A couple of reactions to Freddie DeBoer’s excellent take down of what he calls “poptimism”-more or less equivalent to what those in my circles will be familiar with under Alex Ross’s moniker “pop triumphalism”.
First, Freddie’s a young guy, so he’s more au courant with pop cultural references than would be appropriate for me.
But that’s related to his main point, i.e. that cultural and aesthetic politics which previously had the function of uniting mass constituencies (or, at least, were seen as having that potential) almost invariably now have the effect of dividing them and setting self- (or externally) defined identities at each others throats.
Also, he observes how the promotion of a populist sensibility once taken as necessarily oppositional to elite power and privilege has long since become reversed in that it now amounts to little more than cheerleading for popular culture and, by extension, the communications conglomerates that market and commodify it. As a consequence, those who assume they are functioning in a “transgressive” or “adversarial” counter-cultural capacity are objectively doing the work of their neoliberal bosses, and have been for years.
All this is a cousin to Daniel Zamora’s recent demonstrations of the neoliberal sympathies of Foucault and, more closely, to Eric Drott’s forthcoming Critical Inquiry article on hipster Friedmanite Jacques Attali, who, in a previous incarnation, had become an icon of the New Musicology through his widely cited text, Noise. Eric shows how these two identities, which left leaning academics find irreconciliable are entirely consistent with each other.
Good to see that a kind of critical mass seems to be developing along these lines.