Modernist postmoderns

Postmodern critics of modernity sometimes treat the latter not only as the pursuit and ambition for totality; they treat it as a totality, as an undifferentiated whole. But if postmoderns are right, even modernity was fragmented and frayed at the edges, and the appearance of totality is a modernist . . . . Continue Reading »

Modernity and dirt

A subsidiary thesis: Modernity is motivated by a desire for purity, by dirt-avoidance - dirt being, as Mary Douglas says, “matter out of place.” Counter-modernity is dirt’s revenge, celebration of dirt. . . . . Continue Reading »

Modernity as court culture

Featherstone once again. He points out that sometime in the 18th century, upper class culture divided from lower class culture: “in 1500 the educated strata despised the common people although they shared their culture. Yet by 1800 their descendants had ceased to join spontaneously in popular . . . . Continue Reading »

Romantic ethic and Consumption

In his 1987 book, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism , C. Campbell attempts to explain the origins of contemporary obsession with novelty, pleasure in the new, self-expression through consumption of goods. He traces it to romanticism’s focus on “imagination, . . . . Continue Reading »

Consumption, Body, and the Sacred

A couple of further notes from Featherstone’s very stimulating book. First, citing Pierre Bourdieu, he notes the limits of seeing consumption as an isolated marker of status. The signs “that betray a person’s origins and trajectory through life are manifest in body shape, size, . . . . Continue Reading »

Rational Actors

Featherstone claims that economics has generally focused on the production rather than the consumption side of things, perhaps because of “the assumption that consumption was unproblematic because it was based upon the concept of rational individuals buying goods to maximize their . . . . Continue Reading »

Elites and the Market

Cultural elites have, Featherstone suggests, an inherently ambivalent relationship with the market. His argument, if I understand it, goes something like this: Cultural elites want to preserve a monopolization of cultural products. Hence, for instance, peer review of scholarly work; work that . . . . Continue Reading »

McDonald’s and Postmodernity

McDonald’s provides a helpful glimpse at the complexities surrounding postmodernity. On the one hand, the global reach of McDonald’s seems a perfect illustration of one part of the postmodern situation - the global diffusion of American culture and tastes, the plasticity and airiness of . . . . Continue Reading »

Postmodernism and Globalization

Though often conceived as a crisis within Western civilization, postmodernism, Featherstone argues, is partly impelled by globalization. Globalization, he begins, usually conveys two images - the spread of a single, increasingly uniform culture throughout the world, and the . . . . Continue Reading »

Consumer Culture and Fragmentation

Culture, Mike Featherstone suggests in Undoing Culture , becomes problematic in consumer societies. How? As developed in cultural anthropology, culture is “somehow homologous to the distinctions, differences, and divisions between social groups who unconsciously use culture as relatively . . . . Continue Reading »