Now that I have completed my preparations for my fourth lecture on the Critique, I have some time to address several very interesting comments that have been posted here in the last day or two. The first is a short comment posted by TheDudeDiogenes, the second a technical Kant comment by Professor Ted Talbot. Each calls for an extended reply. I shall respond to each in a separate post.
TheDudeDiogenes writes as follows: Prof, perhaps of interest to you is this book review that I just read of The Happiness Industry, which review includes this gem: "What Davies recognises is that capitalism has now in a sense incorporated its own critique. What the system used to regard with suspicion – feeling, friendship, creativity, moral responsibility – have all now been co-opted for the purpose of maximising profits." I think I shall have to read this book! [The spelling suggests that TheDudeDiogenes is English. Is this correct?]
This is a phenomenon I talked about a long time ago. The Sixties – a period actually stretching from the middle of the 1960’s to the middle of the 1970’s – was a time of protest, of upheaval, of challenge to the duly constituted authorities in universities, in government, and in popular culture. Triggered in part by the threat of obligatory military service in Viet Nam, it was principally a protest of the young [separate from the historic Civil Rights Movement, which was the continuation of an historic struggle that had been going on for several centuries, and which involved men and women in the Black community of every age and station in life.]
The protestors expressed their dissent by their hair, their clothes, and their self-presentations, as much as by their music, their use of drugs, and their language. In those days, one could pretty well judge a man or woman’s politics at fifty paces. The protests were not long on deep political analysis, but they were perfectly designed to drive the powers that be insane. My favorite example was an open letter addressed by the 1968 Columbia University protest leader Mark Rudd to the then university president Grayson Kirk, a pompous stuffed shirt surrounded by crowds of university vice-presidents. Rudd might have opened his letter, in the style then coming in to fashion with a rude salutation, such as “Up against the wall, M____F____.” Instead, with a stiletto-sharp sense of generational confrontation, he began with the salutation, “Dear Grayson”. Kirk could have borne foul language, but to be addressed by an undergraduate by his first name was simply intolerable!
For a while, the assault on the norms of polite society continued apace, with proper adults outraged by the mere sight of young people going barefoot or wearing their hair long or not wearing ties and dresses. [I would remind those of my readers who are too young to remember that on their first triumphant tour of America, the Beatles actually wore ties when they performed. Their sole manifestation of countercultural rebellion was to wear their hair, carefully coiffed as it was, long enough to brush the collars of their jackets.]
Then a funny thing happened. Capitalism raised its head, sniffed the winds, and caught the intoxicating scent of profit. The Mad Men of Madison Avenue began to feature the familiar symbol of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in their ads. Fashion models started to look like campus protestors. Pretty soon, you simply could no longer judge someone’s politics at a glance. Wiser and more experienced than the Grayson Kirks of this world, capitalism understood that there was no intrinsic connection between body piercings, tattoos, and Collective Ownership of the Means of Production. The rebellion dwindled into a fashion statement. Men with shoulder length hair and pierced nostrils might actually be Republicans! Once again, Capitalism had conquered. It was all rather sad, but quite predictable.
Marcuse called it repressive desublimation.