Modern times: The end of dissent?

Contemporary corporate fantasy imagines a world of ceaseless, turbulent change, of centers that ecstatically fail to hold, of joyous extinction for the craven gray-flannel creature of the past…

The new businessman quite naturally gravitates to the slogans and sensibility of the rebel sixties to express his understanding of the new Information World. He is led in what one magazine calls “the business revolution” by the office-park subversives it hails as “business activists,” “change agents,” and “corporate radicals”…

What we understand as “dissent” does not subvert, does not challenge, does not even question the cultural faiths of Western business… What’s happened is not co-optation or appropriation, but a simple and direct confluence of interest… The problem with cultural dissent in America isn’t that it’s been co-opted, absorbed, or ripped-off. Of course it’s been all of these things… It is no longer any different from the official culture it’s supposed to be subverting. The basic impulses of the countercultural idea… are about as threatening to the new breed of antinomian businessmen as Anthony Robbins, selling success & how to achieve it on a late-night infomercial.”

Source: The Baffler

Modern times: The fruits of mechanical progress?

There is really no reason why a human being should do more than eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and procreate; everything else could be done for him by machinery. Therefore the logical end of mechanical progress is to reduce the human being to something resembling a brain in a bottle.”


Source: George Orwell, The Road To Wigan Pier

Modern times: Our secular resistance to place

Look at those boys and girls of modernity, along with their crazed parents and grandparents, walking up Fillmore Street, consulting their digital toys of “communication,” oblivious to my staring…  The task of living within our bodies, even more than the fear of leaving the body in death, may be our greatest human predicament.”

Source: Richard Rodriguez, The Paris Review, September 9th, 2014

Modern times: To see the riven world behind the seamless screen

These implacable voices [of the Frankfurt School mode of criticism] should stay active in our minds. Their dialectic of doubt prods us to pursue connections between what troubles us and what distracts us, to see the riven world behind the seamless screen. “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”: Benjamin’s great formula, as forceful as a Klieg light, should be fixed as steadily on pop culture, the ritual apparatus of American capitalism, as it has been on the art works of the European bourgeoisie. Adorno asked for only so much. Above all, these figures present a model for thinking differently, and not in the glib sense touted by Steve Jobs. As the homogenization of culture proceeds apace, as the technology of surveillance hovers at the borders of our brains, such spaces are becoming rarer and more confined. I am haunted by a sentence from Virginia Woolf’s The Waves: ‘One cannot live outside the machine for more perhaps than half an hour. “

Source: Alex Ross, ‘The Naysayers’, The New Yorker, September 15th, 2014