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An Analysis Of, "In Reification And Utopia In Mass Culture" By Frederick Jameson

1549 words - 7 pages

“It is true that manipulation theory sometimes finds a special place in its scheme for those rare cultural objects which can be said to have overt political and social content: thus, 60s protest songs, The Salt of the Earth, Clancey Segal’s novels or Sol Yurick’s, chicano murals, and the San Francisco Mime Troop. This is not the place to raise the complicated problem of political art today, except to say that our business as culture critics requires us to raise it, and to rethink what are still essentially 30s categories in some new and more satisfactory contemporary way.” (Jameson 139)I initially read this quote as a praise of political art as so worthy an object of ...view middle of the document...

Or, as Hakim Bey opens his TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, “CHAOS NEVER DIED.”The production or assumption of a limited period of the ‘60’s tends to perpetuate a nostalgic distance from a ‘period’ of political art, counterculture, and resistance that never really ended (or began). In many ways the “60’s” have come to resemble a safe countercultural commodity. One can easily find coffee table books on the collective rebellious phase of the baby boomers’ youth, or one can watch the Wonder Years or Forest Gump and recall a period before choosing to ‘turn off, tune out, drop in.’ If these experiences are too lonely, one can visit my home town of Cleveland, Ohio with family and peruse the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to study Beatles artifacts or Jimi Hendrix guitars behind glass for a $10 fee. All of these commodities appear to recuperate political art and counterculture except for that they only do so in retrospect, and in a fashion that uses physical/spatial distance to construct a sense of historical distance that must be willfully believed. Just a few blocks away museum visitors, were they to instead choose to visit the Tower City Mall at public square on a Sunday, would likely encounter middle class kids and homeless people dissolving cultural boundaries at Cleveland Food Not Bombs. I don’t propose, in response, a hasty rejection of some mythically totalitarian historical ‘metanarrative,’ but rather I propose a more complete and honest history that dissolves the nostalgic distance between political art then and ‘recuperated’ art now. Unfortunately for Jameson, who has chosen to ignore the ‘reality’ of such a history for the sake of a commentary on his own constructed meta-society, many post-60’s examples easily come to mind. The punk rock movement, certainly with a strong collective component, produced material easily accessible to ‘mass culture.’ The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” was released in 1976, and Crass was releasing agitating songs like “Do They Owe Us A Living?,” “Punk is Dead,” and “Fight War Not Wars” in 1978. Rage Against the Machine, arguably one of the more important alternative bands of the 1990’s, initiated a radical Axis of Justice with System of a Down and donated all of its proceeds from a tour with U2 to organizations as overtly resistant as EZLN. Any middle class adolescent who frequented Ozzfest or other metal festivals in the 1990’s and 2000’s is likely aware of System of a Down’s “Steal This Album,” or the lyrics to their politically charged Prison Song. Someone interested in hip hop enough to scratch the surface will likely encounter KRS-1’s “Sound of da Police” released in 1993. And Radiohead, now international superstars, have just released their latest album essentially for...

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