Cultural Criticism for the 21st Century

There was Max Horkheimer. There was Herbert Marcuse. And Theodor Adorno. They called it critical theory. But it was inadequate. The big question in 1936 was: Why did the German public, when offered the opportunity for significant social change in the aftermath of WWI, opt for the repressive authoritarianism of National Socialism instead of something more in line with the Enlightenment project of political liberalism? Marxist theory was unable to account for the failure of the proletariat to take power. Why didn’t capitalism collapse of its own internal contradictions? The forces of production’s storied tensions with the relations of production had been obviated by state intervention, thus circumventing the mechanism by which the proletariat, according to classical Marxist theory, was supposed to effect its revolutionary mission. This real-world refutation of the theory of historical materialism was the death-knell for Marxism as we know it. Foucault, Deleuze and many others tried to give us a Marxism as we don’t know it. But their method depends on a fully discredited model, that of historical materialism. I say it’s time to move on. My thesis is that the structures of authoritarianism in the mind exist logically prior to their social expression. The Frankfurt School opened the door to the reconsideration of the psyche’s role in institutional formation. But their critique played out largely within the structure of Marxist theory. It seems to me that this is just another of the myriad instances of the halfway measures that the ideology of political liberalism legislates. Critique positivism, by all means–but do it thoroughly! Don’t leave the main part of the structure standing!

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David Westling is an artist, composer and writer, born in Chicago, Illinois USA. He has been an unsparing observer of the cultural scene since the early 1970s. At about this time he decided that the only way to maintain freedom of thought was to eschew postsecondary education in the formal sense of the term.
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