Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thoughts on the Frankfurt School

After reading Dialectic of Enlightenment, I found the Frankfurt School's ideas about the "culture industry" thought-provoking; of course, some more compelling than others. The authors seem to make bold claims and conclusions (eg, culture industry = negation of style) without discussing all sides of their argument. On the other hand, when they say on p. 105-106 that cultural tyranny dictates that "you are free to not think as we do...but you will be a stranger among us," my ears perk up, and I start thinking about musicians over the years -- Johnny Cash, NWA, Lauryn Hill, Dixie Chicks, to name a few -- that have been pushed out of the mainstream for their nonconformist ideas.  In this chapter, Horkheimer & Adorno have much to say on the cost of free thinking, and I like the directness and ambition of their arguments. For example:  "The hiding places of mindless artistry, which represents what is human against the social mechanism, are being relentlessly ferretted out by organizational reason, which forces everything to justify itself in terms of meaning and effect" (114). This quote could be applied to everything from the comedy of Andy Kauffman and Chris Farley, to the short fiction of Barry Hannah or Aimee Bender.  American culture, for some reason, crowns those artists whose art they can better understand, logically or intellectually, rather than artists who don't explain their art but simply show it.

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