An Analysis of, "In Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture" by Frederick Jameson

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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 Segals novels or Sol Yuricks, 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 study that its complexities could not be fully addressed within the scope of…show more content…
Any middle class adolescent who frequented Ozzfest or other metal festivals in the 1990s and 2000s is likely aware of System of a Downs 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-1s Sound of da Police released in 1993. And Radiohead, now international superstars, have just released their latest album essentially for free, bypassing the music industry entirely. Jameson might respond to me with a question like, yes, but why havent they worked?, expecting an answer affirming their status as commodities which could be subject to his ideology/utopia dialectic. My answer to such a question would be precisely my historical point: its in the works. Jameson cannot escape his own position within consumer capitalism in that it is his choice to perceive a large body of political art as contained within a diluted dialectic that imposes itself upon consumers. Perhaps a radically engaged and tactical patience can be counterpoised against the image of the passive consumer. And besides, this is not to mention the countless DIY zines circulating around Infoshops, in radical circles, and across the hipster-radical bridge in trendy coffee shops. A nice account of post-60s anarchist praxis can be found in criminologist Jeff Ferrells Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy, where he discusses his own experiences with collective

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