coromandal


social order window dressing
August 15, 2015, 4:12 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , , ,

Capitalist modernity: instrumentalism, power, profit, material survival, management, manipulation, self interested calculation, private morality. Culture is for material production, decoration for the new material consumer social order, distraction during non work hours.

The pre capitalist modern world: fostering human sharing and solidarity, communal shaping of a common life. Culture is an extension of the aims of human solidarity and shared life.

Terry Eagleton’s description:

Capitalist modernity, so it appeared, had landed us with an economic system which was almost purely instrumental.  It was a way of life dedicated to power, profit, and the business of material survival, rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity.  The political realm was more a question of management and manipulation than of the communal shaping of a common life.  Reason itself had been debased to mere self-interested calculation.  As for morality, this too, had become an increasingly private affair, more relevant to the bedroom than the boardroom.  Cultural life had grown more important in one sense, burgeoning into a whole industry or branch of material production.  In another sense, however, it had dwindled to the window-dressing of a social order which had exceedingly little time for anything it could not price or measure.  Culture was now largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they were not working.

Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life

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exposure is the great evil
August 26, 2009, 1:45 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

In his essay In the Garden, Alan Jacobs discusses the biblical origins of shame.  The quotation excerpted below distinguishes between shame and guilt cultures.  He tells us how the guilt culture is confessional; the act of confession gives release from the pain of transgression.  A shame culture, however, doesn’t see the transgression as a problem unless, of course, it is revealed.

Since the 1940s, anthropologists have distinguished between shame-cultures and guilt-cultures. People who belong to the latter suffer from an inner sense that they have transgressed some immutable law, and the hiddenness of that transgression can intensify the pain: thus the feeling of relief that can accompany confession in such cultures. But in shame-cultures, exposure is the great evil: not to transgress, but to have one’s transgressions revealed. Thus in the Iliad, when Andromache begs her beloved Hector to stay in the city rather than return to the fighting, he replies that he cannot, for the shame of doing so would be too terrible.

-In the Garden, Alan Jacobs, Cabinet, Issue 31, Shame, Fall 2009



in the land of the timid
April 21, 2008, 12:40 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

(le Corbusier|peasant|more peasants|Rockefeller)

This is from the review of a book about Corbusier’s trip to America in the 1930s – a lecture tour and business trip.  It seems he developed a low opinion of the new world; two examples of its crude character are given here.  He had an affair with an American woman from New York city whom he ultimately decided was peasant-like.  He pursued business with Rockefeller, who was building skyscrapers at the time, and also concluded he was less than civilized. Peasant lovers and land developers. Very cosmopolitan!

Le Corbusier in America is the fascinating but sad story of his master’s attempt to woo the New World in the 1930s, even as he insulted it for timidity. Mardges Bacon has been working on this tome for 20 years and, with its 80 pages of detailed notes, it is a piece of scholarship that will not be superseded. Among her many insights are the ways his American lectures helped establish modern architecture in the academies, how he almost won a series of important commissions (before his caustic comments lost them), the role he played in bringing mass-housing to this country and the design of the UN Headquarters. Also the affair with his American muse, Marguerite Harris, is clarified: a woman he could see as a symbol of the New World and compliment in letters and drawings as ‘the peasant woman of New York’. The fact that most lovers would not take this as praise suggests how complex and sophisticated were his thoughts. He also said that Nelson Rockefeller, who he hotly pursued for commissions, has ‘the iron fist of a peasant’ — though not to his face. Modernism and the primitive were mixed in LC’s mind during the ’30s while Americans, reading his books of the ’20s, were determined to find only the apostle of the machine. This led to continual misunderstanding.

~Charles Jencks book review of Le Corbusier in America: Travels in the Land of the Timid, by Mardges Bacon, London: MIT Press, 2001.



keeping it regular with the knickered and provincial

M. Fuentes again.  I can’t figure out where the prevailing cultural myth of innovation came from when you consider how prevalent the blanket of stifling regularity seems to be — it’s a malignancy and at an advanced stage.  Fuentes equates popularity with ignorance.  The ancient Greeks did too: to maintain vitality in their senate they ostracized the most popular members; here it is the opposite.

This is DC in the late 1930’s where the school yard is full of fear of outside people and ideas.  How does what must have been a veritable flood of outsiders and their outside ideas into the American capital – the world’s nation of outsiders – not temper and calm this proclivity for fear?  Baffling …

“I believed in the democratic simplicity of my teachers and chums, and above all I believed I was, naturally, in a totally unself-conscious way, a part of that world.  It is important, at all ages and in all occupations, to be ‘popular’ in the United States; I have known no other society where the values of ‘regularity’ are so highly prized. I was popular, I was ‘regular.’  Until the day in march – march 18, 1938.  On that day, a man from another world, the imaginary country of my childhood, the President of Mexico , nationalized the holdings of foreign oil companies.  The headlines in the North American press denounced the ‘communist’ government of Mexico and its ‘red’ president; they demanded the invasion of Mexico in the sacred name of private property, and Mexicans, under international boycott, were invited to drink their oil.

Instantly, surprisingly, I became a pariah in my school.  Cold shoulders, aggressive stares, epithets, and sometimes blows.  Children know how to be cruel, and the cruelty of their elders is the surest residue of the malaise the young feel toward things strange, things other, things that reveal our own ignorance or insufficiency.  This was not reserved for me or for Mexico:  at about the same time, an extremely brilliant boy of eleven arrived from Germany.  He was a Jew and his family had fled from the Nazis.  I shall always remember his face, dark and trembling, his aquiline nose and deepset, bright eyes with their great sadness; the sensitivity of his hands and the strangeness of it all to his American companions.  This young man, Hans Berlikner, had a brilliant mathematical mind, and he walked and saluted like a Central European; he wore short pants and high woven stockings, Tyrolean jackets and an air of displaced courtesy that infuriated the popular, regular, feisty, knickered, provincial, Depression-era little sons of bitches at Henry Cook Public School of the Thirteenth Street N.W.

~Carlos Fuentes from How I Started to Write