventiveness of the working classes who, under the weight of a culture that was once theirs and is now alienated from them, had to adapt to or resist these social forces.

Hoggart makes two points that are important to our discussion:

  1. That the claim that consumerism will produce a classless society (i. e., a universal middle class) are false, though the class status of the workers is changing as they are welcomed into the expanding post-war middle classes.
  2. That workers are rewarded for the loss of working class culture by consumerism and in a popular culture/literature/media in which working class culture is itself portrayed negatively. The class and status of workers are altered by their embrace of the lifestyles of the middle classes.

If there is one view that united the upper class and bourgeois commentators with their counterparts within orthodox Marxism it is the idea that the working class is the class that always lacks something. First and foremost, it lacks the cultured life-styles of the middle and upper classes. It is defined by what it is by definition always not and then is suppose to always be striving to leave behind its culture for the middle class or even progress to a “new stage” of social evolution – at least those not thought to be degenerate.


In contradiction to this stance, a stance than cut across so many ideological lines, Hoggart and a bit later, E. P. Thompson, argued that the working class should not be defined negatively or by what goods they lack in relation to the wealth and powerful. The working class must be described by its own culture, history, and its agency in creating itself despite the “all-pervading culture” of the dominate classes.

 [Listen to a BBC Witness account (10 mins.) of the 1926 General Strike http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00r3qkt  Above photo from BBC page:  "Photo: Armoured cars protect a food convoy in London during the strike. Hulton Archive/Getty Images."]


Thus from Hoggart to Hall, the work in Cultural Studies began with the assumption that culture - and not mere wealth or capital - is the crucial social fact of class and class identity.

This is in direct contradiction to the orthodoxy of the Communist Parties after the 3rd International which, like the French CP were more closely aligned with the Soviets than were the other parties of the Left, such as the British Labor Party. [For an excellent analysis of the failings of the 3rd International, see Nicos Poulantzas Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the Problem of Fascism. Verso, 1979] While class is a word used with great authority, its actual meaning has always been contested, especially amongst those in the Marxist tradition where the dispute has been at times quite literally bloody and murderous. I. I. Rubin stands as a testament to this. His Essays on Marx’sTheory of Value argued that rather than presenting a theory of economics, Marx presented us with a theory of culture. He wrote something “outlandish” like “The theory of fetishism is, per se, the basis of Marx’s entire economic system” (pg. 5). Removed from the university, Rubin disappeared into the gulags; his fate unknown and his work almost erased from history.

But I do not want to get sidetracked into a lecture on the history of the Marxist parties, germane though it might be for understanding the specific traditions of Marxism that inform Cultural Studies.

Instead, let’s pause for a moment to return to Marx and at least one of his interpreters. Take this section from the third volume of Marx’s Capital:

The owners of mere labour-power, the owners of capital and the landowners, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit and ground-rent – in other words wage-labourers, capitalists and landowners – form the three great classes of modern society based on the capitalist mode of production....

The question to be answered next is : ‘What makes a class?’, and this arises automatically from answering another question: ‘What makes wage-labourers, capitalists, and landowners the formative elements of the three great social classes?’

At first sight, the identity of revenues and revenue sources. For these are three great social groups whose components, the individuals forming them, live respectively from wages, profit, and ground-rent, from the valoraization of their labour-power, capital, and landed property.

From this point of view, however, doctors and government official would also form two classes, as they belong to two distinct social groups, the revenue of each group’s members flowing from its own source. The same would hold true for the infinite fragmentation of interests and positions into which the division of social labour splits not only for workers but also capitalists and landowners, forest-owners, mine-owners, fishery-owners, etc.
(At this point the manuscript breaks off. -- F[redrick] E[ngels])

The section breaks off just as Marx is about to define the meaning of class. More importantly, Marx demonstrates the complexity of the relations of social classes. It is not merely the capitalists versus the workers.

Earlier, in the Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx also attempted a definition that is broad rather than specific:

“In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that divide their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile contrast to the latter, they form a class.”


This view of class was expanded on by both Max Weber – and important influence on the early Frankfurt School-- and Emile Durkheim, whose work prefigures a good deal of work in French structuralism and post-structuralism. As Weber puts it in his “Class, Status, Party”:

... ‘classes,’ ‘status groups,’ and ‘parties’ are phenomena of the distribution of power within a community.... In our terminology, ‘classes’ are not communities; they merely represent possible, and frequent, bases for communal action. We may speak of a ‘class’ when (1) a number of people have in common a specific causal component of their life chances, in so far as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and (3) is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor markets. These points refer to ‘class situation,’ which we may express more briefly as the typical chance for a supply of goods, external living conditions, and personal life experiences, in so far as this chance is determined by the amount and kind of power, or lack of such, to dispose of goods or skills for the sake of income in a given economic order. The term ‘class’ refers to any group of people that is found in the same class situation.”

The use of “class” in Cultural Studies follows from perspectives such as these, and not from the vulgar economic determinism or the orthodox Marxist or the romantic fantasies, utopias, and to use Marx’s term, “Robinsonades,” of the apologists for the social relations of capital.

To return to Hoggart and Birmingham, they argue that culture is the crucial determinant of class and class identity. As such, culture is not something apart, after, or floating above the economic “base”, but actually constitutive of the social relations of capital. This understanding of social class is fundamental to Cultural Studies.

Seeing social class as constitutive of the social relations of capital moves us to the pair that Hoggart credited with establishing Cultural Studies: E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams.

Thompson’s great work was the appropriately named The Making of the English Working Class. In it class is “a relationship, not a thing” and Thompson sets out to describe the creation of the working class by analyzing how it was that the “English working people came to feel an identity of interests as between themselves and as against their rulers and employers. The ‘making’ [of the working class] is a self-conscious activity” (Aronowitz, Roll Over Beethoven, pg. 92). The English working class created itself . Moreover, as the productive class, it is the source of culture as well. The English working class, in other words, defines what "England" and "English" mean, and not the English aristocracy.

During the period framed by Hoggart and Hall, work in Cultural Studies in the U. K. was organized around two fundamental distinctions: first, the the hegemonic upper and middle class culture is distinct from popular culture, and that popular culture can be distinguished from commercial culture, i. e., the products of what the Frankfurt School had already called the “culture industry.” In both of these formulations, however, popular culture served as a site of resistance to the dominant order. British cultural studies attempted to show that the working classes had produced a relatively autonomous culture that resisted the appropriations and dominance of the hegemonic order. Moreover, Hoggart, Hall, Williams, and Thompson all wanted to reclaim that appropriated cultural artifacts of the working class. 
 
The second distinction was between commercial and popular culture, and this project was one that proved much more difficult and demanded the serious study of commercial artifacts and how they are used in terms of identity, representation, consumption, and resistance. “For mass culture could be seen either as a pure fabrication of a ‘culture industry’ in which case it had few, if any, redeeming features; or despite this fact, might be understood as a series of incorporations of a still vibrant popular culture, a judgment that would merit more serious study of commercial forms” (Aronowitz, Roll Over Beethoven, 109).

In later periods, especially from the middle 1970s forward, the work in Cultural Studies was to be profoundly transformed by the encounters with feminism and investigations of the social meaning of race as well as studies of sub-cultures replacing studies of working class culture. Works such as Paul Willis’s Learning to Labor already noted fundamental changes in the working class culture as the attempts to resist the social restructuring of Thacherism (see Policing the Crisis) were losing their base with the smashing of the unions. Hebdige’s work on sub-cultures and the several internal feminist critiques shifted the work of the Centre towards emerging forms of resistance. We will speak more about this aspect of the Birmingham School a bit later in the second part of this lecture. In terms of the origins of Cultural Studies, especially the Cultural Studies associated together under the banner of the Birmingham School. As Raymond Williams argued: Cultural Studies defines “culture as a whole way of life” and makes no distinction between the notions of culture and society. History and sociology provide the basis for understanding the social structure and the structures of everyday life that resist the many forms of domination that operate on all levels and at all moments of society. Indeed, society may itself be constituted by this very relation of domination and resistance.

At this point, we should recall from the first lecture the descriptions of Cultural Studies given by Aronowitz and Williams:

....cultural studies... seeks to transgress the boundaries between the humanities and the sciences, and even to transcend the boundaries of formal academic sites. At its best, cultural studies is not interdisciplinary, it is anti-disciplinary.” ---Stanley Aronowitz

...a quite central theoretical point which to me is at the heart of Cultural Studies but which has not always been remembered... is...that you can not understand an intellectual or artistic project without also understanding its formation; that the relation between a project and a formation is always decisive... this is really what Cultural Studies has been about, of taking the best we can in intellectual work and going with it in this very open way to confront people for whom it is not a way of life, for whom it is not in any probability a job, but for whom it is a matter of their own intellectual interest, their own understanding of the pressures on them, pressures of every kind, from the most personal to the most broadly political....” --- Raymond Williams

As Stuart Hall said in the video lecture, something is always at stake in Cultural Studies. There is always a political intervention involved at the center of the critique. Like the Frankfurt School, Birmingham confronted the shadow of Stalinism, the rise of right-wing fanaticism and forms of McCarthyism, and the theoretical question “Why no revolution?” or as Adorno once put it “Where is the proletariat?” Unlike the Frankfurt School, Birmingham had retained a connection to working class culture and politics of the Labor Party. This makes perfect sense given their focus on the agency of the working class in its self-conscious self-creation, and their affirmation of a working class culture that is relatively autonomous and self-reproducing.

What happened to the revolution? Why did the workers go over to the Right and to fascism rather than to the communist left? Or more specific to the origins of Cultural Studies in Birmingham, why no revolution in the U. K.? In Germany and France, the Revolution had been violently repressed, but in England, this was not the case. In Britain, middle class social reformers had effectively deflected the working class towards reform over revolution, in part by their actual success in alleviating the exploitation of the working class while providing it with the means to enter into the middle classes. Thus the position and perspective of Birmingham was shaped by the same forces, but the response was specific to the social relations of the place. Birmingham turned to Gramsci and to a lesser degree, Louis Althusser, for the means to understand the failure of the working classes to do more than resist the “all pervading culture” that dominates society.

The turn towards Gramsci makes sense when one notes that both Gramsci and the Frankfurt School were around similar objects of study, particularly attempting to understand the raise of fascism and authoritarianism through understanding culture as opposed to economic necessity. This made the critique of Marxism and its inevitable proletarian revolution a necessary task. One should remember that contrary to the wishes of zealots and the dispatches of journalists, social revolutions are very rare and are rarely sudden or successful. Social structures are by definition highly integrated and resilient, they are also varied and quite specific in time and space. One might think of Rome, which had numerous lineages of Emperors and usurpers as rulers, sometimes more than one a year, and yet one might speak of a Roman society with specific institutions and social relations existing over several centuries and over a wide geographical area. And though Roman communication systems were quite reliable and advanced, it took time for information to be dispersed around the empire. So it is certain that for several days after the final “Fall of Rome” bureaucrats, local officials, tax collectors, Legionaries, Consuls, traders, shopkeepers, tutors, slaves, and all the rest got up out of their beds and went about their everyday lives.

Social institutions create the reality of everyday life, define what is understood as “common sense” and as the pseudo-naturalism of “just the way the world is.” Even when we examine the narratives of working class resistance we find that those moments of resistance are moments “in which Capital retains the initiative” (Aronowitz, Roll Over Beethoven, 105). These common sense notions can be overturned only after a long struggle that must of necessity be a long cultural struggle, as Rosa Luxemburg maintained, a struggle over everyday life.

Ironically, most “successful” revolutions occurred where the working class was weakest, not strongest. And those revolutions came to dominate those it claimed to emancipate. In those places, such as the U. K., where the labor movement was strongest, the power of the parliamentary parties of the Left and the expansion of the middle class gave social reform ism the advantage over social revolution. This supports the notion of the relative autonomy of the English working class and its strength being, perhaps ironically, one of the reasons that no revolution occurred there.

Hall gives a brief resume of what he and others learned from Gramsci:
“immense amounts about the nature of culture itself, about the discipline of the conjunctural, about the importance of historical specificity, about the enormously productive metaphor of hegemony, about the way in which one can think questions of class relations only by using the displaced notion of ensemble and blocs.... while Gramsci belong and belongs to the problematic of marxism, his importance for this moment of British cultural studies is precisely the degree to which he radically displaced some of the inheritances of Marxism in cultural studies... but Gramsci also did something else for cultural studies....

    [The organic intellectual]
Admittedly, there’s a problem with his phrase ‘the production of organic intellectuals’. But there is no doubt in my mind that we were trying to find an institutional practice in cultural studies that might produce an organic intellectual.... I think it is very important that Gramsci’s thinking around these questions certainly captures part of what we were about. Because a second aspect of Gramsci’s definition of intellectual work, which I think has always been lodged somewhere close to the notion of cultural studies as a project, has been his requirement that the ‘organic intellectual’ must work on two fronts at one at one and the same time. On the one hand, we had to be at the very forefront of intellectual theoretical work because, As Gramsci says, it is the job of the organic intellectual to know more than the traditional intellectuals do, really know, not just pretend to know....If you are in the game of hegemony you have to be smarter than ‘them’. Hence, there are no theoretical limits from which cultural studies can turn back. But the second aspect is just as crucial: the the organic intellectual cannot absolve himself or herself from the responsibility of transmitting those ideas, that knowledge, through the intellectual function, to those who do not belong, professionally, in the intellectual class. And unless those two fronts are operating at the same time, or at least those two ambitions are part of the project of cultural studies, you can get enormous theoretical advance without any engagement at the level of the political project” Hall, “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies” (pgs. 102-103).

And I would add that the reverse is also true that an emphasis on engagement may bring about a political advance, that advance would ultimately fail without theoretical support. I have no doubt that Hall would agree with that position as well. But we can see in this long section that the political engagement that had once been centered on the affirmation of the working classes has shifted as those classes have themselves changed, but the political commitment has not lessened nor can it and the work still be considered Cultural Studies.

I should note that Althusser occupies a much more ambiguous position in British cultural studies. Hall mentions that he was highly resistant to Althusser’s reading of Marx:

I remember wrestling with Althusser. I remember looking at the idea of ‘theoretical practice’ in Reading Capital and thinking, “I’ve gone as far in this book as it is proper to go’. I felt, I will not give an inch to this profound misreading, this superstructuralist mistranslation, of classical Marxism, unless he beats me down, unless he defeats me in spirit. He’ll have to march over me to convince me. I warred with him, to the death. A long, rambling piece I wrote on Marx’s 1857 “Introduction’ to The Grundrisse, in which I tried to stake out the difference between structuralism in Marx’s epistemology and Althusser’s, was only the tip of the iceberg of this long engagement. Hall, “Theoretical Legacies” (pg. 101).

The influence of semiotic on early Cultural Studies is clearly evident in Hall’s “Encoding, Decoding” for example. However, one should pause to note, as I hear from students that you feel that you are reading Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus in every class and I agree that you should read more widely! But more to the point, E. P. Thompson’s The Poverty of Theory is an extended critique of Althusser from the author of The Making of the English Working Class and a social historian closely associated with the origin of Cultural Studies. Given that you get Althusser’s essay so often , you have plenty of time to add Thompson to your reading list.

To spark your interest, here is Thompson’s summary:
I will argue the following propositions and examine them in sequence. 1) Althusser’s epistemology is derivative from a limited kind of academic learning-process, and has no general validity; 2) As a result he has no category (or way of handling) ‘experience’ ( or social being’s impingement upon social consciousness); hence he falsifies the ‘dialogue’ with empirical evidence inherent in knowledge-production, and in Marx’s own practice, and thereby falls continually into modes of thought designated in the Marxist tradition as ‘idealist’; 3) in particular he confuses the necessary empirical dialogue with empiricism, and consistently mis-represents (in the most naïve ways) the practice of historical materialism (including Marx’s own practice); 4) The resultant critique of ‘historicism’ is at certain points identical to the specifically anti-Marxist critique of historicism (as represented by Popper), although the authors derive from this opposite conclusions.
This argument will take us some way on our road. I will then propose: 5) Althusser’s structuralism is a structuralism of stasis, departing from Marx’s own historical method; 6) Hence Althusser’s conceptual universe has no adequate categories to explain contradiction or change – or class struggle; 7) These critical weaknesses explain why Althusser must be silent (or evasive) as to other important categories, among them ‘economic’ and ‘needs’; 8) From which it follows that Althusser (and his progeny) find themselves unable to handle, except in the most abstract and theoretical way, questions of value, culture – and political theory.
--- E. P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory or an Orrery of Errors (pgs. 5-6)

Obviously there is a theoretical tension within your faculty that has not been explored!

Let’s end by watching a lecture by Stuart Hall. This is a nice introduction to Hall’s work as well as a good summary of an approach to Cultural Studies that still holds on to both aspects of Gramsci’s organic intellectual. This video is from the Media Education Foundation, and it is a group that does very good work. However, I of course have some criticisms of the video. Its existence is in effect one of the signs of the acceptance and institutionalization of Cultural Studies in the United States. Cultural Studies became marketable during the 1990s and after. In one of the bookstores I frequented, the sociology and anthropology sections were replaced with one “Cultural Studies” section because Cultural Studies books sold more copies than one’s from the traditional disciplines. Publishers were quick to notice, of course. The Simon During Cultural Studies Reader once sold for under $30, but now sells new for over $100. The cost is one factor in why I no longer require it. The fact that it has become a textbook for Cultural Studies and another indication of institutionalization is another. The introduction of the lecture by Jhally is somewhat problematic. He will say something to the effect that McLuhan said that a fish can not discover water and so Cultural Studies invites you to step out of the water and examine it critically. This is not at all the case, or perhaps it is for his work in communications, but it is not the case for others who realize that one is always immersed in their society and that the critique is done from within society. There is no detached, objective, and a god-like vantage from which to look down upon the social relations of everyday life. As Adorno noted (Introduction to Sociology), society is not merely the sum total of its parts and so the nature of sociology is itself determined by its social context.

The unfortunate attempts to commercialize the lecture will be obvious, as well as the sometimes, shall we say, unsuccessful animations. Something more serious is that the captions are not always what Hall is saying and they frequently racialize his lecture. For example, Hall will be saying that “when you see an image, you will think this” while Jhally will cut to scenes of black men and write “when you see images of Black men, you will think this.” The opening scene, taken from Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle (1987), is also edited in such a way that it does not include the collusion of the Black actors in the Black Acting School. Notice, too, that Hall never speaks autobiographically in this lecture or only obliquely. I’ll leave it to you to think about the significance of this, for now.

Original Scene from Hollywood Shuffle

Stuart Hall -- Representation and the Media
(We will watch it is class, but here are the links if you are only reading this online.)






Next Lecture



American Reception: Social and Cultural Context


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lecture Six: Fetishism and Popular Culture: Umberto Eco's Casablanca


 


Lecture Six


Fetishism and Popular Culture: Umberto Eco's Casablanca



[originally posted on March 15, 2012 and updated on October 25, 2013]

 _____________________


The concept of the fetish in Cultural Studies simultaneously refers to commodities, to a constellation of relations the repression and domination of nature, to alienation, and to the desire for authority that connects all of these. It is not by accident that the fetish has been central to materialist critiques of everyday life. Do not slip into the easy view that Cultural Studies is about criticism and philosophy, or about play and whimsy. It is not and should it become so, then Cultural Studies becomes just a marketing teaser instead of a “ruthless critique” of the social and material conditions of the present.

That this may appear to announce that Cultural Studies had a politics is not surprising. The political position of Cultural Studies is that of the critique of the present and of the utopian conceits for the future. This critique begins with the profoundly negative critique of the Frankfurt School and became later, at the instigation of the Birmingham School, an equally positive critique critique of contemporary culture. Positive in the sense of emphasizing the resistance to authority and the constant reproduction of the social relations through the production of culture. Birmingham expressed an overt commitment of theory to the needs of opposition political and social formations.

One of the intractable problems that confronts(-ed) Cultural Studies is that the commitment to critique --- a commitment that requires that one be led by the evidence --- is often at odds with commitments to particular groups and politics. This is not to say that Cultural Studies has no overarching political commitments. It most certainly has always been committed to the politics of the left, as can be seen in its origins in Critical Theory and in the Gramscian interventions and commitment to the working class that one finds in British Cultural Studies.

Cultural Studies, however, always turns its critique back on itself and this results in the difficulty in maintaining long-term commitments to any political orthodoxy. Orthodoxy invites its critique and results in the constant questioning of the very orthodoxies that we hold most dear. After all, a consistent thread through the genealogy of Cultural Studies has been what Horkheimer called the negative task of demolishing our most cherished beliefs and ideals, and then to encourage -- or at least not discourage – one to really thing about the rubble as one reconstructs one’s understanding of everyday life.

This underlines the centrality of materialism in understanding the origins of contemporary Cultural Studies. Notice that I said materialism and not Marxism. Although Marx’s work serves as a basis for much of the social sciences, Marx was himself working within a much longer tradition of social critique: materialism. Marx even wrote his doctoral dissertation on the meaning of freedom in the philosophy of the Greek materialists Democritus and Epicurus.

In choosing his subject, Marx was going the route of many Enlightenment scholars who also turned to the Materialists and the Stoics to support his revolutionary theories of society and social life. Catherine Wilson has written about this in her recent book Epicureanism and the Origins of Modernity.

The fetish first enters into materialism through its critique of religion, politics, and fear. How is it that we come to demand our own domination? Why do we desire it more that freedom or even try to “escape from Freedom”? Epicurus and his followers said that we should first look to religion, which they argued teaches us to fear an afterlife, to fear death, and to seek comfort in ignorance and superstition.
[You can read more on this elsewhere  Link: http://www.Epicurus.info

We can briefly take note of some specific characteristics of early materialism:
*Against the Idols of religion and the marketplace.
*Against fear of living, instead embraced pleasure and moderation.
*Society based upon a social contract, with Epicurean societies (Gardens) based upon the principles of friendship, with gender an social equality.
*There is a cosmopolitanism to materialism that would later give support to, for better and ill, the universalism of Enlightenment.

The Epicurean inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda was set in the marketplace to remind his fellow citizens of the benefits of Epicurusism and the ills of greed, superstition, and the culture of the market place. And just as everyone comes to Rick’s Cafe Americain, so too does Diogenes of Oinoanda (c. 200 CE) speaks of the illusion of distance between peoples and societies:

...and we contrived this [inscription] in order that, even while sitting at home, we might be able to exhibit the goods of philosophy, not to all people here indeed, but to those of them who are civil-spoken; and not least we did this for those who are called "foreigners," though they are not really so. For, while the various segments of the earth give different people a different country, the whole compass of this world gives all people a single country, the entire earth, and a single home, the world. http://www.epicurus.info/picindex3.html 

Oinoanda

We certainly note the centrality of materialism to Enlightenment while still acknowledging some obvious differences and different interpretations over time (see Wilson again). But Marx does not appear out of the blue. The history of materialism extends much further before Marx as well as continuing after him as well. His is, though, a pivotal figure in the genealogy of materialism. He gives his own in the Holy Family, The Poverty of Philosophy, and in his remarkable Epicurean Notebooks.
But let us turn to another of Marx’s sources for his materialism and for his concept of the fetish, Ludwig von Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity.

Here is what Feuerbach writes about the relationship of Humans to the Divine as well as to the fetish that embodies that divinity:

Religion is the dream of the human mind. But even in dreams we do not find ourselves in emptiness or in heaven, but on earth, in the realm of reality; we only see real things in the entrancing splendor of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity. Hence I do nothing more to religion – and to speculative philosophy and theology also – than to open its eyes, or rather to turn its gaze from the internal towards the external, i.e., I change the object as it is in the imagination into the object as it is in reality....

Man cannot transcend his true nature. He may indeed by means of the imagination conceive individuals of another so-called higher kind, but even then he can never get loose from his species and his nature. The specific distinctions... which he attributes to these higher individuals, are always drawn from man's own nature --- qualities in which, actually, man images and projects himself. - Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 1841.

Note that we are once again in the realm of dreams, and as with Freud and Borges, even in dreams we “find ourselves ... on earth”. Feuerbach looks for the real, material basis of Christianity and finds it in the people who created it. “Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human. But the human essence is no abstraction in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations” (Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, Thesis 6.) Humans can not escape or overcome their place in nature without becoming something other than human. We construct our gods and deities from the materials at hand, and the most important source happens to be us. Thus our goods come to resemble us, to behave as we behave or wish that we might behave. We take the best of ourselves and project it into an imaginary being or its representation – its’ fetish – and this fetish comes to stand over and against us. It regulates and controls our actions. We see the fetish as a power independent of our will when it is in fact constructed by us. Therefore, Feuerbach argues, we have alienated ourselves from these now divine attributes, leaving us reduced and the imaginary fetishes of religion staring down on us.

Religion is the alienation of man from himself; for he sets up God as an antithesis of himself... in religion man objectifies his own ‘latent’ nature. Hence it must be proved that this antithesis, this contrast between God and man with which religion begins, is in reality a conflict between the individual and his own nature. The measure of your god is determined by your own reason. Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity. 1841, pgs. 19-20.

Just as God is nothing else than the nature of man purified of everything which appears to the individual as a limitation or an evil, so the future life [after death] is nothing else than life here and now freed from everything that appears a limitation or an evil.... To live in projected dream-images is the essence of religion. Religions sacrifices reality to the projected dream: the ‘Beyond’ is merely the ‘Here’ reflected in the mirror of imagination. Our essential task is now fulfilled. We have reduced the otherworldly, supernatural and Superhuman nature of God to the elements of human nature. We have arrived in the end at where we started from the beginning. The beginning, the center, and the goal of religion is – Man.


It is common place amongst Marxists to overly emphasize the connection between Marx and Hegel. In fact, it was once asserted that one must read Hegel to understand Marx. Of course, a passing familiarity with Marx should have established the absurdity of this assertion. Marx was no Hegelian. Indeed, Marxism rather ignores the importance of Feuerbach’s work for Marx and Engels. For example, Engels’ late work LudwigFeuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy expressed how deeply they were influenced by Feuerbach.

Then came Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity. With one blow it pulverized the contradiction in that without circumlocutions it placed materialism on the throne again. Nature exists independently of all philosophy. It is the foundation upon which we human beings, ourselves products of nature, have grown up. Nothing exists outside nature and man, and the higher beings our religious fantasies have created are only the fantastic reflection of our own essence. The spell [of Hegelianism] was broken. The ‘system’ was exploded and cast aside. And the contradiction shown to exist only in our imagination, was dissolved. One must have experienced the the liberating effect of this book to have any idea of it. Enthusiasm was general. We all became at once Feuerbachians! How enthusiastically Marx greeted the new conception and how much --- in spite of all critical reservations – he was influenced by it, one may read in the Holy Family. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, pg.18.

This debt to Feuerbach is obvious in Capital, particularly in the chapter on “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret”. It is here that Marx moved the discussion of fetishism and alienation away from the realm of religion and towards the critique of everyday life.

Significantly, Marx undertakes this critique of commodities before the advent of a consumer society. At a time when advertising did not exist (see Raymond Williams “Advertising, the Magic System”), and the bulk of the working classes could not even dream of moving into the middle classes yet alone a 40-hour work week with a "weekend" in which to recreate and reproduce the everyday.

Notice how Marx’s opening remarks place the discussion of commodities into alignment with the earlier critique of religious fetishes.

The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an 'immense collection of commodities'.... A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.... The mysterious character of the commodity-form consists therefore simply in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men's own labour as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things. Hence it also reflects the social relations of the producers....
The commodity form... is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men's hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labor as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
-- Karl Marx, Capital, Vol I.

In the coming era, religion would no longer hold sway and nature would become increasingly instrumentalized and dominated. Marx noted this in his Grundrisse, which was perhaps his notebook or a rough draft of Capital.

Is the view of nature and social relations on which the Greek imagination and hence Greek [mythology] is based possible with the self-acting mule spindles and railways and locomotives and eletrical telegraphs? What chance has Vulcan against Roberts & Co., Jupiter against the lightening-rod and Hermes against the Credit Mobilier? All mythology overcomes and dominates and shapes the forces of nature in the imagination and by the imagination; it therefore vanishes with the advent of real mastery over them. Marx, Karl. 1973. Grundrisse, New York: Penguin Classics, 100.

The alienation Feuerbach found in the creation of the religious fetish becomes in Marx the alienation of humans from the products of their own social labor. Commodities stand over and above us, dominating our lives in the same manner that the gods and the saints once ruled over our ancestors. The domination of nature appears natural, just the way things are or in accordance with the dictates of “human nature” rather than the creation of humans through their social relations. Furthermore, the commodity as the crystallization of human labor provides us with an artifact of the social relations of its producers. The commodity can tell us something about the society that produced it as its relation to nature. As Freud said, the fetish appear split into “one part repression, the other vocalized, for we repress the fetishistic aspect of the world and imagine it as natural.”

Unfortunately, this is not the place to pursue an in depth analysis of Marx’s investigations of the commodity form and its social reproduction. It is, however, the place to call your attention to the fact that Marx's analysis of alienation and commodification is in accordance with his materialism and extends throughout his work. I am aware of the current “return” to Althusser evidenced by the interests of some of your own professors and fellow students. This renewal – and it is not the first – shares much in common with the appeal of Walter Benjamin’s Messianic reading of Marxism to those who now lack the comfort of the inevitable revolution but still desire to immerse themselves in a "good" politics with an "ultimate" goal. Likewise, to those left without a Left, Althusser’s scientism appeals to many who desire the security of a science of society and its revolutions. No, there was no break between the “Young Marx” and “mature Marx except in the fantasies of Althusser and in the political expedience of justifying the orthodox Marxism of the Communist Parties . See E. P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory for a critique of Althusser from the perspective of British Cultural Studies.
[For more on Marx’s theory of commodities (besides Marx of course!), see:
Luxemburg, Rosa. 1963 [1913]. The Accumulation of Capital. London: Routledge.
Negri, Antonio. 1991. Marx Beyond Marx; Lessons on the Grundrisse. New York: Autonomedia.
Rubin, I. I. 1973 [1928]. Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value.Montreal/New York: Black Rose Books.
To understand the formation of the social relations of capital, see (besides Marx!)
Fernand Braudel. 1982. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th- 18th Century, Volumes 1-3. New York: Harper & Row.
Weber, Max. 1976 [1904-5, 1920] The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.]
Of course, Marx’s discussion of the Fetish happens in a broader social context and changes brought about by those social formations that we met in earlier lectures:

*Enlightenment
*Colonialism, Imperialism, and the revolutions of the late 18th and throughout the 19th century
*Globalization of Markets
*Scientific advances and the formation of modern science
*Technological innovation and the instrumentation of Nature

Indeed, when we think again about Joseph Conrad, we find his recognition that the very idea of the “spirit of civilization” has already fully merged with the global movements of commodities:

Carlier, smoking native tobacco in a short wooden pipe, would swagger up twirling his moustaches, and surveying the warriors with haughty indulgence, would say--
"Fine animals. Brought any bone? Yes? It's not any too soon. Look at the muscles of that fellow third from the end. I wouldn't care to get a punch on the nose from him. Fine arms, but legs no good below the knee. Couldn't make cavalry men of them." And after glancing down complacently at his own shanks, he always concluded: "Pah! Don't they stink! You, Makola! Take that herd over to the fetish" (the storehouse was in every station called the fetish, perhaps because of the spirit of civilization it contained) "and give them up some of the rubbish you keep there. I'd rather see it full of bone than full of rags." Joseph Conrad An Outpost of Progress, 1898.

Our own era is still profoundly shaped by the the Era of the World Wars, which produced fundamental changes in social life:
The end of Colonialism
The de-centering of Europe
The rise of the United States and spread of American Culture
Authority: Enlightenment & new forms of control
We talked about these in the first lecture.  Now, it has become a commonplace to speak now of a globalized world, but this is really not a new insight. The movement of ivory and bodies captured by Conrad shows that the “process of globalization” is another face of the expansion of the social relations of capital. When as in the present day the commodity form penetrates to every corner of the globe, there is no escape from consumer society. The rebel who stole Qaddafi’s gun was wearing a St. Valentine’s day tee-shirt and a New York Yankees baseball cap.

The analysis of the commodity fetishism of consumer society was first taken up by the Frankfurt School and its associate, Walter Benjamin. They extended both Marx’s analysis into this new era, but they took seriously the political implications of what they called the Culture Industry. In our readings for next week we will turn to the Frankfurt School, but in this clip Max Horkheimer sums up the importance of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School in extending Marx’s critique:

This sociology went beyond the critical theory of society conceived by Marx in order to reflect reality more adequately. One point is very important. For Marx had the ideal of a society of free human beings. He believed that this capitalist society would necessarily have to be overcome by the solidarity spelled by the increasing immiseration of the working class. This idea is wrong. This society in which we live does not immiserate the workers but helps them to build a better life. And apart from that, Marx did not see that freedom and justice are dialectical concepts. The more freedom, the less justice, and the more justice, the less freedom. The critical theory which I conceived later is based on the idea that one cannot determine what is good, what a good, a free society would look like from within the society which we live in now. We lack the means. But in our work we can bring up the negative aspects of this society, which we want to change. Max Horkheimer: Interview, 1969.

As we said earlier, Marx never knew that the expansion of capital and its technological innovations would lead to the swelling of the middle classes and to a society driven as much by desire for consumer goods (e.g., Apple) as by manufacturing. But Marx knew that the future could not be predicted. Instead, we could only rely on the fact the the future would be what we make of it, just as the past was also our creation.

“Humans make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries, and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time honored disguise and this borrowed language.” Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire, pg.15 (1)

And here we turn to Casablanca as a cult object, i.e., Casablanca as a fetish and an artifact.

In Eco's essay, we find that we are now dealing a new aspect of the fethish: the spectacle or the the film as a cult object and a cultural artifact. A contemporary of Eco, the political scientist Murray Edelman proposed that politics is now nothing more than spectacle. That leaders, social problems, and policy were constructed through the media through the consumption of the spectacle.

“The political entities that are most influential upon public consciousness and action, then, are fetishes; creations of observers that then dominate and mystify their creators. I try here to analyze the pervasive consequences of the fetishism at the core of politics, never a wholly successful enterprise because it is tempting to exorcise a fetish by constructing a rational theory of politics.” Edelman


I. Casablanca as an Cultural Artifact/Cult Object
II. The Fetish --- Idols of the Market place



For Eco, the cult film is the film that already refers to all other films, past and present. “It is the movies.” It already contains all of the motifs that are to be found in the specific genres. War film, spy, love story, adventure, Western, gangster/Noir films, Casablanca is all of these and yet none of them. It was not trying to capture the time or the various genres. As Eco argues, one can not make a cult film. It is not the result of conscious creation but rather chance and the needs of the moment. Casablanca was simply thrown together using the “archetypes” readily at hand. With its rapid movement from one genre to the next, Casablanca manages to reference them all, to even take essential elements from each one (the rainy airport runway and the trench coat in the final scene, e. g., “Waters? What waters? We’re in the desert” Renault says early in the film) without ever being limited by any one genre. Thus it never actually achieves the continuity of the genre movie. It is instead more like the Borges/Kafka story within a story, as well as stories without an ending. The film is arbitrary and unhinged, as Eco tells us. 

The film must be ramshackled. It must provide a space for you to place yourself into it. This ramshackle openness creates these gaps and through our imagination and fantasy we rush to fill them. The opening sequence with its blend of newsreels, fantasy, and the exotic, announces this appeal to the viewer to project themselves into the film. Like any fetish, the cult movie is a vessel for the fantasies of the viewer in an object alienated from the viewer. The movie takes on a life of its own, so to speak, in the constant repetition of the references to it throughout popular culture. It is a “perfect film” because you must actively watch and because one invests it with one’s fantasies, Eco says.

Of course, this means that not only can a cult film not be consciously produced, but that it is by definition “not serious.” It was not intended to be an important film. It was instead just one of dozens of films being produced to supply an expanding market for the consumption of entertainment. It is not the result of intensive collaboration or an individual “artistic” will, but really the result of the social forces of the time and the vagaries of history. If Ronald Reagan had been under contract to Warner Brothers, he would have had Bogart’s role and perhaps American history might have been somewhat altered. History is replete with chance events, after all.

I will not go into the details that Eco covers so well, but it is significant that this, the greatest of all movies; a movie that is referenced constantly in popular culture, consists of improvised scripts and sets, mannered acting, and absurd plot twists that are thinly concealed by quick, clever dialogue and music videos. It was the classic “B” movie that has seemingly come to be “the movies” as a whole. Recognizing this, we can now use Casablanca to also see the emergence of the Culture Industry:

“The relentless unity of the culture industry bears witness to the emergent unity of politics. Sharp distinctions like those between A and B films, or between short stories published in magazines in different price segments, do not so much reflect real differences as assist in the classification, organization, and identification of consumers. Something is provided for everyone so that no one can escape; differences are hammered home and propagated. The hierarchy of serial qualities purveyed to the public serves only to quantify it more completely. Everyone is suppose to behave spontaneously according to a ‘level’ determined by indices and to select the category of mass product manufacture for their type. On the charts of research organizations, indistinguishable from those of political propaganda, consumers are divided up as statistical material into red, green, and blue areas according to income group.” (Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, pgs. 96-97)

Casablanca is also an artifact of its time. It is an excellent example of how the Culture Industry worked in the days of the studio system -- and perhaps how the institutional structure of the Culture Industry has, in the present day, come full circle to become an integrated industry. Actors, Directors, crews, etc. , all worked for the studio. They were under contract and for many, the studio controlled all aspects of one’s life, including who one dated and how one dressed. So what lends itself to Casablanca status as a B movie is that there were many B movies of the time, and that there was nothing particularly special about its making. All of those involved would just move on to the next assignment.

In thinking about the Culture Industry, it is important to remember that entertainment was produced/consumed differently then. Each studio owned not only the production process of making the film, but the distribution network and the individual movie theaters. If you wanted to see a Warner Brothers film, you had to go to a Warner Brothers theater. Usually one also watched one or several newsreels of world events followed by cartoons. So the opening of Casablanca may have seem like a segue way from a newsreel directly into the film.

As it is set before Pearl Harbor, the film contains several references to the neutrality of America in the war, from Sidney Greenstreet’s advice that “In this world, neutrality is no longer a wise foreign policy” to Rick’s “They are asleep all over America.” Isolationism and neutrality were the most popular political positions of the day in America. It would take Pearl Harbor to get the American public to back intervention in another World War. Rick’s own politics refers to this period as well. He fought with the Anti-Fascists in Spain, perhaps with the International (Abraham Lincoln) Brigade. In Ethiopia, he ran guns to the government troops fighting against the Italian invasion and creation of their own colonial holding at the very end of colonialism. As with Spain, weapons and tactics that would be used in WWII were field tested in Ethiopia. One should not minimize Casablanca as a propaganda film at a moment when Hollywood was happy to join in the war effort.

Rick’s cafe is in fact the coming global world. It anticipates the globalization that we take for granted today.

As a cultural artifact, Casablanca is a play of fetishes and representations, and so it rings true even in its outlandish plots and exoticism. The film is itself a vast accumulation of cult objects, from the décor and the stylized characters and acting to the Letters of Transit and the figure of Ilse, who is at once corrupted and incorruptible. The gendered themes of the movie are quite enlightening. In many ways, Ilse is all important because she is the only character that knows the whole story. She is as once portrayed as quite strong, as when she will not abandon Victor or when she stands up to Strasser, but she is also portrayed as weak, as in letting Rick “do all the thinking” for both of them. One is left with the impression that either she is an all knowing and manipulative femme fatale or just the usual filler. The writer’s switch between these from scene to scene. Even within the same scene as in the encounter in Rick’s office.

But perhaps this ambiguity is there because of what Eco says is the Platonic romance between the male characters.  The movie is as much a romance between Rick, Renault, and Victor as it is a triangle between Rick, Victor,and Ilse. And the beautiful friendship is beginning between Renault and Rick.

The film also reminds us of the social constructions and relations of race in America. Sam is an ex-patriot living in France and partnering with Rick, itself an unusual arrangement as Sam gets a percentage of the profits. In Paris, Ilse pauses to share the toast between the three of them and later refers to Sam as “the boy playing the piano’ when she does not want anyone to realize she knows Sam. Sam and Rick are also together, sometimes as friends, sometimes as Eco says, Sancho and Don Quixote. Don’t miss the French Colonial soldiers guarding the rail station as Paris is evacuated.

For Americans, the last refuge of cosmopolitanism is Rick’s Cafe, because this was, after all, a propaganda film, too!

But we had good reasons for making propaganda, because we actually believed our propaganda. Indeed, for many in the cast, the film is not so unrealistic. In throwing it together, the makers of the film could call upon the large influx of European directors and actors who had escaped Europe for the United States.
Take a look at the various members of the very cosmopolitan cast:
*Paul Henreid (Victor Lazlo),, born in what was Austria-Hungary. Investigated by House Unamerican Activities Committee and blacklisted in the 1950’s.
*Claude Rains (Captain Renault ), British veteran of the trenches in WWI.
*Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser), British but a noted actor for his work in German Expressionist films, fled Germany. His wife was Jewish and he was an ardent anti-Nazi who fled when they were both marked for assassination by Nazi death squads. Died of a heart attack a year after the film. He was the highest paid actor in the film and gave much of his wealth and income to support the British war effort.
*Sydney Greenstreet (Signor Ferrari), was British, before turning to acting, he ran a tea plantation in Ceylon.
*Peter Lorre (Ugante), was a noted German actor, appearing in Fritz Lang’s classic M. Fled Germany with the rise of the Nazis.
*S.Z. Sakall (Carl), fled Germany at the rise of the Nazis.
*Madeleine Lebeau (Yovanne), fled France in 1940 and traveled through Lisbon with her husband.

I will leave you with three notes on what has obviously changed since Eco did his analysis of the commodity fetish:

1] We no longer consume movies as we did. Is a cult film even possible now that the social setting has been eliminated by our choices in the technology we use to experience media? For Rocky Horror and a bit less so for Casablanca, the experience was associated with the audience performing in the movie theater. Now that we do not consume movies in this way, can the film acts as a cult object in the same way?

2] Eco says that “Books are different from movies” Is this still always the case now that books and some magazines are being consumed via screens?

3] Eco minimizes how much one must listen as well as view the cult object/film. In Casablanca, the dialogue is quite quick, sharp, and spoken in many different languages while the film contains a number of what are essentially music videos. The music propels the action and assists with the abrupt transitions in much the same way that the dialogue snatches one from one theme to another. The soundscape of the bar area is decidedly different from that of the gambling room in the back where the sounds of the roulette game dominates.

So we have looked at the changing meaning and uses of the concept of the fetish. We can summarize these as follows:

Ludwig Feuerbach: Alienation and the Fetish

Karl Marx: The commodity and the fetishism of commodities.

Max Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno: The Culture Industry and the production of commodities are central to understanding how authority functions.

Umberto Eco: Casablanca --- the Movie as a cult object/fetish.

And I’ll leave you with this note from Murray Edelman on the Fetish and the fetishization of politics, social problems, leaders, crises, etc. It seems appropriate to bringing the discussion up to a moment when politics, the work of art, and the commodity have taken on the same fetishistic qualities.

“The spectacle constituted by news reporting continuously constructs and reconstructs social problems, crises, enemies, and leaders and so creates a succession of threats and reassurances. These constructed problems and personalities furnish the content of political journalism and the data for historical and analytic political studies. They also play a central role in winning support and opposition for political causes and policies.... The political entities that are most influential upon public consciousness and action, then, are fetishes; creations of observers that then dominate and mystify their creators. I try here to analyze the pervasive consequences of the fetishism at the core of politics, never a wholly successful enterprise because it is tempting to exorcise a fetish by constructing a rational theory of politics.”



Next Lecture:


Dialectic of Enlightenment II: The Culture industry