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The enchanted world

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THE ENCHANTED WORLD: AMERICAN CULTURE, PUBLIC SPACE, AND
GLOBAL FORDISM












By
CHRISTIAN A. GREGORY












A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1999




















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Far too many people have supported me in this project to name them all here, so ll content myself

with naming those whose patience I've tested most sorely. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to

my teachers beyond this university: Fr. John Armstrong, S.J., Ed Brennan, Roshi Bernie Glassman,

Sensei Helen Yuho Harkaspi. For my brothers Scott and George, my sister Kenda, and my mother

Geri, none of whom ever doubted me, even when I gave them reason to, I'm grateful for the

appearance of discipline. To Tamir Ellis I will always be indebted for a home and the world's finest

kitty. I have Jane Love to thank for nutrition. I thank Waits Raulerson for the most uncommon and

abiding love of my life. My committee-John P. Leavey, Jr., John Murchek, Donald Ault, Daniel

A. Cottom, and Robert A. Hatch-made me prove myself worthy of them: short of that, I offer

this dissertation.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................................ ii

AB STRA CT ........................................................... iv

CHAPTERS

1 INTRODUCTION .................................................... 1
2 THE ENCHANTED WORLD .......................................... 4

Globalization and Its Missed Contents .................................... 4
The Enchanted World ................................................. 21

3 AFTERLIFE: CULTURAL STUDIES .................................. 53

The Novel, Literary Modernism, and the Popular Aesthetic .................. 61
From the Realism of Experience to the End of Ideology ...................... 86
Sociology, Formal Realism and the Global Public Sphere

4. STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC QUEER............. 133

The Actually Existing Public Queer .................................... 139
Performing Success: Homo Academicus ................................ 156

5 CONCLUSION: GEOPHILOSOPHY .................................. 173

REFERENCES .......................... ........................... 181

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................. 196












Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE ENCHANTED WORLD: AMERICAN CULTURE, PUBLIC SPACE AND
GLOBAL FORDISM

By

Christian A. Gregory

May 1999

Chairman: John P. Leavey, Jr.
Major Department: English

In this dissertation, I argue that narratives of "globalization" that circulate in media

and academic discussion have, for the most part, substituted a mythic for an historical

view of our political and cultural present. They have done so by passing over the

transformations of public space, the media and civic identity by which the economic

processes of globalization have exerted themselves, and by naturalizing the narrative

forms in which the world story has been told. I've argued that one of the most pernicious

of ideas to attend so-called economic globalization has been the end of the nation state.

Along with this has come the gesture to jettison what the state once claimed as its civic

and cultural prerogatives-among them, public space and social democracy. This

dissertation attempts to revive those ideals in the context of a reconstruction of cultural

studies at the millennium.

In order to accomplish these aims, this dissertation does three things. First, in

chapter two, it reviews "globalization" narratives and develops a counter-narrative to

iv








V


them. Second, in chapter three, it reformulates a project for "cultural studies" that can

take the cultural, economic and political effects of so-called "globalization" into account.

And, third, it develops an example of the kind of analysis that follows from the results of

the first two endeavors; here I use Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary, Paris is

Burning, as an example. In all of these contexts, but especially the last one, I make an

effort to reconstruct both ideal and actually-existing notions of public space and civic

identity that inform cultural, social and political life near the millennium.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION



"Identity crises are connected with steering problems."

--Jurgen Habermas



This dissertation is a lengthy response to and reworking of Habermas' classic

reflection on publicity and public space, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. In

that famous argument, Habermas chronicled the transformations of media, built environment,

aesthetics and civic life during the "golden age" of capitalism (what Ernest Mandel has called

"late capitalism"). He argued that what Horkheimer and Adomrno called the dialectic of

enlightenment had, under the aegis of mass media, international capital and political

liberalism, all but refeudalized political life. At the same time, Habermas argued, the

evisceration of public spheres had hastened the implosion of the "civilizing project" of

cultural modernity. At ground zero of this implosion was the transformation of the function

of literary culture: whereas in the 18th century, "public use of reason remained tied to

literature as its medium," in the mid-20h century, "the integration culture delivers the canned


'Jtirgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon,
1975): 4.








2

goods of degenerate, psychologically oriented literature as a public service for private

consumption."2

The limits of Habermas' argument have been well-covered by now, so much so as to

be hardly worth rehearsing here. What is not more generally recognized is the prescience of

this argument with respect to the cultural, political, and ideological formations that encumber

contemporary Northern political cultures and cultural politics. The apocalyptic sense that

sustains Habermas' argument-the sense that, whatever else has happened, both the aesthetic

and political projects of modernity are at risk, if not fully defunct-has served as the ungainly

refrain of so many arguments in the past twenty-odd years. It still circulates today, in a

different pitch, for different reasons, and with a heightened sense of perspicacity, perhaps.

But there still is, as it were, the "sense of an ending" in the present, not least for those who

might once have been fascinated by the object called "literature" and its esteemed political

and aesthetic functions. In part, this dissertation addresses that sense.

But instead of the immediate postwar period, I want to concentrate on the period

since about 1973, the moment when the latest phase of economic "globalization" took off.

I've chosen this moment not only because I think that it marks a decisive turning point in

American political and economic history (and its imagination), but because this moment-the

"long 1973" we might call it-also offers us some purchase on the cultural effects that have

accrued around the notion of "globalization" in the present. Among the most important of



2 Jtirgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry
into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989): 246.








3

these effects-cultural as well as political-are those that go by the unlovely name

postmodernistty" Contrary to some accounts of this period, I will argue that economic,

social, and cultural dynamics of postwar Fordism haven't changed so much as they have

intensified and dispersed in the period since 1973. Moreover, the effects of this

intensification still remain subject to a political logic-that is, to some basic question of

political economy. Rather than accept at face value the deflation of political aspiration that

suffuses our discussion of both politics and culture, I think it worth both reconstituting the

agencies through which it has been deformed, and imagining an alternative present to this

vision. In short, Habermas' fundamental question remains: namely, does the ideal of a public

sphere that "functions in the political realm" remain imaginable? Should it be "salvaged"?

If so, how? If not, why not?

In the last instance, this project is not about the damaged life of reason or the elastic

conditions of communication-although those certainly interest me. Rather, it's about

resuscitating a particular view of recent American cultural, political, and social history, one

that neither takes for granted nor fetishizes what has sometimes been called "culture" (or

"society" or "production" .); instead, I'd like to reimagine "cultural studies" as a form of

notebook utopianism, grounded in the structural causalities of end-of-the-century global

Fordism. In that sense, I imagine that this examination of public space should also give us

a rather disenchanting sense of the cold time that lies ahead for anyone even nominally

interested in a less malign cultural, economic or social future. But even that, I'll argue, is

simultaneously more pragmatic and more utopian, more culturally necessary and

economically nuanced, than many of the options available in the present.














CHAPTER 2
THE ENCHANTED WORLD

Globalization and its Missed Contents


Towards the end of the last decade of the twentieth century, your average media-

inundated American could perhaps be forgiven for imagining that the seventies had become

the ur-horizon of cultural and political memory. With the re-releases of Star Wars and

Grease, the renaissance of the disaster film, The Last Days ofDisco, 54, Rick Moody's novel

(and subsequently film) The Ice Storm, I Wish I Were a Carpenter, indeed, the entire "sex

panic" farrago, it would appear that the 70's had begun to crowd out the possibility of any

authentically fin-du-siecle experience, save for retro and nostalgia themselves. Talk shows

and MTV became perpetually interested in nostalgia for the 90's, imagined some 20 years

down the road. But what detritus would weather the vicissitudes of cultural time and memory

was anybody's guess; as Peter Braunstein of the Village Voice commented, "nostalgizing the

turn of the century is proving quite a challenge, mainly because 1990's culture consisted

almost entirely of nostalgia for previous decades."1

In one sense, this nostalgia wasn't very surprising, since the generation of forty-

somethings that peopled ad agencies, think tanks, newsrooms and state offices came of



'Peter Braunstein, "Past Imperfect," Village Voice 14 July 98: 152.








5

professional age in 70's. However, it's also true that nostalgia and retro are political forms

of memory-and forgetting. And so if our North American friend had the uncanny sense of

living the millennium in the fashions of the 70's-or perhaps some amalgam of the 60's, 70's

and 80's-then s/he could rest assured that at least the world economy had reached a

genuinely new phase of development, something the end of the century could call its own,

something that promised to add a little edge to the humdrum image recycling so prevalent

at that moment. For the most part, that something novel-namely, "globalization"-had pretty

much been taken for granted as "the way it is," economically speaking. Only by the late 90's,

and especially after the summer of 98's Wall Street free fall, anxiety appeared to be getting

in the way of what had been a bleary-eyed celebration of the borderless economic and

cultural world. America's public broadcasting news staple, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer,

for example, that summer devoted a segment to the diagnosis of a new malady that had

purportedly accompanied the ascent of the new economy: they called it "globaphobia." And

from the middle of the decade on, there had been a spate of arguments documenting

globalization's not-so-virtuous underside, issuing in nationalist nostrums from the likes of

Pat Buchanan, and neo-Keynesian dreams from William Greider.2


2 William Greider, One World Ready or Not: the Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
(New York: Touchstone, 1997); Pat Buchanan, The Great Betrayal: How American
Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy
(New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 1998). Greider and Buchanan are but two of the most
visible commentators on the globalization process; see also Saskia Sassen, Globalization and
its Discontents (New York: the New Press, 1998); Richard J. Barnet and James Cavanagh,
Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1994); Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage
(Boston: South End Press, 1994); Roger Burbach, Orlando Nunez, and Boris Kagarlitsky,
Globalization and its Discontents: the Rise ofPostmodern Socialisms (Chicago: Pluto Press,








6

If this image recycling of the seventies seemed but an evanescent swirl on the tides

of cultural fashion, in other words, then "globalization" appeared to be real-indeed, all too

real for many of its subjects. Especially telling, by 1998 or so, was in fact the range of

political personae arrayed against the hoary world of deregulated financial flows: while the

Premier of Malaysia had issued capital controls to stop bets against its currency, the New

York Times had asked Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati to say something on behalf of

an arrangement less in thrall to the U.S. and the North.3 Likewise, Tony Blair and Bill

Clinton had both made public appearances announcing the necessity for the North to steer

a "third way" between the twin disasters of welfare statism (more or less equated with

communism) and unregulated global capitalism. And yet, despite widespread disenchantment

with the world order of things, there wasn't much in the way of curiosity about the "global"

world's certainly complex origins, nor a whole lot of illumination in the mass media about

its specific cultural and civic effects. The same New York Times article did observe that

globalization was probably nothing new: since the thirteenth century, it said, capital had

circled the globe, looking for high rates of return; and, as if to put the default of the Russian

financial system in context, the writer reminded us that the United States had even once

defaulted on its international loans. But explanations about the how the U.S. got to be




1997); the crucial account of "globalization" as an ideology formation at odds with the
realities of the world political economy is Paul Smith's Millennial Dreams: Contemporary
Culture and Capital in the North (New York: Verso, 1997): see especially ch. 1.

3 Nicholas D. Kristof, "Experts Question Roving Flow of Global Capital," New York
Times 20 Sep. 1998: A6.








7
"global" leader, and what that meant for its citizens on a day-to-day level weren't

forthcoming.

Most telling perhaps about this moment for our observer was that the very possibility

of any kind of political imaginary derived from the cultural and social movements of the

70's-when, it could be argued, the most recent phase of world economic "globalization" had

begun-had been displaced by what then circulated as globalization's millennial cognates.

In other words, while cultural products of all sorts seemed to revel in the camp value of 70's

excess, our observer's options for political memory derived from that decade had been more

narrowly circumscribed. On the one hand, the fantasy of a new global economic order

brought along with it the residual political affects incumbent upon a post-Soviet world. Even

though globalization narratives really didn't pick up steam until after the fall of the Berlin

Wall, Francis Fukuyama's idea of"the end of history" had more or less been taken up as part

and parcel of the pacific global imagination. Accordingly, it was assumed that the triumph

of capitalism had rendered the class tensions of the old world order both irrelevant and

increasingly less severe. On the other hand, there were the supposed effects of the actual

globalization process: according to the then-current doxa, the global economic arrangement

had brought along with it the end of the nation state, the end of politics, the end of work, and

so on. And so, on a civic and cultural level, what got registered was the sometime exhaustion

of even minimally utopian ideals associated with social movements important to our memory

of the 70's-to say nothing of a longer-term political memory. Indeed, what was startling

about that political climate was the widespread desire to deny political interests or ideals at

all-let alone their 70's manifestations. For example, as Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake








8

wrote in their introduction to Third Wave Agenda, we "[face] classrooms of young women

and men who are trained by the media caricature of 'feminazis,' who see feminism as an

enemy or say 'feminist' things prefaced by 'I'm not a feminist, but...."4 Likewise, one had

only to look at any of the columns by Andrew Sullivan to be told that queer politics, like the

AIDS crisis, was more or less over.5 And, as the sex panic debates volubly attested, the chic

to forget or selectively remember the 70's became an impediment to imagining a sexual

politics not beholden to a naive, adolescent utopianism, or to a neo-liberal moralism.

In other words, at the end of the decade, there seemed to be a kind of widespread

deflation of political aspiration in general, and, notwithstanding the revitalization of the

Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam, times had grown especially difficult for identity

politics once attached to the so-called "new social movements." At the same time, there was

an uncanny kind of synchronicity between the intense if passing interest in the 70's and the

equally intense if more durable fascination with the world economic arrangement-such as

it was, on the verge of collapse. And, about all three, or the relations between them, there

was a kind of studious silence observed. Were our observer to try and imagine some kind of




4 Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, "Introduction," Third Wave Agenda: Being
Feminist, Doing Feminism, ed. Heywood and Drake (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1997): 4.

5 See, for example, Sullivan's argument that, instead of "whining that we need job
protection, we should be touting our economic achievements [and] defending the free market
that makes them possible," in "Do We Need These Laws?" The Advocate 14 Apr 98:41-42;
or his thoroughly odious and blinkered view of the end of the AIDS crisis, "When Plagues
End: Notes on the Twilight of an Epidemic," New York Times Magazine 10 Nov 96: 52+.








9

connection between these three otherwise free-floating phenomena, s/he would be pretty

much on her own, so far as narrative analyses went.

Now, this last could not exactly be called a surprise: trenchant cultural and political

analyses could hardly be said to have ever been the strong suit of Northern-and especially

American-media. Indeed, one could argue that it would be better to just dismiss this silence

as the predictable effect of culture industries rather living up to descriptions that Theodor

Adomrno and Max Horkheimer offered of them forty-odd years ago. However, there was

something more to this mixture of disenchantment, fascination and apparently willed

ignorance, something shared in the academic disciplines called cultural studies. It wasn't just

among the supposed incogniscenti, in other words, that our observer could find a kind of

symptomatic revulsion with the political, a fascination with the seventies, and a sometime

unwillingness to think about global political economy. While there had been an efflorescence

of "cultural studies" work in the U. S. academy since the early part of the decade, and while

its formation had been excoriated in the press under the rubric of"political correctness," this

disciplinary arrangement had also given rise to a particular kind of fear within the ranks of

its own practitioners. Near the end of the decade, Michael B6rubd suggested that this fear

emanated from the anxiety about the political allegiance and dimensions of cultural studies

work.

Roughly half the profession's accusers seem willing to indict any and all
"political" criticism, on the grounds that "politics" is precisely that which is
bracketed or transcended by the monuments of timeless aesthetic excellence.
The other half of the profession's accusers make a more careful case, in which
the politicization of literary study is a problem of degree rather than of kind:
literature and criticism are inevitably entangled in social, historical, and
ideological commitments, but contemporary literary study simply stresses








10

this aspect of literature too strongly, just as an earlier generation of critics
failed to stress it strongly enough. 6

B6rube describes his own position in "centrist" terms, acknowledging that cultural studies

must look like something of a sell-out to both cultural and political left and right, and

proposing a disciplinary vision of "centrifugal canonicity" that would honor the trajectories

of both cultural and literary studies, "political" and "aesthetic" criticism. Yet his solutions,

however estimable, scrupulously avoid the questions of what counts as political or aesthetic

at this moment, on what grounds, and why. In other words, what had been called literary

criticism had long had political motivations and implications: for that, we only need recall

Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination, or the explicitly political program of American

New Criticism against economically and scientifically rationalized society. In the present of

1998, however, those politics were not at issue, anymore than "politics" or "aesthetics" in

general; what was at issue were particular visions of politics that generated trepidation on

behalf of cultural studies as a "substitute" for some fantasmatically constructed "literary

study" itself.

To put this another way, if American culture at large reflected a kind of cynicism

about liberal political life, then it might be said that "cultural studies" seemed plagued with

a kind of defensiveness, not to say anxiety or fear about its politics: indeed, it might be said

to have reflected a desire not to be political, at least in its American manifestations.

According to Simon During, the editor of one of the most widely-read introductions to


6 Michael Berube, The Employment of English: Theory, Jobs and the Future of
Literary Studies (New York: NYU Press, 1998): 13.








11

cultural studies, something happened to cultural studies in the 70's, something that altered

the discipline's imaginary to the detriment of its "political" importance. During, in fact,

claims that cultural studies practitioners at this moment "accepted relatively depoliticized

analyses" in their work; he explains this reorientation by suggesting that the "decline of the

social democratic power bloc," the reception of French post-structuralism, the rise of

Thatcherism and Reaganism and cultural studies' increasingly "global" character issued in

a rather willed ignorance of the political and cultural role of the state-and implicitly,

political economy.7 By the time the transformation had been completed, according to During,

cultural studies was left with a fragmented ethos and imaginary that took its cue as much

from Thatcherite denial ("There is no such thing as society.") as from its Birmingham school

origins.

It might be said that During overstates the case-certainly, what happened in the

twenty-odd years before the millennium was as much a redefinition of the scope and

meaning of political culture and the terms of cultural politics as their evisceration. At the

same time, even so ardent a defender of cultural studies in its trans-Atlantic incarnation as

Stuart Hall had said that, despite being "dumbfounded" by the robust life of cultural studies

in the United States, he still had some "nagging doubts" about its institutional reception here.

As Hall put it, it was precisely the way that "the overwhelming textualization of cultural

studies' own discourses somehow constituted] power and politics as exclusively matters of



7 Simon During, "Introduction," The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. During (London:
Routledge, 1993): 13-15.








12

language and textuality itself' that made him worry about both its political and intellectual

capacities. It seemed too easy, Hall wrote, given the "theoretical fluency" of American

cultural studies, to conjure "power as an easy floating signifier emptied of any

signification"-as if power and politics were just two more cultural phenomena on the

semiotic horizon.8

Whether or not these explanations for the current state of cultural studies seem true

now, these accounts, among others, would have suggested to our observer that indeed some

chain of events in the 70's altered cultural studies' self-image, if not its institutional reality,

and that this moment continued to weigh heavily on the imagination of cultural intelligentsia.

Apropos of Hall's stated anxiety, for example, Todd Gitlin argued that the British New Left

in the 70's, like veterans of the anti-war movement in the U.S., found themselves at political

impasse, so they took culture as the field of battle and invested their energies in analyses of

the political semiotics of youth culture.9 Hall himself recalled that British cultural studies

scholars in the 70's were bent on producing "organic intellectuals... with a nostalgia or

hope" that the moment of revolutionary change would find them fit for struggle and perched

on the battlements. He held this image, he said, as the starting point for his work in the

present. Similarly, Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding suggested that, in a gesture of what

appears to be "'epistemo-methodological nostalgia,'" there was at this moment a movement


8 Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies," Cultural Studies, ed.
Nelson, Grossberg, Triechler (New York: Routledge, 1992): 285-286.

9 Todd Gitlin, "The Anti-political Populism of Cultural Studies," Cultural Studies in
Question, ed. Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding (London: Sage, 1997): 28-29.








13

in cultural studies for "resurrecting the sociological methods of the 1970's for rediscovery

in the 1990's."10

Wherever we are tempted to lay the responsibility of cultural studies' confusion,

anxiety or fear over politics, and however we might explain the relative importance of the

70's in cultural studies' historical horizons, During's description of the transformation of the

70's points to at least one symptom that has lingered with the discipline until very near the

millennium: cultural studies has for the most part relegated the state and political economy

to second-order objects. As Ferguson and Golding, Doug Kellner, Nicholas Garnham and

others argued, the danger of the way cultural studies configured itself was that, in its

fascination with semiotic and significatory practices, with discursive transformations and

epistemological breaks, it had frequently forgotten about the relations between political-

economy so-called and cultural, social and civic life.1" And while this tendency was often

been borne on rhetoric that opposed the apriori "economism" of older Marxisms and political

economy, it was frequently no less "reductive" of those positions. So, for example, it has

routinely been argued that, since it is bad or mistaken to talk about "simple" economic

determination, it was no longer possible to talk about either "complex" determinations or

political economy itself as an instance of determination. As one writer put it, "the free market



10 Marijorie Ferguson and Peter Golding, "Introduction," CulturalStudies in Question:
xviii.

Nicholas Gamrnham, "Political Economy and the Practice of Cultural Studies,"
Douglas Kellner, "Overcoming the Divide: Cultural Studies and Political Economy," in
Cultural Studies in Question: 56-73; 102-120.








14

offers opportunities for new emergent identities and, besides which, capital in the

homogenous absolutist way in which we on the left have tended to refer to it, is itself a more

fractured and fragile entity."12 Likewise, some writers argued that, because the distinctions

between "culture," "economics" and "politics" cannot be sustained on rhetorical or linguistic

grounds, they aren't effective in the actually existing conditions of everyday life: and so

talking about culture is as good as talking about economics, which is as good as talking about

politics, which is as good as talking about culture, and so on.

Needless to say, none of this made understanding the thing called "globalization" any

easier, despite the fact that cultural studies scholars-like New York Times

correspondents-passed up no occasion to refer to it by the end of the decade. However, as

I should like to argue in these pages, this was not really so surprising, since one of the first

symptoms of the arrival of the so-called global world economy had been the persistent

obfuscation of its on-the-ground processes, agents, and effects. "Globalization" so-called, in

other words, was from the beginning a kind of grand misnomer for a very complex

rearrangement of economic, political, social, and cultural life across vast swathes of the

globe, but one which retained the contours of American geopolitical dominance-shared

though it was in the present of 1998. However, that untidy fact-like so many others-did not

register for some who in many other ways seemed to have an interest in world-economic

formations and their more local manifestations. The deflation of political investments, the

looming but historically unhinged images of the 70's, and the unquestioned belief in the



12 Angela McRobbie, "Post-Marxism and Cultural Studies," in CulturalStudies: 724.








15

already globalized world that I have been describing were but some of the ideological

underpinnings of this apparently novel arrangement.

In describing the isomorphism between what might loosely be called American media

and political culture and the academic field called cultural studies in the 90's, then, I have

not meant to suggest that there are or were no practical, social or ideological distinctions

between them. Rather, it's in the context of those differences that their defacto agreement

or silences have come to be meaningful. Even if pragmatic or ideological responses to

globalization and its attendant narratives have been registered in widespread civic

disenchantment-or disciplinary fear-by the end of the decade, in other words, what

remained to be explained were the relations between 70's economic and political crises, their

supposed "resolution" in the present of 1998, and the concurrent transformations of civic and

cultural life that took place in between. What was-and still is-missing, in other words, from

even some of the more circumspect accounts of "globalization"-as well as cultural studies

discourses-was some account of how it came to this, for one thing: how, for example, did

we come to forget that American hegemony over the world system had been at issue in the

crisis decades? How did "globalization" come to express the consensus-view of a world

circumscribed by the market? How did the ambient political ambitions of the cultural

intelligentsia come to be a liability? Into what wall did the new social movements run? Why

nostalgia? Why, in particular, the seventies? For one might simply observe that, although in

the 70's and 80's social science saw crisis as more or less an effect of impasses in American

(and Western European) development, talk of center and periphery, North and South, indeed

of hegemony itself had been rendered suspect by the end of the decade, and especially in










some "cultural studies" discourses.13 Meanwhile, those impasses appeared to refer back to

another set of problems, "internal" to U. S. political culture: namely, the demise of U. S.

liberalism. If, in the 1970's, at the sometime height of "first wave" American feminism,

Theodore Lowi could proclaim "the end of liberalism" as a prognosis for American welfare

statism, at the end of the 1990's, during feminism's seeming wane, no less august a figure

than Immanuel Wallerstein imagined a geo-culture "after liberalism" and in the retreat of

welfare statist principles and American influence more generally."4 What, if anything, was

to be made of this?

Certainly, it might be argued that academic cultural studies and even leftish

journalism have very little to do with one another, practically speaking at any rate; and they

would seem to have even less to do with trends in Hollywood cinema, American political or



13 I refer to Arjun Appadurai, as one among many who have made this kind of
argument. See his "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy," The
Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1993): 269-95; see especially 275. The literature on the crisis of the 70's is prodigious,
especially among writers claiming some affinity or other to Marxism. Among the more
interesting and useful for me have been Samir Amin et. al., Dynamics ofGlobal Crisis (New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1982); Ernest Mandel, Late Capitalism, trans. Joris De Bres
(New York: Verso, 1975); idem, The Second Slump: A Marxist Analysis of Recession in the
Seventies, trans. Jon Rothschild (New York: Verso, 1978); hereafter cited as SS; James 0'
Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of the State (New York: St. Martin's, 1973); idem, Accumulation
Crisis (New York: Blackwell, 1984); Alan Wolfe, The Limits of Legitimacy: Political
Contradictions ofContemporary Capitalism (New York: Free Press, 1977); Manuel Castells,
The Economic Crisis and American Society (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980); Claus Offe,
Contradictions of the Welfare State, trans. John Keane (Boston: MIT Press, 1984);
Habermas, Legitimation Crisis.

14 Theodore J. Lowi, The End ofLiberalism: the SecondRepublic of the United States
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1979); Immanuel Wallerstein, After Liberalism (New York: New
Press, 1995): 232-251; 5.








17

literary culture, and the world-economic dispensation. However, I am not arguing that

"globalization" has achieved its effects (and produced certain affects) by dint of a grand

conspiracy formulated in advance and in secret; rather, I am arguing that, whatever

"globalization" turns out to mean, its discourses have brought along with them a set of

symptomatic effects that have a kind of congruence that, for whatever reasons, appear to pre-

empt some kinds of imagination about the relations between political economy, political

culture, cultural production, and civic activity. Needless to say, these effects are also

accompanied by some (less manifest, in my view) counter-tendencies. But "globalization"

still floats around in both media culture and academic cultural studies as a master concept

that, at some level, claims to explain the world-order of things, even while it disables most

attempts to understand the historically complex causalities that have ushered in both this

order and the discourses to justify it. In other words, "globalization" has become an

extremely popular totalizing concept at a moment that has otherwise jettisoned totalizations

as politically or epistemologically suspect, and it has done so without generating nearly

enough suspicion from the press, economists, politicians, and other intellectuals. That, too

briefly, is where this argument begins.

In such a context, it's difficult to overstate the ways that the "cognitive" location

described by American media and political culture, "cultural studies," and their sometime

institutional referents constrains such a view of the globe. Certainly, for "cultural studies"

practitioners, it has always been important to refuse the ideological baggage of globalization

discourses, not least because these discourses have leveraged a critical part of our cultural

and political memory in the present. At the same time, however, and although it would








18
appear that the shift in America's position in the geo-economy would be simply a matter for

policy wonks, sociologists, and economists at first tier research institutions, it's crucial for

cultural studies practitioners to embrace the project of rethinking globalization and its

processes. For even the most compelling social-scientific accounts of globalization-for

instance those of Saskia Sassen-hardly make room for a consideration of the ways that

particular kinds of cultural habits or forms impact back on the experience of the so-called

global world economy. Nor, for the most part, is there any sense of the ways that economies

might themselves be understood as belonging to "cultural" history. At the same time, it's now

more or less taken for granted in cultural studies talk that "culture" is at least provisionally

free from the influence of the arcane world of global finance, trade, interest rates, balance of

payments situations, and so on. Of course, in a certain sense, that is true. But it's also true

that, at certain moments, such things definitively shape what we might call everyday life, not

least in so far as they exert kinds of ideological and practical pressure on economic and

political subjects. More importantly and specifically, though, in the last twenty-some odd

years, the processes that have been called globalization have managed to make themselves

felt in part by way of a relentless political reformation of public space, the public sector and

the broadcast media in the U.S. and elsewhere. The agents and discourses of this

transformation have also managed to leverage, by dint of these practical and ideological

changes, a kind of politics "out" of the contemporary imagination. Just what is out depends

upon where you look from, though it appears safe to say that the "left" in its liberal and

socialist forms has been forcibly removed from the current stage of history, at least in the

U.S. and much of the North. The current affective disarray in cultural studies, I'd argue,








19
registers this set of changes without yet being able to imagine its own relation to them-at

least in historical terms. Indeed, in that context, the problems that attend "globalization"

processes appear to be as much cognitive as political, as much disciplinary as ideological.

And from this vantage, the project of understanding-let alone criticizing-"globalization"

seems to require some understanding of the historical processes that have led to the supposed

overcoming of liberal-socialist political programs and ideas. That task appears particularly

pressing, especially if we want to wedge the cultural referents of erstwhile left-liberal-

socialist politics back into our imaginary, either as dialectical antipode to the millennial angst

and utopian frisson of the current moment, or as an historical reminder of the complex

situation of contemporary cultural politics, political culture and civic life.

What I'm proposing, then, is a project that would address both the ideological or

epistemological problems that have attended "globalization" discourses and their pragmatic

referents. On the one hand, in other words, it's important to resist specious claims about the

inevitability of some kinds of public policy in the name of "globalization." The most

important-and wrongheaded-of the claims that still circulate unquestioned imply an "end"

to the nation state and its civic and cultural prerogatives: among them, public space, the

public sector and the so-called welfare state. Although it would appear to be outside the

traditional purlieu of cultural intelligentsia to say so, I would argue that "correcting" these

fallacies is important to our cultural imaginaries, since they impact the very way we imagine

political dimensions of both contemporary and historical culture. At the same time, it's also

important to clarify the ways that the proliferation and fragmentation of public spheres

through the hypertrophy of corporate media have enhanced state power-the fiction of the








20
"weak" or "small" state notwithstanding. That's especially important, I'll argue, as the media

and the state are themselves the subject of popular cultural-and political-fantasies in the

present, and since these fantasies go directly to our ability to imagine any kind of agency, let

alone one with political effects.

On the other hand, however, it's crucial to recognize that something has indeed

changed over the last twenty-five years-indeed, since the long 1973, as one might call it.

During this period, public space, the public sector, broadcast and new electronic media have

been retooled according to the demands of a new regime of capital accumulation called

global Fordism. The changes that have accompanied this regime betoken not only a certain

kind of continuity with free trade imperialism-i.e., liberal colonialism-despite appearances

to the contrary, but also the transformation in the terms in which cultural and civic life can

be understood from the U.S. and states in decolonization. At the same time, the geopolitical,

-economic, and -cultural topographies described by this regime contrast sharply with some

topographies of the postmodern that have become de riguer in media and academic

discussion. At bottom, what we are witnessing is not the solidification of anew cultural logic

or episteme but the discontinuous expansion of the means of cultural (as well as economic)

production and reception across vast expanses of the globe. It's the particular discontinuities

and general unevenness of this expansion that makes cultural politics, political culture,

economic discourse and civic life meaningful, or even intelligible, in the present.

With that in mind, I'd like to focus on the rhetorical and practical circumstances now

called "globalization"-if only to delineate more clearly the world picture that this

ideological formation implies. At the same time, I want to keep another narrative-namely,








21
that of the emergence of "global Fordism"-in view, if only as a reminder of the kinds of

social-historical and cultural limits of that image, and what other kinds of narrative,

ideological and policy choices are available. More than simply "correcting" the suppositions

that undergird public policy and cultural studies discourse, this particular counter-narrative

can also serve as the narrative frame in which cultural studies might understand itself. And

that, I should think, would help us to redraw the limits of cultural studies' purlieu, as well as

its ambitions, at the same time as it reorients our understanding of cultural politics, political

culture and their civic and social referents.



The Enchanted World

The point of remembering something about the seventies, then, isn't the sheer therapeutic

value of coming to our senses about the past, and hence the present, although that's important

too: it's not simply about putting corrective lenses on our collective vision of history. The

larger project is to also to construct something like what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

call "geophilosophy," measured to our hypothetical present: as Deleuze and Guattari put it,

such a project is about the relationship between territory and earth, "two components or two

zones ofindiscernability" that impinge upon each other. In this case: public space (territory)

and the misconstruction of "global" imaginaries (earth) since 1990 or so. 15 And out of





15 See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994): 85 ff.








22

that-and a good deal of displaced rage-you could say, this kind of salvage operation is

born.

In April of 1994, when Richard Nixon died, the American press enthusiastically

remembered him as a tortured statesman, driven by his insecurities and a flair for self-pity,

a brilliant, if unscrupulous political tactician whose antisocial figure overshadowed

American cold war history. By the 90's, Nixon had come to be associated with the

culmination of U.S. political disillusionment; even in 70's retrospect, the rabid anti-

communism that made Nixon a name in the 50's appeared as but the psychic counterpart to

his paranoid zeal and obsession with information control after '68. But, aside from the

convenient way that the casualties begot of Nixon's Vietnam escalation and withdrawal were

forgotten, one of the more interesting qualities of the press' accounts of Nixon's political life

was the relative unimportance ascribed to perhaps his most far-reaching economic policy.

In August of 1971, Nixon declared the intention to freeze wages and prices for 90 days,

impose a 10% tariff on imports, and honor the international gold standard no longer. In his

1990 memoir, In the Arena, Nixon made no mention of this policy, even though he spent

pages explaining its rationale and effects in his earlier Memoirs (1978). At the time of his

death, only the New York Times made more than passing mention of the policy, singling out

his ending of the gold standard as "one of the most enduring of Mr. Nixon's foreign policy

initiatives."'6



16 Thomas L. Friedman, "A Nixon Legacy Devalued by a Cold War Standard," New
York Times 1 May 1994: E4.








23
Indeed, when Nixon's policy has been recalled in recent years, the wage and price

controls, the tariff on imports and the reduction in excise taxes on automobiles have been

more or less summarily forgotten, in favor of the end of the gold standard."7 But the "new

economic policy," as it was called, combined several strategies aimed at different targets on

the economic horizon. On the one hand, the wage-and-price and tariff policies caught Nixon

on the horns of a tricky ideological and economic dilemma: intervention in the so-named free

market was bad form for anyone who had for so long touted the virtues of liberal capitalism;

at the same time, the wage-price spiral of the later 60's and early 1970 had proven itself

immune to the usual recessionary tendencies. On the other hand, by closing the gold window,

Nixon aimed to head off a run on the dollar that he thought might be triggered by a British

request that 3 billion be converted to gold.'8 Together, these policies appeared to have little

in common except that Nixon announced them at the same time, and that they appeared

mutually contradictory.

Whether Nixon intended it or not, however, these policies both addressed and (in the

long run) exacerbated the contradictions in America's position in the geo-economy near the

end of what has been called "the Golden Age." Indeed, I would argue that the importance of

Nixon's policy was that it interrupted, in a way I'll explain presently, what we might call


'7 See, for example, Steve Forbes' nostalgic claim in 1991 that going off the gold
standard had upset America's world-economic ambitions, and Milton Friedman's defense of
the move in the name of free-market fairness. Steve Forbes, "Baleful Anniversary," Forbes
19 Aug. 1991: 23-24; Milton Friedman, "Free Floating Anxiety," National Review 12 Sep.
1994: 32-34.

Richard Nixon, Memoirs (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978): 518.








24

American-style Fordism. However, I want to do so bearing in mind that this name for the

period of postwar expansion and relative affluence in the North also bears with it an

argument about the character of the postwar public sector-a.k.a. the Keynesian welfare state.

For, whatever we might believe in the present about its unintended side-effects, the American

public sector accrued around the political, military and economic contradictions of the

postwar international (i.e. "global") economy, as much as it addressed the domestic fabric

of American liberalism. In other words, what looked like a national Keynesian welfare state

built on a Fordist model of productivity growth also framed the imaginary of American

public space in a trans-Atlantic environment.

Narratives of the emergence and passing of American and European Fordism have

emphasized the transition from inflexible, standardized production economies of scale to

what David Harvey and others have called flexible accumulation economies of scope.19

However, the narratives of the regulation school, as it is called, also speak to the relations

between economic and political life, and social and cultural forms both during and after the

postwar "Golden Age." According to Michel Aglietta, whose A Theory of Capitalist

Regulation: the U S. Experience remains the seminal argument for thinking about Fordism

as a social formation, Fordism accomplished the simultaneous consolidation of the advances


19 See, for examples of arguments that concentrate on shopfloor dynamics of new
agglomeration patterns, Robin Murray's excellent article, "Fordism and Post-Fordism," The
Post-Modern Reader, ed. Charles Jencks (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992): 267-76;
Michael Storper, "The Transition to Flexible Specialisation in the U. S. Film Industry,"
Cambridge Journal ofEconomics 13 (1989): 273-305; Daniel Leborgne, Alain Lipietz, "New
Technologies, New Modes of Regulation: Some Spatial Implications," Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 6 (1988): 263-280.










of scientific management known as "Taylorism" with a sometimes state-supported social

consumption norm. It was, in Aglietta's words, "an articulation between processes] of

production and mode of consumption. "20 That accomplishment, Aglietta argues, derived from

coordination, both formally and informally, of a regime of capital accumulation with a mode

of social regulation. In the case of postwar Fordism, an "intensive" regime of accumulation

was combined with a "monopoly" form of regulation: together, they produced two basic sets

of dynamics: first, a dynamic of increased efficiency, whereby, either through design or

manufactured technology, the "gaps" in the work day or work progress were filled in

("intensive" as opposed to "extensive" accumulation); and, second, a dynamic of steadily

increasing domestic demand, got through collective bargaining, wages matched to

productivity increases, and what Alain Lipietz calls the ante-validation of labor through

micro and macroeconomic credit. 21


20 Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the U.S. Experience, trans.
David Femrnbach (New York: Verso, 1987): 117; see, for the supercession of Taylorism by
Fordism, 116-22; hereafter cited as TCR.

21 See Alain Lipietz, The Enchanted World: Inflation, Credit, and the World Crisis,
trans. Ian Patterson (New York: Verso, 1985): xvii, 54-63. There are many useful accounts
of the regulation school, as it is called. In addition to the work of Aglietta and Lipietz, Mike
Davis published an early, critical review of Aglietta's book, which (review) has been
important in shaping my own thinking about regulationist models. In particular, Davis takes
issue with the simple opposition between "intensive" and "extensive" regimes of
accumulation, and argues that elements of both usually function in the same social
formations. See Mike Davis, "Fordism in Crisis: a review of Michel Aglietta's Regulation
et crises: L'experience des Etats Unis," Review 2.2 (1978): 207-69. See also Robert Boyer,
The Regulation School: A Critical Introduction, trans. Craig Chamey (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1990); a very important critical anthology of responses to the regulationist
model can be found in Michael Storper and Allen J. Scott's Pathways to Industrialization
and Regional Development (New York: Routledge, 1992); see especially Bob Jessop's
contribution, 46-69; see also Jessop's excellent critical account, "Regulation Theory in
Retrospect and Prospect," Economy and Society 19.2 (1990): 153-216; for another, very








26

Lipietz and has further explained the notion of social regulation by suggesting that

any regime of accumulation has also to draw up subject positions-either by force or

consent-that potentially reproduce its relations of production. "Production is also not only

a particular production," as Marx put it. "Rather it is always a certain social body, a social

subject."22 These subject positions don't just apply to persons, but also to states, local

governments, unions, NGO's, and corporations, among others. And, as Lipietz argues, not

every mode of regulation will "work" with a regime of accumulation; indeed, the formation

of different kinds of "agencies"-in the several senses of that word-has to be imagined in

terms of the options available to respond to crisis tendencies and the "normal patterns" in a

regime of accumulation.

In that sense, the gradual articulation of an American Fordism-and its Keynesian

welfare-state cohort-worked on a number of different levels. Just as the New Deal sought

to generalize the conditions of mass production and consumption in America by privileging

productive (industrial, durable goods producing) capital, so the Marshall Plan sought to

rearrange Western European class structure, state regulation, and financial conditions in the

name of an Atlantic unity on a Fordist model.23 It did so not only by encouraging Western

European use of American technology and capital investment to engender an economy



useful critical account, see Robert Brenner and Mark Glick, "The Regulation Approach:
Theory and History," New Left Review 199 (1991): 45-119.

22 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicholaus (New York: Penguin, 1973): 86.

23 Kees van der Pilj, The Making ofan Atlantic Ruling Class (London: Verso, 1984):
76-103; 138-71.








27
fuelled by mass consumption, and not only by reconfiguring the liberal internationalist and

rentier financial blocs in favor of a compromise with productive (industrial, durable-goods

producing) capital, but also by intervening in European colonialism. The Marshall plan

sought to establish neo-colonial relations with the periphery by encouraging developing

nations toward independence, though without socialism. This was shown early in American

recognition and trade support for Indonesia against the conservative colonialism of the

Dutch, as well as situations in French Algeria and Belgian Congo.

Despite the frequent crises because of its interventionism, the American economy

was nonetheless the lodestar of Atlantic Fordism. The terms of this leadership involved

shifting alliances between political parties, productive and money capital; the rise and fall

of anti-union sentiment; isolationist and expansionist proclivities on the international scale;

postwar military superiority; and the relative position of American currency on the world

market. It nonetheless consistently relied on a regulatory framework that supported intensive

accumulation on a national scale and on a set of programs that targeted particular kinds of

mass consumption. While the FDIC, the New Deal banking laws, and the Wagner Act

established the former, the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, Eisenhower's later Federal

Highway Aid Act and the National Defense Education Acts provide examples of the latter.

As Mike Davis points out, counting perhaps the exception of the Education act and GI Bill,

none of these programs or the framework itself supported the ideal of universal public

services as might be envisioned in other liberal-democratic contexts: rather, they relied on








28
the state support of mass private consumption as a supplement to a minimally conceived and

implemented public sector. 24

The American postwar public sector, so understood, belonged to a set of relationships

that, while ideologically and pragmatically focused on national, white familial domesticity,

entailed active international ideological, political and military preparedness. As it developed

alongside what Eisenhower famously called the "military industrial complex," in other

words, the public sector subvented both the domestic politics of mass consumption,

suburbanization, racial "integration" and liberal patriarchy, and the international politics of

Atlantic anti-communism. In that sense, it's perhaps crucial to recognize that the Keynesian

welfare state came to be synonymous with public provision and the articulation of a public

infrastructure during the postwar period, but that it crystallized programs dating from the

New Deal to the Great Society, and ranging in purpose from A.F.D.C. and social security to

unemployment insurance, transportation infrastructure and military spending. In other words,

far from expressing a "consistent" agenda, the Keynesian welfare state more or less

expressed the limits of American liberal-corporate compromise during the period. These

limits were also very much the libidinal and political as well as fiscal limits of American

Fordism, as the more recent reorganization of public space in the age of global Fordism



24 On the distinction between regulatory programs and those that set up the conditions
for workforce mobility and mass consumption, I follow Mike Davis, Prisoners of the
American Dream (London: Verso, 1986): 191-92 n7; however, by including the Federal
Home Loan Bank Act, I mean to question whether the distinction might also be used as a
periodizing tool, as Davis suggests. On comparative welfare states, see Anthony McGrew,
"The State in Advanced Capitalist Societies," Modernity: An Introduction to Modern
Societies, ed. Stuart Hall et. al. (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996): 239-79.








29

suggests. For it is not this welfare state that has died such an ignominious death at the hands

of congressional Republicans and President Clinton, by and large; rather it has been the tier

of programs whose semiotic charge has been more loaded than its fiscal one, and which have

been made vulnerable by the ideological work accomplished by the intervening Reagan-Bush

years.

The state, then, was the focus of a good deal of cultural as well as political investment

during both the height of the so-called "golden age" and the moment of its passing. Indeed,

the current project of global Fordism-such as it is-has been partly anticipated, if only in

negative form, in the way that the "golden age" and its crisis moment of the 70's have been

imagined or remembered. Business culture in the 60's and 70's, for example, was full of

apprehension about the fate of liberal capitalist economies, especially in what was seen as

their burgeoning welfare-statist form. Robert Heilbroner, writing from the New School for

Social Research, coyly announced, in Business Civilization in Decline, that "Capitalism is

drifting into planning. Is there anyone who can deny the fact?" He continued by assessing,

in a register anticipating Peter Drucker, that post-industrial society would also be "post-

capitalist," largely free of the class antagonisms of 19th-century industrialism.25 Likewise,

kingpin Keynesian John Kenneth Galbraith imagined the efflorescence of postwar political-

economic form as a "new industrial state" that would "replace the market with planning,"

since the market had "ceased to be reliable" for fulfilling its own needs-or those of




25 Robert Heilbroner, Business Civilization in Decline (New York: W.W. Norton,
1976): 17; 63-78.








30
individual consumers.26 More ominously, Herbert Marcuse described the social system of

interlaced technological, economic and political processes as producing a "comfortable,

smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom" in civic life. "The government of advanced and

advancing industrial societies," he argued, "can maintain and secure itself only when it

succeeds in mobilizing, organizing, and exploiting the technical, scientific, and mechanical

productivity available to industrial civilization."27 Finally, the 1975 Trilateral Commission

report, produced under the direction of Zbigniew Brzezinski and titled The Crisis of

Democracy, treated the coincidence of political "steering problems" and the emergence of

the Kondratieff B-cycle in the U.S. and Europe as both product of and threat to democratic

culture at large. Indeed, what James O'Connor had called the fiscal crisis of the state, the

TLC report imagined as originating in political culture, and in particular in the strata of

"adversary intellectuals" hostile to the "subservience of democratic government to 'monopoly

capitalism."'28 The part of the report about the United States, penned by 70's neoconservative

darling Samuel Huntington, ascribed the growth of state activity and its diminishing

authority to the "democratic surge," the "excess of democracy" in the 60's-and, in particular,

black activism. As Huntington put it in response to O'Connor's argument: "[The fiscal crisis




26 John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State, 3r ed. (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1978): 24.

27Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964): 1, 3.

28 Introduction, The Crisis of Democracy, by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington,
and Joji Watanuki (New York: NYU Press, 1975): 6.








31

of the state that] the Marxists mistakenly attribute to capitalist economics.., is, in fact, a

product of democratic politics."29

In addition to what we might say about its realities, then, postwar American Fordism

eventually drew along with it an image of a quasi-totalitarian mega-state, an image shared

by its sympathetic and oppositional critics alike. This political and cultural consensus about

the state's rather menacing presence in political, economic and civic life was an indispensable

precondition for the announced agendas of the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations-at

least insofar as they have been committed to the anti-statist rhetorical project involved in

evincing international confidence-to say nothing of annoyance or fear. At the same time,

it might be argued, each of these narratives has suggested an image-utopic or not-for the

passing of this state of affairs into our contemporary moment. For example, Mark Lilla has

recently argued-apropos of the Trilateralist Sam Huntington-that the American revolution

of '68 has spawned an excess of democracy, one that has seeped into culture instead of

remaining in politics and the state.30 Or, more plausibly, one could argue, as Stephen Gill has

done, that Trilateralism was a largely American-born response to the perceived crisis of

liberal political culture and the economy.3' As a series of "reports" commissioned by the

North's most adept apologists (a.k.a. sympathetic critics), the Trilateral ouvre both articulated



29 Samuel P. Huntington, "The United States," in The Crisis of Democracy 73.

30Mark Lilla, "Still Living With '68," New York Times Magazine 18 Aug. 1998: 34-
37.

31 Stephen Gill, American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990).








32
Northern interests and described the fundaments of the post-Fordist Atlantic order. It was,

in that sense, not only key to forming an historic bloc that included intellectuals, but also an

adumbration of forthcoming explanations of the real and imagined relations between civil

society, capital and the state. Indeed, I'd say that most contemporary "globalization"

narratives take their rhetorical cue from this body of work, retooled for a post-Reagan world

and dispersed beyond the cadre of policy wonks and sociologists at first-tier research

universities, into the mainstream media and popular cultural representations.

However, by appealing to the regulationist model, I also want to suggest that this

image, however popular and important for understanding the political transformations that

occurred in the 80's, misrepresents the character of American welfare Keynesianism-and,

by implication, its supposedly "downsized," "efficient" successor. As I've already suggested,

and as the brilliant work of Michael Katz has shown, America could only have ever claimed

to have what Katz calls a "semiwelfare state"; its social "safety net" has always reflected the

uneven regional political and economic developments in the United States.32 But more

importantly, as Aglietta's argument suggests, the state at this moment served simultaneously

to legitimate the division of civic and cultural labor and to create the conditions favorable

for capital accumulation. A.F.D.C. and social insurance, the two programs most associated

with the term "welfare," in other words, propped up the demand side of economic equations,

even as American investment in public infrastructure supported the particular forms of



32 Michael B. Katz, In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: a Social History of Welfare in
America, 10' Anniv. Ed. (New York: Basic, 1996): 115-255.








33

corporate activity characteristic of this moment-what Aglietta calls Fordist "monopoly"

regulation. At the same time, the American welfare state subvented the practical and

ideological distinctions between civic and personal responsibility, public and private, culture

and the economy. Indeed, although Aglietta doesn't make nearly enough of this, this set of

distinctions, as much as any other, has been at issue in new social movements, the more

recent debates about the public sphere so-called, and the neoliberal project of retooling

public space and the public sector.

In other words, the images of both the "welfare state" and its "end" haven't

necessarily referred so much to actual political and economic policies as to the ideological

formations that have attended them. In the present, this has become patently obvious in the

reassertion of the white nuclear family and its demon spawn as the synecdoche of civic life

in general. As Lee Edelman has recently argued, the child has become a pervasive "figure

for the universal value attributed to political futurity," indeed, in such a way as to close off

anything but a conservative, reproductive political imagination.33 This reassertion has taken

place in the context of the more general re-entry of "family values" into political discourse

following Dan Quayle's reading of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, at which time he surmised

that the uprising was mostly due to south central's citizens' failure to have them, and that our

upmost civic duty was to get and sustain them. President Clinton, not one to let chance to

hasten the party right pass him by, proposed new health care initiatives for the poor that



33 Lee Edelman, "The Future is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory, Disidentification, and the
Death Drive," Narrative 6.1 (1998): 19; hereafter cited as "Kid."








34
target children, much in the way that federal highway construction in the 50's was justified

as "national defense."34 But such pediatric Keynesianism shouldn't obscure the fact that, with

the devolution of welfare services to the states and the revamping the program's goals (to

reduce numbers of recipients, not poverty or indigence), in New York, for example, childcare

for single mothers is nearly impossible to come by, and the Guliani administration refuses

to release its own study on the results of welfare "reform."35

These untidy "facts"-such as they are-have gone rather unnoticed by many

intellectuals, queer and not: indeed, they cast in rather tragicomic relief the symptomatic

civic and cultural amnesia that characterizes the present. In a bizarre twist of rhetorical and

political fortune, for example, Edelman unabashedly takes his political ontology from the

right, since it is the right-and particularly its rabid, Christian partisans-that share his 60's-

vintage Lacanian anthropological-cum-existentialist view of queer identities. At one moment

in his argument, Edelman chides, "While we continue to refute the lies that pervade these

insidious right-wing diatribes, do we also have the courage to acknowledge and embrace

their correlative truths? Are we willing, as queers, to be sufficiently oppositional to the



34 See, for example, Robert Pear, "Aid for Medicaid Children" New York Times 4 Jan.
1998: WK2; and James Dao, "Clinton Details Efforts to Insure More Children," New York
Times 23 June 1998: A 17.

3" See, on the dubious effects of welfare "reform" in New York City, Alan Finder,
"Evidence is Scant that Workfare Leads to Full-Time Jobs," New York Times 12 Apr. 1998:
AI+; on childcare shortage, see Rachel Swarms, "Mothers Poised for Workfare Face Acute
Lack of Day Care," New York Times 14 Apr 1998: A1 +; on Guliani's intransigence and the
administration's strategems to lower numbers of recipients, Vivian S. Toy, "Tough Workfare
Rules Used as a Way to Cut Welfare Rolls," New York Times 15 Apr. 1998: AI+.








35

structural logic of opposition... to accept the figural burden of queerness... ?" ("Kid" 26).

What all of this means, of course, is not that queers should get involved in fighting the re-

tooling of the welfare state on behalf of the rentier classes, or even that sexual identities or

struggles themselves might be shaped by urban and financial crisis attendant upon neo-liberal

policy, but that they simply "embody" opposition to substantial identities by way of

'Youissance"-whether they want to or not ("Kid" 27). Of course, no one can exactly be

against pleasure, really, which it makes it an easy value to hold. And in that sense, it's much

like the child figure that Edelman takes such pains to rejoin. Still, one might simply ask how

a public space structured around "enjoyment" would look substantially different from the

ones we currently inhabit-or miss.

In any case, in the event, Nixon's announcement of a new economic policy did not

so much alter the Fordist framework or what it implied for the public sector as signal the last

gasp of the monetary and fiscal order that had come out of the Bretton Woods agreements

and supported America's position in the postwar international economic circuit, but whose

contradictions were beginning to show on the American side. At the end of 1970, inflation

was 5.7% and unemployment 6.0%, a combination that, by both neo-classical and

Keynesian lights, ought not to have been possible-at least not for any significant amount of

time. But "stagflation," as it was called, confounded economic orthodoxies of many varieties,

as it signalled not merely an economic but cognitive threshold for liberal-capitalist

democracies. On the one hand, the wage-and-price spiral of the late 60's and early 70's

expressed the inflationary tendencies built into Fordist models of technological and

consumption-led growth. As Aglietta explains, while technical innovation initially tends to








36

tamp down profits, once it becomes generalized, the rate of profit once again gathers upward

momentum. The problem accruing in the late 60's and early 70's, then, was that while

productivity and wages were going up, the money value of labor represented by price

stopped increasing. While this circumstance would normally produce creeping inflation, the

monetary situation of the U.S. produced other results (TCR 52-61; 306-307). Indeed, on the

other hand, both inflation and unemployment showed a propensity to rise with the rapidly

worsening American international balance-of-payments situation. The account balance

depends, in aggregate, on three things: investment, government spending, and trade. The

American account deficit was largely the result of financing the Vietnam war, Johnson's

"Great Society" programs, and the relative strength of American currency-that is, American

producers' difficulty in finding export markets.36 Together, the domestic and international

situations produced an accumulation crisis that Newsweek, for example, more or less foisted

onto the consumer, whose saving habits were getting in the way of getting profits going

again.37

In the televised address announcing the new policy, Nixon demonized the anonymous

international money speculators who, in his view, were responsible for a precipitous

fluctuation in the value of the dollar, and he promised to support productive capital and

American workers, the "real creator[s] of wealth" in the U.S.38 But Nixon was aiming at the


36On international finance, I have benefitted from the discussion in Stephen Gill and
David Law, The Global Political Economy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1988): 159-90.

37 "1971: The Year of the Consumer?" Newsweek 15 Feb. 1971: 55+.

38 New York Times 16 Aug. 1971: A 14.








37

'72 election, hoping that a "floating" exchange rate would bring about enough inflation on

an international scale to make U.S. exports cheaper on foreign markets and "rescue"

American automakers and durable goods manufacturers from foreign competition.

While the gambit worked on a political level, in the long run it only worsened the

situation for domestic manufacturers, as prices for their own products rose along with

imports, and as nations like West Germany let their currencies float up with the dollar.

"Stagflation," in that sense, expressed the contradictions between the monetary expression

of value on national and international scales, and the need for on-the-ground productive

capital investment and public infrastructure in the national space. In other words, Nixon's

policy helped free up the movement of capital and no doubt boosted reliance on short-term

capital flows; however, the move also signified the beginning of the end of political and

cultural privilege of productive capital on the Fordist model. Of course, this political legacy

would endure through the Carter administration and the Chrysler bailout. But stagflation,

along with the oil embargo of '73, more or less crushed American auto and construction

sectors, which multiplied effects throughout the national economy; the former already

suffered from pressures of market saturation, foreign competition and currency valuation in

the late 60's and early 70's; and the latter was particularly hard hit by the credit restrictions

that attended the floating of the dollar and the fall in real incomes in'73-'74 (SS 51-53). And,

while both American automakers and construction industries would survive-and thrive,

even-during and after the economic downturn, there was to be no "recovery" if we mean by

this a return to the national status quo ante: between '74 and the recently announced return

to economic prosperity, profit margins have been restored (and with a vengeance), but








38
American Fordism's political, social, geographic and economic realities, to say nothing of

their rhetoric, have been refashioned on a seemingly total scale. What has taken its place is

not so much a "globalized" as monetized, sped-up climate, in which both fixed and variable

capital costs (also known as equipment and wages) have become an impediment to realizing

sturdy profit margins in the North, and the South and Far East have borne the costs of

"adjustment."

Using the languages of "Fordism" and the regulation school as idioms in which to

describe the demise and recent rearticulation of a political-economic climacteric, I would

argue, makes sense in a couple of ways. In the first place, Aglietta frames his argument in

Theory by reference to two shortcomings in contemporary economic thought: "firstly, its

inability to analyse the economic process in terms of the time lived by its subjects, in other

words to give a historical account of economic facts; and secondly, its inability to express

the social content of economic relations, and consequently to interpret the forces and

conflicts at work in the economic process" (TCR 9). By looking at capital from the point of

view of its proleptically advanced after-image, Aglietta constantly sees the role that

consumption plays in the reproduction of capital and the experience called "everyday life."

Indeed, Alain Lipietz argues that the contours of any mode of social regulation comprise, in

their own way, the terrain on which "everyday" civic and cultural struggles happen. A regime

of accumulation, Lipietz argues, "must... be materialized in the shape of norms, habits,

laws and regulating networks that ensure the unity of the process and which guarantee that

its agents conform more or less to the schema of reproduction in their day-to-day behavior








39
and struggles."39 This emphasis also begins to explain the overlapping concerns of some

regulation school writers and Keynesian and post-Keynesian economists: for both, crisis

moments, at least in the twentieth century, are caused by what Marx called a "realization

problem," and so for both coming to terms with the social side of capital's "equations" has

become paramount.

The narratives of the regulation school-or at least those of Aglietta, Lipietz, Bob

Jessop and some others-in that sense also imply that such political economic changes

simultaneously occur on the level of cultural imagination, so to speak. These narratives, I'd

argue, suggest that economic "facts," like cultural objects and political choices, reflect and

allegorize the propositional "content," for lack of a better word, of social life. Indeed, as

Gramsci reminds us, the relations of hegemony are always pedagogical relations-and so, by

my lights, each of these kinds of objects bears with it a set of suppositions as well as affects;

each of them bears on "a political unconscious," if you will.4 As I've been arguing, one of

the components of the semiosis of American Fordism has been the image of a menacing state

apparatus-a mytheme that partly explains the rush to embrace the globalist idiom of the "end

of the nation state" and to abandon defense of public space and the public sector in the

United States. At the same time, this newer view is coupled with a seemingly contradictory

(and not wholly unfounded) belief in the omnipresence of state authority and power. As


39 Alain Lipietz, Mirages and Miracles: the Crises of Global Fordism, trans. David
Macey (London: Verso, 1987): 14.

40 Antonio Gramsci, Selection from the Prison Notebooks, trans. Quintin Hoare and
Jeffrey Novell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971): 350.








1 40

Fredric Jameson has demonstrated by way of films such as The Parallax View, this latter

belief has been in evidence since the 70's and reflects the difficulty of imagining collectivity

at the moment of late capitalism's emergence.4" But such beliefs were also tied to a kind of

millennial imagination that, like the rhetoric of welfare's "end" in our own day, refers as

much to national narcissism as the existence of civilized life. Paul Erdman's novel The Crash

of'79, for instance, imagines "the year the world, as we knew it, fell apart," by way of a far-

reaching set of global financial, political and military "coincidences." Its narrator, George

Hitchcock, an American investment banker who goes to work for the Saudi government,

describes the working of the world political economy as something "just this side" of a

conspiracy: "benign in intent, butrather less than that in execution." Hitchcock confesses that

he initially quits banking because of his disillusion with the liberal fictions of civic

responsibility that go with it. Indeed, he begins with the assumption that the geo-economy

is a fuckingg useless rat race. "42

This expression of disenchantment with the salutary civic effects of finance no doubt

anticipates our political disenchantment in the present, but it also suggests that there's

something to be said about the way that popular cultural forms suggest structural

relationships between historical moments-both as they are "lived" and as they might appear

to another kind of analysis. In that sense, Erdman's combination of millennial angst and



41 See Fredric Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World
System (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992): 45-66.

42 Paul E. Erdman, The Crash of'79 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976): 7, 84,
202.








41

conspiratorial imagination adumbrates The X-Files: Fight the Future, only in Crash the

aliens are from Iran, Europe, and the Soviet Union, instead of the outer reaches of the galaxy

by way of Texas. Likewise, in the 70's, disaster films-and particularly Irwin Allen's 1974

classic, The Towering Inferno-made a certain perception of economic crisis available for

popular consumption in a way that helps us understand such narratives today. Like The

Poseidon Adventure and theAirport series, The Towering Inferno partly displaces the anxiety

about the political-economic realm onto the infrastructure of capital; whereas the former

focused on transportation (and leisure), in this case, the problem is urban space itself. In the

film, Paul Newman plays architect Doug Roberts, who has designed a dual-use commercial-

residential skyscraper offered as a paean to "urban renewal" in San Francisco. Fire breaks

out on the floor separating the commercial from residential zones of the building, as the

tower's electrical infrastructure cannot handle the load necessary to create the spectacle for

its gala dedication. The tower's builder, Jim Duncan (William Holden), and electrical

contractor, Duncan's son-in-law Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain), have otherwise

conspired to save on the building's construction and pocket the sizable difference for

themselves. By the time the fire is out, Roberts knows of the builder's designs, and he

suggests that they leave the burned-out shell standing, as "a shrine to all the bullshit

happening in the world."

As a narrative of "urban renewal," The Towering Inferno offers a pretty bizarre

picture. The film displaces questions of crisis onto the imaginary of bourgeois lived

experience-such that urban renewal is experienced as crisis itself, rather than a response to

or an effect of it. For the most part, the film appears to be rather indifferent to the urban








42

history that Senator Parker, chair of the Federal Urban Renewal Commission, alludes to in

his dedication of the building. And the evident "cause" of the structure's crisis is but the

banal greed of builder and subcontractor, a motive that is apparently self-explanatory for the

purposes of the narrative. But the contours of a crisis narrative do appear in the film's

margins. First, there is Harley, played by Fred Astaire, a man who has come to the tower to

meet Lisa Mueller (Jennifer Jones) for the ribbon-cutting party. Mueller lives in the tower

and belongs with the "celebrities of government, television, and screen" that attend the party.

Harley has come back to "the reality" of San Francisco, as he puts it, so he can do the one

thing that he does best: play the stock market. But after a brief encounter with danger and as

the fire threatens the tower's upper reaches, Harley confesses to Lisa that he doesn't have any

money or stock, and that he had come to sell Lisa fake shares in a nonexistent firm. He asks

her to admit she's "surprised, or at least disappointed." She reassures him that she's neither.

Not long after, she dies a spectacular death, falling from a scenic elevator that carries the

women and children from the top floors to safety below.

The narrative accounts for neither Lisa's nonchalance nor her death, though to do so

it suffices to ask a question: how would a skyscraper renew urban space? Or, for whom? In

The Towering Inferno, those who stand to benefit from the structure's "success" are Roberts

and Duncan (and, of course, Simmons); as Duncan tells Roberts, Parker wants to build glass

towers like this one in cities all across the country. But a high rise office tower in San

Francisco could hardly be considered "renewal" unless what has gone sour are prospects for

urban industrial capital. In other words, the film narrates-and displaces-"urban renewal"

as a crisis of profitability, itself very much the lived content of "stagflation" for American








43
corporate elites in the 70's. At the same time, it could be said that it allegorizes the historical

management of this crisis by the installation of finance, insurance and real estate

sectors-known as FIRE in federal economic report-speak-as the dominant industries in

urban space. Indeed, what could be a better dream-image for the interests of FIRE than a

burned-out corporate-residential skyscraper?

At any rate, Mueller's indifference to Harley's scam testifies to the implausibility of

a distinction between "real" financial investment and its opposite, even after Harley had

taken the trouble to suggest that coming back to San Francisco to play the stock market was

a return to "reality." The suggestion, in fact, is enough to make one wonder if the city

imagined in the film isn't New York, at least as much as San Francisco, as that city's urban

"renewal" at the hands of the Rockefeller family very much brought on its fiscal crisis in

1975, even as it acted to displace industrial working populations, increase profit margins and

rents, reap tax abatement windfalls, and fortify Wall Street.43 The point, however, is that Lisa

dies as a matter-of-fact witness to capital's new modus operandi. When Roberts, for example,

discovers the builder's scheme to skim off profits, he confesses his disillusionment to

Duncan: "I thought we were building something where people could live and work and be

safe." And, by narrative's end, even Duncan has confessed to the error of his ways and vows

never to let this kind of catastrophe happen again. Mueller and Simmons, by contrast, are

strangely immune to this kind of disillusion, and both fall to their deaths while being

"rescued."


43 See, on this point, Robert Fitch, The Assassination of New York (New York: Verso,
1993).








44

In the film, at any rate, the disaster of urban renewal-also, a crisis of profitability,

a.k.a "stagflation" in the 70's-has to be named and judged, at the same time as its principle

form gets saved from the ashes. As the fire chief (Steve McQueen) leaves the scene, Douglas

promises to ask him how to design one of these things, next time-since there will be a next

time. (Evidently, you can't fight FIRE with fire.) At the same time, the utopic social order

that the film hints at is wholly displaced or destroyed, rather than simply marginalized. Susan

(Faye Dunaway), Doug's wife, is offered a job as managing editor at a big magazine; in

explaining her desire for the job, she says that she wants a place where "our kids can run

around and be free," but concludes, by a completely unstated logic (Doug is silent during this

conversation), that she can't have both things at once. Likewise, the affair between publicist

Robert Wagner and his secretary Susan Flannery, very much across class lines,

unceremoniously ends when they are both consumed in the fire.

As I've already suggested, however, what's really important about The Towering

Inferno is the way it imagines all of this as a crisis of "urban renewal." Whatever its gender

politics, in other words, they are "subordinated" in the film's imaginary to the fire-in which,

when it comes down to it, women and children must be saved first. The film's particular

vision, in that sense, has been rewritten, certainly, by contemporary disaster films (Twister,

Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano); but it has also been rewritten by John McTeiman's Die

Hard series, in which the multinational character of both urban space and capital serves as

the precondition for commentary on gender and race relations, problems of urban

infrastructure, and institutions of global finance. In fact, each of these films testifies to the

way that the reconfiguration of public space has relied on a reimagination, from all angles,








45
of the role of urbanity in a new economic situation. For the most part, its value is not simply

as a metonym for industrialization or Keynesian social policy (both held to be residual or

"retrograde"), but also as a place for the rearticulation, in a "new" geo-economy, of a vision

of civic and familial life very much in an older mode.

While I'll have more to say about these films, in general, I'm arguing that a certain

kind of capitalism demands a certain kind of Marxism, one tuned not only into debates about

the history of cultural form, but also to the dialectical relation between cultural forms, social

life and economic transformations. If I'm right about the character of capital at present, it

derives its contours from a crisis moment in the 70's that very much coincided with the crisis

of American hegemony in the world system. It has simultaneously taken its cue from the

problems posed in and by an urban environment that had once attended industrial capital,

which has also, we are told, seen its heyday. However, I think it's important to also issue a

qualification (or amplification, if you prefer) of this set of claims. On the one hand, industries

like automobile and construction were particularly important to the postwar economy, as

they supported the sub/urban-interstate-industry nexus in the built environment and media

tableau, and were for a time key segments of the union establishment. Along with military

production and investment, these industries cast the advances or paralyses of the economy

in their own mold, partly through far-reaching adjacency to industries like rubber, plastics,

steel, glass, and banking; and partly through the ideological affects of anti-union efforts and

media fawning over such icons as Lee laccoca. However, while neither industry has this

ideological or structural priority in the current political-economy (or media imaginary), the

disaggregation of the climacteric in which they thrived has not quite left behind a








46

"deindustrialized" landscape either.44 Rather, it has meant qualitatively different spatial,

economic and cultural forms, produced in the crucible of an intensified class struggle.

GM's response to crisis of the 70's was its infamous "southern strategy," by which

it moved parts manufacture to the southern states where unions were scarce. Subsequently

GM and others took advantage of the U.S. law that subvented the appearance of "export

processing zones" on the Mexican border, where manufacturers can assemble parts produced

elsewhere with export duties only on the cost of labor.45 However, the maquiladora strategy

was but one example of the way that capital has attempted to cope with a more general crisis

of profitability so-called. From its point of view (quickly adopted by even the Carter regime),

stagflation may indeed have had to do with the dollar's ambiguous position on international

markets, with the on-the-ground effects of the oil embargo, and with the subsequent

recycling of petrodollars to finance the U. S. debt. But it also showed up as bottlenecks that

accrued around "inflexible" fixed capital investments and technologies of production, to

which capital's response has been to call upon what David Harvey has called "flexible

accumulation" strategies. As Harvey suggests, these strategies were not only adapted to old

industries, but subvented "the emergence of new sectors of production, new ways of


44 In saying this, I mean not to question the interesting narratives and analyses of
eighties corporate and state politics from Bennett Harrison and Barry Bluestone, but the
misnomer "deindustrialization"; see The Deindustrialization ofAmerica (New York: Basic
Books, 1982); idem, The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of
America (New York: Basic Books, 1988); see also, for clarification of the extent and
meaning of deindustrialization, Ronald E. Kutscher and Valerie A. Personick,
"Deindustrialization and the Shift to Services," Monthly Labor Review June 1986: 3-13.

45 James M. Rubenstein, The Changing U S. Auto Industry: A GeographicalAnalysis
(New York: Routledge, 1992): 238-250.








47

providing financial services, new markets, and.. greatly intensified rates of commercial,

technological and organizational innovation."46 In industries like semiconductor manufacture,

financial services, and new craft and textile production, as well as in older industries like

auto manufacture, the advantage of organizational "flexibility" has been to avoid "backward

transmission of uncertainty" through rigid, vertically integrated production processes. These

industries and kinds of organization have lent themselves to new forms of urban-suburban

agglomeration and an extremely refined division of labor. Indeed, as Allen Scott has shown

for the printed circuit industry in Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, these

configurations tend toward decentralization and suburbanization of industry, and have spread

to many metropolitan areas in the U.S. 47

In this sense, it's important not to view this as just a "classic" crisis of overproduction,

as Ernest Mandel does, because both the shape and durability of the crisis have involved

geographies and social forms, as well as political timing and decisions peculiar to U. S. class

relations and its position in the world economy (SS 9-42). For example, during the 70's, the

Carter administration, with an overwhelmingly Democratic congress, failed to get through

even moderate measures like Ralph Nader's Consumer Protection Agency and even labor law

"reform" that merely enforced the industrial status quo. These defeats were in part due to

increasing corporate political organization in the Business Roundtable, itself a response to



46 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (London: Blackwell, 1990): 147.

47 Allen J. Scott, Metropolis: from the Division of Labor to Urban Form (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1988): 112; 105-118.








48

the regulatory frameworks set down between '65 and '72. While these never could have

succeeded if labor had not already been on the wane and were not "big government" already

believed to be the agency of economic malaise, Carter himself evinced interest in courting

business from the beginning of his term.48 Indeed, it might be said that Reaganomics began

with the Carter administration, as Congress lurched rightward in 1978, capping social

spending, deregulating telecommunications and transport industries, and working for higher

interest rates.

More than that, I should like to emphasize that the rearticulation of American

hegemony over the geo-economy has not, in fact, meant that the important elements of the

postwar Fordist order have simply fallen into desuetude-although the places in which they

were once located may indeed have. Although it is frequently claimed that the world under

sway of global economic forces is both novel and epoch-making, the on-the-ground picture

is a little more humdrum. Certainly, the Defense of Marriage Act's assertion that gay

marriage and not capital threaten white middle-class family arrangements was rather

classically homophobic. But the question begged by both cynical "family values" discourse

and glib queer posturing over "enjoyment" concerns the fictive and real agencies of kinship

and (sexual?) pleasure at the millennium, understood as I have been describing it. In other

words, both "queer" intellectuals like Edelman and neoliberal ideologues like John Kasich



48 See, on these points, Patrick J. Akard, "Corporate Mobilization and Political
Power: the Transformation ofU. S. Economic Policy in the 1970's," American Sociological
Review 57 (1992): 597-615; Kim McQuaid, Big Business and Presidential Power: From
FDR to Reagan (New York: William Morrow, 1982): 298-310; Mike Davis, "The AFL-
CIO's Second Century," New Left Review 136 (1982): 43-54; see especially 46ff.








49

call on a vision of the heterosexual family that frequently ignores the way that it belonged

to spatial, ideological and social forms attendant upon American style Fordism: at the same

time, then, they miss the particular ways such forms might inflect the "content" of the

supposedly globalized present.

It's in that context, I'd argue, that it behooves us to reread literary narratives like Gish

Jen's Typical American that simultaneously narrate a crisis of "American" identity and the

nuclear family at the end of the "golden age." Jen's narrative paints the contradictions of

American Fordism in now shopworn and cartoonish images associated with postwar

affluence: new automobiles, single-family homes, well-manicured lawns, and so on. But the

critical moment of ethnic and economic assimilation (i.e., becoming "American") comes at

the end of this narrative, when Ralph Chang nearly kills his sister by running her over with

his car, directly after he's discovered that his wife's been having an affair with his former

business partner. As we might guess, the crisis of the American ideal gets masculinized: "He

was not what he made up his mind to be. A man was the sum of his limits; freedom only

made him see how much so. America was no America."49 Just so, the class-laden character

of this national/ethnic identification never gets scrutinized. But the real problem that

underlies both of these has to do with Jen's uncritical acceptance of patriarchal nuclear family

in isolation from larger patterns of social life, and the way that she represents this crisis

against the backdrop of communist revolution.50 In this narrative, the "success" of that


49 Gish Jen, Typical American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991): 296.

SOne might see, for a more interesting version of this narrative, Rick Moody's novel
(and, subsequently, film) The Ice Storm (New York: Warner Books, 1994); Moody's








50
revolution becomes the occasion to narrate the formation of the immigrant nuclear

family-absent the context of postwar American international expansion. As I've been

arguing, these levels of experience could be said to depend reciprocally on one another.

Indeed, I am rather more convinced that in this newer arrangement, neo- or global Fordism,

there has been a heteroclite and uneven (i.e., dialectical) but still consistent reorganization

and revaluation of the cultural and social tendencies that characterized postwar Atlantic

Fordism. So even if it would have been hard to predict the turn of events in the 80's and early

90's given the business culture of the 70's, or even if the heady zeal that characterizes the

announcement of the global age and its cognates-including "family values" retrenchment

in the U.S.-couldn't have been anticipated from the age of disco, still, I think, their dim

enchantments ought to be met with a degree more skepticism. As should the unreflexively

utopian impulses of Marxism.

As I've already suggested, the recombination of financial and on-the-ground

processes of production has meant a problem for the organization and cultural imagination

of urban/sub-urban space and industry. As Aglietta argues, however, this problem is itself

part of a broader cohort of symptoms that develop with the concentration of capital in the

financial realm. In his view, the pertinent distinction is not between public and private

finance so-called, but in the "monetary expression of the commodity product and the rights



narrative plays interestingly on the tendency of 90's disaster films to rely on meteorological
catastrophe (Volcano, Deep Impact, Twister) as a way to address history and lived space, and
to rewrite the disaster genre of the 70's. Moody's narrative actually addresses the "crisis" of
the seventies in its ostensible narrative, but entrains with it questions about politics, and
especially Watergate.








51
of purchase that are acquired over this commodity product by a fraction of the total income

that results from non-marketed activities" (TCR 247). What matters for public expenditure,

in other words, like financial or real estate speculation, is that, even if they produce

opportunities for consumption, they reduce the fraction of surplus value available in the U.S.

to productive (as opposed to financial) capital. By the seventies, Aglietta argues, the

stagnation of real incomes and the regional variation in public expenditure in the U.S. led

productive capital to leave areas with high social costs, and a reverse migration on the part

of workers. While one interim solution to the problem was debt (or, less happily, fiscal

crisis), as I've already mentioned, it also led, as Aglietta argues, to an increasing social

polarization expressed in urban and suburban geography (TCR 249).

As lived from the United States, then, I would argue that "globalization" looks a lot

like the evisceration of a once liberal-productivist political economy in favor of finance,

service and retail sectors; simultaneously, it has meant the restructuring of public space and

civic and cultural life under three inauspicious stars: monetarism, military liberalism, and

media conglomeration. Together, these factors tendentially comprise the historical

preconditions for any consideration of American cultural politics or political culture at the

millennium. Indeed, I'll argue, they help explain the particular kinds of collective

amnesia-or rather, persistent misrecognition-suffered by media pundits, policy wonks, and

cultural critics alike when it comes to imagining political and cultural agency tout court. At

the same time, and whatever the sheer therapeutic value of anamnesia, I don't want to

underestimate the power of forgetting the sordid details of American cultural and social life








52

in the present: however, it's also perhaps worth noting that some kinds of forgetting are more

intellectually and politically pernicious than others.
















CHAPTER 3
AFTERLIFE: CULTURAL STUDIES

In two recent studies of the history of the British novel, Nancy Armstrong and

Leonard Tennenhouse and Michelle Bumrnham return to the scene of Richardson's Pamela

so as to reconstitute the scene at which we might imagine the emergence of literate classes

and the novel. Both studies displace this text as an untroubled site of generic origin, and

suggest that Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, published in America some fifty years

before Pamela, ought to frame any discussion of the English novel. Moreover, by

highlighting the importance of the colonial context that underwrites the circulation of these

texts, both studies politicize the production and reception of sentimental captivity narratives

as narratives of national identification. Armstrong and Tennenhouse, in fact, suggest that "the

novel [was not] first and foremost a European genre, but rather one that simultaneously

recorded and recorded the colonial experience."1 For Burnham, the "moving quality" ofthese

sentimental narratives refers not simply their emotional appeal, that is, their ability to "move"

their readers hearts, but also their ability to "move" across the Atlantic as commodities, as




'Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, The Imaginary Puritan: Literature,
Intellectual Labor and the Origins ofPersonal Life (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1992): 197. Hereafter IP.








54
narratives instrumental in forming a class of readers irreducibly involved in the colonial

experience.2

Both these studies rely, in one way or another, on Benedict Anderson's notion of an

"imagined community" as a figure for the colonial, imaginary link between readers on

opposite sides of the Atlantic. Armstrong and Tennenhouse suggest that Anderson's

historical reconstruction of the emergence of "print capitalism" encapsulates an historical

narrative of the emergence of social classes willing and eager to identify themselves as

literate; and so it also allows us, they argue, to reinsert "intellectuals" into narratives of

economic and social domination such as we have inherited from Marx (IP 140-44).

Burnham, for her part, finds the specifically psychoanalytic dimensions of this imaginary to

be most important: by recalling these, she suggests, we can recapture the subversive aspect

of the captivity narrative as sentimental fiction--namely, the identificatory ambivalence

structured into the narrative place of the reader (55; 64).

While neither of these studies remains unreserved in using this approach to novelistic

prose-a point to which I will have occasion to return--they nonetheless take the socio-

political dimensions of reading to be critical to an understanding of the genre and, in the case

of Armstrong and Tennenhouse, the origins of intellectual life in general. In fact, it's fair to

say that, in pursuing their questions in this way, both these studies quite reconstitute the old

scene of storytelling itself--at least insofar as they invoke the audience as the story's



2 Michelle Bumrnham, "Between England and America: Captivity, Sympathy and the
Sentimental Novel," Cultural Institutions of the Novel, ed. Diedre Lynch and William B.
Warner (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996): 49.








55
condition. And both do so in ways telling of more local and recent developments in the genre

of the novel, or rather in the genre of the "history of the novel" as a question for literary

academics. For both take this act of reading, to different degrees, as definitive for formation

of certain social classes who were instrumental in the formation of the early British public

sphere. While for Armstrong and Tennenhouse, the history of these classes remains

inseparable from the constitution of gendered locations of literate subjectivity and political

agency (IP 200-201), Burnham recasts the formation of these classes in terms of the

displaced, fractured character ofthe narratives as they affect their readers (63). For both, this

genre's circulation suggests a way to reimagine notions of class that we derive from

Marx-namely, as referring to the relation to the means of economic production-so as to

take into account a political economy of cultural practices that support the reproduction of

economic capital.

Let us for the moment pose these narratives of the emergence of this genre and its

public as a renarration of the British "example" that constitutes for Jorgen Habermas the first

historical instance of a literate public sphere that "functioned in the political realm." While

the novel would certainly appear to mediate on some level between civil society (the

formation of "classes") and the state (colonialism), it can hardly be said to exemplify the

ideal of universally available, "enlightened" reason.3 As a product of print capitalism and

British colonialism, the novel would already be involved in highly irrational and


3 Jiirgen Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into
a Category ofBourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1989): 57ff. Hereafter ST.








56
asymmetrical relations of production, distribution, and exchange. Moreover, the generic

limitations of narrative prose fiction make it an unlikely candidate for embodying

normatively defined, transparent political knowledge. Indeed, we might say that the novel

gives us a better idea of the "actually existing public sphere" insofar as it helps us understand

the social, psychic, and political compromises that shape knowledge production in late 17th

and early 18th -century transatlantic culture, than it exemplifies an ahistorical ideal of

"reason." Given that, as Habermas himself recognizes, the literate public sphere is never not

the product of the commodification of information and of the market for knowledge "goods,"

and given that publicity is never not involved in formal limitations or choices, it seems

unlikely that the political public sphere might find itself embodied in the idiolect of 18th-

century narrative fiction--or any other, for that matter. While the "autonomy" that

Habermas ascribes to public intellectuals cannot by any means be taken for granted, a

relativism that would dismiss the very possibility of an "actually existing public sphere" and

"public intellectuals" out of hand must repress the fact that, in the absence of any "actually

existing" representatives of public interest, we are at no loss for actually existing hegemonic

interests, that is, for particular interests capable of representing themselves in public as

"universal."4 In fact, we might more precisely map the problem of the public intellectuals and

public spheres using the notion of hegemony which Gramsci enunciates in his famous


4 See, on this question of hegemony and intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci, Selections
from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffirey Novell Smith (New
York: International Publishers, 1971): 3-43; hereafter PN; I am indebted, on this question,
to the consideration of hegemony given by Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century:
Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994): 28-29.








57
remarks on intellectuals. Against the received idea that Gramsci proposes the "organic"

intellectual as an ideal of public "authenticity," we should notice that the "organic quality"

(my emphasis) of intellectual functionaries is strictly relational in Gramsci's view.

Intellectuals, Gramsci argues, are the functionaries of social formations whose infrastructures

always mediate both their relation to people and the "world of production." "It should be

possible," Gramsci argues, "both to measure the 'organic quality' of the various intellectual

strata and their degree of connection with a fundamental social group, and to establish a

gradation of their functions and of the superstructural 'levels'" (PN 12). Gramsci names two:

civil society and the state. Both of these levels are necessary for the exercise of social

hegemony, since, according to Gramsci social leadership cannot be exercised fully either by

"spontaneous" consent in civil society or the use of force by the state. In fact, Gramsci points

out that "the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the

consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion-newspapers and

associations-which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied" (PN80, n49).

While this definition would seem to broaden the definition of intellectuals almost to the point

of making the distinction unusable, it actually has the effect of rendering both the "organic"

and the "autonomous" as wholly relational terms with which to map out the problem of

knowledge production in modem social formations.5 By reimagining the question of the



5 See, on this point, John Guillory's mapping of these poles in "Literary Critics as
Intellectuals: Class Analysis and the Crisis of the Humanities," Rethinking Class: Literary
Studies and Social Formations, ed. Wai Chee Dimock and Michael Gilmore (New York:
Columbia, 1994): 107-149; see especially pp. 130-33.








58
"public" intellectual by way of the question of hegemony, we recast the debate in terms of

conditions in which cultural, political, and social legitimation of particular interests might

occur--as if they were universal. And we recuperate, in more precise fashion, the political

intent of Habermas' distinction between autonomous intellectuals and their others: namely,

the effects of the "structural domination of the market" on knowledge production.

If political hegemony always bears out the contradictions of the compromises in

which it is forged, then we can be sure that any culture's intellectual corps will evidence

them. As I have suggested in chapter one, the current compromise between the American

state, multinational capital, and American political culture renders public intellectuals as a

kind of contradiction in terms. While on a certain level the cultural disbelief in public,

"universal" intellectuals in favor of "specific" ones might appear more "rigorous" or

"accurate"-pace Foucault-the disbelief itself overlooks that only certain intellectual

functionaries are ever called intellectuals, and that the delegitimation of the very idea of

public intellectuals has furthered only specific political and cultural agendas. While these

agendas might certainly have included some advocated by intellectuals employed by the state

in the public sector, it is unclear that, now that this sector has come under the screws of re-

rationalization, they might be able, quite literally, to "afford" this compromise so easily as

the state and capital.

In this chapter, I would like to reconsider the position of literary-critical intellectuals

within this larger framework, through a certain kind of historical sociology that takes its cue

from the work of Pierre Bourdieu. In particular, I want to return to the suggestion offered by

renarrating the origins of the bourgeois public sphere by way of the origins of the English








59
novel: namely, that the function of literary critical intellectuals involves a very particular

mediation between civil society, the state, and capital; and, moreover, that this mediation can

be understood by way of a political economy of genre. I begin here with the novel not

because its early forms work to appropriate the authenticity of "news," nor simply because

of the temporal coincidence in our narratives of its origin and that of the bourgeois public

sphere; rather I begin here because the question of the novel's "origin" serves to reorient both

the imaginary of properly "literary" form and the disciplinary function of literary-critical

intellectuals in the United States. That is, the novel serves as the screen for both political and

disciplinary anxieties that crystallize in the postwar university, and particularly in the

publication, in 1957, ofl Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, a text which still circulates with

an aura of"originary" status, though for reasons that are largely unstated, or misunderstood.

I would like to argue that this text serves not only as a mediation in decades old debate

between the New Critics and the New York intellectuals about the function of narrative

fiction, it also serves as the disciplinary and historical touchstone for studies in popular or

mass culture. In these contexts, as well as the context of more recent history of the history

and function of the literary genre, Watt's text points to the political and representational

impasses on which literary-critical intellectuals have found themselves stranded. As I will

demonstrate here, it does so in ways that are helpful for imagining the relations between

genre, literary-intellectuals and the (now defunct?) bourgeois public sphere.

More than that, however, Watt's text will help me address the particular problems of

literary and cultural studies in a present enchanted by the notion of "globalization." As I've

been arguing, "globalization" has become the implicit and explicit watchword of media and








60
academic discussion in the last ten years. At the same time, "Marxist" responses to cultural,

political and economic transformations have been forcibly removed from these lexicons.

Watt's argument, I'll suggest, was itself a hybrid response to the so-called exhaustion of

Marxism-another end of ideology-at another historical moment. To a certain degree, I'll

argue, Watt's argument offers us one way to get some purchase on the mystifying and

enabling effects of the "globalized" world view, since it arose from ideological and practical

pressures similar to those that make up the enchanted world. It will not do simply to restate

Watt's questions, nor to restage his response. As I'll suggest, it's also important to rephrase

the questions themselves in light of the ideological and on-the-ground effects of global

Fordism.

In the following pages, then, it is not a question of "rescuing" Watt's text from the

dustbin of cultural history or returning to a more idyllic mode of intellectual production.

Rather, it is precisely because this text is both de passe and, in a certain way, au current that

it facilitates an historical mapping of both the intellectual and the institutional, pragmatic

positions from which we approach the problem of hegemony of literary-intellectuals. I will

continue to stress that this text serves as a metonym for a certain institutional moment, rather

than for the enduring work of a critical genius or a landmark of its own genre; while I am

interested in the way that the sociology of knowledge mediates between the claims of literary

form and a Marxist tradition of letters suppressed in the anti-communist frenzy of the 1950's,

what is at stake in "retrieving" this text is the way that it documents problems of institutional

legitimation for literary-critical intellectuals. By situating its particular impasses within

social and cultural relations of production, we can reconstruct a set of historical and








61
theoretical questions that will allow us to recast the problem of literary intellectuals after the

"end-of-ideology," and in the afterlife of "literature."


The Novel. Literary Modernism, and the Popular Aesthetic

It has become a commonplace of studies in the history of the novel to make reference

to Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel either as the origin of academic debates about this genre

or as the bad object against which to define one's position-or both.6 Watt, of course, was not

the first to write a history of the English novel, although one would be hard pressed to find

references to any of his predecessors in debates after 1970. In this sense, Watt's text remarks

an important moment in the definition of our contemporary literary discipline. As Homer

Brown has observed in a recent essay, Watt's text might well have been called The Rise of

Criticism of the Novel, as it appears when "what is taking place institutionally [i.e. in the

university] is the American appropriation of English literature as a component of its own

national identity."7 Brown's larger argument for the moment notwithstanding, Watt's text,



6 Armstrong and Tennenhouse make the point about Watt's durability in The
Imaginary Puritan, 201; others who take Watt to be a signal point of departure include
Firdous Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel (New York: Routledge, 1993): 15; Lennard
J. Davis Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1983): 5; J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: the Cultural Contexts of
Eighteenth Century English Fiction (New York: Norton, 1990): 7,31; John Richetti, Popular
Fiction Before Richardson: Narrative Patterns: 1700-1739 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969):
1-22; Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel 1640-1700 (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1987): 1-4.

7 Homer Brown, "Why the Story of the Origin of the (English) Novel Is an American
Romance (If Not the Great American Novel)," Cultural Institutions of the Novel, ed. Lynch
and Warner: 28.








62
perhaps more than any other, has been the reference point for the ways academics imagine

their own positions with respect to the genre and its history. What needs to be remarked,

however, is precisely the way that it came to define the genre as worthy of inspection at all,

and how we might evaluate its claims in the context of its historical placement in

institutional memory. For the arguments that Watt makes for placing the novel's origin in

the eighteenth century, for linking it to the emergence of what he calls a new middle class,

and for valorizing the work of Fielding and Richardson were not, in and of themselves,

altogether new, at least insofar as discussion of the English novel took place.8 Its innovations,

rather, appear to be in way it frames its questions. And these, especially as they are embodied

in the explanation of "formal realism" and its approach to its audience, can only be

understood by recalling the relations of intellectual production from which this text emerged

and in which it continues to circulate. We need to know, in addition to the fact that the

argument does still have a certain privilege, why and how it continues to do so.

Brown's argument offers us a rather acute sense of the institutional conditions in

which recent evaluations of Watt's work have occurred and how they reflect on our questions

about genre. As I have suggested above, Brown circumscribes the emergence of Watt's

narrative by reference to the formation of national identities. In this context, Brown further

suggests that we can consider American appropriation of British literature in the 1950's a



On these points, one might see Richard Burton, Masters of the English Novel: A
Study in Principles and Personalities (Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1909): 1-73;
Richard Church, The Growth of the English Novel (New York: University Paperbacks,
1951): 1; Walter Allen, The English Novel: A Short Critical History (London: Pheonix
House Ltd., 1954): 19-97.









63
kind of "cultural imperialism" (30), in which Watt only feeds an exceptionalist strain of the

American imagination. Brown's characterization of the effect of Watt's definition of the

genre is worth citing at some length:

Insistence that the novel fully realized its generic identity--that it was
"institutionalized"--by 1750 is also based on a misconception of institution,
not only implying an untenable confusion ofintentionality with fully received
acknowledgement but also tacitly evoking the ideological seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century political presumption of strict genealogical determination.
What an institution was in its beginnings it must always be. What an
institution can become must be fully present in its origins (at least according
to the way those "origins" are politically conceived retrospectively). Aside
from the tautology of this claim in principle, in this particular case it sets a
definite ideological limit on what kind of novel can claim entitlement, and for
that matter on the definition of the very culture that produces and/or is
produced by this increasingly effective shaper of cultural and social desire.
(14-15)

It is quite beside our purpose here to pursue this argument as it pertains to the content of

Watt's argument. What concern us, rather, are the ways that Brown circumscribes the

statements or meaningful silences in Watt's argument within institutions in which it

circulates. As with the claim of"cultural imperialism," the language of literary "entitlement"

would describe the novel in the context of practices whose intentional or incidental results

were the social domination of classes. According to this argument, there is a homology

between the relations of fictional prose narratives that can claim the honorific title of"novel"

in the context of a certain pedagogy and those that, for whatever reasons, cannot; and the

social agents who compose or whose "culture" is represented by those narratives. In this

context, according to Brown, what is missing in Watt's historical reconstruction is some

sense in which judgments about the novel--be they historical, aesthetic, moral, etc.--actively

constitute the literary historical character of the objects that they inspect. Indeed, he argues


I








64

that "[t]he fictions of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding, it could be argued, only become 'the

novel' symbolically by means of retrospective histories that made them seem inaugural and

exemplary at once" (14). Indeed, these fictions, according to this argument, are only

"uncertain" in their status as novels, since Defoe, Richardson and Fielding didn't give them

this name (14).9 But the question remains, however, as to what efficacy Watt's definition of

the novel might have had, coming from the location it did at the moment it did, in academic

culture or literary culture at large in the United States. For it is by no means certain that if

Defoe, Fielding and Richardson had called their fictions novels, that they would have

counted as novels in that context or any other--otherwise Congreve would be among our first

novelists. Likewise, there is nothing to say, even given the institutional privilege of Watt's

definition, that that institution might have defined the novel in general for American

audiences of the novel. Indeed, one might guess that the formation of a field of taste beyond

scholastic definitions is precisely what is at issue in the debate about the "rise of the novel,"

and that we need to account for the disciplinary and cultural arrangements in which Watt's

assertion might have made any difference, much less the rather definitive one Brown

attributes to it.

One of the contexts in which we will have to place this rise of criticism of the novel

is the institutional influence of cultural modernism embodied in both American New

Criticism and the work of the New York Intellectuals. Indeed, despite their apparent


9 Watt argues that Richardson and Defoe did not call their fictions "novels"; see Ian
Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957): 9-10; hereafter
RN.








65

differences precisely over the importance of the novel, these two groups of literary critics

shared a set of cultural assumptions that clearly account for the form and perdurance of

Watt's definition of the novel. American New Criticism, for its part, not only exercised

considerable authority in the definition and defense of literary disciplines from the late

1930's until the 1950's, it also, in this way, managed to redefine both the object and the

purpose of the work of literary-critical intellectuals. While the polemical target of much of

what we call New Criticism was a vaguely defined "science," the literary dimensions of the

New Critics' debates took their cue from the narrative within which their canonical

revaluations were repeatedly made: namely, T. S. Eliot's narrative of the "dissociation of

sensibility." According to this narrative, the poetic sensibility, comprised of more or less

unified elements of"thought" and "feeling" before the middle of the seventeenth century, had

been dissociated--and, not coincidentally, at the very moment of the advent of certain forms

of modem science. What we have witnessed in the interim, between the moment of the

dissociation and the early 20th century, is the decline of literary values in general and the

dissolution of cultural order. That lost order can be understood in two ways. On the one

hand, culture itself implied a sense of order, as Eliot argued in Notes Toward a Definition

of Culture, that derived from religious values and practice.10 As has been well noted, and as

the commentaries on social affairs towards the end of his career suggest, Eliot's vision of

cultural restoration mixes a religious longing for an agrarian past and a contemporary



10 T. S. Eliot, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture (New York: Harcourt Brace,
1949): 19-32.








66
Christian cosmopolitanism. On the other hand, the cultural order known as "tradition"

appeared in the form that Eliot so famously described in "Tradition and the Individual

Talent."" For Eliot, the attainment of tradition implied an historical sense of both the

"timeless" and the "temporal" orders of artifacts within the tradition. In addition to the right

temperament and feeling, the poet had to have right knowledge of the constitution of tradition

and a kind of practical humility before it in order to be included in it Only in the context of

this first ascecis--Eliot describes it as a "great labour" (T 49)-before the tradition as a whole,

could a second moment of poetic "self-sacrifice" (T 53) occur: the moment Eliot described

as the extinction of personality, in which a poet becomes the media for the combination of

feelings. Eliot's analogy here is between the poet's mind and the shred of platinum in a

chemical reaction between two gasses: "The combination takes place only if the platinum is

present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum

itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, unchanged.... the more perfect

the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind

which creates" (T 54). This depersonalizationn" of aesthetic production bears the weight of

contradictions in the historical and disciplinary imaginary of subsequent New Criticism. For

Eliot doesn't polemicize against the academic disciplines involved in empiricist "science"

as later New Critics do. In fact, as Eliot puts it, "It is in depersonalization," that is, in this

proper performance of the poetic sensibility, "that art may be said to approach the condition

of science" (T53; my emphasis). But which condition are we speaking about? If, to return


T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent," The Sacred Wood: Essays on
Poetry and Criticism (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1928): 47-59. Hereafter T.








67

to narrative of "dissociation," we are speaking ofa moment when the faculties ofthoughtand

feeling were unified, the mid-seventeenth century, we are also speaking of a moment when

literary techne was education or intellectual activity itself, rather than one disciplinary

subspecialty among others. As Eliot's remarks in the "The Perfect Critic" suggest, the

proliferation of fields after the dissociation precipitates the symptom of dissociated

sensibility par excellence--the substitution of emotion for thought:

The vast accumulations of knowledge.., deposited by the nineteenth century
have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much
to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same
words are used with different meanings... it becomes increasingly difficult
for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And
when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to
substitute emotions for thoughts.'2

In "Tradition and the Individual Talent," Eliot's polemical target is not "science" but

everything that would prevent poetic enunciation and sensibility from attaining the

fantasmatically constructed social and cultural condition of science. For, like "literary"

knowledge before the dissociation of sensibility, science exerts cultural and social hegemony

through the efficacious power of its enunciations, which, according to this fantasy, are

devoid of referential uncertainty, personal evaluation or heterodoxy in general. Like the

poetic performances endorsed by Eliot, in other words, scientific enunciations claim their

authority through their adherence to a particularform, a form which conditions not only the

poetic or scientific ascecis by which tradition might be transmitted, but also the social

orthodoxy necessary to exert and reproduce its authority.



12 T. S. Eliot, "The Perfect Critic," The Sacred Wood, 9. Hereafter PC.








68

We can recognize in Eliot's notion of "tradition," then, a fantasy of order which

moves between two quite different institutional locations of authority and knowledge. As

John Guillory has demonstrated, this tradition derives its form from Matthew Arnold's

tendency to regard cultural tradition and literary sensibility as replacements for religious

tradition and orthodox belief. This Amrnoldian vision appears in Eliot's work as the necessity

to enter cultural evaluations into the field of opinion cast in terms of Christian doctrine, that

is, of"orthodoxy" and "heresy." Guillory's argument, in this respect, casts some light on the

ease with which Eliot might also invoke the authority of "science" in the context of this

tradition; for if literature and literary sensibility are to have Christian beliefs at their

foundation, as Eliot believed, without themselves being consciously Christian, then literature

would at once stand in the place of orthodoxy, that is, stand in for beliefs that are no longer

dominant, as a testament to the absence of doxa, and, as Guillory puts it, be "free-floating,

curiously deracinated in its relation to beliefs." In this sense, he argues, "literature itself can

be installed as a sensibility that performs the social function of doxa without ever

requiring the 'imperfect' supplement of orthodoxy, without specifying directly what its

beliefs are."'13 Indeed, it was possible for Eliot to find in science an imagined position of

social and cultural hegemony precisely because it functioned, in this context, as an analogue

for religious doxa, at least insofar as he imagined it to function according to unquestioned

beliefs and methods, and, as the later New Critics and humanities scholars in general also

imagined, as having unquestioned value and no specified content except for being


13 John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation
(Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993): 138. Hereafter CC.








69
"scientific." Like literature as Eliot imagines it, science functions simultaneously as the

evidence of the absence of doxa-so it needs no orthodoxy-and as the social embodiment

of a wholly formal doxa, that has no contents.

The distinction between the field of science and that of literature or literary criticism--

or any other field--according to Eliot's vision, comes down to form or, what is the same thing

for Eliot, medium. As Eliot suggests in the "Tradition" essay, the affirmation of poetic form

is accomplished for the poet only in the "self-sacrifice" necessary for ascension into tradition,

and it recapitulates the association of sensibility in making the poet the medium of tradition

itself: "The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the

metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul: for my meaning is, that the poet has,

not a 'personality' to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a

personality" (T 56). And very much the same could be said of the literary critic, whose

relation to his aesthetic "impressions" mimics that of the poet to the objects that constitute

the tradition. "The new impressions" that the critic receives from confrontation with the

work of art "modify the impressions received from the objects already known. An impression

... needs to take its place in a system of impressions" (PC 14). And this formation of the

critic also mimics the association of sensibility, only in terms of the aesthetic appreciation

and knowledge:

I believe that it is always opportune to call attention to the torpid superstition
that appreciation is one thing, and "intellectual" criticism something else.
Appreciation in popular psychology is one faculty, and criticism another, an
arid cleverness building theoretical scaffolds upon one's own perceptions or
those of others. On the contrary, the true generalization is not something
superposed upon an accumulation of perceptions; the perceptions do not, in








70

a really appreciative mind, accumulate as a mass, but form themselves as a
structure; it is a development of sensibility. (PC 15)

The necessity to insist on the unity of the faculties (appreciation, criticism) emerges, on one

institutional level, in the historical conflict over the form and shape of literary discipline,

namely, between generalists and the scholars or philologists. As Gerald Graff argues, in the

late 19th century, the generalists were the inheritors not only of a spirit of American

transcendentalism, but also of the Amoldian vision of tradition. They adopted, much like

their later New Critical counterparts, both the assumption that they ought to exert cultural--

and, hence, national--leadership, and a "reactionary outlook that scorned the vulgarity of the

masses."'14 Eliot's comments on the opposition of appreciation to "intellectual" criticism

reflects the development, between 1915 and 1930, of "criticism" as a disciplinary option

between generalist cultural criticism and philological scholarship (P 121-26). American New

Criticism, as one splinter faction of critics, enunciated both an "intellectual"

countermethodology to the philological study and, quite simultaneously, a narrative of

literary history that re-evaluated the corpus of studied works. But we can ratify Graft's

explanation here without fully exhausting the rationalization that Eliot gives for both the

existence and the function of the perfect critic. If the poet's function is to express a medium--

let us assume for the moment, the medium of poetic form--then what is the critic's function?

That is, what is the critic's medium? Eliot explains in the final paragraph of "The Perfect

Critic":



14 Gerald Graft, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1987): 83. Hereafter P.








71

The writer of the present essay once committed himself to the statement that
"The poetic critic is criticizing poetry in order to create poetry." He is now
inclined to believe that the "historical" and the "philosophical" critics had
better be called historians and philosophers quite simply. As for the rest,
there are merely various degrees of intelligence. It is fatuous to say that
criticism is for the sake of "creation" or creation for the sake of criticism...
The two directions of sensibility are complementary; and as sensibility is
rare, unpopular, and desirable, it is to be expected that the critic and the
creative artist should frequently be the same person. (PC 16)

Eliot addresses the problem among competing disciplinary variants of criticism by way of

modulating the problem of its unity. The dissociation of sensibility between the critical and

the creative discharges questions about the historical conditions in which the "rare"

combination of the poet and the critic has been likely to happen. But it also belies the sense

in which, despite--or perhaps because of--the dissocation of sensibility, that unified

sensibility becomes the medium to which poet and critic both consciously aspire. The social

conditions in which this associated sensibility occurred are more than coincidentally related

to those that immediately preceded what Watt called "the rise of the novel"--that is, the

formation of a "new middle class," the flourishing of "print capital," the rise ofjournalism,

and the development of English vernacular education. According to Eliot, poet and critic

share the task of "expressing" a sensibility, one that inculcates and condenses a social and

historical fantasy of the position of the literary intellectual as the intellectual in general, and,

moreover, as the most prestigious kind of intellectual functionary.

The specific dimensions and importance of this fantasy come into focus if we recall

precisely how the university functions as a social space in this imaginary. It is perhaps

enough to notice that it doesn't appear at all as mediating "tradition" in any of Eliot's

arguments. Indeed, this is all the more surprising given the way it functions for two of Eliot's








72

cultural descendants--F. R. Leavis and R. P. Blackmur. For Leavis, the moment of the

dissociation of sensibility was not simply the division of the faculties within the intellectual

himself, but of the intellectual minority's fall from "organic" relation to the majority

"popular" culture. At the moment of this disintegration, the seventeenth century, intellectual

minority culture became rootless, and culture at large divided into a host of forms that we

recognize now as "high" culture and "low" or popular culture. For Leavis, however,

intellectuals have a special burden of responsibility in this situation, and their coming to

roost in universities is but the culmination of this division; indeed, the "critical revolution"

in English studies at Cambridge that Leavis was associated with became, in his view,

threatened with a narrow academicism to which the formation of Scrutiny was the response. 15

For the New Critics, the university was a space of adversarial culture--that is, the very place

where literary-critical intellectuals should carry out the dis-organization of minority from

popular or mass culture. Indeed, what's telling is the way that R. P. Blackmur-who,

ironically, never even finished his course of study in Boston's public schools-couches the

justification of the university as a site for what he calls the professional writer in "A Feather

Bed for Critics." He does this in terms that, while referring to different dates than Eliot's

historical narrative, nonetheless refer to its function as sustaining a simultaneously

minoritarian intellectual and social position. Blackmur regards the support of the profession

of letters as a natural development of the university devoted to liberal education; he says that


15 F. R. Leavis, Mass Civilization and Minority Culture (Cambridge: Minority Press,
1930). Francis Mulhem, The Moment of Scrutiny (London: New Left Books, 1979): 28-34;
77. Hereafter S.








73

"[t]he university is at least the only obvious overt institution both sturdy and elastic enough,

capable and remotely willing to furnish such a connection" between the arts and society.16

"If the consequence [of bringing writers to the university to teach the profession of writing]

were only to renew generally the respect felt in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries

for men of letters, there might well again come to be a race of men of letters, and a race of

writers.., who were well educated as well as handy in their profession" (F 405). Blackmur's

narrative, like Leavis', suggests how the institutional space of the university might assist in

the fantasmatic recuperation of intellectual position that could reinforce, in the present

context, a cultural and social distinction like the one between those who in the eighteenth-

century received "vernacular" education by way of charity schools or dissenting mixed

curricula academies and those who received classical training and proceeded to Oxford or

Cambridge.17 In the contemporary context, and more than simply reproducing a vision of

"highbrow" and "lowbrow" or the intellectuals and the masses, in other words, the university

serves as the imaginary site of the production of the new version of the old cultural


16 R. P. Blackmur, "A Feather Bed for Critics," Language as Gesture: Essays in
Poetry (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1952): 406. Hereafter F.

17 See, on charity schools and classical curricula, Richard Thompson, Classics or
Charity? The Dilemma of the 18th c. Grammar School (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1971).
John Lawson and Harold Silver, A Social History of Education in England (London:
Methuen and Co., 1973): 177-89. Though Lawson and Silver dispute the relative health of
grammar schools--an argument that Thompson anticipates--they nonetheless agree that the
curricula were designed according to a model that understood literacy among the poor to be
widespread enough to be a threat to the economic well-being of the bourgeoisie. See, on the
various forms of non-traditional grammar schools, Nicholas Hans, New Trends in Education
in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951); and for an overview
of these various types of institutions, James Bowen, A History of Western Education, 3 vols.
(London: Methuen and Co., 1971): 1: 131-45.








74

bourgeoisie--among whom literary academics counted themselves--and the cultural apparatus

necessary to support it. While Blackmur and Eliot refer to different moments in the

formation of the "bourgeois public sphere" and hence intellectuals as "classes," they are in

agreement that the model of the literary intellectual be fashioned after a form that occurs

"before" what we have come to call the "structural transformation of the public sphere" in

the nineteenth century (ST 141-80). That is, they are both interested in a moment when even

if incipient "middle class" intellectuals such as journalists exist, they might be regarded as

organic intellectuals of the bourgeoisie, rather than of a more purportedly "democratic," if

intellectually and economically compromised, class.

If we understand the critical sensibility advocated by Eliot and his followers as

reconstituting a simulacral version of the seventeenth- or prestigious eighteenth-century

republic of letters, retooled for the space of the early 20t-century American university, the

position of the novel in its imaginary becomes a little clearer. This is not to say that it's in

any way easy to account for the way that Eliot turns the novel and the novelists into the

apparitions of Evil in After Strange Gods." It does help us to make sense of the repeated

conflation, in the discourse of the New Critics, of poetry and literature, and the particular

aesthetic that they brought to bear on the genre when they spoke of it at all.'9 We can notice,


18 T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods: A Primer ofModern Heresy (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Co., 1933): 55-68.


19 One might also see, on the matter of the equivalence of poetry and literature,
Wellek and Warren's Theory of Literature (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949).
Although they are careful, finally, to distinguish genres that appear as "literary"--novel,
drama, poetry--as opposed to scientific, the generic name that Wellek and Warren use for










in this regard, that the relative silence of American New Critics concerning the novel or

narrative prose fiction has gone very little analyzed, precisely because, by treating the "poet"

or "poetic language" as that which is opposed to "science" or "scientific" language, they

displaced an intra-disciplinary polemic on behalf of minority literary culture and against

"mass culture" (of which the novel was part) for an interdisciplinary one--between

"literature" and science.20 Not until Brooks and Warren's Understanding Fiction (1943) do


literary producer is "poet," and in raising epistemological and ontological questions about
literature, they call "the literary work of art" "a 'poem,'"(141); see also the definition offered
by Rend Wellek in "The Mode of Existence of a Literary Work of Art," Southern Review 7.4
(1942): 735-54. Wellek nominally equates the "literary work of art in general" with poetry
throughout this article, but concludes that one might distinguish the literary work of art by
the fact that it is a "system of [linguistic] norms, realized only partially in the actual
experience of its many readers" (745). This definition, as Wellek himself acknowledges,
might lead to a general theory of genres (745), though he doesn't pursue this in such a way
as to question the implict value of poetry--as opposed to narrative prose--as a substitute name
for literature.

20 The most famous example of this remains Cleanth Brooks' The Well Wrought Urn:
Studies in the Structure ofPoetry (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947). Hereafter, WWU.
Brooks opens with this famous distinction between poetic and scientific enunciation:
"[T]here is a sense in which paradox is the language appropriate and inevitable to poetry. It
is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently
the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox" (3). While
Brooks is professedly interested in poetry--as might be opposed to prose fiction--he
nonetheless repeatedly displaces this generic difference in favor of the difference between
disciplinary forms of enunciation. For example, in "Criticism, History and Critical
Relativism," Brooks suggests that his methodological insistence on form makes
interdisciplinary forays suspect, since interdisciplinarity itself threatens poetic language with
obsolesence: "But I insist that to treat the poems discussed primarily as poems is a proper
emphasis, and very much worth doing. For we have gone to school to the anthropologists and
the cultural historians assiduously, and we have learned their lesson almost too well. We
have learned it so well that the danger now, it seems to me, is not that we will forget the
differences between poems of different historical periods, but that we may forget those
qualities which they have in common" (197). My argument, in this context, is not that
Brooks or other New Critics never make the generic distinction between poetry and fiction--
indeed, quite the contrary. But considering the opposition between poetry and history or








76

we find expressed the function of fictional narrative in American New Criticism's

disciplinary and social imaginary. There, the editors write: "Most students read some kind

of fiction of their own free will and for pleasure. Most students do not, except under

academic pressure, read essays or poetry. This contrast may lull a teacher into a false sense

of security when he gives a course in fiction. He does not have to 'make' the student read

fiction... as he has to 'make' the student read poetry, any kind of poetry."21 The coercion

necessary to have students read poetry not only makes "difficulty" into a kind of cultural

capital, it also distinguishes between an object belonging to an ensemble of merely

"everyday" objects and an object whose specific and exclusive conditions of circulation

define its privileged literary status. Although Brooks and Warren warn teachers of fiction

against becoming too secure in the assumption that their primary task comes down to

pointing out the coincidence of the reader's taste and the object's literary quality, they never

question the characterization of the imagined students' practical relations to narrative fiction.

In fact, the entire pedagogy of Understanding Fiction aims to turn the seamless fit between

fiction and their students' pleasure into something closer to the defamiliarized relation

between poetry and the reader wrought by the method of "close analytical reading." The


anthropology that Brooks draws here, on the one hand, and that between poetry and science
(above) on the other, it seems hard not to recognize that "poetry" stands in the semantic place
of a disciplinary name in these descriptions: namely, in the place of the name "literature" or
"English." See, on the assimilation of prose fiction to poetry, and its opposition to science,
John Crowe Ransom, "The Understanding of Fiction," Kenyon Review 12.2(1950): 196-99.
Hereafter, UF.

21Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Understanding Fiction (New York: F.S.
Crofts and Co., 1946): vii.










assumption, in other words, is that narrative fiction must be actively made into a literary

object, while, for whatever historical reasons, poetry occupies this place by virtue of its

intrinsic linguistic quality, which accounts for both its "difficulty" and the coercion needed

to get students to read it.22 This imaginary belongs to a classically defined "popular

aesthetic," which, as Bourdieu reminds us, converts the differences between aesthetic objects

into differences in the dispositions of the consumers and the social spaces from which they

operate: "Everything takes place as if the 'popular aesthetic' were based on the affirmation

of the continuity between art and life, which implies a subordination of form to function, or,

one might say, on a refusal of the refusal which is the starting point of the high aesthetic, i.e.,

the clear-cut separation of ordinary dispositions from the specifically aesthetic disposition."23

The function of "close reading," in this context, is to supplement the "natural" cultural

disposition of Brooks and Warren's students with one in which the literary functions as the



22 We might compare, on this point, the introduction to Understanding Poetry, which,
once again, is not interested in distinguishing poetry as literary in distinction to doggerel or
lymeric, but as literary in opposition to other modes of discourse whose purported goal is
information--among others, science. See Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren,
Understanding Poetry (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1960): 1-6. In
"Criticism, History, and the Relevance of Criticism," Brooks does raise the questions about
the distinctions among poems themselves; nonetheless, this gesture is not made to justify
including poetry as something worthy of study in general, but in order to insist on the
methodological importance of evaluation for defining poetic form at all. See Brooks,
"Criticism..." The Well Wrought Urn, 197ff. We can also note that, in "The Reading of
Modem Poetry," Brooks and Warren suggest that, if an audience for modem poetry exists,
its average reader is the literary critic who objects to modernist incomprehensibility, rather
than a reader without literary credentials; see Brooks and Warren, "The Reading of Modem
Poetry," American Review 8 (1938): 435-449.

23 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans.
Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984): 32.








78

literary--that is, according to this definition, as a particular kind of linguistic form. By

reasserting the necessity of this methodology in the context of a pedagogy of fiction, Brooks

and Warren reinstate the principle of"disinterest" lost in the everyday circulation of narrative

fiction, and so make narrative fiction an appropriate object of consumption, even as they

redefine the rather exclusive terms and conditions in which that consumption should occur.

That is, they make evident a very specific labor of appropriation whose conditions are

determined by the specific institutional site in which it occurs--namely, the privileged site

of minority culture, the university.

For American New Critics, with the possible exception of R. P. Blackmur (after

1950), the novel and narrative fiction function in an ensemble of cultural objects regarded

as "everyday"-as "unwrought urns"-with respect to properly academic or aesthetic objects.

Indeed, on the rare occasion that any of the New Critics do speak of narrative before 1950,

the examples are quickly distinguished from those that partake of this "popular" aesthetic--

that is, those that remain indistinguishable from other kinds of degraded "literary" objects--

magazines, pulp fiction, film--or other "non-aesthetic" experiences in general.24 The labor

to "make" these objects into literary objects involves constructing the receptive dispositions

and social positions required for literary reception. As we have seen, for Eliot and Blackmur,

this involves a rather particular historical fantasy that is absent in Brooks and Warren,

although the latter clearly intend to reproduce a fantasmatic social space like the one Eliot



24 For example, Robert Penn Warren, "Katherine Anne Porter (Irony with a Center),"
Kenyon Review 4 (1939): 29-42. Hereafter, KP.








79

imagines--one at least comprised by the time to undertake "close reading." This absence

alters the form, though not the function, of the "popular" aesthetic that I've been describing

here, and suggests a point at which we can begin to understand the historical "triumph" of

American New Criticism in American universities in the 1950's, as well as the debate

between the New Critics and the New York Intellectuals over the novel. We can begin to

reimagine these events by looking at a description of the process of developing aesthetic

"understanding" offered by British critic I. A. Richards in Principles of Literary Criticism,

first published in 1924. In Richards' text, one might say that the affirmation of the

"continuity between art and life" that occurs in Wellek and Warren as a way of talking about

nonacademic culture appears as a distinction between those who embody a kind of cultured

"intelligence" and those who don't. According to Richards, whose psychology of value

makes aesthetic objects measures of the subjective constitution of the reader, the difference

between the "ordinary experiences" and aesthetic ones comes down to that between

experiences made up of a lesser and greater number of "impulses" which the subject must

reconcile. This distinction, of course, must be supplemented by the subjective process of

reconciliation that comprises the formation of "attitudes." Richards writes:

The result of the coordination of a great number of impulses of different
kinds is very often that no overt action takes place. There is a danger here of
supposing that no action whatever results or that there is something
incomplete or imperfect about such a state of affairs. But imaginal action and
incipient action which does not go so far as actual muscular movement are
more important than overt action in the well-developed human being. Indeed
the difference between the intelligent or refined, and the stupid or crass
person is a difference in the extent to which overt action can be replaced by
incipient and imaginal action. An intelligent man can "see how a thing
works" when a less intelligent man has to "find out by trying." Similarly with
such responses as are aroused by a work of art. The difference between








80

"understanding" it and failing to do so is, in most cases, a difference between
being able to make the required responses in an imaginal or incipient degree,
adjusting them to one another at that stage, and being unable to produce them
or adjust them except overtly and at their fullest development.25

Richards was one of the bearers of the "revolutionary" institutional reform at Cambridge in

1917 that subverted the ideal of the scholar-gentleman in favor of a persona that, like later

American New Critical counterparts, claimed a rigorous methodology and explicitly political

motives for literary analysis (S 22-28). And we can see the ways that this emphasis on

complex sets of stimuli and responses appears in the work of Cleanth Brooks. In Brooks'

well-known The Well Wrought Urn, for example, he argues that "[t]he essential structure of

a poem.. is a pattern of resolved stresses," and that "the characteristic unity of a poem..

lies in the unification of attitudes into a hierarchy subordinated to a total and governing

attitude.... The conclusion of the poem is the working out of the various tensions.., by

propositions, metaphors, symbols" (WWU 186,189).26 While Brooks and Warren's narrative

pedagogy devotes particular attention to the differences in the labor of consumption inside

and outside the school, Richards' description of attitude-development recasts the pedagogical

process as a class allegory, removing all reference to the process of schooling save for the

language of "understanding." Richards tells the difference between the well-developed and

the stupid as the difference between the engineer and the mechanic, between symbolic and



251. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 10th ed. (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1948): 110-111.

26 See also, on the point of Richards' importance for Brooks' defense of the New
Critical aesthetic and its canon revisions, Brooks, "Three Revolutions in Poetry: III.
Metaphysical Poetry and the Ivory Tower," Southern Review 1 (1935-36): 568-83.










practical mastery.27 The labor of understanding requires not only access to objects complex

enough to be considered "aesthetic," but also to the learned disposition to reconcile one's

responses in such a way as to make the labor to acquire and practice that disposition

invisible, or at least distinguishable from mechanical labor. We might think of this as the

distinction between those who can mechanically comprehend narrative and those who can

and do "read" narrative in a "close, analytical way," in such a way as to "see how it works."

In the context of Eliot's and Brooks and Warren's generic admonitions, Richards' allegorical

description of "development" reminds us how consistently the work of New Criticism

attributes historical value not only to the object of study but also to those who reproduce its

value institutionally, all the while rigorously suspending reference to audience or reception.28


27 Like Richards, John Crowe Ransom accomplishes this distinction in purely
negative terms--namely, of the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic, of intellectual and practical
mastery, of "direct action" and its opposite, aesthetic contemplation. Moreover, he describes
this difference in historical and economic terms: "Societies of the old order seemed better
aware of the extent of their responsibilities. Along with the work-forms went the play-forms,
which were elaborate in detail, and great in number, fastening upon so many of the common
and otherwise practical occasions of life and making them occasions ofjoy and reflection,
even festivals and celebrations; yet at the same time by no means a help but if anything a
hindrance to direct action. The aesthetic forms are a technique of restraint, not of efficiency.
... They stand between the individual and his natural object and impose a check upon his
action.... To the concept of direct action the old society--the directed and hierarchical one--
opposed the concept of aesthetic experience, as a true opposite, and checked the one in order
to induce the other." See John Crowe Ransom, "Forms and Citizens," The World's Body
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965): 31.

28 One might see, on this point, Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron,
Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, trans. Richard Nice, 2nd ed. (London: Sage
Publications, 1990): 39. "If it is not seen that PW [pedagogic work] produces indissolubly
both the legitimate product as such, i.e. as an object worthy of being materially or
symbolically consumed (i.e. venerated, adored, respected, admired, etc.), and the propensity
to consume this object materially or symbolically, one is condemned to interminable
speculation as to the priority of the veneration or the venerable that is, to oscillate










Eliot's narrative of dissociated sensibility, for example, as we have seen, moves back and

forth between justifying the value of a particular set of poems and prescribing a subjective

disposition required of both the poet and critic that corresponds to these poems' historical

space of production. The same might be said, mutatis mutandis, of both Blackmur and--with

important historical qualifications to which I will return--Brooks and Warren. But when the

particular valuations that Eliot prescribed and Cleanth Brooks repeated no longer held, when,

that is, the New Critical imaginary began to lose a specificity of its political and aesthetic

content, due, in fact, to statements like Brooks' famous definition of the "heresy of

paraphrase" in The Well Wrought Urn (1947), then the New Criticism became extremely

vulnerable to the charge of formalism.29 By defending the poem as a linguistic object with


between trying to deduce the dispositions towards the object from the intrinsic properties of
the object and trying to reduce the properties of the object to the properties conferred on it
by the dispositions of the subject. In reality, PW produces agents endowed with the adequate
disposition who can apply it only to certain objects: and objects which appear to the agents
produced by PW as calling forth or demanding the adequate disposition."

29 "The word for our generation," wrote John Crowe Ransom "in these [religious,
aesthetic, and social] matters is 'formal.'" See Ransom, The World's Body, 42. "Formalism"
was clearly already being felt as a charge during the war, as is evidenced by the defense of
criticism offered by Theodore Spencer in "The Central Problem of Literary Criticism,"
College English 4.3 (1942): 159-163; and by the refusal of the "formalism" of literary
polemic for literature as the "unique and formed intelligence of the world of which man alone
is capable" by Allen Tate in "The Present Function of Criticism," Reason in Madness (New
York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1941): 19 (my emphasis). It should be said, in this context, that
the question of"formalism" also got covered during the war as a general question for literary
studies and the humanities insofar as they were resistant to the ideological and technical
necessities of wartime production; see James T. Farrell, "Literature and Ideology," College
English 3.7 (1942): 611-623; and Harold R. Walley, "Literature and Crisis," College English
3.2 (1941): 149-157. On New Critical formalism see also Herbert J. Muller, "The Critic
Behind Barbed Wire," Saturday Review of Literature 25 Sep. 1943: 3+; Darrel Abel,
"Intellectual Criticism," American Scholar 12.4 (1943): 414-28; Cleanth Brooks, "The New










no particular ideological or historical differences from anything other than science--and a

"science" conspicuously devoid of content--Brooks theoretically lost the ground on which

to privilege particular poems, or to privilege poetry over any other generic form, including

narrative fiction, film, or journalism. He thereby left American New Critics without an

argument that might legitimate the functions of academic culture in describing the

distinctions between genres or between mass and minority culture at all. Indeed, one might

note that what Northrop Frye would describe in his rather anxious magnum opus, The

Anatomy of Criticism (1957) as the "power vacuum" in literary criticism derives from the

loss of this function in critical practice altogether.30





Criticism: A Brief for the Defense," American Scholar 13.3 (1944): 285-95. Strangely
enough, in Brooks' defense of formalist criticism he concedes the point by virtue of his
choice of object-which, he indicates, is entirely immaterial to the procedure of reading. See
also idem, "The Formalist Critics," Kenyon Review 13 (1951): 72-81; hereafter FC. As if to
suggest how seamlessly formalism had become equated with the New Critics' institutional
position, Van Wyck Brooks lamented the school's "excess of the academic" in describing
this aspect of their work. See Brooks, "On Certain Critics, The Writer in America (New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1953): 1-31; here 14.

30 See Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton, NJ,
1957): 3-29; here 12. For Frye, the accomplishment of the distinction between the valuation
of objects and the methodology of studying them necessitated trying to articulate a
"systematic" if not "scientific" theory of literary production which took its cue from "an
inductive survey of the field" (7). Absent a narrative that would justify his choice of literary
object, in other words, Frye undertook the improbable task of reading, comprehending and
classifying everything. And, as opposed to many New Critics who took the poetic and critical
dispositions to be coextensive, Frye insisted that criticism had a particular privilege for
talking about poetry--his generic term for the literary production--that poets could not match:
"Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb.... To defend the right of criticism to exist at
all, therefore is to assume that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in
its own right, with some measure of independence from the art it deals with" (4-5).








84

In the context of these observations we can see that there is an historically intimate

relation between the "popular aesthetic" of the novel, the disciplinary and institutional

imaginary we have been describing, and the historical vulnerability-and, paradoxically, the

victory-of American New Criticism. Gerald Graffdates the disciplinary "triumph" of New

Criticism to the publication of Reuben Brower's Fields of Light in 1951, a book that uses

New Critical formal methodology, but without attaching it to any cultural or historical

narrative important to New Critical canon revisions (P 150). Graff's judgment is

understandable enough, as one of the conditions of the widespread acceptance of New

Critical close reading in American schools was its disavowal of the political judgments that

justified its cultural evaluations. And even at their most judgmental, New Critical polemics

against science and "mass society" were never far from a formal, aesthetic critique, a fact that

can be corroborated by observing that the "science" that Brooks and Eliot ranted against was

utterly devoid of content, as was the "mass civilization" against which they implicitly or

explicitly posed a minority culture.31 In this context, Brooks and Warren's pedagogy remains

noteworthy not because it drops away the evaluative function of criticism or because it

revalues objects that fall outside the purlieu of most other New Criticism, but because it

attaches their aesthetic to a particular historical institution--namely, the school.32 That is,

31 For these reasons, Grant Webster calls the American New Critics "Tory
Formalists" from the beginning of their formation as a group. See Webster, The Republic of
Letters: A History ofPostwar American Literary Opinion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1979):
63-93. Hereafter, RL.
32 Francis Mulhem suggests that curricular reform at Cambridge had very much the
same orientation. In the reform of English studies at Cambridge, he writes, "Interests and
capacities that had formerly been deemed the natural property of any cultivated individual
were now to become the staple of an academic discipline." Mulhern, Moment of Scrutiny,
20-21.








85

Brooks and Warren suggest that the act of reading transforms degraded narrative into

literature, and literary narrative into the object of close reading by virtue of the location,

rather than the disposition, of the reader. This has a particular strategic importance on a

disciplinary level, for by doing this Brooks and Warren can include narrative fiction in the

body of objects of study without opening up the entire field of"popular" culture to scholastic

inspection. By a kind of curious tautology, this formula makes the distinction between

popular and literary form out of the social location of its reception--as if schooled culture

were coextensive with "literary" culture itself--even as it legitimates the school as the only

site for making this distinction.

If the "triumph" of American New Criticism coincides with the evacuation of the

particular political and aesthetic evaluations that were at one moment so important for it,

then we can understand this triumph as marking both an institutional opening for struggles

over narrative fiction and popular culture, and an anxious assertion against its value and for

the privilege of the school as an apparatus of cultural transmission. On the one hand, the

emergence of"popular culture" studies in the 40's demonstrated the necessity to defend both

literary form and its site of reproduction. On the other, the formalism of the New Critics

actually made it difficult to defend against examining popular culture, even if they didn't

want to engage in the Marxist or crypto-Marxist critiques of its degraded form. However

reactionary their positions might appear in retrospect, they were not alone in the way they

imagined the function of the novel and the space of literary culture, especially after the

second world war. Indeed, although they disagreed with the New York intellectuals about

the importance of narrative fiction and the novel, and although they took their cues from








86

wholly different sets of historical events, the New Critics nonetheless shared many of the

assumptions that the New York intellectuals would come to hold about its political and

aesthetic functions-and about the function of a literary aesthetic in general. The New York

intellectuals' positions, however, have to be understood in the context of political and

historical events of the 1930's and 40's that effect the change of anti-Stalinist leftists into

American cold war anticommunist liberals, and the migration of intellectuals advocating

proletarian aesthetics into modernist, sometimes academic, avant gardes.


From the Realism of Experience to the End of Ideology

The name "New York intellectuals" began as a kind of euphemism for Trotskyist

sympathizers during the 1930's and 40's, and only later did it come to name the left-liberal

critics associated with Commentary, Partisan Review, and Dissent. The use of the name grew

more common only after most of the members of the group-many of whom were not from

New York-had achieved some recognition and gained some influence in literary circles, that

is, only after they had jettisoned their Marxist or Trotskyist politics. As Alan Wald has

suggested, it was their migration from left anti-Stalinism to liberal anticommunism between

the 1930's to the 1950's that solidified their identity as a group. And although this journey

was different for each of them, the movement itself was occasioned by the same events: the

Moscow trials, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the second world war, and the postwar communist

witch hunts.33 These events, taken together with the apparent successes of the postwar


33 See Webster, The Republic of Letters, 209-51; Alan Wald, The New York
Intellectuals: the Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930's to the 1980's
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Thomas Hill Schaub, American
Fiction in the Cold War (Madison: University of Winsconsin Press, 1991): 3-24.








87

economy, had a chilling effect on the political left in the United States. The agony of the

American left, as Christopher Lasch once called it, registered in the intellectual corps in their

inability to maintain an anti-Stalinism that didn't get swallowed up in the rhetoric of anti-

communism tout court, in their easy acceptance of political liberalism, and in their

subsequent "alienated" positions, contrived out of aesthetic, rather than political resistance.34

The trajectory of the New York intellectuals' literary migration passes through the

novel as the quintessentially realist literary genre. If, for the New Critics, poetry was

essentially dramatic and stood for literature as resisting the "realist" tendency toward

historical referentiality or "content" (the heresy of paraphrase, the didactic heresy), for the

New York intellectuals, the novel's social realism was an indispensable part of its

importance. But in the postwar cultural climate, the "realist" aesthetic of the proletarian novel

was insufficient to the "facts" and complexities of liberal culture and experience. As Philip

Rahv suggested in his critique of "proletarian literature," the working class aesthetic

advocated by the left and the Communist Party in the 1930's was without aesthetic principle

and establishede] no defensible frontiers.., between art and politics"; it amounted to a kind

of "mystification" which, by the late 1930s was, he said, thankfully in decline.35 Indeed,

Rahv argued that its decline was a direct effect of the political context in which it existed:




34 Christopher Lasch, The Agony of the American Left (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1969): 35-59.

35 Philip Rahv, "Proletarian Literature: A Political Autopsy," Essays on Literature
and Politics 1932-1972 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978): 295; 301.








88

The novel is the pre-eminent example of experiential art; and to falsify the
experiential terms in which it realizes itself is infinitely more difficult than
to falsify abstract reasoning. Whereas politics summarizes social experience,
the novel subjects it to an empiric analysis. Hence the test of the novel is
more rigorous, less at the mercy of manipulation and rhetorical depravity.
Proletarian fiction cannot maintain its identity while following its political
leadership into an alliance with capitalist democracy. (303)

Although Rahv was one of the New York intellectuals least given to political apostasy, he

nonetheless recognized, in a piece published that same year (1939) in Partisan Review, that

"[t]he revolution may have sunk out of sight and the intelligentsia may be sticking close to

their paymaster-mentors, but the impulse to represent experience truthfully persists.... If

one is to be equal to the contemporary subject matter, one cannot shut one's eyes to the

unruly presence that beset it."36 Indeed, "experience" was to become the watchword of

criticism of fiction, even for those given to more noticeable political vacillations. But this

experience was to be distinguished from the experience of political "conversion" that was

implied in the proletarian aesthetic. Indeed, this "experience" goes quite noticeably

unspecified, despite-or rather because of-its claim to be "realist" in a "liberal" age, as it

resists the easy appropriation of political agendas that do more than affirm liberal pluralist

form. Irving Howe suggests, in Politics and the Novel, for example, that even the political

novel does not have as its function to "alter" so much as "complicate" political commitments

and beliefs. "I find it hard to imagine," Howe wrote, "a serious socialist being dissuaded from

his belief by a reading of The Possessed, though I should like equally to think that the quality




36 Philip Rahv, "Twilight of the Thrities: Passage from an Editorial,"Essays on
Literature: 305









89
and nuance of that belief can never be quite as they were before he read The Possessed.""37

Or, to take another example, Lionel Trilling argues in The Liberal Imagination that

liberalism is the "sole" intellectual tradition in America and that it sets great store by

variousnesss and possibility"; hence, the "job of criticism would seem to be... to recall

liberalism to its first essential imagination of variousness and possibility, which implies

awareness of complexity and difficulty." For this task, literature has a special place, Trilling

argues, as "literature has explicitly directed itself upon politics, but more importantly because

literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness,

possibility, complexity and difficulty." In the context of this liberalist aesthetic, Trilling

argues that the most needed form of fiction is "moral realism," whose most effective agent

has been the novel; we need it, Trilling says, because it complicates our commonplace sense

of realism in favor of a view of human "variety" and complexity, in favor of a recognition

that manner or style might be something other than customs heaped on top of some bedrock

"real" experience.38

Certainly, as others have noted, there's a striking similarity between these

formulations' emphasis on "nuance," variousnesss, possibility, complexity and difficulty"

and the New Critical shibboleths of "paradox," "tension," and irony, and this fact certainly

did not go unnoticed by these critics themselves. In fact, this similarity develops into a source

of contention between certain of these critics and precipitates an important impasse in the


"Irving Howe, Politics and the Novel (New York: Horizon Press, 1957): 22.

3 Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (New
York: Viking, 1950): ix; xv; 222; hereafter LI.









90
"debate" over the novel. Trilling's "The Meaning of a Literary Idea," first published in 1949

and then reprinted in The Liberal Imagination, no doubt responds, on one level, to Brooks'

"Heresy of Paraphrase" argument in The Well-Wrought Urn. Much of Trilling's argument,

ostensibly aimed at retrieving "ideas" out of their associations with ideology and unfeeling

intellectuals, takes its cue from criticisms ofT. S. Eliot and Wellek and Warren's Theory of

Literature; but Trilling does not take issue with the "use" of ideas, so much as they way they

are misrepresented and suspended from reference to social life. He suggests that "literature

is of its nature involved with ideas because it deals with man in society" (LI 282). In

response, Brooks suggested, in an essay defining "formalist" articles of faith, that it would

be difficult to distinguish his and Trilling's positions regarding literary form and how it

works with ideas and reality, that "recalcitrant stuff of life." "In short," Brooks writes, "is

not the formalist critic trying to describe in terms of the dynamic form of the work itself how

the recalcitrancy of the material is acknowledged and dealt with?" (FC 80). Trilling had no

response. Within the year, John Crowe Ransom took up the case of narrative fiction in "The

Understanding of Fiction," an essay nominally dedicated to evaluating Philip Rahv's Image

and Idea; like Brooks and Robert Penn Warren before him, Ransom simply flattened out

generic questions and treated narratives as "fictional analogues of lyrical moments" (UF

193). In doing so, he appealed to the "primitive" experience still shared by modem man as

a way of justifying his indifference to literary form (UF 192). Rahv's response, "Fiction and

the Criticism of Fiction" (1956), marks the uneasiness of the New York intellectuals'

positions on aesthetic matters. Like Ransom, Rahv complains that there has been no theory

of narrative fiction whose tools are as "satisfactory in their exactness" as are those developed








91

for poetry. Unlike Ransom, he is adamant that symbolist, mythological, formalist and

technical methods of criticism will not suffice to account for narrative fiction. But Rahv's

rejoinder ultimately appeals to the novel's "empiricism," and the "referential" quality of its

language for this theory. For instance, in response to Robert W. Stallman's symbolic and

mythological reading of "The Red Badge of Courage," Rahv writes:

If the typical error of the thirties was the failure to distinguish between
literature and life, in the present period that error has been inverted into the
failure to percieve their close and necessary relationship. Hence the effort we
are now witnessing to overcome the felt reality of art by converting it into
some kind of schematism of spirit.... It is as if critics were saying that the
representation of experience, which is the primary asset of the novel, is a
mere appearance; the really and truly real is to be discovered somewhere else,
at some higher level beyond appearance. The novel, however, is the most
empirical of all literary genres; existence is its original and inalienable datum;
its ontology is 'naive,' commonsensical, positing no split between
appearance and reality.39

Although, in the case of Ransom, Rahv recognizes that formalism is "deeply imbedded" in

the history of literary criticism, he still objects that the function of literary language in

narrative is never the same as in poetry (FCF 291). Citing Christopher Caudwell, Rahv

argues that the language of poetry is affective and associative, while that of the novel or

narrative is referential: hence, its empirical power. But Rahv offers nothing in the way of a

definition of the novel as a literary genre that has a commonsense ontology as its

distinguishing trait: while he can say what it isn't on the level of form, he can't say what it

is except as a "stance" toward reality.





39 Philip Rahv, "Fiction and the Criticism of Fiction," Kenyon Review 18.2 (1956):
285-86; hereafter FCF.








92

We might understand the impasse presented by the novel by recalling that the

revolutionary aesthetic adopted by the Communist party and the American Trotskyites in the

30's is the precise obverse of the New Critical popular aesthetic described by Brooks and

Warren. While the New Critics took the "mass appeal" and wide dissemination of the novel

as a sign of its "degraded" character, and designed to rescue it by academic appropriation,

the New York intellectuals took those qualities as enabling its political functions, but had to

eschew the affirmation of the continuity of art and life as a requisite step in their political

liberalization. The anxiety about the social and intellectual consequences of this change

manifests itself in Howe's "This Age of Conformity,"40 but short of the revolutionary

aesthetic of the 30's, the New York intellectuals critical purchase on "reality" could be gotten

only by reference to dialectically nuanced "experience" or empiricist realism. Neither of

these options was particularly satisfactory, since neither addressed the still lingering political

ambitions of even the most apostate of the intellectuals. As Trilling would write in his essay

on the literary magazine, "[o]ur liberal ideology has produced a large literature of social and

political protest, but not, for several decades, a single writer that commands our real literary

imagination." But those figures that do command literary interest-Trilling lists Proust,

Joyce, Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, Mann, Kafka, Gide, Rilke-don't "love... justice" in such

a way as "liberal democracy, as known by our educated class, has declared respectable" (LI

98). Either way, he says, "there is no connection between the political ideas of our educated





40 Irving Howe, "This Age of Conformity," Partisan Review 21.1 (1954): 7-33.








93

class and the deep places of the imagination," or, less euphemistically, between the

intellectuals' political longings and literary form-novelistic or otherwise (LI 99).

One of the reasons the "realist" aesthetic is so at home with New Critical formalism

is that its purchase on "reality" is circumscribed by political assumptions that are displaced

in aesthetic ones. New Critical advocacy of literary value, we recall, relied on stripping away

a series of "heresies" from literary form even as it maintained them at another level: Eliot,

for example, had wanted literature to be Christian, but in the Amoldian sense, in which it

would function as substitute for Christian orthodoxy with no Christian contents. When New

Critics jettisoned the narrative of the dissociation of sensibility and Christian culture, they

were doing without what was not supposed to be there anyway, carrying on a "tradition" that

was supposed not to interfere with evaluation or reading in the first place.4" Likewise, the

New York intellectuals criticism on behalf of "realism" presents itself as being empty of

ideological content, that is, of having gotten rid of the distorting lens of Marxist or Trotskyist

visions of history. But, like the Christianity that Eliot wanted so earnestly to sublate in a

nonetheless depersonalized and scientifically established canon, the proletarian Marxism of

the thirties serves as the never-to-be-spoken-about content of this deracinated, "realist"

liberal aesthetic: that is, it's an aesthetic that would do social criticism without its primary

theory of social relations.


41 This conundrum is expressed, among other places, in the notion of an "ideal
reader," which was supposed to explain away, in the absence of a legitimating narrative of
literary value or procedure, the specific conditions of literary reception and circulation by
referring to normative "standards" of reading. See, for one version of this argument, Cleanth
Brooks, "The Formalist Critics," 74-76.








94

In this sense, the New York intellectuals' realist aesthetic embodies a political

"realism," one that takes for granted the equivalence ofanti-Stalinism and anti-communism,

the death of Marxism as a viable political philosophy, and the inherent fairness of capitalist

democracy. As Thomas Hill Schaub and Alan Wald have argued, the position is the effect

of the experience of the "end of ideology" in the postwar period.42 The intellectuals' appeals

to "complex," "ironic," or "paradoxical" experience, to variousnesss and possibility" respond

to this historical necessity by affirming the still undefined continuities between social

experience and ideology, life and ideas; they assent, that is, to the political necessity of the

death of actually existing American Marxism and its requisite transformation of their

aesthetic imaginary. But at the same time, they long for something else, for some other way

of talking about literature and social reality that isn't either simply "ideological"-that is, in

this context, Marxist--and not to be subsumed by questions of form. One might say that, if

for the American New Critics the conundrums of literary reception were condensed into

fantasies about the social location of the reader and the vagaries of form then for the New

York intellectuals, the specific social relations that inhere in literary reception are defined

negatively in relation to political liberalism. On the one hand, they can no longer assume that

the political continuity between art and life subtending the proletarian novel either does or


42 Daniel Bell writes, of the generation of the thirties, that theyhy were intense,
hortatory, naive, simplistic, and passionate, but, after the Moscow Trials and the Soviet-Nazi
pact, disenchanted and reflective; and from them and their experiences we have inherited the
key terms which dominate discourse today: irony, paradox, ambiguity, complexity." See
Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology (Glencoe: Free Press, 1960): 286-99; 335-75; here 287;
hereafter E. Schaub, American Fiction in the Cold War, 25-49; Wald, The New York
Intellectuals, 228-49; Robert Booth Fowler, Believing Skeptics: American Political
Intellectuals, 1945-64 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978): 3-39; 121-148.








95

should exist; on the other, they can't simply rely on the defamiliarized, scholastic relations

that characterize the New Critics vision of the novel. Without, that is, some way of imagining

the precise relations of literary production and reception, the New York intellectuals can only

appeal to the liberal canard of "freedom" as a way of talking about the social conditions in

which the novel makes any sense.

On an institutional level, Watt's The Rise of the Novel answers to precisely this

impasse, offering a definition of "realism" that is both formal and historically specific, and

drawing on a sociological tradition whose relation to political economy and Marxism are

evident, even if they are not immediately clear. But before we approach Watt's text in

particular, it's worth considering what's at stake in staging this entrance of the sociology of

knowledge into literary debates about the novel. As I've argued, for both the New Critics and

the New York intellectuals, literary value accrues in social contexts, though over the course

of their histories, these contexts are more or less sublimated, more or less "euphemized" by

the critics themselves. The New Critics' anxiety about science, mass cultural form, and

undefined protocols of reading are formulaic responses to questions about both the cultural

authority of literary knowledge and the conditions of literary reception. Up until 1950, and

even after that for all but R. P. Blackmur, these problems pass through the novel as a kind

of limit-object for their otherwise poetic aesthetic, and through the school as the location of

social distinction. For the New York intellectuals the aesthetic of experiential and empirical

realism derives from the political "realism" necessary in the liberal climate of the cold war;

the aesthetic of the novel relies on a vision of social location that is collapsed with political

position in the 30's, and mediated by "experience" in the 40's and 50's. Moreover, for more


I




Full Text
THE ENCHANTED WORLD: AMERICAN CULTURE, PUBLIC SPACE, AND
GLOBAL FORDISM
By
CHRISTIAN A. GREGORY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1999

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Far too many people have supported me in this project to name them all here, so I'll content myself
with naming those whose patience I've tested most sorely. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to
my teachers beyond this university: Fr. John Armstrong, S.J., Ed Brennan, Roshi Bemie Glassman,
Sensei Helen Yuho Harkaspi. For my brothers Scott and George, my sister Kenda, and my mother
Geri, none of whom ever doubted me, even when I gave them reason to, I'm grateful for the
appearance of discipline. To Tamir Ellis I will always be indebted for a home and the world's finest
kitty. I have Jane Love to thank for nutrition. I thank Waits Raulerson for the most uncommon and
abiding love of my life. My committee—John P. Leavey, Jr., John Murchek, Donald Ault, Daniel
A. Cottom, and Robert A. Hatch—made me prove myself worthy of them: short of that, I offer
this dissertation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii
ABSTRACT iv
CHAPTERS
1 INTRODUCTION 1
2 THE ENCHANTED WORLD 4
Globalization and Its Missed Contents 4
The Enchanted World 21
3 AFTERLIFE: CULTURAL STUDIES 53
The Novel, Literary Modernism, and the Popular Aesthetic 61
From the Realism of Experience to the End of Ideology 86
Sociology, Formal Realism and the Global Public Sphere
4. STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC QUEER 133
The Actually Existing Public Queer 139
Performing Success: Homo Academicus 156
5 CONCLUSION: GEOPHILOSOPHY 173
REFERENCES 181
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
196

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE ENCHANTED WORLD: AMERICAN CULTURE, PUBLIC SPACE AND
GLOBAL FORDISM
By
Christian A. Gregory
May 1999
Chairman: John P. Leavey, Jr.
Major Department: English
In this dissertation, I argue that narratives of "globalization" that circulate in media
and academic discussion have, for the most part, substituted a mythic for an historical
view of our political and cultural present. They have done so by passing over the
transformations of public space, the media and civic identity by which the economic
processes of globalization have exerted themselves, and by naturalizing the narrative
forms in which the world story has been told. I’ve argued that one of the most pernicious
of ideas to attend so-called economic globalization has been the end of the nation state.
Along with this has come the gesture to jettison what the state once claimed as its civic
and cultural prerogatives-among them, public space and social democracy. This
dissertation attempts to revive those ideals in the context of a reconstruction of cultural
studies at the millennium.
In order to accomplish these aims, this dissertation does three things. First, in
chapter two, it reviews “globalization” narratives and develops a counter-narrative to
IV

V
them. Second, in chapter three, it reformulates a project for “cultural studies” that can
take the cultural, economic and political effects of so-called “globalization” into account.
And, third, it develops an example of the kind of analysis that follows from the results of
the first two endeavors; here I use Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary, Paris is
Burning, as an example. In all of these contexts, but especially the last one, I make an
effort to reconstruct both ideal and actually-existing notions of public space and civic
identity that inform cultural, social and political life near the millennium.

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
"Identity crises are connected with steering problems."1
—Jurgen Habermas
This dissertation is a lengthy response to and reworking of Habermas' classic
reflection on publicity and public space, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. In
that famous argument, Habermas chronicled the transformations of media, built environment,
aesthetics and civic life during the "golden age" of capitalism (what Ernest Mandel has called
"late capitalism"). He argued that what Horkheimer and Adorno called the dialectic of
enlightenment had, under the aegis of mass media, international capital and political
liberalism, all but refeudalized political life. At the same time, Habermas argued, the
evisceration of public spheres had hastened the implosion of the "civilizing project" of
cultural modernity. At ground zero of this implosion was the transformation of the function
of literary culture: whereas in the 18th century, "public use of reason remained tied to
literature as its medium," in the mid-20lh century, "the integration culture delivers the canned
1 Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon,
1975): 4.
1

2
goods of degenerate, psychologically oriented literature as a public service for private
consumption."2
The limits of Habermas' argument have been well-covered by now, so much so as to
be hardly worth rehearsing here. What is not more generally recognized is the prescience of
this argument with respect to the cultural, political, and ideological formations that encumber
contemporary Northern political cultures and cultural politics. The apocalyptic sense that
sustains Habermas' argument—the sense that, whatever else has happened, both the aesthetic
and political projects of modernity are at risk, if not fully defunct—has served as the ungainly
refrain of so many arguments in the past twenty-odd years. It still circulates today, in a
different pitch, for different reasons, and with a heightened sense of perspicacity, perhaps.
But there still is, as it were, the "sense of an ending" in the present, not least for those who
might once have been fascinated by the object called "literature" and its esteemed political
and aesthetic functions. In part, this dissertation addresses that sense.
But instead of the immediate postwar period, I want to concentrate on the period
since about 1973, the moment when the latest phase of economic "globalization" took off.
I've chosen this moment not only because I think that it marks a decisive turning point in
American political and economic history (and its imagination), but because this moment—the
"long 1973" we might call it—also offers us some purchase on the cultural effects that have
accrued around the notion of "globalization" in the present. Among the most important of
2 Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry
into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989): 246.

3
these effects—cultural as well as political—are those that go by the unlovely name
"postmodemity." Contrary to some accounts of this period, I will argue that economic,
social, and cultural dynamics of postwar Fordism haven't changed so much as they have
intensified and dispersed in the period since 1973. Moreover, the effects of this
intensification still remain subject to a political logic—that is, to some basic question of
political economy. Rather than accept at face value the deflation of political aspiration that
suffuses our discussion of both politics and culture, I think it worth both reconstituting the
agencies through which it has been deformed, and imagining an alternative present to this
vision. In short, Habermas' fundamental question remains: namely, does the ideal of a public
sphere that "functions in the political realm" remain imaginable? Should it be "salvaged"?
If so, how? If not, why not?
In the last instance, this project is not about the damaged life of reason or the elastic
conditions of communication—although those certainly interest me. Rather, it's about
resuscitating a particular view of recent American cultural, political, and social history, one
that neither takes for granted nor fetishizes what has sometimes been called "culture" (or
"society" or "production" ...); instead, I'd like to reimagine "cultural studies" as a form of
notebook utopianism, grounded in the structural causalities of end-of-the-century global
Fordism. In that sense, I imagine that this examination of public space should also give us
a rather disenchanting sense of the cold time that lies ahead for anyone even nominally
interested in a less malign cultural, economic or social future. But even that, I'll argue, is
simultaneously more pragmatic and more utopian, more culturally necessary and
economically nuanced, than many of the options available in the present.

CHAPTER 2
THE ENCHANTED WORLD
Globalization and its Missed Contents
Towards the end of the last decade of the twentieth century, your average media-
inundated American could perhaps be forgiven for imagining that the seventies had become
the ur-horizon of cultural and political memory. With the re-releases of Star Wars and
Grease, the renaissance of the disaster film, The Last Days ofDisco, 54, Rick Moody's novel
(and subsequently film) The Ice Storm, I Wish I Were a Carpenter, indeed, the entire "sex
panic" farrago, it would appear that the 70's had begun to crowd out the possibility of any
authentically fm-du-siecle experience, save for retro and nostalgia themselves. Talk shows
and MTV became perpetually interested in nostalgia for the 90's, imagined some 20 years
down the road. But what detritus would weather the vicissitudes of cultural time and memory
was anybody's guess; as Peter Braunstein of the Village Voice commented, "nostalgizing the
turn of the century is proving quite a challenge, mainly because 1990's culture consisted
almost entirely of nostalgia for previous decades."1
In one sense, this nostalgia wasn't very surprising, since the generation of forty-
somethings that peopled ad agencies, think tanks, newsrooms and state offices came of
1 Peter Braunstein, "Past Imperfect," Village Voice 14 July 98: 152.
4

5
professional age in 70's. However, it's also true that nostalgia and retro are political forms
of memory—and forgetting. And so if our North American friend had the uncanny sense of
living the millennium in the fashions of the 70's—or perhaps some amalgam of the 60's, 70's
and 80's—then s/he could rest assured that at least the world economy had reached a
genuinely new phase of development, something the end of the century could call its own,
something that promised to add a little edge to the humdrum image recycling so prevalent
at that moment. For the most part, that something novel—namely, "globalization"—had pretty
much been taken for granted as "the way it is," economically speaking. Only by the late 90's,
and especially after the summer of 98's Wall Street free fall, anxiety appeared to be getting
in the way of what had been a bleary-eyed celebration of the borderless economic and
cultural world. America's public broadcasting news staple, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer,
for example, that summer devoted a segment to the diagnosis of a new malady that had
purportedly accompanied the ascent of the new economy: they called it "globaphobia." And
from the middle of the decade on, there had been a spate of arguments documenting
globalization's not-so-virtuous underside, issuing in nationalist nostrums from the likes of
Pat Buchanan, and neo-Keynesian dreams from William Greider.2
2 William Greider, One World Ready or Not: the Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
(New York: Touchstone, 1997); Pat Buchanan, The Great Betrayal: How American
Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy
(New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 1998). Greider and Buchanan are but two of the most
visible commentators on the globalization process; see also Saskia Sassen, Globalization and
its Discontents (New York: the New Press, 1998); Richard J. Barnet and James Cavanagh,
Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1994); Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage
(Boston: South End Press, 1994); Roger Burbach, Orlando Nunez, and Boris Kagarlitsky,
Globalization and its Discontents: the Rise of Postmodern Socialisms (Chicago: Pluto Press,

6
If this image recycling of the seventies seemed but an evanescent swirl on the tides
of cultural fashion, in other words, then "globalization" appeared to be real—indeed, all too
real for many of its subjects. Especially telling, by 1998 or so, was in fact the range of
political personae arrayed against the hoary world of deregulated financial flows: while the
Premier of Malaysia had issued capital controls to stop bets against its currency, the New
York Times had asked Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati to say something on behalf of
an arrangement less in thrall to the U.S. and the North.3 Likewise, Tony Blair and Bill
Clinton had both made public appearances announcing the necessity for the North to steer
a "third way" between the twin disasters of welfare statism (more or less equated with
communism) and unregulated global capitalism. And yet, despite widespread disenchantment
with the world order of things, there wasn't much in the way of curiosity about the "global"
world's certainly complex origins, nor a whole lot of illumination in the mass media about
its specific cultural and civic effects. The same New York Times article did observe that
globalization was probably nothing new: since the thirteenth century, it said, capital had
circled the globe, looking for high rates of return; and, as if to put the default of the Russian
financial system in context, the writer reminded us that the United States had even once
defaulted on its international loans. But explanations about the how the U.S. got to be
1997); the crucial account of "globalization" as an ideology formation at odds with the
realities of the world political economy is Paul Smith's Millennial Dreams: Contemporary
Culture and Capital in the North (New York: Verso, 1997): see especially ch. 1.
3 Nicholas D. Kristof, "Experts Question Roving Flow of Global Capital," New York
Times 20 Sep. 1998: A6.

7
"global" leader, and what that meant for its citizens on a day-to-day level weren't
forthcoming.
Most telling perhaps about this moment for our observer was that the very possibility
of any kind of political imaginary derived from the cultural and social movements of the
70's—when, it could be argued, the most recent phase of world economic "globalization" had
begun—had been displaced by what then circulated as globalization's millennial cognates.
In other words, while cultural products of all sorts seemed to revel in the camp value of 70's
excess, our observer's options for political memory derived from that decade had been more
narrowly circumscribed. On the one hand, the fantasy of a new global economic order
brought along with it the residual political affects incumbent upon a post-Soviet world. Even
though globalization narratives really didn’t pick up steam until after the fall of the Berlin
Wall, Francis Fukuyama's idea of "the end of history" had more or less been taken up as part
and parcel of the pacific global imagination. Accordingly, it was assumed that the triumph
of capitalism had rendered the class tensions of the old world order both irrelevant and
increasingly less severe. On the other hand, there were the supposed effects of the actual
globalization process: according to the then-current doxa, the global economic arrangement
had brought along with it the end of the nation state, the end of politics, the end of work, and
so on. And so, on a civic and cultural level, what got registered was the sometime exhaustion
of even minimally utopian ideals associated with social movements important to our memory
of the 70's—to say nothing of a longer-term political memory. Indeed, what was startling
about that political climate was the widespread desire to deny political interests or ideals at
all—let alone their 70's manifestations. For example, as Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake

8
wrote in their introduction to Third Wave Agenda, we "[face] classrooms of young women
and men who are trained by the media caricature of 'feminazis,' who see feminism as an
enemy or say 'feminist' things prefaced by 'I'm not a feminist, but.. ..’"4 Likewise, one had
only to look at any of the columns by Andrew Sullivan to be told that queer politics, like the
AIDS crisis, was more or less over.5 And, as the sex panic debates volubly attested, the chic
to forget or selectively remember the 70's became an impediment to imagining a sexual
politics not beholden to a naive, adolescent utopianism, or to a neo-liberal moralism.
In other words, at the end of the decade, there seemed to be a kind of widespread
deflation of political aspiration in general, and, notwithstanding the revitalization of the
Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam, times had grown especially difficult for identity
politics once attached to the so-called "new social movements." At the same time, there was
an uncanny kind of synchronicity between the intense if passing interest in the 70's and the
equally intense if more durable fascination with the world economic arrangement—such as
it was, on the verge of collapse. And, about all three, or the relations between them, there
was a kind of studious silence observed. Were our observer to try and imagine some kind of
4 Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, "Introduction," Third Wave Agenda: Being
Feminist, Doing Feminism, ed. Heywood and Drake (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1997): 4.
5 See, for example, Sullivan's argument that, instead of "whining that we need job
protection, we should be touting our economic achievements [and] defending the free market
that makes them possible," in "Do We Need These Laws?" The Advocate 14 Apr 98: 41-42;
or his thoroughly odious and blinkered view of the end of the AIDS crisis, "When Plagues
End: Notes on the Twilight of an Epidemic," New York Times Magazine 10 Nov 96: 52+.

9
connection between these three otherwise free-floating phenomena, s/he would be pretty
much on her own, so far as narrative analyses went.
Now, this last could not exactly be called a surprise: trenchant cultural and political
analyses could hardly be said to have ever been the strong suit of Northern—and especially
American—media. Indeed, one could argue that it would be better to just dismiss this silence
as the predictable effect of culture industries rather living up to descriptions that Theodor
Adorno and Max Horkheimer offered of them forty-odd years ago. However, there was
something more to this mixture of disenchantment, fascination and apparently willed
ignorance, something shared in the academic disciplines called cultural studies. It wasn't just
among the supposed incogniscenti, in other words, that our observer could find a kind of
symptomatic revulsion with the political, a fascination with the seventies, and a sometime
unwillingness to think about global political economy. While there had been an efflorescence
of "cultural studies" work in the U. S. academy since the early part of the decade, and while
its formation had been excoriated in the press under the rubric of "political correctness," this
disciplinary arrangement had also given rise to a particular kind of fear within the ranks of
its own practitioners. Near the end of the decade, Michael Bérubé suggested that this fear
emanated from the anxiety about the political allegiances and dimensions of cultural studies
work.
Roughly half the profession's accusers seem willing to indict any and all
"political" criticism, on the grounds that "politics" is precisely that which is
bracketed or transcended by the monuments of timeless aesthetic excellence.
The other half of the profession's accusers make a more careful case, in which
the politicization of literary study is a problem of degree rather than of kind:
literature and criticism are inevitably entangled in social, historical, and
ideological commitments, but contemporary literary study simply stresses

10
this aspect of literature too strongly, just as an earlier generation of critics
failed to stress it strongly enough.6
Bérubé describes his own position in "centrist" terms, acknowledging that cultural studies
must look like something of a sell-out to both cultural and political left and right, and
proposing a disciplinary vision of "centrifugal canonicity" that would honor the trajectories
of both cultural and literary studies, "political" and "aesthetic" criticism. Yet his solutions,
however estimable, scrupulously avoid the questions of what counts as political or aesthetic
at this moment, on what grounds, and why. In other words, what had been called literary
criticism had long had political motivations and implications: for that, we only need recall
Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination, or the explicitly political program of American
New Criticism against economically and scientifically rationalized society. In the present of
1998, however, those politics were not at issue, anymore than "politics" or "aesthetics" in
general; what was at issue were particular visions of politics that generated trepidation on
behalf of cultural studies as a "substitute" for some fantasmatically constructed "literary
study" itself.
To put this another way, if American culture at large reflected a kind of cynicism
about liberal political life, then it might be said that "cultural studies" seemed plagued with
a kind of defensiveness, not to say anxiety or fear about its politics: indeed, it might be said
to have reflected a desire not to be political, at least in its American manifestations.
According to Simon During, the editor of one of the most widely-read introductions to
6 Michael Bérubé, The Employment of English: Theory, Jobs and the Future of
Literary Studies (New York: NYU Press, 1998): 13.

11
cultural studies, something happened to cultural studies in the 70's, something that altered
the discipline's imaginary to the detriment of its "political" importance. During, in fact,
claims that cultural studies practitioners at this moment "accepted relatively depoliticized
analyses" in their work; he explains this reorientation by suggesting that the "decline of the
social democratic power bloc," the reception of French post-structuralism, the rise of
Thatcherism and Reaganism and cultural studies' increasingly "global" character issued in
a rather willed ignorance of the political and cultural role of the state—and implicitly,
political economy.7 By the time the transformation had been completed, according to During,
cultural studies was left with a fragmented ethos and imaginary that took its cue as much
from Thatcherite denial ("There is no such thing as society.") as from its Birmingham school
origins.
It might be said that During overstates the case—certainly, what happened in the
twenty-odd years before the millennium was as much a redefinition of the scope and
meaning of political culture and the terms of cultural politics as their evisceration. At the
same time, even so ardent a defender of cultural studies in its trans-Atlantic incarnation as
Stuart Hall had said that, despite being "dumbfounded" by the robust life of cultural studies
in the United States, he still had some "nagging doubts" about its institutional reception here.
As Hall put it, it was precisely the way that "the overwhelming textualization of cultural
studies’ own discourses somehow constitute[d] power and politics as exclusively matters of
7 Simon During, "Introduction," The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. During (London:
Routledge, 1993): 13-15.

12
language and textuality itself' that made him worry about both its political and intellectual
capacities. It seemed too easy, Hall wrote, given the "theoretical fluency" of American
cultural studies, to conjure "power as an easy floating signifler emptied of any
signification"—as if power and politics were just two more cultural phenomena on the
semiotic horizon.8
Whether or not these explanations for the current state of cultural studies seem true
now, these accounts, among others, would have suggested to our observer that indeed some
chain of events in the 70's altered cultural studies' self-image, if not its institutional reality,
and that this moment continued to weigh heavily on the imagination of cultural intelligentsia.
Apropos of Hall's stated anxiety, for example, Todd Gitlin argued that the British New Left
in the 70's, like veterans of the anti-war movement in the U.S., found themselves at political
impasse, so they took culture as the field of battle and invested their energies in analyses of
the political semiotics of youth culture.9 Hall himself recalled that British cultural studies
scholars in the 70’s were bent on producing "organic intellectuals . . . with a nostalgia or
hope" that the moment of revolutionary change would find them fit for struggle and perched
on the battlements. He held this image, he said, as the starting point for his work in the
present. Similarly, Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding suggested that, in a gesture of what
appears to be "'epistemo-methodological nostalgia,"' there was at this moment a movement
8 Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies," Cultural Studies, ed.
Nelson, Grossberg, Triechler (New York: Routledge, 1992): 285-286.
9 Todd Gitlin, "The Anti-political Populism of Cultural Studies," Cultural Studies in
Question, ed. Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding (London: Sage, 1997): 28-29.

13
in cultural studies for "resurrecting the sociological methods of the 1970's for rediscovery
in the 1990's."10
Wherever we are tempted to lay the responsibility of cultural studies' confusion,
anxiety or fear over politics, and however we might explain the relative importance of the
70's in cultural studies' historical horizons, During's description of the transformation of the
70's points to at least one symptom that has lingered with the discipline until very near the
millennium: cultural studies has for the most part relegated the state and political economy
to second-order objects. As Ferguson and Golding, Doug Kellner, Nicholas Gamham and
others argued, the danger of the way cultural studies configured itself was that, in its
fascination with semiotic and significatory practices, with discursive transformations and
epistemological breaks, it had frequently forgotten about the relations between political-
economy so-called and cultural, social and civic life." And while this tendency was often
been borne on rhetoric that opposed the apriori "economism" of older Marxisms and political
economy, it was frequently no less "reductive" of those positions. So, for example, it has
routinely been argued that, since it is bad or mistaken to talk about "simple" economic
determination, it was no longer possible to talk about either "complex" determinations or
political economy itself as an instance of determination. As one writer put it, "the free market
10 Marjorie Ferguson and Peter Golding, "Introduction," Cultural Studies in Question:
xviii.
11 Nicholas Gamham, "Political Economy and the Practice of Cultural Studies,"
Douglas Kellner, "Overcoming the Divide: Cultural Studies and Political Economy," in
Cultural Studies in Question: 56-73; 102-120.

14
offers opportunities for new emergent identities and, besides which, capital in the
homogenous absolutist way in which we on the left have tended to refer to it, is itself a more
fractured and fragile entity."12 Likewise, some writers argued that, because the distinctions
between "culture," "economics" and "politics" cannot be sustained on rhetorical or linguistic
grounds, they aren't effective in the actually existing conditions of everyday life: and so
talking about culture is as good as talking about economics, which is as good as talking about
politics, which is as good as talking about culture, and so on.
Needless to say, none of this made understanding the thing called "globalization" any
easier, despite the fact that cultural studies scholars—like New York Times
correspondents—passed up no occasion to refer to it by the end of the decade. However, as
I should like to argue in these pages, this was not really so surprising, since one of the first
symptoms of the arrival of the so-called global world economy had been the persistent
obfuscation of its on-the-ground processes, agents, and effects. "Globalization" so-called, in
other words, was from the beginning a kind of grand misnomer for a very complex
rearrangement of economic, political, social, and cultural life across vast swathes of the
globe, but one which retained the contours of American geopolitical dominance—shared
though it was in the present of 1998. However, that untidy fact—like so many others—did not
register for some who in many other ways seemed to have an interest in world-economic
formations and their more local manifestations. The deflation of political investments, the
looming but historically unhinged images of the 70's, and the unquestioned belief in the
12 Angela McRobbie, "Post-Marxism and Cultural Studies," in Cultural Studies: 724.

15
already globalized world that I have been describing were but some of the ideological
underpinnings of this apparently novel arrangement.
In describing the isomorphism between what might loosely be called American media
and political culture and the academic field called cultural studies in the 90's, then, I have
not meant to suggest that there are or were no practical, social or ideological distinctions
between them. Rather, it's in the context of those differences that their de facto agreement
or silences have come to be meaningful. Even if pragmatic or ideological responses to
globalization and its attendant narratives have been registered in widespread civic
disenchantment—or disciplinary fear—by the end of the decade, in other words, what
remained to be explained were the relations between 70's economic and political crises, their
supposed "resolution" in the present of 1998, and the concurrent transformations of civic and
cultural life that took place in between. What was—and still is—missing, in other words, from
even some of the more circumspect accounts of "globalization"—as well as cultural studies
discourses—was some account of how it came to this, for one thing: how, for example, did
we come to forget that American hegemony over the world system had been at issue in the
crisis decades? How did "globalization" come to express the consensus-view of a world
circumscribed by the market? How did the ambient political ambitions of the cultural
intelligentsia come to be a liability? Into what wall did the new social movements run? Why
nostalgia? Why, in particular, the seventies? For one might simply observe that, although in
the 70's and 80's social science saw crisis as more or less an effect of impasses in American
(and Western European) development, talk of center and periphery, North and South, indeed
of hegemony itself had been rendered suspect by the end of the decade, and especially in

16
some "cultural studies" discourses.13 Meanwhile, those impasses appeared to refer back to
another set of problems, "internal" to U. S. political culture: namely, the demise of U. S.
liberalism. If, in the 1970's, at the sometime height of "first wave" American feminism,
Theodore Lowi could proclaim "the end of liberalism" as a prognosis for American welfare
statism, at the end of the 1990's, during feminism's seeming wane, no less august a figure
than Immanuel Wallerstein imagined a geo-culture "after liberalism" and in the retreat of
welfare statist principles and American influence more generally.14 What, if anything, was
to be made of this?
Certainly, it might be argued that academic cultural studies and even leftish
journalism have very little to do with one another, practically speaking at any rate; and they
would seem to have even less to do with trends in Hollywood cinema, American political or
13 I refer to Arjun Appadurai, as one among many who have made this kind of
argument. See his "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy," The
Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1993): 269-95; see especially 275. The literature on the crisis of the 70's is prodigious,
especially among writers claiming some affinity or other to Marxism. Among the more
interesting and useful for me have been Samir Amin et. al., Dynamics of Global Crisis (New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1982); Ernest Mandel, Late Capitalism, trans. Joris De Bres
(New York: Verso, 1975); idem, The Second Slump: A Marxist Analysis of Recession in the
Seventies, trans. Jon Rothschild (New York: Verso, 1978); hereafter cited as SS; James O'
Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of the State (New York: St. Martin's, 1973); idem, Accumulation
Crisis (New York: Blackwell, 1984); Alan Wolfe, The Limits of Legitimacy: Political
Contradictions of Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Free Press, 1977); Manuel Castells,
The Economic Crisis and American Society (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980); Claus Offe,
Contradictions of the Welfare State, trans. John Keane (Boston: MIT Press, 1984);
Habermas, Legitimation Crisis.
14 Theodore J. Lowi, The End of Liberalism: the Second Republic of the United States
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1979); Immanuel Wallerstein, After Liberalism (New York: New
Press, 1995): 232-251; 5.

17
literary culture, and the world-economic dispensation. However, I am not arguing that
"globalization" has achieved its effects (and produced certain affects) by dint of a grand
conspiracy formulated in advance and in secret; rather, I am arguing that, whatever
"globalization" turns out to mean, its discourses have brought along with them a set of
symptomatic effects that have a kind of congruence that, for whatever reasons, appear to pre¬
empt some kinds of imagination about the relations between political economy, political
culture, cultural production, and civic activity. Needless to say, these effects are also
accompanied by some (less manifest, in my view) counter-tendencies. But "globalization"
still floats around in both media culture and academic cultural studies as a master concept
that, at some level, claims to explain the world-order of things, even while it disables most
attempts to understand the historically complex causalities that have ushered in both this
order and the discourses to justify it. In other words, "globalization" has become an
extremely popular totalizing concept at a moment that has otherwise jettisoned totalizations
as politically or epistemologically suspect, and it has done so without generating nearly
enough suspicion from the press, economists, politicians, and other intellectuals. That, too
briefly, is where this argument begins.
In such a context, it's difficult to overstate the ways that the "cognitive" location
described by American media and political culture, "cultural studies," and their sometime
institutional referents constrains such a view of the globe. Certainly, for "cultural studies"
practitioners, it has always been important to refuse the ideological baggage of globalization
discourses, not least because these discourses have leveraged a critical part of our cultural
and political memory in the present. At the same time, however, and although it would

18
appear that the shift in America's position in the geo-economy would be simply a matter for
policy wonks, sociologists, and economists at first tier research institutions, it's crucial for
cultural studies practitioners to embrace the project of rethinking globalization and its
processes. For even the most compelling social-scientific accounts of globalization—for
instance those of Saskia Sassen—hardly make room for a consideration of the ways that
particular kinds of cultural habits or forms impact back on the experience of the so-called
global world economy. Nor, for the most part, is there any sense of the ways that economies
might themselves be understood as belonging to "cultural" history. At the same time, it's now
more or less taken for granted in cultural studies talk that "culture" is at least provisionally
free from the influence of the arcane world of global finance, trade, interest rates, balance of
payments situations, and so on. Of course, in a certain sense, that is true. But it's also true
that, at certain moments, such things definitively shape what we might call everyday life, not
least in so far as they exert kinds of ideological and practical pressure on economic and
political subjects. More importantly and specifically, though, in the last twenty-some odd
years, the processes that have been called globalization have managed to make themselves
felt in part by way of a relentless political reformation of public space, the public sector and
the broadcast media in the U.S. and elsewhere. The agents and discourses of this
transformation have also managed to leverage, by dint of these practical and ideological
changes, a kind of politics "out" of the contemporary imagination. Just what is out depends
upon where you look from, though it appears safe to say that the "left" in its liberal and
socialist forms has been forcibly removed from the current stage of history, at least in the
U.S. and much of the North. The current affective disarray in cultural studies, I'd argue,

19
registers this set of changes without yet being able to imagine its own relation to them—at
least in historical terms. Indeed, in that context, the problems that attend "globalization"
processes appear to be as much cognitive as political, as much disciplinary as ideological.
And from this vantage, the project of understanding—let alone criticizing—"globalization"
seems to require some understanding of the historical processes that have led to the supposed
overcoming of liberal-socialist political programs and ideas. That task appears particularly
pressing, especially if we want to wedge the cultural referents of erstwhile left-liberal-
socialist politics back into our imaginary, either as dialectical antipode to the millennial angst
and utopian frisson of the current moment, or as an historical reminder of the complex
situation of contemporary cultural politics, political culture and civic life.
What I'm proposing, then, is a project that would address both the ideological or
epistemological problems that have attended "globalization" discourses and their pragmatic
referents. On the one hand, in other words, it's important to resist specious claims about the
inevitability of some kinds of public policy in the name of "globalization." The most
important—and wrongheaded—of the claims that still circulate unquestioned imply an "end"
to the nation state and its civic and cultural prerogatives: among them, public space, the
public sector and the so-called welfare state. Although it would appear to be outside the
traditional purlieu of cultural intelligentsia to say so, I would argue that "correcting" these
fallacies is important to our cultural imaginaries, since they impact the very way we imagine
political dimensions of both contemporary and historical culture. At the same time, it's also
important to clarify the ways that the proliferation and fragmentation of public spheres
through the hypertrophy of corporate media have enhanced state power—the fiction of the

20
"weak" or "small" state notwithstanding. That's especially important, I'll argue, as the media
and the state are themselves the subject of popular cultural—and political—fantasies in the
present, and since these fantasies go directly to our ability to imagine any kind of agency, let
alone one with political effects.
On the other hand, however, it's crucial to recognize that something has indeed
changed over the last twenty-five years—indeed, since the long 1973, as one might call it.
During this period, public space, the public sector, broadcast and new electronic media have
been retooled according to the demands of a new regime of capital accumulation called
global Fordism. The changes that have accompanied this regime betoken not only a certain
kind of continuity with free trade imperialism—i.e., liberal colonialism—despite appearances
to the contrary, but also the transformation in the terms in which cultural and civic life can
be understood from the U.S. and states in decolonization. At the same time, the geopolitical,
-economic, and -cultural topographies described by this regime contrast sharply with some
topographies of the postmodern that have become de riguer in media and academic
discussion. At bottom, what we are witnessing is not the solidification of a new cultural logic
or episteme but the discontinuous expansion of the means of cultural (as well as economic)
production and reception across vast expanses of the globe. It's the particular discontinuities
and general unevenness of this expansion that makes cultural politics, political culture,
economic discourse and civic life meaningful, or even intelligible, in the present.
With that in mind, I'd like to focus on the rhetorical and practical circumstances now
called "globalization"—if only to delineate more clearly the world picture that this
ideological formation implies. At the same time, I want to keep another narrative—namely,

21
that of the emergence of "global Fordism"—in view, if only as a reminder of the kinds of
social-historical and cultural limits of that image, and what other kinds of narrative,
ideological and policy choices are available. More than simply "correcting" the suppositions
that undergird public policy and cultural studies discourse, this particular counter-narrative
can also serve as the narrative frame in which cultural studies might understand itself. And
that, I should think, would help us to redraw the limits of cultural studies' purlieu, as well as
its ambitions, at the same time as it reorients our understanding of cultural politics, political
culture and their civic and social referents.
The Enchanted World
The point of remembering something about the seventies, then, isn't the sheer therapeutic
value of coming to our senses about the past, and hence the present, although that's important
too: it's not simply about putting corrective lenses on our collective vision of history. The
larger project is to also to construct something like what Gilíes Deleuze and Felix Guattari
call "geophilosophy," measured to our hypothetical present: as Deleuze and Guattari put it,
such a project is about the relationship between territory and earth, "two components or two
zones of indiscemability" that impinge upon each other. In this case: public space (territory)
and the misconstruction of "global" imaginaries (earth) since 1990 or so. 15 And out of
15 See Gilíes Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994): 85 ff.

22
that—and a good deal of displaced rage—you could say, this kind of salvage operation is
bom.
In April of 1994, when Richard Nixon died, the American press enthusiastically
remembered him as a tortured statesman, driven by his insecurities and a flair for self-pity,
a brilliant, if unscrupulous political tactician whose antisocial figure overshadowed
American cold war history. By the 90's, Nixon had come to be associated with the
culmination of U.S. political disillusionment; even in 70’s retrospect, the rabid anti¬
communism that made Nixon a name in the 50's appeared as but the psychic counterpart to
his paranoid zeal and obsession with information control after '68. But, aside from the
convenient way that the casualties begot of Nixon's Vietnam escalation and withdrawal were
forgotten, one of the more interesting qualities of the press' accounts of Nixon's political life
was the relative unimportance ascribed to perhaps his most far-reaching economic policy.
In August of 1971, Nixon declared the intention to freeze wages and prices for 90 days,
impose a 10% tariff on imports, and honor the international gold standard no longer. In his
1990 memoir, In the Arena, Nixon made no mention of this policy, even though he spent
pages explaining its rationale and effects in his earlier Memoirs (1978). At the time of his
death, only the New York Times made more than passing mention of the policy, singling out
his ending of the gold standard as "one of the most enduring of Mr. Nixon's foreign policy
initiatives.'"6
16 Thomas L. Friedman, "A Nixon Legacy Devalued by a Cold War Standard," New
York Times 1 May 1994: E4.

23
Indeed, when Nixon's policy has been recalled in recent years, the wage and price
controls, the tariff on imports and the reduction in excise taxes on automobiles have been
more or less summarily forgotten, in favor of the end of the gold standard.17 But the "new
economic policy," as it was called, combined several strategies aimed at different targets on
the economic horizon. On the one hand, the wage-and-price and tariff policies caught Nixon
on the horns of a tricky ideological and economic dilemma: intervention in the so-named free
market was bad form for anyone who had for so long touted the virtues of liberal capitalism;
at the same time, the wage-price spiral of the later 60's and early 1970 had proven itself
immune to the usual recessionary tendencies. On the other hand, by closing the gold window,
Nixon aimed to head off a run on the dollar that he thought might be triggered by a British
request that 3 billion be converted to gold.18 Together, these policies appeared to have little
in common except that Nixon announced them at the same time, and that they appeared
mutually contradictory.
Whether Nixon intended it or not, however, these policies both addressed and (in the
long run) exacerbated the contradictions in America's position in the geo-economy near the
end of what has been called "the Golden Age." Indeed, I would argue that the importance of
Nixon's policy was that it interrupted, in a way I'll explain presently, what we might call
17 See, for example, Steve Forbes' nostalgic claim in 1991 that going off the gold
standard had upset America's world-economic ambitions, and Milton Friedman's defense of
the move in the name of free-market fairness. Steve Forbes, "Baleful Anniversary," Forbes
19 Aug. 1991: 23-24; Milton Friedman, "Free Floating Anxiety," National Review 12 Sep.
1994:32-34.
18 Richard Nixon, Memoirs (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978): 518.

24
American-style Fordism. However, I want to do so bearing in mind that this name for the
period of postwar expansion and relative affluence in the North also bears with it an
argument about the character of the postwar public sector—a.k.a. the Keynesian welfare state.
For, whatever we might believe in the present about its unintended side-effects, the American
public sector accrued around the political, military and economic contradictions of the
postwar international (i.e. "global") economy, as much as it addressed the domestic fabric
of American liberalism. In other words, what looked like a national Keynesian welfare state
built on a Fordist model of productivity growth also framed the imaginary of American
public space in a trans-Atlantic environment.
Narratives of the emergence and passing of American and European Fordism have
emphasized the transition from inflexible, standardized production economies of scale to
what David Harvey and others have called flexible accumulation economies of scope. 19
However, the narratives of the regulation school, as it is called, also speak to the relations
between economic and political life, and social and cultural forms both during and after the
postwar "Golden Age." According to Michel Aglietta, whose A Theory of Capitalist
Regulation: the U. S. Experience remains the seminal argument for thinking about Fordism
as a social formation, Fordism accomplished the simultaneous consolidation of the advances
19 See, for examples of arguments that concentrate on shopfloor dynamics of new
agglomeration patterns, Robin Murray's excellent article, "Fordism and Post-Fordism," The
Post-Modern Reader, ed. Charles Jencks (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992): 267-76;
Michael Storper, "The Transition to Flexible Specialisation in the U. S. Film Industry,"
Cambridge Journal of Economics 13 (1989): 273-305; Daniel Leborgne, Alain Lipietz, "New
Technologies, New Modes of Regulation: Some Spatial Implications," Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 6 (1988): 263-280.

25
of scientific management known as "Taylorism" with a sometimes state-supported social
consumption norm. It was, in Aglietta's words, "an articulation between processes] of
production and mode of consumption."20 That accomplishment, Aglietta argues, derived from
coordination, both formally and informally, of a regime of capital accumulation with a mode
of social regulation. In the case of postwar Fordism, an "intensive" regime of accumulation
was combined with a "monopoly" form of regulation: together, they produced two basic sets
of dynamics: first, a dynamic of increased efficiency, whereby, either through design or
manufactured technology, the "gaps" in the work day or work progress were filled in
("intensive" as opposed to "extensive" accumulation); and, second, a dynamic of steadily
increasing domestic demand, got through collective bargaining, wages matched to
productivity increases, and what Alain Lipietz calls the ante-validation of labor through
micro and macroeconomic credit.21
20 Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the U.S. Experience, trans.
David Fembach (New York: Verso, 1987): 117; see, for the supercession of Taylorism by
Fordism, 116-22; hereafter cited as TCR.
21 See Alain Lipietz, The Enchanted World: Inflation, Credit, and the World Crisis,
trans. Ian Patterson (New York: Verso, 1985): xvii, 54-63. There are many useful accounts
of the regulation school, as it is called. In addition to the work of Aglietta and Lipietz, Mike
Davis published an early, critical review of Aglietta's book, which (review) has been
important in shaping my own thinking about regulationist models. In particular, Davis takes
issue with the simple opposition between "intensive" and "extensive" regimes of
accumulation, and argues that elements of both usually function in the same social
formations. See Mike Davis, "Fordism in Crisis: a review of Michel Aglietta's Régulation
et crises: L'experience des Etats Unis," Review 2.2 (1978): 207-69. See also Robert Boyer,
The Regulation School: A Critical Introduction, trans. Craig Chamey (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1990); a very important critical anthology of responses to the regulationist
model can be found in Michael Storper and Allen J. Scott's Pathways to Industrialization
and Regional Development (New York: Routledge, 1992); see especially Bob Jessop's
contribution, 46-69; see also Jessop's excellent critical account, "Regulation Theory in
Retrospect and Prospect," Economy and Society 19.2 (1990): 153-216; for another, very

26
Lipietz and has further explained the notion of social regulation by suggesting that
any regime of accumulation has also to draw up subject positions—either by force or
consent—that potentially reproduce its relations of production. "Production is also not only
a particular production," as Marx put it. "Rather it is always a certain social body, a social
subject."22 These subject positions don't just apply to persons, but also to states, local
govemements, unions, NGO's, and corporations, among others. And, as Lipietz argues, not
every mode of regulation will "work" with a regime of accumulation; indeed, the formation
of different kinds of "agencies"—in the several senses of that word—has to be imagined in
terms of the options available to respond to crisis tendencies and the "normal patterns" in a
regime of accumulation.
In that sense, the gradual articulation of an American Fordism—and its Keynesian
welfare-state cohort—worked on a number of different levels. Just as the New Deal sought
to generalize the conditions of mass production and consumption in America by privileging
productive (industrial, durable goods producing) capital, so the Marshall Plan sought to
rearrange Western European class structure, state regulation, and financial conditions in the
name of an Atlantic unity on a Fordist model.23 It did so not only by encouraging Western
European use of American technology and capital investment to engender an economy
useful critical account, see Robert Brenner and Mark Glick, "The Regulation Approach:
Theory and History," New Left Review 199 (1991): 45-119.
22 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicholaus (New York: Penguin, 1973): 86.
23 Kees van der Pilj, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (London: Verso, 1984):
76-103; 138-71.

27
fuelled by mass consumption, and not only by reconfiguring the liberal internationalist and
rentier financial blocs in favor of a compromise with productive (industrial, durable-goods
producing) capital, but also by intervening in European colonialism. The Marshall plan
sought to establish neo-colonial relations with the periphery by encouraging developing
nations toward independence, though without socialism. This was shown early in American
recognition and trade support for Indonesia against the conservative colonialism of the
Dutch, as well as situations in French Algeria and Belgian Congo.
Despite the frequent crises because of its interventionism, the American economy
was nonetheless the lodestar of Atlantic Fordism. The terms of this leadership involved
shifting alliances between political parties, productive and money capital; the rise and fall
of anti-union sentiment; isolationist and expansionist proclivities on the international scale;
postwar military superiority; and the relative position of American currency on the world
market. It nonetheless consistently relied on a regulatory framework that supported intensive
accumulation on a national scale and on a set of programs that targeted particular kinds of
mass consumption. While the FDIC, the New Deal banking laws, and the Wagner Act
established the former, the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, Eisenhower's later Federal
Highway Aid Act and the National Defense Education Acts provide examples of the latter.
As Mike Davis points out, counting perhaps the exception of the Education act and GI Bill,
none of these programs or the framework itself supported the ideal of universal public
services as might be envisioned in other liberal-democratic contexts: rather, they relied on

28
the state support of mass private consumption as a supplement to a minimally conceived and
implemented public sector.24
The American postwar public sector, so understood, belonged to a set of relationships
that, while ideologically and pragmatically focused on national, white familial domesticity,
entailed active international ideological, political and military preparedness. As it developed
alongside what Eisenhower famously called the "military industrial complex," in other
words, the public sector subvented both the domestic politics of mass consumption,
suburbanization, racial "integration" and liberal patriarchy, and the international politics of
Atlantic anti-communism. In that sense, it's perhaps crucial to recognize that the Keynesian
welfare state came to be synonymous with public provision and the articulation of a public
infrastructure during the postwar period, but that it crystallized programs dating from the
New Deal to the Great Society, and ranging in purpose from A.F.D.C. and social security to
unemployment insurance, transportation infrastructure and military spending. In other words,
far from expressing a "consistent" agenda, the Keynesian welfare state more or less
expressed the limits of American liberal-corporate compromise during the period. These
limits were also very much the libidinal and political as well as fiscal limits of American
Fordism, as the more recent reorganization of public space in the age of global Fordism
24 On the distinction between regulatory programs and those that set up the conditions
for workforce mobility and mass consumption, I follow Mike Davis, Prisoners of the
American Dream (London: Verso, 1986): 191-92 n7; however, by including the Federal
Home Loan Bank Act, I mean to question whether the distinction might also be used as a
periodizing tool, as Davis suggests. On comparative welfare states, see Anthony McGrew,
"The State in Advanced Capitalist Societies," Modernity: An Introduction to Modern
Societies, ed. Stuart Hall et. al. (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996): 239-79.

29
suggests. For it is not this welfare state that has died such an ignominious death at the hands
of congressional Republicans and President Clinton, by and large; rather it has been the tier
of programs whose semiotic charge has been more loaded than its fiscal one, and which have
been made vulnerable by the ideological work accomplished by the intervening Reagan-Bush
years.
The state, then, was the focus of a good deal of cultural as well as political investment
during both the height of the so-called "golden age" and the moment of its passing. Indeed,
the current project of global Fordism—such as it is—has been partly anticipated, if only in
negative form, in the way that the "golden age" and its crisis moment of the 70's have been
imagined or remembered. Business culture in the 60's and 70's, for example, was full of
apprehension about the fate of liberal capitalist economies, especially in what was seen as
their burgeoning welfare-statist form. Robert Heilbroner, writing from the New School for
Social Research, coyly announced, in Business Civilization in Decline, that "Capitalism is
drifting into planning. Is there anyone who can deny the fact?" He continued by assessing,
in a register anticipating Peter Drucker, that post-industrial society would also be "post¬
capitalist," largely free of the class antagonisms of 19th-century industrialism.25 Likewise,
kingpin Keynesian John Kenneth Galbraith imagined the efflorescence of postwar political-
economic form as a "new industrial state" that would "replace the market with planning,"
since the market had "ceased to be reliable" for fulfilling its own needs—or those of
25 Robert Heilbroner, Business Civilization in Decline (New York: W.W. Norton,
1976): 17; 63-78.

30
individual consumers.26 More ominously, Herbert Marcuse described the social system of
interlaced technological, economic and political processes as producing a "comfortable,
smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom" in civic life. "The government of advanced and
advancing industrial societies," he argued, "can maintain and secure itself only when it
succeeds in mobilizing, organizing, and exploiting the technical, scientific, and mechanical
productivity available to industrial civilization."27 Finally, the 1975 Trilateral Commission
report, produced under the direction of Zbigniew Brzezinski and titled The Crisis of
Democracy, treated the coincidence of political "steering problems" and the emergence of
the Kondratieff B-cycle in the U.S. and Europe as both product of and threat to democratic
culture at large. Indeed, what James O'Connor had called the fiscal crisis of the state, the
TLC report imagined as originating in political culture, and in particular in the strata of
"adversary intellectuals" hostile to the "subservience of democratic government to 'monopoly
capitalism.'"28 The part of the report about the United States, penned by 70's neoconservative
darling Samuel Huntington, ascribed the growth of state activity and its diminishing
authority to the "democratic surge," the "excess of democracy" in the 60's—and, in particular,
black activism. As Huntington put it in response to O'Connor's argument: "[The fiscal crisis
26 John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1978): 24.
27 Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964): 1, 3.
28 Introduction, The Crisis of Democracy, by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington,
and Joji Watanuki (New York: NYU Press, 1975): 6.

31
of the state that] the Marxists mistakenly attribute to capitalist economics ... is, in fact, a
product of democratic politics."29
In addition to what we might say about its realities, then, postwar American Fordism
eventually drew along with it an image of a quasi-totalitarian mega-state, an image shared
by its sympathetic and oppositional critics alike. This political and cultural consensus about
the state's rather menacing presence in political, economic and civic life was an indispensable
precondition for the announced agendas of the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations—at
least insofar as they have been committed to the anti-statist rhetorical project involved in
evincing international confidence—to say nothing of annoyance or fear. At the same time,
it might be argued, each of these narratives has suggested an image—utopic or not—for the
passing of this state of affairs into our contemporary moment. For example, Mark Lilia has
recently argued—apropos of the Trilateralist Sam Huntington—that the American revolution
of '68 has spawned an excess of democracy, one that has seeped into culture instead of
remaining in politics and the state.30 Or, more plausibly, one could argue, as Stephen Gill has
done, that Trilateralism was a largely American-born response to the perceived crisis of
liberal political culture and the economy.31 As a series of "reports" commissioned by the
North's most adept apologists (a.k.a. sympathetic critics), the Trilateral ouvre both articulated
29 Samuel P. Huntington, "The United States," in The Crisis of Democracy 73.
30 Mark Lilia, "Still Living With '68," New York Times Magazine 18 Aug. 1998: 34-
37.
31 Stephen Gill, American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990).

32
Northern interests and described the fundaments of the post-Fordist Atlantic order. It was,
in that sense, not only key to forming an historic bloc that included intellectuals, but also an
adumbration of forthcoming explanations of the real and imagined relations between civil
society, capital and the state. Indeed, I'd say that most contemporary "globalization"
narratives take their rhetorical cue from this body of work, retooled for a post-Reagan world
and dispersed beyond the cadre of policy wonks and sociologists at first-tier research
universities, into the mainstream media and popular cultural representations.
However, by appealing to the regulationist model, I also want to suggest that this
image, however popular and important for understanding the political transformations that
occurred in the 80's, misrepresents the character of American welfare Keynesianism—and,
by implication, its supposedly "downsized," "efficient" successor. As I've already suggested,
and as the brilliant work of Michael Katz has shown, America could only have ever claimed
to have what Katz calls a "semiwelfare state"; its social "safety net" has always reflected the
uneven regional political and economic developments in the United States.32 But more
importantly, as Aglietta's argument suggests, the state at this moment served simultaneously
to legitimate the division of civic and cultural labor and to create the conditions favorable
for capital accumulation. A.F.D.C. and social insurance, the two programs most associated
with the term "welfare," in other words, propped up the demand side of economic equations,
even as American investment in public infrastructure supported the particular forms of
Michael B. Katz, In the Shadow of the Poor house: a Social History of Welfare in
America, 10th Anniv. Ed. (New York: Basic, 1996): 115-255.

33
corporate activity characteristic of this moment—what Aglietta calls Fordist "monopoly"
regulation. At the same time, the American welfare state subvented the practical and
ideological distinctions between civic and personal responsibility, public and private, culture
and the economy. Indeed, although Aglietta doesn't make nearly enough of this, this set of
distinctions, as much as any other, has been at issue in new social movements, the more
recent debates about the public sphere so-called, and the neoliberal project of retooling
public space and the public sector.
In other words, the images of both the "welfare state" and its "end" haven't
necessarily referred so much to actual political and economic policies as to the ideological
formations that have attended them. In the present, this has become patently obvious in the
reassertion of the white nuclear family and its demon spawn as the synecdoche of civic life
in general. As Lee Edelman has recently argued, the child has become a pervasive "figure
for the universal value attributed to political futurity," indeed, in such a way as to close off
anything but a conservative, reproductive political imagination.33 This reassertion has taken
place in the context of the more general re-entry of "family values" into political discourse
following Dan Quayle's reading of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, at which time he surmised
that the uprising was mostly due to south central’s citizens' failure to have them, and that our
upmost civic duty was to get and sustain them. President Clinton, not one to let chance to
hasten the party right pass him by, proposed new health care initiatives for the poor that
33 Lee Edelman, "The Future is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory, Disidentification, and the
Death Drive," Narrative 6.1 (1998): 19; hereafter cited as "Kid."

34
target children, much in the way that federal highway construction in the 50's was justified
as "national defense."34 But such pediatric Keynesianism shouldn't obscure the fact that, with
the devolution of welfare services to the states and the revamping the program's goals (to
reduce numbers of recipients, not poverty or indigence), in New Y ork, for example, childcare
for single mothers is nearly impossible to come by, and the Guliani administration refuses
to release its own study on the results of welfare "reform."35
These untidy "facts"—such as they are—have gone rather unnoticed by many
intellectuals, queer and not: indeed, they cast in rather tragicomic relief the symptomatic
civic and cultural amnesia that characterizes the present. In a bizarre twist of rhetorical and
political fortune, for example, Edelman unabashedly takes his political ontology from the
right, since it is the right—and particularly its rabid, Christian partisans—that share his 60's-
vintage Lacanian anthropological-cum-existentialist view of queer identities. At one moment
in his argument, Edelman chides, "While we continue to refute the lies that pervade these
insidious right-wing diatribes, do we also have the courage to acknowledge and embrace
their correlative truths? Are we willing, as queers, to be sufficiently oppositional to the
34 See, for example, Robert Pear, "Aid for Medicaid Children" New York Times 4 Jan.
1998: WK2; and James Dao, "Clinton Details Efforts to Insure More Children," New York
Times 23 June 1998: A 17.
35 See, on the dubious effects of welfare "reform" in New York City, Alan Finder,
"Evidence is Scant that Workfare Leads to Full-Time Jobs," New York Times 12 Apr. 1998:
A1+; on childcare shortage, see Rachel Swarms, "Mothers Poised for Workfare Face Acute
Lack of Day Care," New York Times 14 Apr 1998: A1+; on Guliani's intransigence and the
administration's strategems to lower numbers of recipients, Vivian S. Toy, "Tough Workfare
Rules Used as a Way to Cut Welfare Rolls," New York Times 15 Apr. 1998: A1+.

35
structural logic of opposition... to accept the figural burden of queemess... ?" ("Kid" 26).
What all of this means, of course, is not that queers should get involved in fighting the re¬
tooling of the welfare state on behalf of the rentier classes, or even that sexual identities or
struggles themselves might be shaped by urban and financial crisis attendant upon neo-liberal
policy, but that they simply "embody" opposition to substantial identities by way of
"jouissance"—whether they want to or not ("Kid" 27). Of course, no one can exactly be
against pleasure, really, which it makes it an easy value to hold. And in that sense, it's much
like the child figure that Edelman takes such pains to rejoin. Still, one might simply ask how
a public space structured around "enjoyment" would look substantially different from the
ones we currently inhabit—or miss.
In any case, in the event, Nixon's announcement of a new economic policy did not
so much alter the Fordist framework or what it implied for the public sector as signal the last
gasp of the monetary and fiscal order that had come out of the Bretton Woods agreements
and supported America's position in the postwar international economic circuit, but whose
contradictions were beginning to show on the American side. At the end of 1970, inflation
was 5.7% and unemployment 6.0%, a combination that, by both neo-classical and
Keynesian lights, ought not to have been possible—at least not for any significant amount of
time. But "stagflation," as it was called, confounded economic orthodoxies of many varieties,
as it signalled not merely an economic but cognitive threshold for liberal-capitalist
democracies. On the one hand, the wage-and-price spiral of the late 60's and early 70's
expressed the inflationary tendencies built into Fordist models of technological and
consumption-led growth. As Aglietta explains, while technical innovation initially tends to

36
tamp down profits, once it becomes generalized, the rate of profit once again gathers upward
momentum. The problem accruing in the late 60's and early 70's, then, was that while
productivity and wages were going up, the money value of labor represented by price
stopped increasing. While this circumstance would normally produce creeping inflation, the
monetary situation of the U.S. produced other results (TCR 52-61; 306-307). Indeed, on the
other hand, both inflation and unemployment showed a propensity to rise with the rapidly
worsening American international balance-of-payments situation. The account balance
depends, in aggregate, on three things: investment, government spending, and trade. The
American account deficit was largely the result of financing the Vietnam war, Johnson's
"Great Society" programs, and the relative strength of American currency—that is, American
producers' difficulty in finding export markets.36 Together, the domestic and international
situations produced an accumulation crisis that Newsweek, for example, more or less foisted
onto the consumer, whose saving habits were getting in the way of getting profits going
again.37
In the televised address announcing the new policy, Nixon demonized the anonymous
international money speculators who, in his view, were responsible for a precipitous
fluctuation in the value of the dollar, and he promised to support productive capital and
American workers, the "real creators] of wealth" in the U.S.38 But Nixon was aiming at the
36 On international finance, I have benefltted from the discussion in Stephen Gill and
David Law, The Global Political Economy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1988): 159-90.
37 "1971: The Year of the Consumer?" Newsweek 15 Feb. 1971: 55+.
38New York Times 16 Aug. 1971: A 14.

37
'72 election, hoping that a "floating" exchange rate would bring about enough inflation on
an international scale to make U.S. exports cheaper on foreign markets and "rescue"
American automakers and durable goods manufacturers from foreign competition.
While the gambit worked on a political level, in the long run it only worsened the
situation for domestic manufacturers, as prices for their own products rose along with
imports, and as nations like West Germany let their currencies float up with the dollar.
"Stagflation," in that sense, expressed the contradictions between the monetary expression
of value on national and international scales, and the need for on-the-ground productive
capital investment and public infrastructure in the national space. In other words, Nixon's
policy helped free up the movement of capital and no doubt boosted reliance on short-term
capital flows; however, the move also signified the beginning of the end of political and
cultural privilege of productive capital on the Fordist model. Of course, this political legacy
would endure through the Carter administration and the Chrysler bailout. But stagflation,
along with the oil embargo of '73, more or less crushed American auto and construction
sectors, which multiplied effects throughout the national economy; the former already
suffered from pressures of market saturation, foreign competition and currency valuation in
the late 60's and early 70's; and the latter was particularly hard hit by the credit restrictions
that attended the floating of the dollar and the fall in real incomes in '73-74 (SS 51 -53). And,
while both American automakers and construction industries would survive—and thrive,
even—during and after the economic downturn, there was to be no "recovery" if we mean by
this a return to the national status quo ante: between 74 and the recently announced return
to economic prosperity, profit margins have been restored (and with a vengeance), but

38
American Fordism's political, social, geographic and economic realities, to say nothing of
their rhetorics, have been refashioned on a seemingly total scale. What has taken its place is
not so much a "globalized" as monetized, sped-up climate, in which both fixed and variable
capital costs (also known as equipment and wages) have become an impediment to realizing
sturdy profit margins in the North, and the South and Far East have borne the costs of
"adjustment."
Using the languages of "Fordism" and the regulation school as idioms in which to
describe the demise and recent rearticulation of a political-economic climacteric, I would
argue, makes sense in a couple of ways. In the first place, Aglietta frames his argument in
Theory by reference to two shortcomings in contemporary economic thought: "firstly, its
inability to analyse the economic process in terms of the time lived by its subjects, in other
words to give a historical account of economic facts; and secondly, its inability to express
the social content of economic relations, and consequently to interpret the forces and
conflicts at work in the economic process" (TCR 9). By looking at capital from the point of
view of its proleptically advanced after-image, Aglietta constantly sees the role that
consumption plays in the reproduction of capital and the experience called "everyday life."
Indeed, Alain Lipietz argues that the contours of any mode of social regulation comprise, in
their own way, the terrain on which "everyday" civic and cultural struggles happen. A regime
of accumulation, Lipietz argues, "must... be materialized in the shape of norms, habits,
laws and regulating networks that ensure the unity of the process and which guarantee that
its agents conform more or less to the schema of reproduction in their day-to-day behavior

39
and struggles."39 This emphasis also begins to explain the overlapping concerns of some
regulation school writers and Keynesian and post-Keynesian economists: for both, crisis
moments, at least in the twentieth century, are caused by what Marx called a "realization
problem," and so for both coming to terms with the social side of capital's "equations" has
become paramount.
The narratives of the regulation school—or at least those of Aglietta, Lipietz, Bob
Jessop and some others—in that sense also imply that such political economic changes
simultaneously occur on the level of cultural imagination, so to speak. These narratives, I'd
argue, suggest that economic "facts," like cultural objects and political choices, reflect and
allegorize the propositional "content," for lack of a better word, of social life. Indeed, as
Gramsci reminds us, the relations of hegemony are always pedagogical relations—and so, by
my lights, each of these kinds of objects bears with it a set of suppositions as well as affects;
each of them bears on "a political unconscious," if you will.40 As I've been arguing, one of
the components of the semiosis of American Fordism has been the image of a menacing state
apparatus—a mytheme that partly explains the rush to embrace the globalist idiom of the "end
of the nation state" and to abandon defense of public space and the public sector in the
United States. At the same time, this newer view is coupled with a seemingly contradictory
(and not wholly unfounded) belief in the omnipresence of state authority and power. As
j9 Alain Lipietz, Mirages and Miracles: the Crises of Global Fordism, trans. David
Macey (London: Verso, 1987): 14.
40 Antonio Gramsci, Selection from the Prison Notebooks, trans. Quintín Hoare and
Jeffrey Novell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971): 350.

40
Fredric Jameson has demonstrated by way of films such as The Parallax View, this latter
belief has been in evidence since the 70's and reflects the difficulty of imagining collectivity
at the moment of late capitalism's emergence.41 But such beliefs were also tied to a kind of
millennial imagination that, like the rhetoric of welfare's "end" in our own day, refers as
much to national narcissism as the existence of civilized life. Paul Erdman's novel The Crash
of'79, for instance, imagines "the year the world, as we knew it, fell apart," by way of a far-
reaching set of global financial, political and military "coincidences." Its narrator, George
Hitchcock, an American investment banker who goes to work for the Saudi government,
describes the working of the world political economy as something "just this side" of a
conspiracy: "benign in intent, but rather less than that in execution." Hitchcock confesses that
he initially quits banking because of his disillusion with the liberal fictions of civic
responsibility that go with it. Indeed, he begins with the assumption that the geo-economy
is a "fucking useless rat race."42
This expression of disenchantment with the salutary civic effects of finance no doubt
anticipates our political disenchantment in the present, but it also suggests that there's
something to be said about the way that popular cultural forms suggest structural
relationships between historical moments—both as they are "lived" and as they might appear
to another kind of analysis. In that sense, Erdman's combination of millennial angst and
41 See Fredric Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World
System (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992): 45-66.
42 Paul E. Erdman, The Crash of'79 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976): 7, 84,
202.

41
conspiratorial imagination adumbrates The X-Files: Fight the Future, only in Crash the
aliens are from Iran, Europe, and the Soviet Union, instead of the outer reaches of the galaxy
by way of Texas. Likewise, in the 70's, disaster films—and particularly Irwin Allen's 1974
classic, The Towering Inferno—made a certain perception of economic crisis available for
popular consumption in a way that helps us understand such narratives today. Like The
Poseidon Adventure and the Airport series, The Towering Inferno partly displaces the anxiety
about the political-economic realm onto the infrastructure of capital; whereas the former
focused on transportation (and leisure), in this case, the problem is urban space itself. In the
film, Paul Newman plays architect Doug Roberts, who has designed a dual-use commercial-
residential skyscraper offered as a paean to "urban renewal" in San Francisco. Fire breaks
out on the floor separating the commercial from residential zones of the building, as the
tower's electrical infrastructure cannot handle the load necessary to create the spectacle for
its gala dedication. The tower's builder, Jim Duncan (William Holden), and electrical
contractor, Duncan's son-in-law Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain), have otherwise
conspired to save on the building's construction and pocket the sizable difference for
themselves. By the time the fire is out, Roberts knows of the builder's designs, and he
suggests that they leave the burned-out shell standing, as "a shrine to all the bullshit
happening in the world."
As a narrative of "urban renewal," The Towering Inferno offers a pretty bizarre
picture. The film displaces questions of crisis onto the imaginary of bourgeois lived
experience—such that urban renewal is experienced as crisis itself, rather than a response to
or an effect of it. For the most part, the film appears to be rather indifferent to the urban

42
history that Senator Parker, chair of the Federal Urban Renewal Commission, alludes to in
his dedication of the building. And the evident "cause" of the structure's crisis is but the
banal greed of builder and subcontractor, a motive that is apparently self-explanatory for the
purposes of the narrative. But the contours of a crisis narrative do appear in the film's
margins. First, there is Harley, played by Fred Astaire, a man who has come to the tower to
meet Lisa Mueller (Jennifer Jones) for the ribbon-cutting party. Mueller lives in the tower
and belongs with the "celebrities of government, television, and screen" that attend the party.
Harley has come back to "the reality" of San Francisco, as he puts it, so he can do the one
thing that he does best: play the stock market. But after a brief encounter with danger and as
the fire threatens the tower's upper reaches, Harley confesses to Lisa that he doesn't have any
money or stock, and that he had come to sell Lisa fake shares in a nonexistent firm. He asks
her to admit she's "surprised, or at least disappointed." She reassures him that she's neither.
Not long after, she dies a spectacular death, falling from a scenic elevator that carries the
women and children from the top floors to safety below.
The narrative accounts for neither Lisa's nonchalance nor her death, though to do so
it suffices to ask a question: how would a skyscraper renew urban space? Or, for whom? In
The Towering Inferno, those who stand to benefit from the structure's "success" are Roberts
and Duncan (and, of course, Simmons); as Duncan tells Roberts, Parker wants to build glass
towers like this one in cities all across the country. But a high rise office tower in San
Francisco could hardly be considered "renewal" unless what has gone sour are prospects for
urban industrial capital. In other words, the film narrates—and displaces—"urban renewal"
as a crisis of profitability, itself very much the lived content of "stagflation" for American

43
corporate elites in the 70's. At the same time, it could be said that it allegorizes the historical
management of this crisis by the installation of finance, insurance and real estate
sectors—known as FIRE in federal economic report-speak—as the dominant industries in
urban space. Indeed, what could be a better dream-image for the interests of FIRE than a
burned-out corporate-residential skyscraper?
At any rate, Mueller's indifference to Harley's scam testifies to the implausibility of
a distinction between "real" financial investment and its opposite, even after Harley had
taken the trouble to suggest that coming back to San Francisco to play the stock market was
a return to "reality." The suggestion, in fact, is enough to make one wonder if the city
imagined in the film isn't New York, at least as much as San Francisco, as that city's urban
"renewal" at the hands of the Rockefeller family very much brought on its fiscal crisis in
1975, even as it acted to displace industrial working populations, increase profit margins and
rents, reap tax abatement windfalls, and fortify Wall Street.43 The point, however, is that Lisa
dies as a matter-of-fact witness to capital's new modus operandi. When Roberts, for example,
discovers the builder's scheme to skim off profits, he confesses his disillusionment to
Duncan: "I thought we were building something where people could live and work and be
safe." And, by narrative's end, even Duncan has confessed to the error of his ways and vows
never to let this kind of catastrophe happen again. Mueller and Simmons, by contrast, are
strangely immune to this kind of disillusion, and both fall to their deaths while being
"rescued."
4j See, on this point, Robert Fitch, The Assassination of New York (New York: Verso,
1993).

44
In the film, at any rate, the disaster of urban renewal—also, a crisis of profitability,
a.k.a "stagflation" in the 70's—has to be named and judged, at the same time as its principle
form gets saved from the ashes. As the fire chief (Steve McQueen) leaves the scene, Douglas
promises to ask him how to design one of these things, next time—since there will be a next
time. (Evidently, you can't fight FIRE with fire.) At the same time, the utopic social order
that the film hints at is wholly displaced or destroyed, rather than simply marginalized. Susan
(Faye Dunaway), Doug's wife, is offered a job as managing editor at a big magazine; in
explaining her desire for the job, she says that she wants a place where "our kids can run
around and be free," but concludes, by a completely unstated logic (Doug is silent during this
conversation), that she can't have both things at once. Likewise, the affair between publicist
Robert Wagner and his secretary Susan Flannery, very much across class lines,
unceremoniously ends when they are both consumed in the fire.
As I've already suggested, however, what's really important about The Towering
Inferno is the way it imagines all of this as a crisis of "urban renewal." Whatever its gender
politics, in other words, they are "subordinated" in the film's imaginary to the fire—in which,
when it comes down to it, women and children must be saved first. The film's particular
vision, in that sense, has been rewritten, certainly, by contemporary disaster films (Twister,
Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano)-, but it has also been rewritten by John McTeirnan's Die
Hard series, in which the multinational character of both urban space and capital serves as
the precondition for commentary on gender and race relations, problems of urban
infrastructure, and institutions of global finance. In fact, each of these films testifies to the
way that the reconfiguration of public space has relied on a reimagination, from all angles,

45
of the role of urbanity in a new economic situation. For the most part, its value is not simply
as a metonym for industrialization or Keynesian social policy (both held to be residual or
"retrograde"), but also as a place for the rearticulation, in a "new" geo-economy, of a vision
of civic and familial life very much in an older mode.
While I'll have more to say about these films, in general, I'm arguing that a certain
kind of capitalism demands a certain kind of Marxism, one tuned not only into debates about
the history of cultural form, but also to the dialectical relation between cultural forms, social
life and economic transformations. If I'm right about the character of capital at present, it
derives its contours from a crisis moment in the 70's that very much coincided with the crisis
of American hegemony in the world system. It has simultaneously taken its cue from the
problems posed in and by an urban environment that had once attended industrial capital,
which has also, we are told, seen its heyday. However, I think it's important to also issue a
qualification (or amplification, if you prefer) of this set of claims. On the one hand, industries
like automobile and construction were particularly important to the postwar economy, as
they supported the sub/urban-interstate-industry nexus in the built environment and media
tableau, and were for a time key segments of the union establishment. Along with military
production and investment, these industries cast the advances or paralyses of the economy
in their own mold, partly through far-reaching adjacency to industries like rubber, plastics,
steel, glass, and banking; and partly through the ideological affects of anti-union efforts and
media fawning over such icons as Lee Iaccoca. However, while neither industry has this
ideological or structural priority in the current political-economy (or media imaginary), the
disaggregation of the climacteric in which they thrived has not quite left behind a

46
"deindustrialized" landscape either.44 Rather, it has meant qualitatively different spatial,
economic and cultural forms, produced in the crucible of an intensified class struggle.
GM's response to crisis of the 70's was its infamous "southern strategy," by which
it moved parts manufacture to the southern states where unions were scarce. Subsequently
GM and others took advantage of the U.S. law that subvented the appearance of "export
processing zones" on the Mexican border, where manufacturers can assemble parts produced
elsewhere with export duties only on the cost of labor.45 However, the maquiladora strategy
was but one example of the way that capital has attempted to cope with a more general crisis
of profitability so-called. From its point of view (quickly adopted by even the Carter regime),
stagflation may indeed have had to do with the dollar's ambiguous position on international
markets, with the on-the-ground effects of the oil embargo, and with the subsequent
recycling of petrodollars to finance the U. S. debt. But it also showed up as bottlenecks that
accrued around "inflexible" fixed capital investments and technologies of production, to
which capital's response has been to call upon what David Harvey has called "flexible
accumulation" strategies. As Harvey suggests, these strategies were not only adapted to old
industries, but subvented "the emergence of new sectors of production, new ways of
44 In saying this, I mean not to question the interesting narratives and analyses of
eighties corporate and state politics from Bennett Harrison and Barry Bluestone, but the
misnomer "deindustrialization"; see The Deindustrialization of America (New York: Basic
Books, 1982); idem, The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of
America (New York: Basic Books, 1988); see also, for clarification of the extent and
meaning of deindustrialization, Ronald E. Kutscher and Valerie A. Personick,
"Deindustrialization and the Shift to Services," Monthly Labor Review June 1986: 3-13.
45 James M. Rubenstein, The Changing U. S. Auto Industry: A Geographical Analysis
(New York: Routledge, 1992): 238-250.

47
providing financial services, new markets, and ... greatly intensified rates of commercial,
technological and organizational innovation."46 In industries like semiconductor manufacture,
financial services, and new craft and textile production, as well as in older industries like
auto manufacture, the advantage of organizational "flexibility" has been to avoid "backward
transmission of uncertainty" through rigid, vertically integrated production processes. These
industries and kinds of organization have lent themselves to new forms of urban-suburban
agglomeration and an extremely refined division of labor. Indeed, as Allen Scott has shown
for the printed circuit industry in Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, these
configurations tend toward decentralization and suburbanization of industry, and have spread
to many metropolitan areas in the U.S.47
In this sense, it's important not to view this as just a "classic" crisis of overproduction,
as Ernest Mandel does, because both the shape and durability of the crisis have involved
geographies and social forms, as well as political timing and decisions peculiar to U. S. class
relations and its position in the world economy (SS 9-42). For example, during the 70's, the
Carter administration, with an overwhelmingly Democratic congress, failed to get through
even moderate measures like Ralph Nader's Consumer Protection Agency and even labor law
"reform" that merely enforced the industrial status quo. These defeats were in part due to
increasing corporate political organization in the Business Roundtable, itself a response to
46 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity {London: Blackwell, 1990): 147.
47 Allen J. Scott, Metropolis: from the Division of Labor to Urban Form (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1988): 112; 105-118.

48
the regulatory frameworks set down between '65 and 72. While these never could have
succeeded if labor had not already been on the wane and were not "big government" already
believed to be the agency of economic malaise, Carter himself evinced interest in courting
business from the beginning of his term.48 Indeed, it might be said that Reaganomics began
with the Carter administration, as Congress lurched rightward in 1978, capping social
spending, deregulating telecommunications and transport industries, and working for higher
interest rates.
More than that, I should like to emphasize that the rearticulation of American
hegemony over the geo-economy has not, in fact, meant that the important elements of the
postwar Fordist order have simply fallen into desuetude—although the places in which they
were once located may indeed have. Although it is frequently claimed that the world under
sway of global economic forces is both novel and epoch-making, the on-the-ground picture
is a little more humdrum. Certainly, the Defense of Marriage Act's assertion that gay
marriage and not capital threaten white middle-class family arrangements was rather
classically homophobic. But the question begged by both cynical "family values" discourse
and glib queer posturing over "enjoyment" concerns the fictive and real agencies of kinship
and (sexual?) pleasure at the millennium, understood as I have been describing it. In other
words, both "queer" intellectuals like Edelman and neoliberal ideologues like John Kasich
48 See, on these points, Patrick J. Akard, "Corporate Mobilization and Political
Power: the Transformation of U. S. Economic Policy in the 1970's," American Sociological
Review 57 (1992): 597-615; Kim McQuaid, Big Business and Presidential Power: From
FDR to Reagan (New York: William Morrow, 1982): 298-310; Mike Davis, "The AFL-
CIO's Second Century," New Left Review 136 (1982): 43-54; see especially 46ff.

49
call on a vision of the heterosexual family that frequently ignores the way that it belonged
to spatial, ideological and social forms attendant upon American style Fordism: at the same
time, then, they miss the particular ways such forms might inflect the "content" of the
supposedly globalized present.
It's in that context, I'd argue, that it behooves us to reread literary narratives like Gish
Jen's Typical American that simultaneously narrate a crisis of "American" identity and the
nuclear family at the end of the "golden age." Jen's narrative paints the contradictions of
American Fordism in now shopworn and cartoonish images associated with postwar
affluence: new automobiles, single-family homes, well-manicured lawns, and so on. But the
critical moment of ethnic and economic assimilation (i.e., becoming "American") comes at
the end of this narrative, when Ralph Chang nearly kills his sister by running her over with
his car, directly after he's discovered that his wife's been having an affair with his former
business partner. As we might guess, the crisis of the American ideal gets masculinized: "He
was not what he made up his mind to be. A man was the sum of his limits; freedom only
made him see how much so. America was no America."49 Just so, the class-laden character
of this national/ethnic identification never gets scrutinized. But the real problem that
underlies both of these has to do with Jen's uncritical acceptance of patriarchal nuclear family
in isolation from larger patterns of social life, and the way that she represents this crisis
against the backdrop of communist revolution.50 In this narrative, the "success" of that
49 Gish Jen, Typical American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991): 296.
50 One might see, for a more interesting version of this narrative, Rick Moody’s novel
(and, subsequently, film) The Ice Storm (New York: Warner Books, 1994); Moody's

50
revolution becomes the occasion to narrate the formation of the immigrant nuclear
family—absent the context of postwar American international expansion. As I've been
arguing, these levels of experience could be said to depend reciprocally on one another.
Indeed, I am rather more convinced that in this newer arrangement, neo- or global Fordism,
there has been a heteroclite and uneven (i.e., dialectical) but still consistent reorganization
and revaluation of the cultural and social tendencies that characterized postwar Atlantic
Fordism. So even if it would have been hard to predict the turn of events in the 80's and early
90's given the business culture of the 70's, or even if the heady zeal that characterizes the
announcement of the global age and its cognates—including "family values" retrenchment
in the U.S.—couldn't have been anticipated from the age of disco, still, I think, their dim
enchantments ought to be met with a degree more skepticism. As should the unreflexively
utopian impulses of Marxism.
As I’ve already suggested, the recombination of financial and on-the-ground
processes of production has meant a problem for the organization and cultural imagination
of urban/sub-urban space and industry. As Aglietta argues, however, this problem is itself
part of a broader cohort of symptoms that develop with the concentration of capital in the
financial realm. In his view, the pertinent distinction is not between public and private
finance so-called, but in the "monetary expression of the commodity product and the rights
narrative plays interestingly on the tendency of 90's disaster films to rely on meterological
catastrophe (Volcano, Deep Impact, Twister) as a way to address history and lived space, and
to rewrite the disaster genre of the 70's. Moody's narrative actually addresses the "crisis" of
the seventies in its ostensible narrative, but entrains with it questions about politics, and
especially Watergate.

51
of purchase that are acquired over this commodity product by a fraction of the total income
that results from non-marketed activities" (TCR 247). What matters for public expenditure,
in other words, like financial or real estate speculation, is that, even if they produce
opportunities for consumption, they reduce the fraction of surplus value available in the U.S.
to productive (as opposed to financial) capital. By the seventies, Aglietta argues, the
stagnation of real incomes and the regional variation in public expenditure in the U.S. led
productive capital to leave areas with high social costs, and a reverse migration on the part
of workers. While one interim solution to the problem was debt (or, less happily, fiscal
crisis), as I’ve already mentioned, it also led, as Aglietta argues, to an increasing social
polarization expressed in urban and suburban geography (TCR 249).
As lived from the United States, then, I would argue that "globalization" looks a lot
like the evisceration of a once liberal-productivist political economy in favor of finance,
service and retail sectors; simultaneously, it has meant the restructuring of public space and
civic and cultural life under three inauspicious stars: monetarism, military liberalism, and
media conglomeration. Together, these factors tendentially comprise the historical
preconditions for any consideration of American cultural politics or political culture at the
millennium. Indeed, I'll argue, they help explain the particular kinds of collective
amnesia—or rather, persistent misrecognition—suffered by media pundits, policy wonks, and
cultural critics alike when it comes to imagining political and cultural agency tout court. At
the same time, and whatever the sheer therapeutic value of anamnesia, I don't want to
underestimate the power of forgetting the sordid details of American cultural and social life

52
in the present: however, it's also perhaps worth noting that some kinds of forgetting are more
intellectually and politically pernicious than others.

CHAPTER 3
AFTERLIFE: CULTURAL STUDIES
In two recent studies of the history of the British novel, Nancy Armstrong and
Leonard Tennenhouse and Michelle Burnham return to the scene of Richardson’s Pamela
so as to reconstitute the scene at which we might imagine the emergence of literate classes
and the novel. Both studies displace this text as an untroubled site of generic origin, and
suggest that Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, published in America some fifty years
before Pamela, ought to frame any discussion of the English novel. Moreover, by
highlighting the importance of the colonial context that underwrites the circulation of these
texts, both studies politicize the production and reception of sentimental captivity narratives
as narratives of national identification. Armstrong and Tennenhouse, in fact, suggest that "the
novel [was not] first and foremost a European genre, but rather one that simultaneously
recorded and recoded the colonial experience."1 For Burnham, the "moving quality" of these
sentimental narratives refers not simply their emotional appeal, that is, their ability to “move”
their readers hearts, but also their ability to “move” across the Atlantic as commodities, as
1 Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, The Imaginary Puritan: Literature,
Intellectual Labor and the Origins of Personal Life (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1992): 197. Hereafter IP.
53

54
narratives instrumental in forming a class of readers irreducibly involved in the colonial
experience.2
Both these studies rely, in one way or another, on Benedict Anderson’s notion of an
"imagined community" as a figure for the colonial, imaginary link between readers on
opposite sides of the Atlantic. Armstrong and Tennenhouse suggest that Anderson’s
historical reconstruction of the emergence of "print capitalism" encapsulates an historical
narrative of the emergence of social classes willing and eager to identify themselves as
literate; and so it also allows us, they argue, to reinsert "intellectuals" into narratives of
economic and social domination such as we have inherited from Marx (IP 140-44).
Burnham, for her part, finds the specifically psychoanalytic dimensions of this imaginary to
be most important: by recalling these, she suggests, we can recapture the subversive aspect
of the captivity narrative as sentimental fiction—namely, the identificatory ambivalence
structured into the narrative place of the reader (55; 64).
While neither of these studies remains unreserved in using this approach to novelistic
prose—a point to which I will have occasion to return—they nonetheless take the socio¬
political dimensions of reading to be critical to an understanding of the genre and, in the case
of Armstrong and Tennenhouse, the origins of intellectual life in general. In fact, it’s fair to
say that, in pursuing their questions in this way, both these studies quite reconstitute the old
scene of storytelling itself-at least insofar as they invoke the audience as the story’s
2 Michelle Burnham, "Between England and America: Captivity, Sympathy and the
Sentimental Novel," Cultural Institutions of the Novel, ed. Diedre Lynch and William B.
Warner (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996): 49.

55
condition. And both do so in ways telling of more local and recent developments in the genre
of the novel, or rather in the genre of the "history of the novel" as a question for literary
academics. For both take this act of reading, to different degrees, as definitive for formation
of certain social classes who were instrumental in the formation of the early British public
sphere. While for Armstrong and Tennenhouse, the history of these classes remains
inseparable from the constitution of gendered locations of literate subjectivity and political
agency {IP 200-201), Burnham recasts the formation of these classes in terms of the
displaced, fractured character of the narratives as they affect their readers (63). For both, this
genre’s circulation suggests a way to reimagine notions of class that we derive from
Marx—namely, as referring to the relation to the means of economic production—so as to
take into account a political economy of cultural practices that support the reproduction of
economic capital.
Let us for the moment pose these narratives of the emergence of this genre and its
public as a renarration of the British "example" that constitutes for Jórgen Habermas the first
historical instance of a literate public sphere that "functioned in the political realm." While
the novel would certainly appear to mediate on some level between civil society (the
formation of "classes") and the state (colonialism), it can hardly be said to exemplify the
ideal of universally available, "enlightened" reason.3 As a product of print capitalism and
British colonialism, the novel would already be involved in highly irrational and
3 Jürgen Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into
a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1989): 57ff. Hereafter ST.

56
asymmetrical relations of production, distribution, and exchange. Moreover, the generic
limitations of narrative prose fiction make it an unlikely candidate for embodying
normatively defined, transparent political knowledge. Indeed, we might say that the novel
gives us a better idea of the "actually existing public sphere" insofar as it helps us understand
the social, psychic, and political compromises that shape knowledge production in late 17th
and early 18lh -century transatlantic culture, than it exemplifies an ahistorical ideal of
"reason." Given that, as Habermas himself recognizes, the literate public sphere is never not
the product of the commodification of information and of the market for knowledge "goods,"
and given that publicity is never not involved in formal limitations or choices, it seems
unlikely that the political public sphere might find itself embodied in the idiolect of 18th-
century narrative fiction—or any other, for that matter. While the "autonomy" that
Habermas ascribes to public intellectuals cannot by any means be taken for granted, a
relativism that would dismiss the very possibility of an "actually existing public sphere" and
"public intellectuals" out of hand must repress the fact that, in the absence of any "actually
existing" representatives of public interest, we are at no loss for actually existing hegemonic
interests, that is, for particular interests capable of representing themselves in public as
"universal."4 In fact, we might more precisely map the problem of the public intellectuals and
public spheres using the notion of hegemony which Gramsci enunciates in his famous
4 See, on this question of hegemony and intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci, Selections
from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintín Hoare and Geoffrey Novell Smith (New
York: International Publishers, 1971): 3-43; hereafter PN; I am indebted, on this question,
to the consideration of hegemony given by Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century:
Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994): 28-29.

57
remarks on intellectuals. Against the received idea that Gramsci proposes the "organic"
intellectual as an ideal of public "authenticity," we should notice that the "organic quality"
(my emphasis) of intellectual functionaries is strictly relational in Gramsci’s view.
Intellectuals, Gramsci argues, are the functionaries of social formations whose infrastructures
always mediate both their relation to people and the "world of production." "It should be
possible," Gramsci argues, "both to measure the ‘organic quality’ of the various intellectual
strata and their degree of connection with a fundamental social group, and to establish a
gradation of their functions and of the superstructural ‘ levels’" (PN12). Gramsci names two:
civil society and the state. Both of these levels are necessary for the exercise of social
hegemony, since, according to Gramsci social leadership cannot be exercised fully either by
"spontaneous" consent in civil society or the use of force by the state. In fact, Gramsci points
out that "the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the
consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion—newspapers and
associations—which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied" {PN80, n 49).
While this definition would seem to broaden the definition of intellectuals almost to the point
of making the distinction unusable, it actually has the effect of rendering both the "organic"
and the "autonomous" as wholly relational terms with which to map out the problem of
knowledge production in modem social formations.5 By reimagining the question of the
5 See, on this point, John Guillory’s mapping of these poles in “Literary Critics as
Intellectuals: Class Analysis and the Crisis of the Humanities,” Rethinking Class: Literary
Studies and Social Formations, ed. Wai Chee Dimock and Michael Gilmore (New York:
Columbia, 1994): 107-149; see especially pp. 130-33.

58
"public" intellectual by way of the question of hegemony, we recast the debate in terms of
conditions in which cultural, political, and social legitimation of particular interests might
occur—as if they were universal. And we recuperate, in more precise fashion, the political
intent of Habermas’ distinction between autonomous intellectuals and their others: namely,
the effects of the "structural domination of the market" on knowledge production.
If political hegemony always bears out the contradictions of the compromises in
which it is forged, then we can be sure that any culture’s intellectual corps will evidence
them. As I have suggested in chapter one, the current compromise between the American
state, multinational capital, and American political culture renders public intellectuals as a
kind of contradiction in terms. While on a certain level the cultural disbelief in public,
"universal" intellectuals in favor of "specific" ones might appear more "rigorous" or
"accurate"—pace Foucault—the disbelief itself overlooks that only certain intellectual
functionaries are ever called intellectuals, and that the delegitimation of the very idea of
public intellectuals has furthered only specific political and cultural agendas. While these
agendas might certainly have included some advocated by intellectuals employed by the state
in the public sector, it is unclear that, now that this sector has come under the screws of re¬
rationalization, they might be able, quite literally, to "afford" this compromise so easily as
the state and capital.
In this chapter, I would like to reconsider the position of literary-critical intellectuals
within this larger framework, through a certain kind of historical sociology that takes its cue
from the work of Pierre Bourdieu. In particular, I want to return to the suggestion offered by
renarrating the origins of the bourgeois public sphere by way of the origins of the English

59
novel: namely, that the function of literary critical intellectuals involves a very particular
mediation between civil society, the state, and capital; and, moreover, that this mediation can
be understood by way of a political economy of genre. I begin here with the novel not
because its early forms work to appropriate the authenticity of "news," nor simply because
of the temporal coincidence in our narratives of its origin and that of the bourgeois public
sphere; rather I begin here because the question of the novel’s "origin" serves to reorient both
the imaginary of properly "literary" form and the disciplinary function of literary-critical
intellectuals in the United States. That is, the novel serves as the screen for both political and
disciplinary anxieties that crystallize in the postwar university, and particularly in the
publication, in 1957, of Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel, a text which still circulates with
an aura of "originary" status, though for reasons that are largely unstated, or misunderstood.
I would like to argue that this text serves not only as a mediation in decades old debate
between the New Critics and the New York intellectuals about the function of narrative
fiction, it also serves as the disciplinary and historical touchstone for studies in popular or
mass culture. In these contexts, as well as the context of more recent history of the history
and function of the literary genre, Watt’s text points to the political and representational
impasses on which literary-critical intellectuals have found themselves stranded. As I will
demonstrate here, it does so in ways that are helpful for imagining the relations between
genre, literary-intellectuals and the (now defunct?) bourgeois public sphere.
More than that, however, Watt’s text will help me address the particular problems of
literary and cultural studies in a present enchanted by the notion of "globalization." As I’ve
been arguing, "globalization" has become the implicit and explicit watchword of media and

60
academic discussion in the last ten years. At the same time, "Marxist" responses to cultural,
political and economic transformations have been forcibly removed from these lexicons.
Watt’s argument, I’ll suggest, was itself a hybrid response to the so-called exhaustion of
Marxism-another end of ideology-at another historical moment. To a certain degree, I’ll
argue, Watt’s argument offers us one way to get some purchase on the mystifying and
enabling effects of the "globalized" world view, since it arose from ideological and practical
pressures similar to those that make up the enchanted world. It will not do simply to restate
Watt’s questions, nor to restage his response. As I’ll suggest, it’s also important to rephrase
the questions themselves in light of the ideological and on-the-ground effects of global
Fordism.
In the following pages, then, it is not a question of "rescuing" Watt’s text from the
dustbin of cultural history or returning to a more idyllic mode of intellectual production.
Rather, it is precisely because this text is both depasse and, in a certain way, au current that
it facilitates an historical mapping of both the intellectual and the institutional, pragmatic
positions from which we approach the problem of hegemony of literary-intellectuals. I will
continue to stress that this text serves as a metonym for a certain institutional moment, rather
than for the enduring work of a critical genius or a landmark of its own genre; while I am
interested in the way that the sociology of knowledge mediates between the claims of literary
form and a Marxist tradition of letters suppressed in the anti-communist frenzy of the 1950’s,
what is at stake in "retrieving" this text is the way that it documents problems of institutional
legitimation for literary-critical intellectuals. By situating its particular impasses within
social and cultural relations of production, we can reconstruct a set of historical and

61
theoretical questions that will allow us to recast the problem of literary intellectuals after the
"end-of-ideology," and in the afterlife of "literature."
The Novel. Literary Modernism, and the Popular Aesthetic
It has become a commonplace of studies in the history of the novel to make reference
to Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel either as the origin of academic debates about this genre
or as the bad object against which to define one’s position—or both.6 Watt, of course, was not
the first to write a history of the English novel, although one would be hard pressed to find
references to any of his predecessors in debates after 1970. In this sense, Watt’s text remarks
an important moment in the definition of our contemporary literary discipline. As Homer
Brown has observed in a recent essay, Watt’s text might well have been called The Rise of
Criticism of the Novel, as it appears when "what is taking place institutionally [i.e. in the
university] is the American appropriation of English literature as a component of its own
national identity."7 Brown’s larger argument for the moment notwithstanding, Watt’s text,
6 Armstrong and Tennenhouse make the point about Watt’s durability in The
Imaginary Puritan, 201; others who take Watt to be a signal point of departure include
Firdous Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel (New York: Routledge, 1993): 15; Lennard
J. Davis Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1983): 5; J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: the Cultural Contexts of
Eighteenth Century English Fiction (New York: Norton, 1990): 7,31; John Richetti, Popular
Fiction Before Richardson: Narrative Patterns: 1700-1739 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969):
1-22; Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel 1640-1700 (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1987): 1-4.
7 Homer Brown, "Why the Story of the Origin of the (English) Novel Is an American
Romance (If Not the Great American Novel)," Cultural Institutions of the Novel, ed. Lynch
and Warner: 28.

62
perhaps more than any other, has been the reference point for the ways academics imagine
their own positions with respect to the genre and its history. What needs to be remarked,
however, is precisely the way that it came to define the genre as worthy of inspection at all,
and how we might evaluate its claims in the context of its historical placement in
institutional memory. For the arguments that Watt makes for placing the novel’s origin in
the eighteenth century, for linking it to the emergence of what he calls a new middle class,
and for valorizing the work of Fielding and Richardson were not, in and of themselves,
altogether new, at least insofar as discussion of the English novel took place.8 Its innovations,
rather, appear to be in way it frames its questions. And these, especially as they are embodied
in the explanation of "formal realism" and its approach to its audience, can only be
understood by recalling the relations of intellectual production from which this text emerged
and in which it continues to circulate. We need to know, in addition to the fact that the
argument does still have a certain privilege, why and how it continues to do so.
Brown’s argument offers us a rather acute sense of the institutional conditions in
which recent evaluations of Watt’s work have occurred and how they reflect on our questions
about genre. As I have suggested above, Brown circumscribes the emergence of Watt’s
narrative by reference to the formation of national identities. In this context, Brown further
suggests that we can consider American appropriation of British literature in the 1950's a
8 On these points, one might see Richard Burton, Masters of the English Novel: A
Study in Principles and Personalities (Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1909): 1-73;
Richard Church, The Growth of the English Novel (New York: University Paperbacks,
1951): 1; Walter Allen, The English Novel: A Short Critical History (London: Pheonix
House Ltd., 1954): 19-97.

63
kind of "cultural imperialism" (30), in which Watt only feeds an exceptionalist strain of the
American imagination. Brown’s characterization of the effect of Watt’s definition of the
genre is worth citing at some length:
Insistence that the novel fully realized its generic identity—that it was
"institutionalized"—by 1750 is also based on a misconception of institution,
not only implying an untenable confusion of intentionality with fully received
acknowledgement but also tacitly evoking the ideological seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century political presumption of strict genealogical determination.
What an institution was in its beginnings it must always be. What an
institution can become must be fully present in its origins (at least according
to the way those "origins" are politically conceived retrospectively). Aside
from the tautology of this claim in principle, in this particular case it sets a
definite ideological limit on what kind of novel can claim entitlement, and for
that matter on the definition of the very culture that produces and/or is
produced by this increasingly effective shaper of cultural and social desire.
(14-15)
It is quite beside our purpose here to pursue this argument as it pertains to the content of
Watt’s argument. What concern us, rather, are the ways that Brown circumscribes the
statements or meaningful silences in Watt’s argument within institutions in which it
circulates. As with the claim of "cultural imperialism," the language of literary "entitlement"
would describe the novel in the context of practices whose intentional or incidental results
were the social domination of classes. According to this argument, there is a homology
between the relations of fictional prose narratives that can claim the honorific title of "novel"
in the context of a certain pedagogy and those that, for whatever reasons, cannot; and the
social agents who compose or whose "culture" is represented by those narratives. In this
context, according to Brown, what is missing in Watt’s historical reconstruction is some
sense in which judgments about the novel-be they historical, aesthetic, moral, etc.-actively
constitute the literary historical character of the objects that they inspect. Indeed, he argues

64
that "[t]he fictions of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding, it could be argued, only become ‘the
novel’ symbolically by means of retrospective histories that made them seem inaugural and
exemplary at once" (14). Indeed, these fictions, according to this argument, are only
"uncertain" in their status as novels, since Defoe, Richardson and Fielding didn’t give them
this name (14).9 But the question remains, however, as to what efficacy Watt’s definition of
the novel might have had, coming from the location it did at the moment it did, in academic
culture or literary culture at large in the United States. For it is by no means certain that if
Defoe, Fielding and Richardson had called their fictions novels, that they would have
counted as novels in that context or any other—otherwise Congreve would be among our first
novelists. Likewise, there is nothing to say, even given the institutional privilege of Watt’s
definition, that that institution might have defined the novel in general for American
audiences of the novel. Indeed, one might guess that the formation of a field of taste beyond
scholastic definitions is precisely what is at issue in the debate about the "rise of the novel,"
and that we need to account for the disciplinary and cultural arrangements in which Watt’s
assertion might have made any difference, much less the rather definitive one Brown
attributes to it.
One of the contexts in which we will have to place this rise of criticism of the novel
is the institutional influence of cultural modernism embodied in both American New
Criticism and the work of the New York Intellectuals. Indeed, despite their apparent
9 Watt argues that Richardson and Defoe did not call their fictions “novels”; see Ian
Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957): 9-10; hereafter
RN.

65
differences precisely over the importance of the novel, these two groups of literary critics
shared a set of cultural assumptions that clearly account for the form and perdurance of
Watt’s definition of the novel. American New Criticism, for its part, not only exercised
considerable authority in the definition and defense of literary disciplines from the late
1930's until the 1950's, it also, in this way, managed to redefine both the object and the
purpose of the work of literary-critical intellectuals. While the polemical target of much of
what we call New Criticism was a vaguely defined "science," the literary dimensions of the
New Critics’ debates took their cue from the narrative within which their canonical
revaluations were repeatedly made: namely, T. S. Eliot’s narrative of the "dissociation of
sensibility." According to this narrative, the poetic sensibility, comprised of more or less
unified elements of "thought" and "feeling" before the middle of the seventeenth century, had
been dissociated—and, not coincidentally, at the very moment of the advent of certain forms
of modem science. What we have witnessed in the interim, between the moment of the
dissociation and the early 20th century, is the decline of literary values in general and the
dissolution of cultural order. That lost order can be understood in two ways. On the one
hand, culture itself implied a sense of order, as Eliot argued in Notes Toward a Definition
of Culture, that derived from religious values and practice.10 As has been well noted, and as
the commentaries on social affairs towards the end of his career suggest, Eliot’s vision of
cultural restoration mixes a religious longing for an agrarian past and a contemporary
10 T. S. Eliot, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture (New York: Harcourt Brace,
1949): 19-32.

66
Christian cosmopolitanism. On the other hand, the cultural order known as "tradition"
appeared in the form that Eliot so famously described in "Tradition and the Individual
Talent."11 For Eliot, the attainment of tradition implied an historical sense of both the
"timeless" and the "temporal" orders of artifacts within the tradition. In addition to the right
temperment and feeling, the poet had to have right knowledge of the constitution of tradition
and a kind of practical humility before it in order to be included in it Only in the context of
this first ascecis—Eliot describes it as a "great labour" (T 49)—before the tradition as a whole,
could a second moment of poetic "self-sacrifice" (T 53) occur: the moment Eliot described
as the extinction of personality, in which a poet becomes the media for the combination of
feelings. Eliot’s analogy here is between the poet’s mind and the shred of platinum in a
chemical reaction between two gasses: "The combination takes place only if the platinum is
present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum
itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, unchanged.... the more perfect
the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind
which creates" (T 54). This "depersonalization" of aesthetic production bears the weight of
contradictions in the historical and disciplinary imaginary of subsequent New Criticism. For
Eliot doesn’t polemicize against the academic disciplines involved in empiricist "science"
as later New Critics do. In fact, as Eliot puts it, "It is in depersonalization," that is, in this
proper performance of the poetic sensibility, "that art may be said to approach the condition
of science" (T53; my emphasis). But which condition are we speaking about? If, to return
" T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent," The Sacred Wood: Essays on
Poetry and Criticism (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1928): 47-59. Hereafter T.

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to narrative of "dissociation," we are speaking of a moment when the faculties of thought and
feeling were unified, the mid-seventeenth century, we are also speaking of a moment when
literary techne was education or intellectual activity itself rather than one disciplinary
subspecialty among others. As Eliot’s remarks in the "The Perfect Critic" suggest, the
proliferation of fields after the dissociation precipitates the symptom of dissociated
sensibility par excellence—the substitution of emotion for thought:
The vast accumulations of knowledge... deposited by the nineteenth century
have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much
to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same
words are used with different meanings ... it becomes increasingly difficult
for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And
when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to
substitute emotions for thoughts.12
In "Tradition and the Individual Talent," Eliot’s polemical target is not "science" but
everything that would prevent poetic enunciation and sensibility from attaining the
fantasmatically constructed social and cultural condition of science. For, like "literary"
knowledge before the dissociation of sensibility, science exerts cultural and social hegemony
through the efficacious power of its enunciations, which, according to this fantasy, are
devoid of referential uncertainty, personal evaluation or heterodoxy in general. Like the
poetic performances endorsed by Eliot, in other words, scientific enunciations claim their
authority through their adherence to a particular form, a form which conditions not only the
poetic or scientific ascecis by which tradition might be transmitted, but also the social
orthodoxy necessary to exert and reproduce its authority.
12 T. S. Eliot, "The Perfect Critic," The Sacred Wood, 9. Hereafter PC.

68
We can recognize in Eliot’s notion of "tradition," then, a fantasy of order which
moves between two quite different institutional locations of authority and knowledge. As
John Guillory has demonstrated, this tradition derives its form from Matthew Arnold’s
tendency to regard cultural tradition and literary sensibility as replacements for religious
tradition and orthodox belief. This Amoldian vision appears in Eliot’s work as the necessity
to enter cultural evaluations into the field of opinion cast in terms of Christian doctrine, that
is, of "orthodoxy" and "heresy." Guillory’s argument, in this respect, casts some light on the
ease with which Eliot might also invoke the authority of "science" in the context of this
tradition; for if literature and literary sensibility are to have Christian beliefs at their
foundation, as Eliot believed, without themselves being consciously Christian, then literature
would at once stand in the place of orthodoxy, that is, stand in for beliefs that are no longer
dominant, as a testament to the absence of doxa, and, as Guillory puts it, be "free-floating,
curiously deracinated in its relation to beliefs." In this sense, he argues, "literature itself can
be installed as a sensibility that performs the social function of doxa . . . without ever
requiring the ‘imperfect’ supplement of orthodoxy, without specifying directly what its
beliefs are."13 Indeed, it was possible for Eliot to find in science an imagined position of
social and cultural hegemony precisely because it functioned, in this context, as an analogue
for religious doxa, at least insofar as he imagined it to function according to unquestioned
beliefs and methods, and, as the later New Critics and humanities scholars in general also
imagined, as having unquestioned value and no specified content except for being
13 John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation
(Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993): 138. Hereafter CC.

69
"scientific." Like literature as Eliot imagines it, science functions simultaneously as the
evidence of the absence of doxa—so it needs no orthodoxy—and as the social embodiment
of a wholly formal doxa, that has no contents.
The distinction between the field of science and that of literature or literary criticism—
or any other field—according to Eliot’s vision, comes down to form or, what is the same thing
for Eliot, medium. As Eliot suggests in the "Tradition" essay, the affirmation of poetic form
is accomplished for the poet only in the "self-sacrifice" necessary for ascension into tradition,
and it recapitulates the association of sensibility in making the poet the medium of tradition
itself: "The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the
metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul: for my meaning is, that the poet has,
not a ‘personality’ to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a
personality" (T 56). And very much the same could be said of the literary critic, whose
relation to his aesthetic "impressions" mimics that of the poet to the objects that constitute
the tradition. "The new impressions" that the critic receives from confrontation with the
work of art "modify the impressions received from the objects already known. An impression
. . . needs to take its place in a system of impressions" (PC 14). And this formation of the
critic also mimics the association of sensibility, only in terms of the aesthetic appreciation
and knowledge:
I believe that it is always opportune to call attention to the torpid superstition
that appreciation is one thing, and "intellectual" criticism something else.
Appreciation in popular psychology is one faculty, and criticism another, an
arid cleverness building theoretical scaffolds upon one’s own perceptions or
those of others. On the contrary, the true generalization is not something
superposed upon an accumulation of perceptions; the perceptions do not, in

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a really appreciative mind, accumulate as a mass, but form themselves as a
structure; it is a development of sensibility. (PC 15)
The necessity to insist on the unity of the faculties (appreciation, criticism) emerges, on one
institutional level, in the historical conflict over the form and shape of literary discipline,
namely, between generalists and the scholars or philologists. As Gerald Graff argues, in the
late 19th century, the generalists were the inheritors not only of a spirit of American
transcendentalism, but also of the Amoldian vision of tradition. They adopted, much like
their later New Critical counterparts, both the assumption that they ought to exert cultural—
and, hence, national—leadership, and a "reactionary outlook that scorned the vulgarity of the
masses."14 Eliot's comments on the opposition of appreciation to "intellectual" criticism
reflects the development, between 1915 and 1930, of "criticism" as a disciplinary option
between generalist cultural criticism and philological scholarship (P 121 -26). American New
Criticism, as one splinter faction of critics, enunciated both an "intellectual"
countermethodology to the philological study and, quite simultaneously, a narrative of
literary history that re-evaluated the corpus of studied works. But we can ratify Graffs
explanation here without fully exhausting the rationalization that Eliot gives for both the
existence and the function of the perfect critic. If the poet’s function is to express a medium-
let us assume for the moment, the medium of poetic form—then what is the critic’s function?
That is, what is the critic’s medium? Eliot explains in the final paragraph of "The Perfect
Critic":
14 Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1987): 83. Hereafter P.

71
The writer of the present essay once committed himself to the statement that
"The poetic critic is criticizing poetry in order to create poetry." He is now
inclined to believe that the "historical" and the "philosophical" critics had
better be called historians and philosophers quite simply. As for the rest,
there are merely various degrees of intelligence. It is fatuous to say that
criticism is for the sake of "creation" or creation for the sake of criticism...
. The two directions of sensibility are complementary; and as sensibility is
rare, unpopular, and desirable, it is to be expected that the critic and the
creative artist should frequently be the same person. (PC 16)
Eliot addresses the problem among competing disciplinary variants of criticism by way of
modulating the problem of its unity. The dissociation of sensibility between the critical and
the creative discharges questions about the historical conditions in which the "rare"
combination of the poet and the critic has been likely to happen. But it also belies the sense
in which, despite—or perhaps because of—the dissocation of sensibility, that unified
sensibility becomes the medium to which poet and critic both consciously aspire. The social
conditions in which this associated sensibility occurred are more than coincidentally related
to those that immediately preceded what Watt called "the rise of the novel"—that is, the
formation of a "new middle class," the flourishing of "print capital," the rise of journalism,
and the development of English vernacular education. According to Eliot, poet and critic
share the task of "expressing" a sensibility, one that inculcates and condenses a social and
historical fantasy of the position of the literary intellectual as the intellectual in general, and,
moreover, as the most prestigious kind of intellectual functionary.
The specific dimensions and importance of this fantasy come into focus if we recall
precisely how the university functions as a social space in this imaginary. It is perhaps
enough to notice that it doesn’t appear at all as mediating "tradition" in any of Eliot’s
arguments. Indeed, this is all the more surprising given the way it functions for two of Eliot’s

72
cultural descendants—F. R. Leavis and R. P. Blackmur. For Leavis, the moment of the
dissociation of sensibility was not simply the division of the faculties within the intellectual
himself, but of the intellectual minority’s fall from "organic" relation to the majority
"popular" culture. At the moment of this disintegration, the seventeenth century, intellectual
minority culture became rootless, and culture at large divided into a host of forms that we
recognize now as "high" culture and "low" or popular culture. For Leavis, however,
intellectuals have a special burden of responsibility in this situation, and their coming to
roost in universities is but the culmination of this division; indeed, the "critical revolution"
in English studies at Cambridge that Leavis was associated with became, in his view,
threatened with a narrow academicism to which the formation of Scrutiny was the response.15
For the New Critics, the university was a space of adversarial culture—that is, the very place
where literary-critical intellectuals should carry out the dis-organization of minority from
popular or mass culture. Indeed, what’s telling is the way that R. P. Blackmur—who,
ironically, never even finished his course of study in Boston’s public schools—couches the
justification of the university as a site for what he calls the professional writer in "A Feather
Bed for Critics." He does this in terms that, while referring to different dates than Eliot’s
historical narrative, nonetheless refer to its function as sustaining a simultaneously
minoritarian intellectual and social position. Blackmur regards the support of the profession
of letters as a natural development of the university devoted to liberal education; he says that
15 F. R. Leavis, Mass Civilization and Minority Culture (Cambridge: Minority Press,
1930). Francis Mulhem, The Moment of Scrutiny (London: New Left Books, 1979): 28-34;
77. Hereafter S.

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"[t]he university is at least the only obvious overt institution both sturdy and elastic enough,
capable and remotely willing to furnish such a connection" between the arts and society.16
"If the consequence [of bringing writers to the university to teach the profession of writing]
were only to renew generally the respect felt in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
for men of letters, there might well again come to be a race of men of letters, and a race of
writers... who were well educated as well as handy in their profession" (F 405). Blackmur’s
narrative, like Leavis’, suggests how the institutional space of the university might assist in
the fantasmatic recuperation of intellectual position that could reinforce, in the present
context, a cultural and social distinction like the one between those who in the eighteenth-
century received "vernacular" education by way of charity schools or dissenting mixed
curricula academies and those who received classical training and proceeded to Oxford or
Cambridge.17 In the contemporary context, and more than simply reproducing a vision of
"highbrow" and "lowbrow" or the intellectuals and the masses, in other words, the university
serves as the imaginary site of the production of the new version of the old cultural
16 R. P. Blackmur, "A Feather Bed for Critics," Language as Gesture: Essays in
Poetry (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1952): 406. Hereafter F.
17 See, on charity schools and classical curricula, Richard Thompson, Classics or
Charity? The Dilemma of the 18thc. Grammar School (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1971).
John Lawson and Harold Silver, A Social History of Education in England (London:
Methuen and Co., 1973): 177-89. Though Lawson and Silver dispute the relative health of
grammar schools—an argument that Thompson anticipates—they nonetheless agree that the
curricula were designed according to a model that understood literacy among the poor to be
widespread enough to be a threat to the economic well-being of the bourgeoisie. See, on the
various forms of non-traditional grammar schools, Nicholas Hans, New Trends in Education
in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951); and for an overview
of these various types of institutions, James Bowen, A History of Western Education, 3 vols.
(London: Methuen and Co., 1971): 1: 131-45.

74
bourgeoisie—among whom literary academics counted themselves—and the cultural apparatus
necessary to support it. While Blackmur and Eliot refer to different moments in the
formation of the "bourgeois public sphere" and hence intellectuals as "classes," they are in
agreement that the model of the literary intellectual be fashioned after a form that occurs
"before" what we have come to call the "structural transformation of the public sphere" in
the nineteenth century (ST 141-80). That is, they are both interested in a moment when even
if incipient "middle class" intellectuals such as journalists exist, they might be regarded as
organic intellectuals of the bourgeoisie, rather than of a more purportedly "democratic," if
intellectually and economically compromised, class.
If we understand the critical sensibility advocated by Eliot and his followers as
reconstituting a simulacral version of the seventeenth- or prestigious eighteenth-century
republic of letters, retooled for the space of the early 20,h-century American university, the
position of the novel in its imaginary becomes a little clearer. This is not to say that it’s in
any way easy to account for the way that Eliot turns the novel and the novelists into the
apparitions of Evil in After Strange Gods.n It does help us to make sense of the repeated
conflation, in the discourse of the New Critics, of poetry and literature, and the particular
aesthetic that they brought to bear on the genre when they spoke of it at all.19 We can notice,
18 T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Co., 1933): 55-68.
19 One might also see, on the matter of the equivalence of poetry and literature,
Wellek and Warren’s Theory of Literature (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949).
Although they are careful, finally, to distinguish genres that appear as "literary"—novel,
drama, poetry—as opposed to scientific, the generic name that Wellek and Warren use for

75
in this regard, that the relative silence of American New Critics concerning the novel or
narrative prose fiction has gone very little analyzed, precisely because, by treating the "poet"
or "poetic language" as that which is opposed to "science" or "scientific" language, they
displaced an intra-disciplinary polemic on behalf of minority literary culture and against
"mass culture" (of which the novel was part) for an interdisciplinary one—between
"literature" and science.20 Not until Brooks and Warren’s Understanding Fiction (1943) do
literary producer is "poet," and in raising epistemological and ontological questions about
literature, they call "the literary work of art" "a ‘poem,’"(141); see also the definition offered
by René Wellek in "The Mode of Existence of a Literary Work of Art," Southern Review 7.4
(1942): 735-54. Wellek nominally equates the "literary work of art in general" with poetry
throughout this article, but concludes that one might distinguish the literary work of art by
the fact that it is a "system of [linguistic] norms, realized only partially in the actual
experience of its many readers" (745). This definition, as Wellek himself acknowledges,
might lead to a general theory of genres (745), though he doesn’t pursue this in such a way
as to question the implict value of poetry—as opposed to narrative prose—as a substitute name
for literature.
20 The most famous example of this remains Cleanth Brooks’ The Well Wrought Urn:
Studies in the Structure of Poetry (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947). Hereafter, WWU.
Brooks opens with this famous distinction between poetic and scientific enunciation:
"[TJhere is a sense in which paradox is the language appropriate and inevitable to poetry. It
is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently
the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox" (3). While
Brooks is professedly interested in poetry—as might be opposed to prose fiction—he
nonetheless repeatedly displaces this generic difference in favor of the difference between
disciplinary forms of enunciation. For example, in "Criticism, History and Critical
Relativism," Brooks suggests that his methodological insistence on form makes
interdisciplinary forays suspect, since interdisciplinarity itself threatens poetic language with
obsolesence: "But I insist that to treat the poems discussed primarily as poems is a proper
emphasis, and very much worth doing. For we have gone to school to the anthropologists and
the cultural historians assiduously, and we have learned their lesson almost too well. We
have learned it so well that the danger now, it seems to me, is not that we will forget the
differences between poems of different historical periods, but that we may forget those
qualities which they have in common" (197). My argument, in this context, is not that
Brooks or other New Critics never make the generic distinction between poetry and fiction—
indeed, quite the contrary. But considering the opposition between poetry and history or

76
we find expressed the function of fictional narrative in American New Criticism’s
disciplinary and social imaginary. There, the editors write: "Most students read some kind
of fiction of their own free will and for pleasure. Most students do not, except under
academic pressure, read essays or poetry. This contrast may lull a teacher into a false sense
of security when he gives a course in fiction. He does not have to ‘make’ the student read
fiction ... as he has to ‘make’ the student read poetry, any kind of poetry."21 The coercion
necessary to have students read poetry not only makes "difficulty" into a kind of cultural
capital, it also distinguishes between an object belonging to an ensemble of merely
"everyday" objects and an object whose specific and exclusive conditions of circulation
define its privileged literary status. Although Brooks and Warren warn teachers of fiction
against becoming too secure in the assumption that their primary task comes down to
pointing out the coincidence of the reader’s taste and the object’s literary quality, they never
question the characterization of the imagined students’ practical relations to narrative fiction.
In fact, the entire pedagogy of Understanding Fiction aims to turn the seamless fit between
fiction and their students’ pleasure into something closer to the defamiliarized relation
between poetry and the reader wrought by the method of "close analytical reading." The
anthropology that Brooks draws here, on the one hand, and that between poetry and science
(above) on the other, it seems hard not to recognize that "poetry" stands in the semantic place
of a disciplinary name in these descriptions: namely, in the place of the name "literature" or
"English." See, on the assimilation of prose fiction to poetry, and its opposition to science,
John Crowe Ransom, "The Understanding of Fiction," Kenyon Review 12.2 (1950): 196-99.
Hereafter, UF.
21 Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Understanding Fiction (New York: F.S.
Crofts and Co., 1946): vii.

77
assumption, in other words, is that narrative fiction must be actively made into a literary
object, while, for whatever historical reasons, poetry occupies this place by virtue of its
intrinsic linguistic quality, which accounts for both its "difficulty" and the coercion needed
to get students to read it.22 This imaginary belongs to a classically defined "popular
aesthetic," which, as Bourdieu reminds us, converts the differences between aesthetic objects
into differences in the dispositions of the consumers and the social spaces from which they
operate: "Everything takes place as if the ‘popular aesthetic’ were based on the affirmation
of the continuity between art and life, which implies a subordination of form to function, or,
one might say, on a refusal of the refusal which is the starting point of the high aesthetic, i.e.,
the clear-cut separation of ordinary dispositions from the specifically aesthetic disposition."23
The function of "close reading," in this context, is to supplement the "natural" cultural
disposition of Brooks and Warren’s students with one in which the literary functions as the
22 We might compare, on this point, the introduction to Understanding Poetry, which,
once again, is not interested in distinguishing poetry as literary in distinction to doggerel or
lymeric, but as literary in opposition to other modes of discourse whose purported goal is
information—among others, science. See Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren,
Understanding Poetry (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1960): 1-6. In
"Criticism, History, and the Relevance of Criticism," Brooks does raise the questions about
the distinctions among poems themselves; nonetheless, this gesture is not made to justify
including poetry as something worthy of study in general, but in order to insist on the
methodological importance of evaluation for defining poetic form at all. See Brooks,
"Criticism . . ." The Well Wrought Urn, 197ff. We can also note that, in "The Reading of
Modem Poetry," Brooks and Warren suggest that, if an audience for modem poetry exists,
its average reader is the literary critic who objects to modernist incomprehensibility, rather
than a reader without literary credentials; see Brooks and Warren, "The Reading of Modem
Poetry," American Review 8 (1938): 435-449.
23 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans.
Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984): 32.

78
literary—that is, according to this definition, as a particular kind of linguistic form. By
reasserting the necessity of this methodology in the context of a pedagogy of fiction, Brooks
and Warren reinstate the principle of "disinterest" lost in the everyday circulation of narrative
fiction, and so make narrative fiction an appropriate object of consumption, even as they
redefine the rather exclusive terms and conditions in which that consumption should occur.
That is, they make evident a very specific labor of appropriation whose conditions are
determined by the specific institutional site in which it occurs—namely, the privileged site
of minority culture, the university.
For American New Critics, with the possible exception of R. P. Blackmur (after
1950), the novel and narrative fiction function in an ensemble of cultural objects regarded
as "everyday "—as "unwrought urns"—with respect to properly academic or aesthetic objects.
Indeed, on the rare occasion that any of the New Critics do speak of narrative before 1950,
the examples are quickly distinguished from those that partake of this "popular" aesthetic-
that is, those that remain indistinguishable from other kinds of degraded "literary" objects—
magazines, pulp fiction, film—or other "non-aesthetic" experiences in general.24 The labor
to "make" these objects into literary objects involves constructing the receptive dispositions
and social positions required for literary reception. As we have seen, for Eliot and Blackmur,
this involves a rather particular historical fantasy that is absent in Brooks and Warren,
although the latter clearly intend to reproduce a fantasmatic social space like the one Eliot
24 For example, Robert Penn Warren, “Katherine Anne Porter (Irony with a Center),”
Kenyon Review 4 (1939): 29-42. Hereafter, KP.

79
imagines—one at least comprised by the time to undertake "close reading." This absence
alters the form, though not the function, of the "popular" aesthetic that I’ve been describing
here, and suggests a point at which we can begin to understand the historical "triumph" of
American New Criticism in American universities in the 1950's, as well as the debate
between the New Critics and the New York Intellectuals over the novel. We can begin to
reimagine these events by looking at a description of the process of developing aesthetic
"understanding" offered by British critic I. A. Richards in Principles of Literary Criticism,
first published in 1924. In Richards’ text, one might say that the affirmation of the
"continuity between art and life" that occurs in Wellek and Warren as a way of talking about
nonacademic culture appears as a distinction between those who embody a kind of cultured
"intelligence" and those who don’t. According to Richards, whose psychology of value
makes aesthetic objects measures of the subjective constitution of the reader, the difference
between the "ordinary experiences" and aesthetic ones comes down to that between
experiences made up of a lesser and greater number of "impulses" which the subject must
reconcile. This distinction, of course, must be supplemented by the subjective process of
reconciliation that comprises the formation of "attitudes." Richards writes:
The result of the coordination of a great number of impulses of different
kinds is very often that no overt action takes place. There is a danger here of
supposing that no action whatever results or that there is something
incomplete or imperfect about such a state of affairs. But imaginal action and
incipient action which does not go so far as actual muscular movement are
more important than overt action in the well-developed human being. Indeed
the difference between the intelligent or refined, and the stupid or crass
person is a difference in the extent to which overt action can be replaced by
incipient and imaginal action. An intelligent man can "see how a thing
works" when a less intelligent man has to "find out by trying." Similarly with
such responses as are aroused by a work of art. The difference between

80
"understanding" it and failing to do so is, in most cases, a difference between
being able to make the required responses in an imaginal or incipient degree,
adjusting them to one another at that stage, and being unable to produce them
or adjust them except overtly and at their fullest development.25
Richards was one of the bearers of the "revolutionary" institutional reform at Cambridge in
1917 that subverted the ideal of the scholar-gentleman in favor of a persona that, like later
American New Critical counterparts, claimed a rigorous methodology and explicitly political
motives for literary analysis (S 22-28). And we can see the ways that this emphasis on
complex sets of stimuli and responses appears in the work of Cleanth Brooks. In Brooks’
well-known The Well Wrought Urn, for example, he argues that "[t]he essential structure of
a poem ... is a pattern of resolved stresses," and that "the characteristic unity of a poem ..
. lies in the unification of attitudes into a hierarchy subordinated to a total and governing
attitude. . . . The conclusion of the poem is the working out of the various tensions ... by
propositions, metaphors, symbols" (WWU 186,189).26 While Brooks and Warren’s narrative
pedagogy devotes particular attention to the differences in the labor of consumption inside
and outside the school, Richards’ description of attitude-development recasts the pedagogical
process as a class allegory, removing all reference to the process of schooling save for the
language of "understanding." Richards tells the difference between the well-developed and
the stupid as the difference between the engineer and the mechanic, between symbolic and
251. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 10th ed. (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1948): 110-111.
26 See also, on the point of Richards’ importance for Brooks’ defense of the New
Critical aesthetic and its canon revisions, Brooks, “Three Revolutions in Poetry: III.
Metaphysical Poetry and the Ivory Tower,” Southern Review 1 (1935-36): 568-83.

81
practical mastery.27 The labor of understanding requires not only access to objects complex
enough to be considered "aesthetic," but also to the learned disposition to reconcile one’s
responses in such a way as to make the labor to acquire and practice that disposition
invisible, or at least distinguishable from mechanical labor. We might think of this as the
distinction between those who can mechanically comprehend narrative and those who can
and do "read" narrative in a "close, analytical way," in such a way as to "see how it works."
In the context ofEliot’s and Brooks and Warren’s generic admonitions, Richards’ allegorical
description of "development" reminds us how consistently the work of New Criticism
attributes historical value not only to the object of study but also to those who reproduce its
value institutionally, all the while rigorously suspending reference to audience or reception.28
27 Like Richards, John Crowe Ransom accomplishes this distinction in purely
negative terms-namely, of the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic, of intellectual and practical
mastery, of "direct action" and its opposite, aesthetic contemplation. Moreover, he describes
this difference in historical and economic terms: "Societies of the old order seemed better
aware of the extent of their responsibilities. Along with the work-forms went the play-forms,
which were elaborate in detail, and great in number, fastening upon so many of the common
and otherwise practical occasions of life and making them occasions of joy and reflection,
even festivals and celebrations; yet at the same time by no means a help but if anything a
hindrance to direct action. The aesthetic forms are a technique of restraint, not of efficiency.
. .. They stand between the individual and his natural object and impose a check upon his
action.... To the concept of direct action the old society—the directed and hierarchical one-
opposed the concept of aesthetic experience, as a true opposite, and checked the one in order
to induce the other." See John Crowe Ransom, "Forms and Citizens," The World’s Body
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965): 31.
28 One might see, on this point, Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron,
Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, trans. Richard Nice, 2nd ed. (London: Sage
Publications, 1990): 39. "If it is not seen that PW [pedagogic work] produces indissolubly
both the legitimate product as such, i.e. as an object worthy of being materially or
symbolically consumed (i.e. venerated, adored, respected, admired, etc.), and the propensity
to consume this object materially or symbolically, one is condemned to interminable
speculation as to the priority of the veneration or the venerable . . . that is, to oscillate

82
Eliot’s narrative of dissociated sensibility, for example, as we have seen, moves back and
forth between justifying the value of a particular set of poems and prescribing a subjective
disposition required of both the poet and critic that corresponds to these poems’ historical
space of production. The same might be said, mutatis mutandis, of both Blackmur and—with
important historical qualifications to which I will return—Brooks and Warren. But when the
particular valuations that Eliot prescribed and Cleanth Brooks repeated no longer held, when,
that is, the New Critical imaginary began to lose a specificity of its political and aesthetic
content, due, in fact, to statements like Brooks’ famous definition of the "heresy of
paraphrase" in The Well Wrought Urn (1947), then the New Criticism became extremely
vulnerable to the charge of formalism.29 By defending the poem as a linguistic object with
between trying to deduce the dispositions towards the object from the intrinsic properties of
the object and trying to reduce the properties of the object to the properties conferred on it
by the dispositions of the subject. In reality, PW produces agents endowed with the adequate
disposition who can apply it only to certain objects: and objects which appear to the agents
produced by PW as calling forth or demanding the adequate disposition."
29 "The word for our generation," wrote John Crowe Ransom "in these [religious,
aesthetic, and social] matters is ‘formal.’" See Ransom, The World’s Body, 42. "Formalism"
was clearly already being felt as a charge during the war, as is evidenced by the defense of
criticism offered by Theodore Spencer in "The Central Problem of Literary Criticism,"
College English 4.3 (1942): 159-163; and by the refusal of the "formalism" of literary
polemic for literature as the "unique and formed intelligence of the world of which man alone
is capable" by Allen Tate in "The Present Function of Criticism," Reason in Madness (New
York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1941): 19 (my emphasis). It should be said, in this context, that
the question of "formalism" also got covered during the war as a general question for literary
studies and the humanities insofar as they were resistant to the ideological and technical
necessities of wartime production; see James T. Farrell, "Literature and Ideology," College
English 3.7 (1942): 611-623; and Harold R. Walley, "Literature and Crisis," College English
3.2 (1941): 149-157. On New Critical formalism see also Herbert J. Muller, "The Critic
Behind Barbed Wire," Saturday Review of Literature 25 Sep. 1943: 3+; Darrel Abel,
"Intellectual Criticism," American Scholar 12.4 (1943): 414-28; Cleanth Brooks, "The New

83
no particular ideological or historical differences from anything other than science—and a
"science" conspicuously devoid of content—Brooks theoretically lost the ground on which
to privilege particular poems, or to privilege poetry over any other generic form, including
narrative fiction, film, or journalism. He thereby left American New Critics without an
argument that might legitimate the functions of academic culture in describing the
distinctions between genres or between mass and minority culture at all. Indeed, one might
note that what Northrop Frye would describe in his rather anxious magnum opus, The
Anatomy of Criticism (1957) as the "power vacuum" in literary criticism derives from the
loss of this function in critical practice altogether.30
Criticism: A Brief for the Defense," American Scholar 13.3 (1944): 285-95. Strangely
enough, in Brooks’ defense of formalist criticism he concedes the point by virtue of his
choice of object—which, he indicates, is entirely immaterial to the procedure of reading. See
also idem, "The Formalist Critics," Kenyon Review 13 (1951): 72-81; hereafter FC. As if to
suggest how seamlessly formalism had become equated with the New Critics’ institutional
position, Van Wyck Brooks lamented the school’s "excess of the academic" in describing
this aspect of their work. See Brooks, "On Certain Critics," The Writer in America (New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1953): 1-31; here 14.
30 See Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton, NJ,
1957): 3-29; here 12. For Frye, the accomplishment of the distinction between the valuation
of objects and the methodology of studying them necessitated trying to articulate a
"systematic" if not "scientific" theory of literary production which took its cue from "an
inductive survey of the field" (7). Absent a narrative that would justify his choice of literary
object, in other words, Frye undertook the improbable task of reading, comprehending and
classifying everything. And, as opposed to many New Critics who took the poetic and critical
dispositions to be coextensive, Frye insisted that criticism had a particular privilege for
talking about poetry—his generic term for the literary production—that poets could not match:
"Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb.... To defend the right of criticism to exist at
all, therefore is to assume that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in
its own right, with some measure of independence from the art it deals with" (4-5).

84
In the context of these observations we can see that there is an historically intimate
relation between the "popular aesthetic" of the novel, the disciplinary and institutional
imaginary we have been describing, and the historical vulnerability—and, paradoxically, the
victory—of American New Criticism. Gerald Graff dates the disciplinary "triumph" of New
Criticism to the publication of Reuben Brower’s Fields of Light in 1951, a book that uses
New Critical formal methodology, but without attaching it to any cultural or historical
narrative important to New Critical canon revisions (P 150). Graffs judgment is
understandable enough, as one of the conditions of the widespread acceptance of New
Critical close reading in American schools was its disavowal of the political judgments that
justified its cultural evaluations. And even at their most judgmental, New Critical polemics
against science and "mass society" were never far from a formal, aesthetic critique, a fact that
can be corroborated by observing that the "science" that Brooks and Eliot ranted against was
utterly devoid of content, as was the "mass civilization" against which they implicitly or
explicitly posed a minority culture.31 In this context, Brooks and Warren’s pedagogy remains
noteworthy not because it drops away the evaluative function of criticism or because it
revalues objects that fall outside the purlieu of most other New Criticism, but because it
attaches their aesthetic to a particular historical institution—namely, the school.32 That is,
31 For these reasons, Grant Webster calls the American New Critics “Tory
Formalists” from the beginning of their formation as a group. See Webster, The Republic of
Letters: A History of Postwar American Literary Opinion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1979):
63-93. Hereafter, RL.
32 Francis Mulhem suggests that curricular reform at Cambridge had very much the
same orientation. In the reform of English studies at Cambridge, he writes, “Interests and
capacities that had formerly been deemed the natural property of any cultivated individual
were now to become the staple of an academic discipline.” Mulhem, Moment of Scrutiny,
20-21.

85
Brooks and Warren suggest that the act of reading transforms degraded narrative into
literature, and literary narrative into the object of close reading by virtue of the location,
rather than the disposition, of the reader. This has a particular strategic importance on a
disciplinary level, for by doing this Brooks and Warren can include narrative fiction in the
body of objects of study without opening up the entire field of "popular" culture to scholastic
inspection. By a kind of curious tautology, this formula makes the distinction between
popular and literary form out of the social location of its reception—as if schooled culture
were coextensive with "literary" culture itself—even as it legitimates the school as the only
site for making this distinction.
If the "triumph" of American New Criticism coincides with the evacuation of the
particular political and aesthetic evaluations that were at one moment so important for it,
then we can understand this triumph as marking both an institutional opening for struggles
over narrative fiction and popular culture, and an anxious assertion against its value and for
the privilege of the school as an apparatus of cultural transmission. On the one hand, the
emergence of "popular culture" studies in the 40’s demonstrated the necessity to defend both
literary form and its site of reproduction. On the other, the formalism of the New Critics
actually made it difficult to defend against examining popular culture, even if they didn’t
want to engage in the Marxist or crypto-Marxist critiques of its degraded form. However
reactionary their positions might appear in retrospect, they were not alone in the way they
imagined the function of the novel and the space of literary culture, especially after the
second world war. Indeed, although they disagreed with the New York intellectuals about
the importance of narrative fiction and the novel, and although they took their cues from

86
wholly different sets of historical events, the New Critics nonetheless shared many of the
assumptions that the New York intellectuals would come to hold about its political and
aesthetic functions—and about the function of a literary aesthetic in general. The New York
intellectuals’ positions, however, have to be understood in the context of political and
historical events of the 1930’s and 40’s that effect the change of anti-Stalinist leftists into
American cold war anticommunist liberals, and the migration of intellectuals advocating
proletarian aesthetics into modernist, sometimes academic, avant gardes.
From the Realism of Experience to the End of Ideology
The name "New York intellectuals" began as a kind of euphemism for Trotskyist
sympathizers during the 1930’s and 40’s, and only later did it come to name the left-liberal
critics associated with Commentary, Partisan Review, and Dissent. The use of the name grew
more common only after most of the members of the group—many of whom were not from
New York—had achieved some recognition and gained some influence in literary circles, that
is, only after they had jettisoned their Marxist or Trotskyist politics. As Alan Wald has
suggested, it was their migration from left anti-Stalinism to liberal anticommunism between
the 1930’s to the 1950’s that solidified their identity as a group. And although this journey
was different for each of them, the movement itself was occasioned by the same events: the
Moscow trials, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the second world war, and the postwar communist
witch hunts.33 These events, taken together with the apparent successes of the postwar
See Webster, The Republic of Letters, 209-51; Alan Wald, The New York
Intellectuals: the Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930’s to the 1980’s
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Thomas Hill Schaub, American
Fiction in the Cold War (Madison: University of Winsconsin Press, 1991): 3-24.

87
economy, had a chilling effect on the political left in the United States. The agony of the
American left, as Christopher Lasch once called it, registered in the intellectual corps in their
inability to maintain an anti-Stalinism that didn’t get swallowed up in the rhetoric of anti¬
communism tout court, in their easy acceptance of political liberalism, and in their
subsequent "alienated" positions, contrived out of aesthetic, rather than political resistance.34
The trajectory of the New York intellectuals’ literary migration passes through the
novel as the quintessentially realist literary genre. If, for the New Critics, poetry was
essentially dramatic and stood for literature as resisting the "realist" tendency toward
historical referentiality or "content" (the heresy of paraphrase, the didactic heresy), for the
New York intellectuals, the novel’s social realism was an indispensable part of its
importance. But in the postwar cultural climate, the "realist" aesthetic of the proletarian novel
was insufficient to the "facts" and complexities of liberal culture and experience. As Philip
Rahv suggested in his critique of "proletarian literature," the working class aesthetic
advocated by the left and the Communist Party in the 1930’s was without aesthetic principle
and "establish[ed] no defensible frontiers... between art and politics"; it amounted to a kind
of "mystification" which, by the late 1930s was, he said, thankfully in decline.35 Indeed,
Rahv argued that its decline was a direct effect of the political context in which it existed:
j4 Christopher Lasch, The Agony of the American Left (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1969): 35-59.
35 Philip Rahv, “Proletarian Literature: A Political Autopsy,” Essays on Literature
and Politics 1932-1972 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978): 295; 301.

88
The novel is the pre-eminent example of experiential art; and to falsify the
experiential terms in which it realizes itself is infinitely more difficult than
to falsify abstract reasoning. Whereas politics summarizes social experience,
the novel subjects it to an empiric analysis. Hence the test of the novel is
more rigorous, less at the mercy of manipulation and rhetorical depravity.
Proletarian fiction cannot maintain its identity while following its political
leadership into an alliance with capitalist democracy. (303)
Although Rahv was one of the New York intellectuals least given to political apostasy, he
nonetheless recognized, in a piece published that same year (1939) in Partisan Review, that
M[t]he revolution may have sunk out of sight and the intelligentsia may be sticking close to
their paymaster-mentors, but the impulse to represent experience truthfully persists. ... If
one is to be equal to the contemporary subject matter, one cannot shut one’s eyes to the
unruly presences that beset it."36 Indeed, "experience" was to become the watchword of
criticism of fiction, even for those given to more noticeable political vacillations. But this
experience was to be distinguished from the experience of political "conversion" that was
implied in the proletarian aesthetic. Indeed, this "experience" goes quite noticeably
unspecified, despite—or rather because of—its claim to be "realist" in a "liberal" age, as it
resists the easy appropriation of political agendas that do more than affirm liberal pluralist
form. Irving Howe suggests, in Politics and the Novel, for example, that even the political
novel does not have as its function to "alter" so much as "complicate" political commitments
and beliefs. "I find it hard to imagine," Howe wrote, "a serious socialist being dissuaded from
his belief by a reading of The Possessed, though I should like equally to think that the quality
36 Philip Rahv, “Twilight of the Thrities: Passage from an Editorial,"Essays on
Literature: 305

89
and nuance of that belief can never be quite as they were before he read The Possessed,"37
Or, to take another example, Lionel Trilling argues in The Liberal Imagination that
liberalism is the "sole" intellectual tradition in America and that it sets great store by
"variousness and possibility"; hence, the "job of criticism would seem to be ... to recall
liberalism to its first essential imagination of variousness and possibility, which implies
awareness of complexity and difficulty." For this task, literature has a special place, Trilling
argues, as "literature has explicitly directed itself upon politics, but more importantly because
literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness,
possibility, complexity and difficulty." In the context of this liberalist aesthetic, Trilling
argues that the most needed form of fiction is "moral realism," whose most effective agent
has been the novel; we need it, Trilling says, because it complicates our commonplace sense
of realism in favor of a view of human "variety" and complexity, in favor of a recognition
that manner or style might be something other than customs heaped on top of some bedrock
"real" experience.38
Certainly, as others have noted, there’s a striking similarity between these
formulations’ emphasis on “nuance,” “variousness, possibility, complexity and difficulty”
and the New Critical shibboleths of “paradox,” “tension,” and irony, and this fact certainly
did not go unnoticed by these critics themselves. In fact, this similarity develops into a source
of contention between certain of these critics and precipitates an important impasse in the
37 Irving Howe, Politics and the Novel (New York: Horizon Press, 1957): 22.
38 Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (New
York: Viking, 1950): ix; xv; 222; hereafter LI.

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“debate” over the novel. Trilling’s “The Meaning of a Literary Idea,” first published in 1949
and then reprinted in The Liberal Imagination, no doubt responds, on one level, to Brooks’
“Heresy of Paraphrase” argument in The Well-Wrought Urn. Much of Trilling’s argument,
ostensibly aimed at retrieving “ideas” out of their associations with ideology and unfeeling
intellectuals, takes its cue from criticisms of T. S. Eliot and Wellek and Warren’s Theory of
Literature; but Trilling does not take issue with the “use” of ideas, so much as they way they
are misrepresented and suspended from reference to social life. He suggests that “literature
is of its nature involved with ideas because it deals with man in society” {LI 282). In
response, Brooks suggested, in an essay defining “formalist” articles of faith, that it would
be difficult to distinguish his and Trilling’s positions regarding literary form and how it
works with ideas and reality, that “recalcitrant stuff of life.” “In short,” Brooks writes, “is
not the formalist critic trying to describe in terms of the dynamic form of the work itself how
the recalcitrancy of the material is acknowledged and dealt with?” (FC 80). Trilling had no
response. Within the year, John Crowe Ransom took up the case of narrative fiction in “The
Understanding of Fiction,” an essay nominally dedicated to evaluating Philip Rahv’s Image
and Idea; like Brooks and Robert Penn Warren before him, Ransom simply flattened out
generic questions and treated narratives as “fictional analogues of lyrical moments” (UF
193). In doing so, he appealed to the “primitive” experience still shared by modem man as
a way of justifying his indifference to literary form (UF 192). Rahv’s response, “Fiction and
the Criticism of Fiction” (1956), marks the uneasiness of the New York intellectuals’
positions on aesthetic matters. Like Ransom, Rahv complains that there has been no theory
of narrative fiction whose tools are as “satisfactory in their exactness” as are those developed

91
for poetry. Unlike Ransom, he is adamant that symbolist, mythological, formalist and
technical methods of criticism will not suffice to account for narrative fiction. But Rahv’s
rejoinder ultimately appeals to the novel’s “empiricism,” and the “referential” quality of its
language for this theory. For instance, in response to Robert W. Stallman’s symbolic and
mythological reading of “The Red Badge of Courage,” Rahv writes:
If the typical error of the thirties was the failure to distinguish between
literature and life, in the present period that error has been inverted into the
failure to percieve their close and necessary relationship. Hence the effort we
are now witnessing to overcome the felt reality of art by converting it into
some kind of schematism of spirit.... It is as if critics were saying that the
representation of experience, which is the primary asset of the novel, is a
mere appearance; the really and truly real is to be discovered somewhere else,
at some higher level beyond appearance. The novel, however, is the most
empirical of all literary genres; existence is its original and inalienable datum;
its ontology ... is ‘naive,’ commonsensical, positing no split between
appearance and reality.39
Although, in the case of Ransom, Rahv recognizes that formalism is "deeply imbedded" in
the history of literary criticism, he still objects that the function of literary language in
narrative is never the same as in poetry (FCF 291). Citing Christopher Caudwell, Rahv
argues that the language of poetry is affective and associative, while that of the novel or
narrative is referential: hence, its empirical power. But Rahv offers nothing in the way of a
definition of the novel as a literary genre that has a commonsense ontology as its
distinguishing trait: while he can say what it isn't on the level of form, he can’t say what it
is except as a "stance" toward reality.
39 Philip Rahv, “Fiction and the Criticism of Fiction,” Kenyon Review 18.2 (1956):
285-86; hereafter FCF.

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We might understand the impasse presented by the novel by recalling that the
revolutionary aesthetic adopted by the Communist party and the American Trotskyites in the
30’s is the precise obverse of the New Critical popular aesthetic described by Brooks and
Warren. While the New Critics took the "mass appeal" and wide dissemination of the novel
as a sign of its "degraded" character, and designed to rescue it by academic appropriation,
the New York intellectuals took those qualities as enabling its political functions, but had to
eschew the affirmation of the continuity of art and life as a requisite step in their political
liberalization. The anxiety about the social and intellectual consequences of this change
manifests itself in Howe’s "This Age of Conformity,"40 but short of the revolutionary
aesthetic of the 30’s, the New York intellectuals critical purchase on "reality" could be gotten
only by reference to dialectically nuanced "experience" or empiricist realism. Neither of
these options was particularly satisfactory, since neither addressed the still lingering political
ambitions of even the most apostate of the intellectuals. As Trilling would write in his essay
on the literary magazine, "[o]ur liberal ideology has produced a large literature of social and
political protest, but not, for several decades, a single writer that commands our real literary
imagination." But those figures that do command literary interest—Trilling lists Proust,
Joyce, Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, Mann, Kafka, Gide, Rilke—don’t "love ... justice" in such
a way as "liberal democracy, as known by our educated class, has declared respectable" (LI
98). Either way, he says, "there is no connection between the political ideas of our educated
40
Irving Howe, “This Age of Conformity,” Partisan Review 21.1 (1954): 7-33.

93
class and the deep places of the imagination," or, less euphemistically, between the
intellectuals’ political longings and literary form—novelistic or otherwise {LI 99).
One of the reasons the “realist” aesthetic is so at home with New Critical formalism
is that its purchase on “reality” is circumscribed by political assumptions that are displaced
in aesthetic ones. New Critical advocacy of literary value, we recall, relied on stripping away
a series of “heresies” from literary form even as it maintained them at another level: Eliot,
for example, had wanted literature to be Christian, but in the Amoldian sense, in which it
would function as substitute for Christian orthodoxy with no Christian contents. When New
Critics jettisoned the narrative of the dissociation of sensibility and Christian culture, they
were doing without what was not supposed to be there anyway, carrying on a “tradition” that
was supposed not to interfere with evaluation or reading in the first place.41 Likewise, the
New York intellectuals criticism on behalf of “realism” presents itself as being empty of
ideological content, that is, of having gotten rid of the distorting lens of Marxist or Trotskyist
visions of history. But, like the Christianity that Eliot wanted so earnestly to subíate in a
nonetheless depersonalized and scientifically established canon, the proletarian Marxism of
the thirties serves as the never-to-be-spoken-about content of this deracinated, “realist”
liberal aesthetic: that is, it's an aesthetic that would do social criticism without its primary
theory of social relations.
41 This conundrum is expressed, among other places, in the notion of an “ideal
reader,” which was supposed to explain away, in the absence of a legitimating narrative of
literary value or procedure, the specific conditions of literary reception and circulation by
referring to normative “standards” of reading. See, for one version of this argument, Cleanth
Brooks, “The Formalist Critics,” 74-76.

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In this sense, the New York intellectuals’ realist aesthetic embodies a political
"realism," one that takes for granted the equivalence of anti-Stalinism and anti-communism,
the death of Marxism as a viable political philosophy, and the inherent fairness of capitalist
democracy. As Thomas Hill Schaub and Alan Wald have argued, the position is the effect
of the experience of the "end of ideology" in the postwar period.42 The intellectuals’ appeals
to “complex,” “ironic,” or “paradoxical” experience, to “variousness and possibility” respond
to this historical necessity by affirming the still undefined continuities between social
experience and ideology, life and ideas; they assent, that is, to the political necessity of the
death of actually existing American Marxism and its requisite transformation of their
aesthetic imaginary. But at the same time, they long for something else, for some other way
of talking about literature and social reality that isn’t either simply “ideological”—that is, in
this context, Marxist-and not to be subsumed by questions of form. One might say that, if
for the American New Critics the conundrums of literary reception were condensed into
fantasies about the social location of the reader and the vagaries of form then for the New
York intellectuals, the specific social relations that inhere in literary reception are defined
negatively in relation to political liberalism. On the one hand, they can no longer assume that
the political continuity between art and life subtending the proletarian novel either does or
42 Daniel Bell writes, of the generation of the thirties, that “[t]hey were intense,
hortatory, naive, simplistic, and passionate, but, after the Moscow Trials and the Soviet-Nazi
pact, disenchanted and reflective; and from them and their experiences we have inherited the
key terms which dominate discourse today: irony, paradox, ambiguity, complexity.” See
Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology (Glencoe: Free Press, 1960): 286-99; 335-75; here 287;
hereafter E. Schaub, American Fiction in the Cold War, 25-49; Wald, The New York
Intellectuals, 228-49; Robert Booth Fowler, Believing Skeptics: American Political
Intellectuals, 1945-64 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978): 3-39; 121-148.

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should exist; on the other, they can’t simply rely on the defamiliarized, scholastic relations
that characterize the New Critics vision of the novel. Without, that is, some way of imagining
the precise relations of literary production and reception, the New Y ork intellectuals can only
appeal to the liberal canard of “freedom” as a way of talking about the social conditions in
which the novel makes any sense.
On an institutional level, Watt’s The Rise of the Novel answers to precisely this
impasse, offering a definition of "realism" that is both formal and historically specific, and
drawing on a sociological tradition whose relation to political economy and Marxism are
evident, even if they are not immediately clear. But before we approach Watt’s text in
particular, it’s worth considering what’s at stake in staging this entrance of the sociology of
knowledge into literary debates about the novel. As I’ve argued, for both the New Critics and
the New York intellectuals, literary value accrues in social contexts, though over the course
of their histories, these contexts are more or less sublimated, more or less "euphemized" by
the critics themselves. The New Critics’ anxiety about science, mass cultural form, and
undefined protocols of reading are formulaic responses to questions about both the cultural
authority of literary knowledge and the conditions of literary reception. Up until 1950, and
even after that for all but R. P. Blackmur, these problems pass through the novel as a kind
of limit-object for their otherwise poetic aesthetic, and through the school as the location of
social distinction. For the New York intellectuals the aesthetic of experiential and empirical
realism derives from the political "realism" necessary in the liberal climate of the cold war;
the aesthetic of the novel relies on a vision of social location that is collapsed with political
position in the 30’s, and mediated by "experience" in the 40’s and 50’s. Moreover, for more

96
obvious ideological reasons, the New York intellectuals are more reticent (and, in a sense,
far less presumptuous) about the function of the school in sustaining this aesthetic. Of course,
there’s nothing new in the suggestion that literature has always to do with, as Trilling put it,
"man in society." However, there is something more involved at this historical juncture than
a simple or sublimated interdisciplinarity between literature and sociology. That is, there’s
a way in which the cultural authority of social science in literary disciplines must itself be
taken as an effect of "the end of ideology." We might clarify this point by looking briefly at
Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, the locus classicus of sociologies of knowledge.
Mannheim repeatedly states that the sociology of knowledge takes its cue from the "quest
for reality" defined by an "attempt to escape ideological and utopian distortions"—including,
or especially, Marxist ones.43 Mannheim, in fact, states the relation between Marxism and
the sociology of knowledge as between failed expectation and fulfillment, as if sociology
kept the promise of Marxism’s intellectual project (IU295). Given what we understand about
the political "realism" necessitated by the cold war, we can say that the sociology of
knowledge, so defined, might have been especially suited to literary study, since it could
have responded to both theoretical and political necessities of the moment, salvaging literary
form while at the same time maintaining a certain relation to a Marxist theoretical tradition.
At the same time, however, we can imagine that social science might prove useful for
intellectuals eager to vouchsafe their theoretical distance from Marxism, or to prove how
they might dispose of it, even if that meant disavowing both the distinction between Marxist
43 Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, trans. Louis Wirth and Edward Shils (New
York: Harcourt Brace, 1985): 98; see 55-108; hereafter, IU.

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theory and Stalinist politics and the historical facts about the relations between Marxism and
sociology. So, for instance, while Daniel Bell frequently compares literary and social
scientific intellectuals, going so far as to identify himself with Lionel Trilling and Balzac
with C. Wright Mills (E 15-16, 44), he nonetheless intends for this interdisciplinary social
science to supplant Marxist ideology as a metonym for ideology itself.
Keeping these examples in mind, we cannot view the entrance of the sociology of
knowledge into the field of debate at this moment as the neutral outcome of institutional
struggle. Rather, it signals an uneasy juncture in the transformation of literary disciplines at
which sociology’s relations to Marxism, political economy, and "literature" might as easily
be forgotten as recovered for the purpose of reactivating their theoretical and cultural
traditions. In the context of disciplinary and institutional questions concerning literary genre,
this moment also furnishes us with a set of reference points with which to understand both
the institutional and political positions of literary-critical intellectuals "after" the end of
ideology, and in a cultural economy in which both literature and genre come to be
obsolesced. Indeed, I would like to suggest, through a reconstruction of the altered
disciplinary space in which literary-critical intellectuals operate, that a reconstructed
historical sociology of formal realism might furnish one way of understanding both "literary"
history and the location of intellectuals in literary disciplines.
Sociology. Formal Realism, and the Global Public Sphere
Lennox Grey suggests, in his contribution to Lewis Leary’s Contemporary Literary
Scholarship (1958), that literary scholars have been relatively slow in getting a

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"comprehensive view of one important half (at least) of that reciprocal phenomenon called
literature, the audience."44 Grey’s essay, which reviews 25 years of studies in literary
audience, suggests rather neatly the difficulty faced by those who would approach the
phenomenon of literary audience in the late 1950’s; in addition to being antipathetic to the
field of quantitative sociology, humanities scholars "by definition, are concerned first of all
with the expressions of the individual human spirit and only secondarily with the ‘mass.’"
Moreover, he says, these scholars have inherited the Amoldian tradition that rigorously
separates the "cultured" from the "philistine," with the result that they fear working openly
on audience studies for fear of being tainted by the material. Finally, he says, humanities
scholars fear that if they examine audience in terms of "class," they will be considered
"undemocratic or snobbish" (408, 409).
Leary’s volume, like Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White’s Maw Culture:
The Popular Arts in America and Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy (1957 and 1958,
respectively), suggests the ways that highly euphemized approaches to questions of literary
reception had been "unpacked" by the late 1950’s, often at the expense of the clear
distinction between literary and mass cultural form.45 Indeed, White’s and Rosenberg’s
introductions to their compendium give us a particularly telling picture of the social,
44 Lennox Grey, “Literary Audience,” Contemporary Literary Scholarship: A Critical
Review, Lewis Leary, ed. (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1958): 403-461; here
404.
45 Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White, Mass Culture: The Popular Arts
in America (Glencoe: Free Press, 1957); Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (Fairlawn:
Essential Books, 1958).

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economic, and institutional circumstances from which "mass culture" and the question of
literary audience take their cue. Suffice it here to say that Adorno, in "Television and the
Patterns of Mass Culture" (in Mass Culture), argues that Watt’s study provides the historical
(if not disciplinary) reference point for popular culture and mass media studies.46 In the most
general sense, these volumes, along with Watt’s Rise of the Novel (also 1957), mark the
degree to which the literary disciplines had come up against a kind of historical "reality
check" in the impasses of literary criticism. For instance, Jacques Barzun comments in his
introduction to Leary’s volume, "The Scholar-Critic," that
The critic, without being earthbound, must stick to facts, knowing how they
are to be ascertained. To that extent he must be a scholar-critic. He may
conjecture hidden nuances and possible intentions, suggest subtle relations
and secret influences, but he must not steadily invent and consider his fancy
proved for lack of disproof. This is simply bad impressionism disguised, just
as text analysis is rudimentary history disguised. The critic must slough off
the one and transcend the other.47
For Barzun, history serves as a metonym for the interdisciplinary relations that New Critical
textual analysis had sublimated in its isolation of the literary text anyway. In this, although
46 Adorno spells out the historical relation between studies in “mass culture” and the
sociology of literary reception, particularly Watt’s argument, in the following way: “In order
to do justice to all such complexities, much closer scrutiny of the background and
development of modem mass media is required than communications research, generally
limited to present conditions, is aware of.... Suffice it here to state the archetypes of present
popular culture were set comparatively early in the development of middle class society—at
about the turn of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries in England.
According to the studies of English sociologist Ian Watt, the English novels of that period,
particularly the works of Defoe and Richardson, marked the beginning of an approach to
literary production consciously created, served, and finally controlled by a ‘market.’” See T.
W. Adorno, “Television and Patterns of Mass Culture,” Mass Culture: the Popular Arts in
America, White and Rosenberg eds., 475.
47
Jacques Barzun, “The Scholar-Critic,” Contemporary Literary Scholarship, 8.

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he does not develop these relations theoretically, Barzun’s idea of history differs markedly
from the one shared by both the New Critics and the philological and historical scholars to
whom they responded; it also responds, in a general way, to the impasse at which the New
York intellectuals found themselves with respect to the novel. As Gerald Graff points out,
the received idea that the New Critics had no conception of history or that they ignored it
turns out to be wholly erroneous (P 183-94). In fact, the New Critics, like the old philological
scholars, assumed history was “exterior” to the literary text, and that studying it fostered
literary understanding by virtue of an additive logic. For the New York intellectuals, while
the novel might once have been the medium of social history, its relations had been obscured,
though not eliminated, in the “realist” political compromise of the postwar period. If prose
narratives were to reference “experience” as the ground of their aesthetic, the relations of that
representation of experience to social history remained unspecified: the intellectuals knew
only that they could not be those of New Critical scholastic formalism or proletarian
populism. But they had nothing to say about the particular continuities between literary form
and social reality.
By way of contrast, then, Barzun argues that literary texts ought to be thought of as
having constitutive but by no means transparent relations to historical or social reality, and
that these relations are the responsibility of the scholar-critic. In this context, one might
say that “mass culture” becomes one interdisciplinary rubric under which these “realities”
are taken into account, but that “literary audience” studies, as Grey points out, present
considerable problems for literary critics positioned between an Amoldian cultural tradition
and a Marxist theoretical one. This particular impasse had been epitomized by the agreement

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on popular culture between T. S. Eliot and Dwight MacDonald, as both regarded popular
culture as a blight on “high” culture or “civilization” because of the audience that it
effected.48 Hence, the difficulty here is not in imagining a narrative within which one might
understand the historical emergence of popular culture or any other literary artifact with
relation to its audience; rather, it lies in imagining them within a narrative that doesn’t appeal
either to “vulgar” Marxist or to formalist notions of reception, for these narratives either elide
specific questions of audience or regard it as part of a degraded, homogenous “mass.”
With this in mind, we might begin to evaluate Watt’s definition of formal realism and
his invocation of the novel’s "reading public" as interventions in both disciplinary and
generic debates about literary form. Watt contends that the novel’s primary characteristic has
been its "realism," but hastens to excise this term from its history in debates about 19th-
century French realism. In these debates, he explains, the novel’s realism explains its "low"
subject-matter, and the prehistory of the form merely indicates the continuity between the
novel and earlier representations of this same matter. So Watt qualifies the sense in which
we might use the term realism to describe the novel’s character:
This use of ‘realism,’ however, has the grave defect of obscuring what is
probably the most original feature of the novel form. If the novel were
realistic merely because it saw life from the seamy side, it would be but an
inverted romance; but in fact it surely attempts to portray all the varieties of
human experience, and not merely those suited to one particular perspective:
the novel’s realism does not reside in the kind of life it presents, but in the
way it presents it. (RN 11)
48 Dwight Macdonald, “A Theory of‘Popular Culture,”’ Politics Feb. 1944: 20-23;
idem, Against the American Grain (New York: Random House, 1962): 3-75. T. S. Eliot,
Notes Toward A Definition of Culture', on this point also see Schaub, American Fiction in
the Cold War, 18.

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As Watt immediately notices, this definition of realism rather precisely resembles that of the
French realists, whose stated aesthetic appeals to dispassionate, "scientific" values for its
examinations of life. But this scientific point of view, this full objectivity, Watt suggests,
"cannot be realised in practice": the novel, rather than having to do with a particular
representation of life, has to do with the problem of knowledge in general. Watt enumerates
the characteristics of the epistemology that governs novelistic realism as it arises in the
eighteenth century: relocation of truth in the individual, particularization of characters,
definition of person, establishment of individual continuity through time, location in
particular space, use of referential language. He returns, however, to epistemological
problems, though he renarrates them with particular reference to literary modernism and the
novel’s cultural authority.
Formal realism is, of course, like the rules of evidence [in a court of law],
only a convention; and there is no reason why the report on human life which
is presented by it should be in fact any truer than those presented through the
very different conventions of other literary genres. The novel’s air of total
authenticity, indeed, does tend to authorise confusion on this point: and the
tendency of some Realists and Naturalists to forget that the accurate
transcription of actuality does not necessarily produce a work of any real
truth or enduring literary value is no doubt partly responsible for the rather
widespread distaste for Realism and all its works which is current today. This
distaste, however, may also promote critical confusion by leading us into the
opposite error; we must not allow an awareness of certain shortcomings in the
aims of the Realist school to obscure the very considerable extent to which
the novel in general, as much in Joyce as in Zola, employs the literary means
here called formal realism. Nor must we forget that, although formal realism
is only a convention, it has, like all literary conventions, its own peculiar
advantages. There are important differences in the degree to which different
literary forms imitate reality; and the formal realism of the novel allows a
more immediate imitation of individual experience set in its temporal and
spatial environment than do other literary forms. Consequently, the novel’s
conventions make much smaller demands on the audience than do most
literary conventions; and this surely explains why the majority of readers in

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the last two hundred years have found in the novel a literary form which most
closely satisfies their wishes for a close correspondence between life and art.
(i?A^32-33)
Watt chose realism as a characteristic of the novel out of the necessity to find "a definition
sufficiently narrow to exclude previous types of narrative and yet broad enough to apply to
whatever is usually put in the novel category" (RN9). "Formal realism," however, winds up
being much more problematic, since it doesn’t distinguish literary form from that of
philosophy or law, to cite just two of the examples from which Watt borrows. And Watt
seems content to use philosophy to speak about novelistic conventions without reference to
its 18th-century form, especially its relation to "literature" or the novel. Indeed, we might say
that Watt displaces the epistemological distinction between different forms of realism—that
is, between kinds of knowledge—onto the historical distinction between the value of literary
forms of realism. Rather surprisingly, he says that novelistic "formal realism" has its
historical advantage in the degree to which it allows for a "more immediate imitation of
individual experience set in its temporal and spatial environment than do other literary
forms." This returns him, in a certain way, to the Realist position that he had rejected, but
it does so in such a way as to justify the novel as a literary genre against other literary (or
nonliterary) genres that might claim "formal realism" for their own. If anything from Zola
to Joyce might be listed in the canons of "formal realism," nothing prevents Shakespeare and
Pound from also claiming or being claimed by it. So Watt returns to a rather unformalist
definition of realism as a way of both explaining and justifying the novel’s privilege over
other perhaps formally realist, but less widely circulated genres.

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Audience, in this context, serves as a way to condense questions about the novel’s
cultural authority such as cannot be explained in terms of its "accuracy" as opposed to other
bodies and rules of evidence, or by its formal distinction with respect to other literary genres.
But Watt adduces the novel’s wide circulation and readership to its fundamental harmony
with the audience’s demands for a form of art that closely corresponds to life—that is, to the
demand for precisely the kind of "formal realism" that Watt had described as conventional
to the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century. As Homer Brown points out, this definition
argues for the historical durability of forms of novelistic realism particular to the eighteenth
century, despite Watt’s repeated characterization of them as conventional and historically
specific. And indeed, to the degree that this "fit" goes unspecified, we are returned to the
impasse at which both the New Critics and the New York intellectuals found themselves with
respect to the novel—somewhere in between the popular, revolutionary aesthetic and the
formal, scholastic one, without a way of addressing the conditions in which this "fit" might
have been produced.
One might say that Watt addresses this problem by way of his narrative of the
formation of a "middle class" whose access to literacy and literate culture altered the balance
of social power by the middle of the 18th century. Watt finds that, although literacy didn’t
by any means saturate the social field, the configuration of its relations reflected the
newfound strength of the middle class, even as it gave them a strategic advantage in society
at large. Booksellers and, indeed, all those involved in "the trades of manufacturing and
selling the products of the printing press" (RN 52) played an especially important role in this
respect, according to Watt, since they both legitimated and represented the interests of this

105
class. The "supersession of patronage by the booksellers, and the consequent independence
of Defoe and Richardson from the literary past," Watt argues, "are merely reflections of a
larger and even more important feature of the life of their time—the great power and self-
confidence of the middle class as a whole" (RN 59). Their independence from this past,
however, also constitutes their untroubled access to the ideas and interests of that class,
insofar as it becomes part of the literate public. "By virtue of their multifarious contacts with
printing, bookselling and journalism, Defoe and Richardson were in very direct contact with
the new interests and capacities of the reading public; but it is even more important that they
themselves were wholly representative of the new centre of gravity of that public" (RN 59).
Indeed, they are so wholly representative as to only have to consult "their own standards of
form and content" in order to secure their audience’s interest.
Watt’s description has the virtue of eschewing narratives that cannot account for
literary reception as having to do with class formations, including those, like the one offered
in Q. D. Leavis’ Fiction and the Reading Public (1932), a book from which he takes the
question of audience itself. Leavis’ rather apocalyptic rant takes the novel as the measure
with which to understand the historical decline of capacities of the reading public,
represented by a "man on the street" or an "average reader." And while this position might
appear quixotic even in its historical context, the relatively sophisticated argument advanced
by Gilbert Seldes in The Great Audience (1951), for example, still relies on notions of
"mass" or "big audience," and ideological critique of that culture’s contents rather than the

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specificities of social location and transformation.49 But if Watt introduces narratives of class
formation into discussion of the literary audience, he doesn’t seem interested in the way that
such narratives might revise either Marxist or Amoldian narratives of "class" formation or
the distinction between the cultured and the "philistine." Watt more or less assumes that the
"fit" between the audience expectations and the production of novelistic realism is explained
by the "representative" function of Defoe and Richardson for this class.
As Brown, Burnham, and Armstrong and Tennenhouse suggest in different ways, that
function cannot be taken for granted—either with reference to the eighteenth century or the
contemporary context. In fact, as we have suggested with particular reference to Homer
Brown’s argument, the origins of a class involved in the production and distribution of the
products of the printing press have particular interest for contemporary literary-critical
intellectuals whose cultural authority has long since become problematic—or only recently
legitimated. Both The Rise of the Novel and the debates about audience studies and popular
or "mass" culture suggest that what has been at stake in the distinction between poetry and
prose fiction as well as between literary and mass cultural form are the social and cultural
functions of "literary" objects in general, of which the novel would only be one kind. So long
as literary genre—or any other epistemological variety of "realism"—derives its existence, not
to mention its authority, from the social conditions of its reception, then we can only regard
it as an effect of those conditions. In this context, "formal realism" remains an empty
49 Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (New York: Russell and Russell,
1965): 205ff; Gilbert Seldes, The Great Audience (New York: Viking, 1951). For a
bibliography of audience studies prior to Watt’s book, one might consult Grey, “Literary
Audience,” Contemporary Literary Scholarship, 403-61.

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category, at least insofar as it claims to name particularly literary conventions of
representation; indeed, as Adorno’s comments on Watt’s argument suggest, "formal realism"
and Watt’s argument as a whole pertain less to a particular kind of cultural product than the
torsion in thinking about relations between generic form and its agents and means of
distribution and exchange. From our present historical vantage, such a problem clearly
implicates literary-critical intellectuals, at least insofar as they are involved in the distribution
and reproduction of literary value. As Armstrong and Tennenhouse argue, for example, the
formation of a culturally privileged class after the English Restoration and concomitant with
the rise of novelistic fiction has important effects for the formation of the seemingly
contradictory category of "intellectual labor" in the historical present. "The example of the
English Revolution," they write, "invites us to remember that in so-called modem societies
the people in charge are always literate people who determine what literacy is, how one
acquires it, and therefore who has access to the specific knowledge and privileges
accompanying it" (IP 138). As I’ve suggested, Armstrong and Tennenhouse displace the
historical (and geographic) origins of this class, as well as those of the novel, in order to
make a polemical point about the function of producers of literate culture in relation to
economic capital: "We think of the capitalist as a later sub-species of the intellectual" (IP
139).
The relation between the way we imagine the social class that ushers in the rise of the
novel—or any other genre—the contemporary literary canon and the intellectual corps, and
the way Watt, Hoggart, or any of the contributors to the Mass Culture volume imagine them
cannot be understood in terms of intellectual competence or failure. Rather, we can imagine

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the difference between these conceptions as derived from different conditions in which these
agents make assumptions about the relation between literary-critical intellectuals, what we
once called "literary" form, and the social field. That is, we can imagine them as part of a
single field comprised of agents working in very different conditions.501 have been arguing
that the importance of Watt’s argument for our institutional imaginary lies with the way that
it articulates a kind of compromise between independent and sometimes conflicting
institutional and historical demands: between formal and social "realist" definitions of genre,
between Marxism and sociology as theories of class formation and struggle, between literary
disciplines and their imaginary others, and between literary and popular cultural form. I
would also argue that Watt’s misprisions constitute enduring impasses for this kind of
argument—if not for literary studies in general. The easy "fit" that Watt assumes between
Defoe’s and Richardson’s work and the "interests" of the new middle class, the implications
50 See, on this point, Pierre Bourdieu and Lolc J.D. Wacquant, An Invitation to
Reflexive Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992): 94-115. Bourdieu’s notion
of field implies a set of practical, objective relations that exist between agents, as he puts it
(citing Marx), ‘“independently of individual consciousness and will’” (97). This field must
be understood to exist “objectively,” that is, as grounded in a network of historical relations,
and yet also to remain theoretically “open” to reconstruction or redefinition. The analysis of
fields, according to Bourdieu, involves reconstituting the structural relations between
positions, understood as the durably inscribed locations through which individuals and
institutions constitute themselves; and the position-takings or stances
taken—assumed—within it. “Both spaces,” Bourdieu writes, “that of objective positions and
that of stances, must be analyzed together, treated as ‘two translations of the same sentence’
as Spinoza put it. It remains, nevertheless, that, in a situation of equilibrium, the space of
positions tends to command the space of position-takings” (105). The difference between
positions and position-takings, so defined, comprises the degree of play in a particular field;
as the field serves as a mediation between agents within it and the social and economic
conditions in which it exists, revolutions in the field of socio-economic power don’t
necessarily appear as such in other fields; rather, they are more likely to appear in “distorted”
form, as kinds of “compromise formations” in the field itself.

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of his choices for literary canonicity and "popular culture" studies, and questions about
historical context continue to divide the debates about narrative prose fiction, the novel, and
"literary" knowledge in general. Those impasses, rather than securing our position with
respect to an institutional past, require scrutiny as institutional "facts" that enable the
institutions and positions themselves.
As I will suggest presently, the relation between the "rise of the English novel" and
the contemporary intellectual corps can perhaps be clarified if we understand the historical
limits of the category "literature." Suffice it to say here that if New Critical treatments of an
honorific literary tradition were fantasmatic, they were not only so: the perceived relation
between literary form and a poetic tradition expressed—albeit in a displaced form—a concern
with the historical function of vernacular education and everyday, popular literacies,
especially as they condensed around the novel. Without immediately ratifying the lineaments
of Watt’s and Adorno’s arguments, then, we can say that the sociology of formal realism
offers us a way to account for the position of contemporary intellectuals precisely to the
degree that it helps us to put this tradition and its categories in historical perspective. In other
words, to the degree that the "rise of the novel" has put "literary value" into question, then
both this genre and its institutional history remain indispensable to how we imagine the
contemporary intellectual corps. At a moment when literary traditions have seemingly
exhausted their usefulness as disciplinary and epistemological markers, the "rise of the
novel" helps us to understand another kind of historical reality than the origins of a genre:
namely, the obsolescence of literature.

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In this context, then, I would like to undertake a kind of reconstruction of a sociology
of "formal realism" in such a way as to take into account the historical and theoretical
differences that mark the field that I’ve described above. I would like to offer, in other words,
a way of historicizing both the intellectual and institutional positions of literary-critical
intellectuals with respect to their positions about literary genre. In a so-called "globalized"
set of circumstances, I will argue, the distinctions between "literary" and "popular" culture
and "canonical" and noncanonical" objects don’t offer us terribly helpful ways of talking
about who literary-critical intellectuals are or what they do, but rather serve to re-mark
particular historical contingencies of their positions. We would be better served in this
context by a project that could recover questions of political economy and class formation
in the very ambiguous interdisciplinary space of the humanities. In the context not only of
the "end of ideology" but of the so-called globalization of capital, such questions are
indispensable not only for working in, but defending "literary" disciplines.
As a way of characterizing the transformed disciplinary space that once belonged to
literary study, we can begin by remarking the obvious point that "literature" didn’t ever
"exist" in any unmediated form, but rather as an institutional compromise quite of the sort
that constitutes our larger "democratic" political culture. The history of the category
"literature," then, ought to be understood as expressing kinds of tenuous institutional and
cultural relations. The constitution of "literature" as a specific kind of writing—distinct from
literate production or "books" in general—required, among other things, the invention of
"tradition": that is, a body not only of "literary" as "imaginative" or "creative" as opposed
to "factual" and "occasional" writing, but also of "major works" that embodied a national

Ill
cultural heritage and memory. Any contemporary defense of "literature" per se would have
to rely upon the historical codependence of this distinguished form of literate—and
cultural—production with "criticism" as its privileged discourse of legitimation. For the latter
always made distinctions between "good" and "bad," between "non-literary" and "literary,"
and between "mere fiction" and "Literature."51 "Criticism," in this sense, was also a necessity
of literary "taste," as it supplemented the category of "literature" from the imagined moment
that reading competence was not entirely the privilege of propertied classes. It’s easy, in this
sense, to recognize New Critical positions as exemplifying the codependence between
"criticism" and "literature." And the New York intellectuals’ formalism, though clearly less
emphatic, had a structurally similar effect, at least insofar as it privileged a high modernist
literary canon in which genre as genre was never discussed. Watt’s text begins to treat the
valuation of particular texts in sociological and historical terms, though, as Brown’s
argument points out, he doesn’t get any historical purchase on his own conceptual tools or
choices. The point to notice here, however, is not that audience studies or popular culture
studies might have superseded older positions in terms of method, or that they might
themselves be historically insensitive, but that what has changed among these positions are
the rationales one would need to make evaluations at all. That is, one might consider "literary
value" from the other direction and observe that, precisely because of the conditions that
made the novel a limit object for literary disciplines and for the same reasons that it became
51 On this point, see Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1977): 51; idem, Keywords (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983): 183-
88.

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the "dominant" genre of literary modernism, literary production and the novel have never
depended on "criticism" as their most important mode of legitimation—only a certain sector
of their production has. As students of "popular" culture found, intellectuals functioning as
literary critics exert a very limited effect on the field of consumption, and the constitution
of American or British "traditions" within the school had a limited effect on this field. It
would be a mistake, in this sense, to regard Watt’s argument—or the sociology of literary
reception in general—as simply a new kind of criticism, since this project implies a
reformulation of both the object and the aim of literary-critical intellectuals. Indeed, on a
certain level, it did not matter for an argument like Watt’s if his "choices" altered the debates
about the literary value of Defoe and Richardson, since his project, on the face of it, had
nothing to say about their "actual" literary value. The claims made for these authors, instead,
argue for their historical value in understanding a genre of writing that is only belatedly
considered worthy of the honorific title "literature." In this context, Homer Brown’s
complaint that this argument determines what gets "entitled" to novel status seems wholly
misplaced, as it takes a perhaps mistaken judgment about the historical value of Defoe and
Richardson for a judgment about their literary or cultural value at all.
I state this objection not to render Watt or the sociology of literary reception immune
to criticism in general, but to argue that such criticism represses the institutional conditions
in which each of these intellectual positions might be taken. I would argue that, just as we
could only understand Watt's argument in the context of a certain historical institutional
imaginary, we can and should reconsider the conditions in which criticism in the name of
canon revision would be both possible and desirable. While for my own ends, this turns out

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to be especially important, as it is in these conditions that I might reconstruct a sociology of
formal realism, it's also the only way to get any sense of the historical and theoretical
purchase that such positions offer. With this in mind, I begin by recalling that the
consecration of literary or popular culture objects as embodying or subverting "national
traditions" has ever been an expression of the relations that historically produced "literature"
as a privileged object of consumption, and which tasked the school with reproducing its
value. So much might be said about the effects of the "opening" or "revision" of the literary
canon in the name of "popular culture," marginalized genres or a politics of social
identity—and not least insofar as these revisions can be imagined as having progressive
political effects. No doubt, the more recent "canon" wars have revisited the constitution of
the literary syllabus in salutary ways, as they have reformed the ideological conditions of the
transmission of cultural capital. But we ought to bear in mind three easily forgotten points
with respect to those debates:
(l)The imaginary structure of literary canon. As John Guillory has demonstrated, the
form of the syllabus—that is, a list—always limits and distorts both its content and the
function of this content in the moment that it is deployed. By itself, the literary syllabus
functions to point to an imaginary totality of works called the canon, which itself stands in
metonymic relation to the category of "literature." If the project of the vernacular canon of
literary works can be understood as standardization of English language, then an "opening"
to the canon can only be regarded as a revision of the terms of "standardization"—that is, a
revision of the institution’s relation to a privileged sociolect. Whether and to what degree
that revision also yields effects in the social field—as in increased social mobility, a

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"democratization" of cultural space, the formation of new classes—will not be determined
by that revision alone. Indeed, as Guillory points out, the novel as a generic object
demonstrates this point rather economically. While the novel has historically exerted a
"centrifugal" force on the canons of "standard" English, there is no evidence that its inclusion
in the honorific literary tradition might have altered the space in which it was
transmitted—and certainly not in the ways that its historical advocates and detractors might
have imagined.52
To suggest that the canon remains an imaginary or phantasmatic site for the
arbitration of national literatures and disciplinary politics is not to say that one shouldn’t
undertake such revisions—nor that such revisions shouldn’t be conceived in as "radical"
terms as possible. Rather, it is simply to recall that, whatever its cathexis in the national
media or amidst the hysteria about "tenured radicals," minorities studies, and so on, this
canon and these revisions occur in very particular places—for example, the university. While
it’s unwise to disregard the differences between the way that culture as culture functions
within the school and outside it, we can say that TV Guide or Entertainment Tonight as well
as The Norton Anthology of American Literature might have enduring effects on the
conditions in which a novel like The Color Purple gets received.53 In fact, we might regard
52 On the novel as “centrifugal” linguistic force, see M. M. Bakhtin, “Dicsourse in the
Novel,” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981): 259-422; here, 272-73.
53 On the difference between schooled culture and its others, Pierre Bourdieu,
“Systems of Education and Systems of Thought,” International Social Science Journal 19
(1967): 338-58. Bourdieu’s argument is crucial to understanding the function of “popular
culture” studies, as it reminds us that, whatever their similarities, schooled culture has as its

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the elision of the historical differences between these modes of consecration as the starting
point for the literary canon as national phantasm.
(2) The "decline of the nation-state" and the afterlife of literary value. With this in
mind, it is perhaps the appropriate moment to consider that the problem of literary canon
formation issues from a re-placement of the school and literary-critical intellectuals in
"global" social processes of cultural, economic, and social reproduction. If the canon has
been a fundamentally imaginary site for the reproduction of national literatures and
languages, then no reformation in the name of ethnic, racial, and social minorities, women
or for the representatives of a "minority culture" such as the New Critics, will change that
imaginary structure. However, the reorientation of the "imagined communities" that such
canons address might both indicate and alter the particular function of the canon and indeed
of "canonicity" itself. The difference between revisions in the name of an "unmarked"
national-literary canon—such as those advanced by the New Critics—and socially marked
sub- and transnational cultural, ethnic, racial and gendered ones perhaps reflects a need to
generate questions about literary value in the context of national identifications and
narratives of social location. That is, instead of imagining canon-revision as an
unproblematically political or moral solution to the under-representation of social minorities
in national schooled culture—the locus of nearly all of the canon debates—we might also
understand it as indicative of a crisis in function of "literary" traditions as supplementary
task the reproduction of a set of schemes with which to understand cultural consumption and
participation quite differently than “popular culture” understands itself.

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apparatuses of the nation-state, especially as those traditions have been worked out in its
universities.
In advancing an argument about "the decline of the nation-state" and the concurrent
historical problematization of the literary canon, however, I want to clarify precisely how the
one political-economic fact might be related to the other socio-cultural one. That is, I should
like to distinguish the reproduction of very particular relations of cultural and cultural capital
transmission by appeal to sub- or transnational imaginary relations from their conditions and
effects in national, infra- and transnational contexts. In formulating what follows, then, I
want to be careful to distinguish the claim I’m making for national cultures from an
argument such as Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins, which dismisses the national
context in which literary revaluation takes place out of hand, by virtue of an argument about
economic globalization. Readings argues that the fundamental situation of the contemporary
university is an effect of economic globalization and the concomitant "decline of the nation¬
state"; the nation-state, Readings argues, has until very recently been that institution that
guaranteed the project of the university, since it worked in tandem with the university to
produce cultured subjects to perform the tasks of citizenship. In the context of economic
globalization and the relative decline in the political authority of nation-states, the university
has ceased reproducing culture and instead become the site for the production of excellence.
In this context, and in the context of the lack of "content" in American university culture
traditionally, Readings argues that it no longer matters what gets taught in the university,
since such "content" simply gets crushed in empty, and strangely post-ideological dream of
"excellence." Indeed, the disciplinary formation called cultural studies, he argues, replaces

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literature precisely to the extent that it can empty itself of any particular content under the
aegis of a totalizing notion of "signifying practices." That is, anything can be culture, just as,
in the new university, anything can be excellent. The results for agents in the field of cultural
studies can be understood as a kind of mystification of the value of their practices—that is,
in the notion that they have any value at all: "In lending primacy to the cultural [in cultural
studies]," Readings argues, "critics miss the fact that culture no longer matters to the powers
of advanced capitalism—whether those powers are transnational corporations or
depoliticized, unipolar nation-states."54
I would like to argue that the structural function of cultural consecration within or
without an institution such as the university cannot be understood by way of a credulous
invocation of "economic globalization," as a trope for the economic reduction of knowledge
production or the demise of national literary traditions. At bottom, we cannot understand
"globalization" as an "accomplished" state, any more than we can conceive of the function
of state university systems, the positions of their intellectual functionaries, or the constitution
of "literature" as providential expressions of a rational order. Rather, all of these "facts"
might be better understood as questions of social "hegemony." Now, Gramsci’s notion of
"hegemony," as I pointed out early in this chapter, implied a kind of "leadership" exercised
by particular classes by dint of both "spontaneous" consent and rationally distributed force.
Civil society and the state, in this view, are conceived as fully saturated with contradictory
political interests, as the sites of struggle for, among other things, cultural and social
54 Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1996): 105;
hereafter UR.

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authority. As I argued in chapter one, we can view the restructuring of the corps of
intellectual workers at large as part of a larger problem of the "compromise" formation
between capital and the state since the beginning of the 1970’s: as Alain Lipietz puts it,
"[tjhis situation is ... called a ‘crisis of hegemony’; that is, of the ability of elites and the
social groups which sustain them to offer a world view and a development model acceptable
to society as a whole."55 In this context, the re-formation of the literary canon, its institutional
"disciplines" and the university itself would have to be considered as effects of struggle, a
"war of position" if you will, in which what can ever be at stake are positions as positions
within national and "global" systems themselves.56 Indeed, more recent canon debates
register, within the imaginary of literary (and humanities) disciplines the struggles of "anti-
systemic" movements in the United States—the formation of the American New Left, of
feminist, civil-rights, and anti-racist movements of 50's and 60's; these movements sought
to alter the relations between civil society and the state by re-forming cultural institutions
such as literary traditions and university space; so far as they implied a critique of the liberal
state’s pretensions to universality, these movements challenged its self-representation as both
rational and privileged arbiter of public interest. At the same time, these movements
55 Alain Lipietz, Towards a New Economic Order: Postfordism, Ecology and
Democracy, trans. Malcolm Slater (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992): xi. Here, I
am backprojecting the argument that I intend to make in that chapter, which turns on the use
of French regulationist theories of economic change and their effects on social and cultural
forms: in particular, labor-time in a postindustrial political economy.
56 On Gramsci’s notion of “war of position,” see Evan Watkins, Work Time: English
Departments and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1989): 45-76.

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reproduced a certain division of labor on the national scale, and recathected the state and the
public sector as mediating agents between civil society and the marketplace. Indeed, to the
degree that these social movements could and did reinvest energy in "culture" as the site of
social transformation, they necessarily reproduced the vision of the professional-managerial
class as agent of history, and reinforced the importance of the state, at least insofar as its
university system had become a privileged site for the transmission of cultural capital.57 In
this context, the so-called "decline of the nation-state," of national literary traditions, or of
"literature" in school culture can’t be understood as a simple effect of "economic
globalization," since this decline has involved political and cultural struggles that have made
the so-called "global" imaginary and its "real" effects possible. But Readings, like so many
other boosters and heirophants of the "global age," seems to use the term "globalization" to
dispense with a relatively independent series of events that imply the economic, cultural, and
political repositioning of the United States within the global system in the last 30 years, and
the restructuring of the "compromise" between capital, labor and nation states in northern
"postindustrial" economies.58 Like the "end of ideology" sentiment so attractive in the
57 See, on anti-systemic movements and their relation to culture and the state,
Immanuel Wallerstein, Geopolitics and Geoculture (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991): 1-15.
58 See, on the repositioning of the United States, Arrighi, The Long Twentieth
Century, Wallerstein, “The Reagan Non-revolution,” and “Japan and the Future Trajectory
of the World-system,” Geopolitics and Geoculture, 19-48; on American internal
contradictions, see Lipietz, Towards a New Economic Order, 1-47; on Readings’ kind of
invocation of “globalization” as a symptom of global capitalism itself, see Paul Smith,
Millenial Dreams: Contemporary Culture and Capital in the North (London: Verso, 1997):
5-65. Smith argues, in a manner wholly appropriate to my criticism of Readings’ argument,
that “globalization is frequently offered as a all-or-nothing proposition, a process that is

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immediate postwar period, Readings’ narrative of "globalization" allows him to imagine that
social space—the university—is no longer constituted by struggles over the distribution of
cultural, economic, and symbolic capital; indeed, he argues that the university’s
spokespersons operate "outside" of ideology and that "[cjulture is no longer the terrain on
which a general critique of capitalism can be carried out" (103).59 To the contrary,
posed in a completely positivistic manner. . . . The evidence points to globalization as a
project of capitalism, rather than as the fait accompli that we are supposed to believe in;
globalization is in that sense a signifier that has yet to quite realize its referent. But this
project nonetheless has a central strategem: the annunciation of its own realization in the
mythic or fundamentalist vision of the global” (48-49).
59 Readings’ argument that “excellence” is somehow not ideological because it has
no referent derives from and reinforces his overweening simplification of the historical
questions of economic globalization. His tendency, as he puts it “to ignore the process of
uneven and combined development, the different speeds at which the discourse of
‘excellence’ replaces the ideology of national culture ...” (3-4) not only does away with the
ground on which any kind of nominal “freedom” or “agency”—even a pragmatic one, such
as he advocates—might be won or negotiated, it pre-emptively and categorically excludes
the possibility of ideology, since ideology can only exist in conditions of social, economic,
and political struggle. Having made the world processes of globalization “facts” of an
apolitical, uncontested order, that is, Readings thus conjures away one terrain on which the
struggle over globalization might be carried out. Far from this “end of ideology” being a
report on the state of the university and its representatives, then, it is rather the effect of a
theoretical choice that renders unquestioned any discourse that claims to operate outside of
ideology or history simply for the fact of claiming to do so. (Parenthetically, we might say
that if “excellence” has no referent, it would appear more important than ever to undertake
an “ideological” analysis of its functioning, as it would clearly be in its effects within a set
of social relations that it would make a difference. That “excellence” has no referent renders
it no different from terms supposedly naming race, gender, sexual orientation, and
class—none of which have ever had any clear, uncontested referent, but, like “excellence,”
have been the site at which struggles over social location have occurred.)
A more vexing issue here, however, given his criticism of Bourdieu as “pretending]
to objectivity,” remains Readings’ uncritical elaboration of Marxist “critical science” (197-
98 nl 5) in the context of an argument that forecloses the possibility of just such criticism for
“cultural studies” or anyone else working in the disciplinary space of the humanities (see
103). Indeed, Readings claims to use the term “ideology” “very precisely” (197), though he
never specifies this use, except by reference to the necessary “outside” to ideology, which
“excellence”—the new semanteme of the university, superseding “culture”—occupies. “If

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we would have to say that the canon debates, the debates over the function of the
professional-managerial class, and the struggle over public school funding and curricula
suggest that "culture" is perhaps the pre-eminent site for the critique of capital.60 Especially
in "post-industrial" nations like the United States, where corporations have taken up the task
of turning the workplace into "culture," and in which "knowledge," "information," and
"ideas" are reputed to be our primary products, there would seem to be no way of
understanding "culture" or "capital" without the other.61 Indeed, it is precisely the moment
everything were ideological,” Readings writes, “then it would quite simply be impossible to
know ideology as such” (197). But not only does the conclusion not necessarily follow from
its premise (that is, to say that everything is ideological cannot be confused with saying that
everything is ideology), it is entirely beside the point in this context, as Readings describes
that outside not as a place like that described by “excellence”—that is, a nonreferential
place—but as Althusserian critical self-knowledge, as embodied in Marxism. That is, at the
moment that Readings would demonstrate how “excellence” could be outside of an
ideological formation, he describes the position of the subject of the epistemological break
whereby “critical science” achieves self-knowledge (197). Whether this means that the
spokespeople of university “excellence” are actually Marxist intellectuals, we cannot tell,
though we might surmise that the difficulty in this formulation rests with an imprecise use
of the term ideology—one with which Althusser surely would have disagreed—namely, as
referring to “beliefs” or “knowledge” divorced from a consideration of their conditions of
production.
60 Barbara and John Ehrenreich, “The Professional-Managerial Class,” Between
Labor and Capital, ed. Pat Walker (Boston: South End Press, 1979): 5-45; and the other
essays in this volume. Whatever the vicissitudes of their particular argument, the
Ehrenreichs’ essay has virtue of enunciating questions about cultural reproduction and class
formation that both problematize class formation in general and question the structural
interests of classes with a privileged or unique relations to cultural reproduction.
61 On corporate culture, see Avery Gordon, “The Work of Corporate Culture:
Diversity Management,” Social Text 44 (1995): 3-30; Christopher Newfield, “Corporate
Pleasures for a Corporate Planet,” ibid, 31-44; Tom Moylan, “People or Markets: Some
Thoughts on Culture and Corporations in the University of the Twenty-First Century, ibid,
45-60; James Livingston, “Corporations and Cultural Studies,” ibid, 61-68.

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when relations of cultural production and consumption can’t be excised from those of
economic reproduction that "culture" becomes the sine qua non of the critique of capital.
The re-placement of national literary traditions within university culture results, then,
not only from the theoretical impasses generated within that tradition itself (i.e., the politics
of the novel, of "social realism" in general, of popular culture), but also from the rather
contradictory cultural and political position of the school as an institution in a "globalized"
set of relations. Hence, disciplinary formations like cultural, ethnic, or gender studies signal
less the "end" of national literatures than the re-evaluation of literary value and its discourse
of legitimation—criticism—in this context. As I have been arguing here, this context
itself—that of so-called "globalization"—should be understood as a kind of structural effect
of the ideological, economic and social processes of capitalism at this particular moment;
"globalization" doesn’t name a recently accomplished stage in the development of the world-
economy, so much as it serves as a trope to explain the effects of a shift in the relations of
hegemony that have constituted a long-since "global" world system. Just as we haven’t seen
the evaporation of either nation-states or nationalism during or since this shift, we are
unlikely to see the disappearance of literatures or their institutional effects—and not
especially in northern universities.
While the vulnerabilities of "literature" as an epistemic category might be clear from
our current vantage point, it’s unwise to treat "cultural studies" or whatever disciplinary
formation follows upon national literary traditions as if it were simply a methodological
solution to the problems of literary categories—especially since, in the United States,
"cultural studies" frequently occupies the disciplinary space once granted to the reproduction

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of national literary traditions. Like "globalization," post-literary-critical disciplinary
formations can be thought of as effects of a series of events, events that in this case have
hastened (among other things) the delegitimation of "literature" as an institutional
placeholder for particular cultural and political concerns. These formations no longer simply
involve what counts as literature—that is, what kind of objects might be consecrated by the
institution—nor only whether "literary" consecration matters at all. Instead, they involve,
among other things, an interdisciplinary ethos within which to examine relations between
consecration as a function of the institutions in which intellectuals work and social,
economic, and cultural reproduction in general.
Finally, the demise of political liberalism that has attended "globalization" in
Northern postindustrial nations has, in its own way, engendered an extremely paradoxical
refashioning of the discursive conditions in which intellectuals work.62 On the one hand, the
neo-liberal economic and political order installed since the Reagan administration has more
or less successfully destroyed the ideal of a public sector that might mitigate the
systematically irrational effects of the division of labor. Moreover, the right's critics have not
ceased to complain about the "illiberal" excesses of humanities education, especially insofar
as it has jettisoned the assumption of the universality of literary and cultural values. While
neo-liberal free-market ideologies celebrate the untrammeled flow of goods, services, and
labor across national borders, their spokespersons have been adamant about schools
62 See, on the "end" of liberalism, Immanuel Wallerstein, After Liberalism (New
York: New Press, 1995): 232-51.

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maintaining the an uncritical posture toward nativist cultural and social histories.63 Strangely
enough, none of this has in any way quelled criticism of liberal pluralist cultural politics
from the left. In fact, one might argue that it makes possible and necessary a response which
no longer takes for granted the institutional and political desirability of a left-liberal cultural
politics, as the latter position has been either neutralized in rhetoric that conflates market
freedom with political agency and social mobility, or admonished in the media frenzy over
"political correctness." Indeed, these conditions have furnished intellectuals with both the
occasion and the reason to question the self-evident political and epistemological meaning
and value of such shibboleths as "inclusion," and "diversity," as well as their institutional
referents—of which the canon is one. A Marxist critique of these relations of cultural
reproduction would be only one response to such an occasion, though, as I will argue, one
with perhaps more pertinence than we might have imagined.
(3) The hegemonies of cultural capital, or the formation of classes. In the hands of
its critics (Dwight MacDonald, Bernard Rosenberg, T. S. Eliot, Max Horkheimer and T. W.
Adorno), as well as critics of those critics (Edward Shils, Daniel Bell, David Manning
63 Arif Dirlik makes this point in his review of the baleful enchantments of
"postcoloniality" in "The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global
Capitalism," Dangerous Liasons: Gender, Nation and Postcolonial Perspectives, eds. Anne
McClintock, Aamir Mufti, Ella Shohat (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997):
501-28. "[The Reaganites] failure to grasp the social and political consequences of the
economic victory for transnationalism they had engineered became apparent during the 1992
elections when, against calls from right-wingers for a return to such 'native' American values
as Eurocentrism, patriarchalism, and racism, George Bush often looked befuddled, possibly
because he grasped much better than right-wingers such as Pat Buchanan the dilemmas
presented by the victory of transnationalism over all its competitors in the Second and Third
Worlds" (522).

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White), “popular culture” epitomizes the effects of literature as an ideological formation.64
It reproduces the distinction between properly literary or aesthetic form and “popular” or
mass cultural form by reference to the degraded character of both the object and the
conditions of reception. Like more recent canon revisions in the name of social minorities,
it does so in the name of a fantasy of social identity—namely, of social classes, immiserated
or duped by industrial capital—“the people.” Whatever the differences in the fantasies of
class constructed at these historical moments, intellectuals nonetheless have had little to say
about the vicissitudes of their curricula within the university or culture at large. The historical
phenomenon called “theory” and its subtending revision of the value and location of
“culture” did nothing to change the fact that what has been at stake in the reproduction of
cultural value—“literary,” “popular cultural” (i.e. degraded), or political—has been the
distribution of cultural capital. When it comes down to it, “literary” cultural capital, as well
as that reproduced in the current space of literary disciplines, embodies a certain kind of
labor that must be possessable and exchangeable with that produced in other fields, even if
that exchange rate and its conditions are frequently altered. In other words, while we
shouldn't underestimate the degree to which literary-critical intellectuals might indeed alter
the ideological conditions of the formation and reproduction of this capital, they currently
64 See Dwight MacDonald, "Masscult and Midcult" in Against the American Grain,
3-75; Bernard Rosenberg, "Mass Culture in America," in Mass Culture, 3-12; T. W. Adorno,
"On Popular Music," Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9 (1941): 17-48; Max
Horkheimer, "Art and Mass Culture," ibid: 290-304; Edward Shils, "Daydreams and
Nightmares," Sewanee Review 65 (1957): 586-608; Daniel Bell, "Theory of Mass Society,"
Commentary 22 July 1956: 75-83; David Manning White, "Mass Culture in America:
Another View," Mass Culture, 13-21.

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have little to say about the larger arrangements in which cultural transmission has become
a relation of possession and exchange.
The ideology of "globalization" that I have been at some pains to criticize mistakes
a manifestation of the rhetoric of global capital in the university for a change in the
conditions of production, distribution and exchange of cultural capital in which literary-
critical intellectuals have been involved. No doubt, the "decline of English" is a rather
predictable outcome of the disciplinary and social transformations that have taken place in
the last 30 years, although that refers as much to the obsolescence of "literature" as
institutional category as to the economies in which the capital produced by literary
disciplines has circulated. More importantly, it’s still not clear what the fate of post-literary
cultural capital might be, in the university or elsewhere. Because of their places in the
university and social space at large, intellectuals are unlikely, by virtue of the disciplinary
shift alone, to alter the conditions or rates of capital exchange. However, while they are
subject, like all other knowledge producers and "intellectual" workers, to the
proletarianization required by more "flexible" resource management, the sociolect of these
disciplines and their functionaries will only more likely reinforce their identification with the
New Class and what Gouldner calls its culture of critical discourse.65 The proletarianizing
tendency to which they are subject won't likely change the countervailing tendency toward
65 Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (New
York: Seabury Press, 1979): 83. As Gouldner suggests, what distinguishes this discourse is
its "theoretical" attitude toward the world: "Speakers are comptent to the extent that they can
say the rules rather than just follow them."

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specialization and professionalization manifest, among other places, in their language and
social locations.
In this context, I would argue for a particular reconstruction of the sociology of
“formal realism” as a way to treat cultural effects of the obsolescence of literary form—and
in particular as a way to rethink the object of post-literary-critical intellectual formations.
Now, “formal realism,” I’ve argued, served Ian Watt, on the one hand, to distinguish
novelistic prose from other less widely circulated “literary” genres and, on the other, to
indicate the continuity between novelistic production and other kinds of epistemological
inquiry. More recently, Pierre Macherey and Etienne Balibar have used the terminology of
“formal realism” to formulate a Marxist theory of “literature”:
The Marxist conception thus inscribes literature in its place in the unevenly
determined system of real social practices: one of several ideological forms
within the ideological superstructure, corresponding to a base of social
relations of production which are historically determined and transformed,
and historically linked to other forms. Be sure that in using the term
ideological forms no reference to formalism is intended—the historical
materialist concept does not refer to "form" in opposition to "content," but to
the objective coherence of an ideological formation ... ,66
Macherey and Balibar argue that "literature" has to be understood as a kind of "reflection"
of reality, though of a kind that occurs "without a mirror." Literature, in this sense, does not
exert effects through what it represents, but through the imposition of "literary form" within
the larger processes of literate production. That is, it belongs to a particular kind of
ideological formation, in which its effects are "necessary" to a social order. Literary form,
66 Pierre Macherey and Etienne Balibar, “Literature as Ideological Form: Some
Marxist Propositions,” trans. Ian Me Leod, John Whitehead, and Ann Wordsworth Oxford
Literary Review 3.1 (1978): 7.

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like all other kinds of reflection, then, requires two kinds of questions, from a Marxist
perspective. The first concerns its "objective" relation to "material" reality. Macherey and
Balibar ask, "Is thought itself a materially determined reality?" That is, does the "literature
effect" have particular sites of production and circulation? And, how are they affected by
other processes of production? Second, Macherey and Balibar ask about reflection’s
"accuracy" with respect to "reality." However, they don’t simply compare it to a particular
scientific or ideological model. Rather, they ask "What form does reflection take?" (5). That
is, what set of formal conventions of reality production does a particular reflection belong
to? Indeed, Macherey and Balibar argue that the distinction between the "real" and "Active"
belongs to ideological formations that include "literature" as one of their effects (10).
"Formal realism," in this context, becomes a categorical reminder that all epistemological
variations of "realism" are "formal"—that is, they belong to ideological formations—and that
all forms of literate production are, at some moment, "realist"—that is, they belong to
conventions of representation.
On a certain level, a sociology of formal realism so defined might render genre under
the heading of a "general heteroglossia" that would examine the dialogic character of
discourse in general—rather than in the novel only. But it would nonetheless have a
disenchanting effect on the supposed carnival of sociolects embodied in any particular
narrative object.67 Indeed, the plurality of represented language-positions in a particular text
67 On Bakhtin’s theory of general literary stratification by genre, see The Dialogic
Imagination, 288-300.

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would not, in and of itself, be either interesting or valuable to such a project, since its object
is not the existence of these positions, fictive or real, but the conditions and effects of
sociolinguistic distinctions within a particular ideological formation, and, more particularly,
particular fields of practice. Likewise, it would be quite pointless to critique the idea of a
"language in general," in the name of "the differend," or the multiplicity of genres needing
the decision of the philosopher to be rendered sensible. In fact, for the very good reason that
Lyotard, whom I’m citing here, unwittingly suggests, the "object" of such an analysis would
have to be the circulation of linguistic competencies within a totalizing economic
horizon—but one in which intellectual "mastery" was forestalled:
Thesis . . . Genres of discourse supply rules for linking together
heterogeneous phrases, rules that are proper for attaining certain goals: to
know, to teach, to be just, to seduce, to justify, to evaluate, to rouse emotion,
to oversee. ... There is no "language" in general, except as the object of an
idea. . . . Problem. Given 1) the impossibility of avoiding conflicts (the
impossibility of indifference) and 2) the absence of a universal genre of
discourse to regulate them ...: to find, if not what can legitimate judgment
... then at least how to save the honor of thinking. Stakes ... To defend and
illustrate philosophy in its differend with its two adversaries: on its outside,
the genre of economic discourse (exchange, capital); on its inside, the genre
of academic discourse (mastery).68
The strange locution that elides the difference between exchange or capital and economic
discourse situates the philosopher in the place of someone who could resist capital as if s/he
were resisting a genre. But what does it mean to defend against capital as a genre? What
could necessitate such a defense except the immanent threat that this genre, despite the
declarations of well-meaning philosophers, could indeed render everything subject to a
68 Jean-Fran9ois Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den
Abeele (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988): xii-xiii.

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universal equivalent, and function as, even if it does not embody, a universal genre?
Lyotard’s response returns us to a rather adolescent fantasy of the task of "philosophy" and
the scene of resistance, for it leads us to believe that an academic discipline could be
defended against economic processes of rationalization by flaunting a set of rules for linking
phrases. Or, to put this another way, he would have us imagine that a refusal of the
intellectual posture of mastery could somehow effect the social space in which "mastery" has
ever occurred. Paradoxically, then, Lyotard treats linguistic exchange and economic
exchange as if they were both coextensive and immediately and positively reciprocal—which
is to say, as if they have already been rendered equivalent. As I have argued here, the relative
autonomy of fields of knowledge production so-called makes the specific value of each
irreducible to others. At the same time, however, they are each subject to the universal
reduction of all forms of capital—namely, the reduction of labor-time.69 The object of a
sociology of formal realism could be described as a generic critique of the political economy
of this production, one that might turn the debate about the "public" intellectual from the
questions about the "validity" and the usefulness of literary education to a political
discussion of the conditions and terms of knowledge production and reception in general. In
other words, the project would aim to recode "culture" as only one field in the struggle
69 See, on this point, Pierre Bourdieu, "The Forms of Capital," Handbook of Theory
and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. John G. Richardson (NY: Greenwood
Press, 1986): 241; Michel Aglietta makes a related point, in emphasizing that different
capitals must be exchangeable in order to secure a rate of total social profit: see Aglietta,
TCR 289.

131
against the unruly arbitrations of capital, though one with a particular importance for anyone
that has to pass through its sociolect.
As I've argued in chapter one, the rather conspicuous recent problems attendant to
intellectual labor in the United States derive from a complex reorganization of cultural,
economic and political life set in motion under the duress to reproduce a regime of capitalist
accumulation and its fundamental relation: namely, the wage relation. While this necessity
appears to explain only a small set of economic practices and effects, the reorganization
entails a reformation of the representational space in which everyday cultural and civic life
can and do proceed. The triumph of neo-liberal political rhetoric, the celebratory ideologies
of "globalization," the "PC" scare, and the critique (from both the right and the left) of
liberal-pluralist cultural politics—all issue from and effect, in one form or another, this
reorganization. The project I'm defining here would have to take these forms into account,
especially as they are themselves forms of representation that continue to inflect our
understanding of generic form. Beyond this, however, the aim such a project would be to
place generic forms within the totality of hierarchical relations in which representations come
to matter anyway. Such a project does not aim to render this totality transparent, any more
than it hopes to salvage the category of "literature" from the ashes of cultural studies, or
reconstruct the universal intellectual on the ruins of the public sphere: rather, it will
continually ask about the relations between particular forms of representation, their particular
modes of production, distribution and exchange, and the relations in which they accrue value
and meaning. For if the universality inscribed at the heart of an actually existing public
sphere can be salvaged as a political, if not theoretical idea, then it will have to be in terms

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of these histories, these totalities, and a thoroughgoing critique of the languages in which we
talk about them.

CHAPTER4
STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC QUEER
In one of the universally ignored scenes from Jenny Livingston's 1991 documentary
Paris Is Burning, several subjects of the film perform the category "school." Like all
categories performed in Paris, "school" puts the gender/race/class grid to work,
demonstrating both the scriptedness and the uncanny, overwrought quality of a position
which is incessantly naturalized in our daily media. For a few moments of the film, a young,
androgynous, Hispanic male sports what is clearly a plain t-shirt, retrofit with letters that
spell "YALE UNIVERSITY." The shoddiness of the imitation not only dramatizes how
inescapably even consumer significations of "school" circulate out of the reach of the
performers in the film—and thereby how much "school" is a project of (class) consumption—
it also suggests the social overdeterminations of a category like "intelligence"; if one
function of the school is to reward kinds of performance based on criteria of "merit," to
produce intelligence and to reproduce conditions under which kinds of intelligence are
recognized, then the uncanny faux-t-shirt, worn as it is by who it is, reminds us that another
function is to ameliorate social differences "coincidentally" described by race, ethnicity,
sexuality and gender. As Paris' performers suggest, "school" is a site of anxious
133

134
performance, where the conditions of being "intelligent" run headlong into the social
asymmetries reproduced by institutions of neo-liberal capitalist culture.
The socially performative character of the category of intelligence is also neatly
suggested by at least two other moments in the film. The first is the film's account of
"reading," one of the primary ways in which the performers in the drag ball scene flex their
intellectual muscle. According to Dorian Corey's explanation and the film's narration of one
femme queen's interaction with a group of black teenagers, reading is an act of insult whose
terms take their bearings from the social positions of the speakers.1 "If I'm a black queen and
you're a black queen," Corey explains, "calling you a black queen isn't a read. It's just a fact."
The second moment is Willi Ninja’s description of his work teaching women how to be
feminine in a milieu that remains fundamentally inhospitable to them. "It’s a man’s world,"
he says, adding that a woman might get somewhere if she can learn to use her "feminine
wiles," while it will get her nowhere to use her "masculine" ones. In both of these contexts,
the performance of intelligence—"reading," "wiliness"—depends upon another one—"black
queen," "femininity." Paris, in fact, suggests a rough homology between these two sets of
positions—as if to take up the position of a "black queen" or a "feminine" woman were
already to be disposed toward a particular knowledge—for example, a kind of "literacy." In
doing so, and unlike other familiar scenes of cultural transmission, Paris shatters the illusion
that being "smart," "wily," or "literate" might come unencumbered from other, more
naturalized social distinctions.
1 See on this point Jackie Goldsby, "Queens of Language," Queer Looks, ed. Martha
Gever, John Greyson and Pratibha Pamar (New York: Routledge, 1993): 114.

135
Livingston's film, as we know, spawned a minor review industry in the mainstream
press.2 Lots of people were anxious to claim (or disavow) this film (as I will be, in my own
way), but none were terribly interested in the scenes I've described above. This oversight is
particularly telling if we consider the way that Paris also became the occasion for a
discussion among academic cultural critics of racial, sexual, and class identities of the film’s
performers—and of subjects of capitalist culture at large—in terms of theories of the
performative.3 For while this discussion foregrounded the historical character of discourses
that inscribe ideologically suspicious formations of identity, none proved interested in
undertaking a genealogy of the discourse of performativity as it has been related to school
itself: that is, there was no question about the historical character of the different institutions
of "literacy," "reading," or "intelligence" from which academic performers generated the
21 owe this characterization to the fact that such an otherwise obscure (though in
many ways excellent) ethnographic documentary should receive such notice from the
American press. See rev. of Paris Is Burning, dir. Jennie Livingston, Variety 15 Oct 1990:
78; and the reviews by David Ansen in Newsweek 12 Aug 1991: 62; Richard Corliss in
Time 13 May 1991: 70; David Denby in New York 13 May 1991: 96; Jim Farber in Mother
Jones March-April 1991: 75; Stanley Kaufmann in The New Republic 22 Apr 1991: 30-31;
Stuart Klawans in The Nation 22 Apr. 1991: 535-36; Terrence Rafferty in New Yorker 25
Mar 1991: 72-74; Peter Travers in Rolling Stone 4 Apr 1991: 60; Vincent Canby in New
York Times 13 Mar 1991: C13; Quentin Crisp in New York Times 7 Apr 1991: 2: 20; and
Essex Hemphill in The Guardian 3 July 1991:10-11; see also Georgia Brown, "Do the Real
Thing," Village Voice 19 Mar 1991: 54; bell hooks, "Is Paris Burning?" Z Magazine June
1991: 61; Lawrence Cohn, "Truth Tellers Start to Tell Tales," Variety 11 May 1992: 22;
Richard Corliss, "A Happy Birthday for the Kids of Kane," Time 13 May 1991: 62-63.
3 In addition to hooks’ review (cited above, note 2) and the rejoinder by Judith Butler
(cited below), one might also see the excellent work of Phillip Bryan Harper, "‘The
Subversive Edge’: Paris Is Burning, Social Critique and the Limits of Subjective Agency,"
diacritics 24.2-3 (1994): 90-103; and Peggy Phelan, "Crisscrossing Cultures," Crossing the
Stage, ed. Lesley Ferris (New York: Routledge, 1993): 155-70

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discourse of performativity. Or, to put it slightly differently, there was never any question
that the material and institutional conditions of intellectual performance, no less than those
of gender/race/ethnicity performance might have something to do with "reading" Paris or
gender inscription in general.
My interest in this oversight, especially as it is exemplified in the work of Judith
Butler-about whom I will have much more to say—is precisely, then, to the degree that it
drops out the socially overdetermined character of both intellectual performance and the
institutions in which it occurs. As in the drag ball scene in Paris, the university offers a
performance of "school," where the category "queer intellectual," among others, is at stake.
As my title suggests, I would like to argue that the category and the discourse of "queer
performativity" belong not only to a set of discursive histories that go back to Barthes,
Austin, Searle and Habermas (among others), but also to institutional histories that traverse
these discourses in the relations among civil society, capital, and the state. At issue in the
academy, no less than in Paris, in other words, is a set of position-/a£wg.y whose ideological
"content" cannot be divorced from the conditions of their production anymore than "reading"
in Paris.4 Indeed, given what the film suggests, it is perhaps not too much to ask that we take
41 take the term "position-taking" from Pierre Bourdieu. As my argument suggests,
one can think of a particular position-taking as a performance (and vice-versa) that we
recognize by virtue of its difference not only from other position-takings in a particular field-
-for example, the field of drag insult—but also from the durably inscribed set of possible
positions available in an arena of practice. As Bourdieu argues, the set of positions doesn’t
determine so much as structure any position-taking, which also depends upon the
composition of capital that a speaker/performer posseses at a given moment. See Pierre
Bourdieu, "The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed," trans.
Richard Nice, The Field of Cultural Production, ed. Randall Johnson (New York: Columbia
UP, 1993): 30.

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the university for what Negt and Kluge might call a "public sphere of production": a site
where the division of labor, the distribution of financial, linguistic, cultural and scientific
capital, and discourse production all fundamentally overlap. For whereas Livingston’s film
is precise on the matter of the conditions of drag performance, dramatically insisting, for
example, on the inexorability of work (both on and off the runway) for the performers, Butler
is noticeably silent about the conditions of intellectual performance. This oversight is
particularly telling insofar as performative theories such as Butler’s tend to foreclose
questions about conditions of production by treating the sociological and cultural as
interchangable. I would like to argue that only by remembering the specific position and
functions of the university as a workplace in the ensemble of reproductive institutions
characteristic neo-Fordist democratic culture can we get a sense of what queer theory as part
of this public sphere of production might do—politically, for instance—within this social
formation, and thereby what other forms of cultural production, specific to other sites and
conditions of labor, might likewise accomplish.
In other words, if "school," as Livingston's film suggests, inculcates the value of a
socially overdetermined set of performances, some of which are exemplified in Paris (others
in academic work such as Butler's and my own), then in neither context is it transparent what
the conditions of "success" for the performative are. But at least the performers in Paris
make it clear what counts as successful for them: being rich, beautiful, or "legendary."
Despite the film's blindnesses, it has something to teach queer theorists as academic
intellectuals: namely, that the university, as a kind of school, is not only the site of the
production of discourse, of linguistic and cultural competence, but also of the conditions of

138
reproduction of capital. The problem, then, is not that queer theory is academic or that certain
queer theorists are enamored of the question of the performative, but that theories of queer
performativity have yet to question the academic or intellectual performances of "queer
performativity" in terms of capital. And moreover, that they don't link the discourse of
performativity to the recent transformations of the relationship between civil society, the
state, and capital—and, in particular, to the transition from a mode of capitalist accumulation
known as "Fordist," or to the tacit public fantasies of universally available postsecondary
education. That is what this account of the structural transformation of the public queer
attempts to do.5
51 use the terms "Fordism" and "post-Fordism" advisedly. The terms derive from the
historical narratives of Northern (and particularly American) capitalism over the 20th century
offered by the French Regulation school, whose "founding" text is Aglietta's A Theory of
Capitalist Regulation: The U.S. Experience, trans. David Fembach (New York: Verso,
1987). Although Aglietta prefers the term neo-Fordist to describe the regime of accumulation
that he anticipated would succeed American-led Fordism, it's perhaps enough to say here that
both terms refer to a recent transformation in the regime of capital accumulation and the
mode of social regulation effective in the United States and elsewhere. The latter, which
concerns me most here, refers, according to Alain Lipietz, to the materialization of the
former "in the shape of norms, habits, laws and regulating networks that ensure the unity of
the process [of accumulation] and which guarantee that its agents conform more or less to
the schema of reproduction in their day-to-day behaviour and struggles." See Lipietz,
Mirages and Miracles: the Crisis of Global Fordism, trans. David Macey (New York:
London, 1987): 14. As I argue below, the proliferation of performance "categories" in the
diegesis of Paris is symptomatic of the change in these norms, as is the end of liberal
education so much lamented in the press, and particularly in the texts cited below (note 5).
For excellent critical appraisals of the Regulation school and the terms Fordism and post-
Fordism, see Michael Scott and Allen J. Storper eds., Pathways to Industrialization and
Regional Development (London: Routledge, 1992), particularly the contribution by Bob
Jessop; Mark Brenner and David Glick, "The Regulation Approach: Theory and History,"
New Left Review 188 (1991): 45-119; and Mike Davis, "Fordism in Crisis," Review 2.2
(1978): 207-69.

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In the two main parts of this essay, then, what I want to do is, first, establish the
institutional contexts in which theories of queer performativity have emerged. Here, I want
to account for the emergence of theories of queer performativity within the historical context
of the fantasy of "public education." Second, then, I want to return to the examples with
which I began—Judith Butler and Jennie Livingston—in order to suggest a way that queer
theorists of the performative might begin to reimagine the material inscriptions of social
difference in their own performances and so, among other things, offer a more critical
rejoinder to the forms of bourgeois homophobic culture and the vicissitudes of the public
sphere in the era of post-Fordism. In doing so, I'd also like to suggest a strategic way out of
the impasses in the recent debates about culture, identity, and the economy that have been
in evidence in Social Text and New Left Review.
The Actually Existing Public Queer
The publicly endorsed fantasy of the social homogeneity of university education has
been nowhere more evident than in the criticisms launched against humanities curricula as
metonyms for the academy in the late 1980's and early 1990's.6 Though the fantasy is not
limited to these texts, these criticisms take the postsecondary educational field to be
6 Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has
Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1987): 88-91; Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted
Higher Education (New York: Harper and Row, 1990): xi-xii; Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal
Education: the Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (New York: Free Press, 1991); I have
chosen these conservative criticisms as examples not for their specific political
commitments, but because of their thorough fantasmatic investments; nonetheless, the
fantasy is shared by someone as scrupulous in many respects as Jacques Derrida: see "The
Principle of Reason: the University in the Eyes of its Pupils," trans. Catherine Porter and
Edward P. Morris, diacritics 13 (1983): 3-20.

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constituted, from institution to institution, by a homologous field of symbolic positions
available to students, treating examples from elite, private northeastern academies or the
"public ivy" of California as if they were—or could just as well be—flagship state colleges
of the Midwest, or new flexible multiversities of the south. This imaginary is the correlate
of an expectation: namely, that the function of university education is the same no matter
where one gets it and no matter who gets it. Indeed, for conservative critics of what was once
"liberal education" as well as for many of their counterparts on the left, university education
is intelligible as a category because, functioning in the homogenous field of liberal
democratic culture, it provides civil society with players adept at meeting the ever-changing
demands of so-called "postindustrial" capitalism without sacrificing the hard won ideological
gains of the previous productive regime—the nuclear family, the difference between public
and private schooling, the autonomy of the self, and so on. This expectation, like other forms
of ideological task management, both describes and prescribes functions for the university,
and it serves to displace the historical character of the idea of universal access to
postsecondary schooling. For while the idea of universal secondary schooling took
significant hold after the first world war, it wasn't until the 1960's that American universities
actively recognized their function as mediator between civil society and the state economy—
and in particular, between the coincidence of race and gender demographics at the lower end
of the socioeconomic field and the significant dearth of minorities and women in the
university—either as students or as participants in its structures of authority.7 The ideological
7 See, on the question of the debate about public university education in the 1960's,
Stanley Aronowitz and Henry Giroux, Education Under Siege: The Conservative, Liberal,

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necessity of public university education as the universally recognized imperative described
and supported by the state and incumbent upon a labor force interested in social mobility
took up the slack in a social field constituted, on the one hand, by the ideologies of equality
and individualism and, on the other, the undeniable dissymmetries in the distributions of
various capitals. In this context, the contemporary imagined homogeneity of the
postsecondary field becomes a trope for the accomplishment of an historically fragile
possibility: universal access to education as universal access to the spoils of culture and the
economy. Or, the social field as "public."
Of course, that's not to say that such a fantasy can be taken as strictly ideological, nor
that it doesn't have its politically salutary uses. Indeed, for those on the left, the idea of
universal access to the linguistic, cultural, and symbolic resources comprised by our best
universities is part and parcel of a model of democratic universality inscribed in Habermas'
classic formulation of the bourgeois public sphere. But to take the accomplishment of its
logic for its accomplishment in fact is to mistake, as Habermas does, an ideal-theoretical
model for a sociological description or to mistake a kind of public fantasy of accountability
on the part of the university for its status as an "actually existing public sphere."8
and Radical Debate over Schooling (Boston: Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc., 1985): 1 -
22. See, on the function of public education in general, Evan Watkins, Throwaways: Mass
Culture and Consumer Education (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993): 72-82.
8 For Habermas' own admissions on this point, see Jürgen Habermas, "Further
Reflections on the Public Sphere," trans. Thomas Burger, Habermas and the Public Sphere,
ed. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992): 422-30. Hereafter F. It's worth noting
here that Habermas' remarks on this point still recuperate his reading of modernity as "an
incomplete project." See Habermas, "Modernity—An Incomplete Project," trans. Seyla Ben-

142
To put this point slightly differently, we might return briefly to Habermas' early
formulation of publicity. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere has the virtue
of eschewing "free press" and "free speech" models of the public sphere, instead treating
communication as something (at least in principle) dependent upon material circumstances
of production. And yet, Habermas has little trouble taking the English public sphere after the
turn of the 18th century as the model of ideal "disinterested" rationality, as if it had achieved
a kind of autonomy so as to make reason itself universally available.9 Even if this account
weren't empirically refutable, it's strictly at odds with the general historicist assumptions that
Habermas brings to the argument, and it can only give one purchase on the present
"devolved" state of public spheres by way of a fairly nostalgic narrative of a fall from grace.
Even more importantly for my purposes, it fails to question how "disinterest," "reason," and
"freedom," for example, function as ideology at any particular moment, that is, as either
pragmatic strategies designed to justify political choice in the name of reason or necessity,
or as more or less "unconscious" structural limitations on discursive forms.
In looking for an "actually existing" public sphere or public queer, then, I'm
interested in trying first to account for the structural contradictions that impinge upon the
Habib, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay
Press, 1983): 3-15.
9 Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry
into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989): 57-67. See, for an excellent summary of this formulation’s
strengths and weaknesses, Nicholas Gamham, "The Media and the Public Sphere," in
Calhoun: 359-76; for a most thoroughgoing response and critique on this and other points,
see Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere," ibid: 109-142.

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institutional referents of the fantasy of public "universality" as they govern discursive
production—and, in particular, queer theories of the performative. Given, in other words, the
inexorably strategic and ideological character of public, "rational" discourse—even, or
especially that with which we might agree-it doesn't make sense to question public
intellectuals or institutions in what Eve Sedgwick would no doubt call, as we shall have
occasion to see, "good dog/bad dog" terms. So rather, what I'm interested in describing,
secondly, through a reading of Judith Butler's reading of Paris Is Burning, is a project that
addresses these contradictions and those of homophobic culture at large, and so, at least
implicitly, informs a sense of the pragmatics of queer theory and its politics.
Certainly, the idea of universality at the heart of the fantasy of public postsecondary
education has been and continues to be inscribed in both our media and in the technical,
bureaucratic organization of the university, from admissions policies to budgets to curricula
requirements. This remains true despite the attacks on the public sector since the Reagan
administrations. But this ideal also gets registered on the level of discourse within the
disciplines according to the formal rules for what can be said within them—that is, within a
kind of "censorship of form" that allows any field of discourse to distinguish itself from
another. To the extent that disciplines coincide with these fields, each of them enacts a set
of syntactic and semantic variations on discourse that coincides with the historical
overdeterminations of the field—both within the academy itself (that is, as opposed to other
disciplines within the field of academic discourse) and within the larger cohort of institutions
of production and media at a given moment. This censorship achieves what Bourdieu calls,
in referring to Freud, a "compromise formation," in which individual "expression" becomes

144
effective--and, to a certain degree, intelligible—only to extent that it can, as in the
dreamwork, obey the protocols of representation set out for a specific field—a discipline, let’s
say—at a specific moment.10 The compromise formation, in other words, registers material
and discursive contradictions in the condition of speech, such that the apparatus of discursive
production becomes legible according to a kind of sociological reduction. This reduction
allows us, on the one hand, to recognize ideological investments in the ideal of universality
as ideological, that is, as pragmatic, and, on the other, to locate the interiority of a field of
discourse without pausing for a moment over the formality of an "internal" reading.
What I want to suggest here is that the queer theories of the performative that derive
their institutional locus from French structuralism register or double the fantasy of "public
education" by translating one of its material contradictions into a discursive one. As I've
noted, the ideological imperative of mass postsecondary education implicitly recognizes the
function that the university performs in distributing linguistic, cultural and symbolic capital.
In a sense, the fantasy registers precisely the recognition that Habermas articulates in his
more recent comments on the public sphere: that access to the material resources of
education and property is necessary to secure the autonomy necessary for meaningful
participation in democratic political and social life (F 434-35). But the school’s function in
distributing these capitals has always been, on one level, to reproduce, rather than to
10 Pierre Bourdieu, "Censorship and the Imposition of Form," Language and
Symbolic Power, trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson (Cambridge: Harvard UP,
1991): 137.

145
transform the relations of production, distribution and exchange in the social field at large."
For what the school can do in this regard is to mediate asymmetries in the field of social
production by way of an address to the field of cultural or scientific production, that is, in the
context of the school, by way of an address to the category of "intelligence" or knowledge,
or by offering access to cultural goods that might become symbolic goods. In other words,
the school can attempt to address one kind of arbitrary dissymmetry—a social one—only by
way of instituting another, "rational" one-the one comprised by the production of
knowledge, the distribution of grades, and the attribution of "merit." For even if the
knowledge and cultural goods theoretically available to everyone circulate in a particular
school culture, they still require knowledge of codes to appropriate them—and this
knowledge never comes "freely." Not coincidentally, and as the myriad arguments about the
"knowledge economy" and "the information age" suggest (though in a way I will question),
this situtation has recently had the effect of transforming the social field once describable in
terms that referred to one's position with respect to labor into a field describable in terms of
intelligence or knowledge. For the theorists that comprise queer performativity's genealogical
placeholders, the contradiction between theoretical universality and the asymmetrical
11 This is not to say that we should or can neglect the role that schools play in
mitigating social dissymetries, or to forget the political necessity to sustain a defense of
public education. Nor is this to say that our task here is merely to offer a neutral description
of what schools "do," as we can be sure that any such description would always, on its own,
turn out to work conservatively. I offer this description as a way of historicizing the
conditions in which queer theories circulate, so as to clarify how we might ever speak of the
social efficacy of public queer intellectuals. On the role of the school in cultural and social
reproduction, see Pierre Bourdieu, "Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction,"
Knowledge, Education, and Social Change, ed. Richard Brown (London: Tavistock, 1973):
71-112.

146
conditions of cultural transmission is translated into another—that between totalizing
disciplinary reach on the one hand and scientific "rigor," specialization and
professionalization on the other.
The ideology of universal access took its theoretical counterpart in the 1970's in
Roland Barthes' version of structuralism, which applied the methods of Saussurean
linguistics to cultural objects in general at the same time that it invoked the seemingly
populist legacy of reader-response criticism. The latter promised, on the face of it, to
empower any and every reader before any text, such as to make reading (as a process that
reinforced social distinctions) nominally more democratic. Indeed, Barthes theoretical work
of the 1960's bears out the relation later described by Paul de Man and Stanley Fish between
reader-response and speech act theories of performance.12 By insisting on the way that the
semiologist "works" to produce meaning, Barthes gave birth, despite his own theoretical
cautions and his distance from subjective theories of culture, to the reader as performer,13
He reinscribed the logic of access to the social field in (and, to some extent, through) the
domain of culture by, on the one hand, turning the entire field of everyday objects into sites
12 See Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P,
1986): 3-20, especially 18-19. Stanley Fish, "How to Do Things with Austin and Searle:
Speech Act Theory and Literary Criticism," MLN 91 (1976): 983-1025; and idem, "Is There
a Text in this Class?" Is There a Text in this Class? (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980): 303-
321.
13 Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author," Image Music Text, trans. Stephen
Heath (New York: Noonday, 1977): 148.

147
of investigation and, on the other, handing over the keys to interpretation to the reader rather
than the author or the work.
It's important to note how Barthes’ work also serves, in these very same ways, as an
important genealogical moment in the derivation of a theory of queer performativity. For,
as the converse to a reading of performance—and especially the performance of reading—as
strictly conventional, Barthes proposes a more transitive, if not transformative theory of
reading performance. In "The Structuralist Activity" (1963), Barthes describes the work of
the cultural analyst as a "veritable fabrication of a world which resembles the primary one,
not in order to copy it but to render it intelligible." Such work, he says, "is essentially an
activity of imitation."‘4 Minus a certain utopian frisson, one can recognize in Barthes'
phraseology of mimicry a register unconsciously invoked in Judith Butler's notion of identity
as a "stylized repetition of acts.'"5 At the same time, this articulation links intellectual
performance to a half-visible, highly sublimated gender politics. Barthes goes on to suggest
that the two moves of the structuralist activity are dissection and articulation; to dissect "is
to find in [the object] certain mobile fragments whose differential situation engenders a
certain meaning" (S 216); to articulate is to "discover in them or establish for them certain
rules of association" (S 217). The oscillation between these movements is supposed in the
14 Roland Barthes, "The Structuralist Activity," Critical Essays, trans. Richard
Howard (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1972): 215. Hereafter S.
15 Judith Butler, "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in
Phenomenology and Feminist Theory," Performing Feminisms, ed. Sue-Ellen Case
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1990): 270.

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end to produce an object neither real nor rational, Barthes says, but "functional" (S 217;
emphasis deleted). And moreover, the process is supposed to demonstrate the "strictly human
process by which men give meaning to things" (S 217; emphasis mine). Of course we know
by now, or think we know, that Barthes knew how to keep the fun in functional, and the
process by which men give meaning to things that appear as fragments refers as much to the
scriptural "polymorphous perversity" that underwrites so much of this closeted gay man's
writing as to that process of "men fabricating meanings" supposedly performed at
structuralist round tables.16
What we have in Barthes' theorization is a discourse overdetermined by a number of
phenomena that mark a shift in the academic institution in America. The appeal of
structuralism in France during the sixties was due in part to a promise of "scientificity" for
the social sciences: once doubly subordinated to both the pure theoretical sciences of math,
biology, physics and the theoretically pure arts and sciences faculties, these disciplines
suddenly became able, through the advent of structuralism, to reclaim the cultural authority
of both.17 In English departments in the United States, structuralism was for all intents and
16 One might also see, on the question of gendered performance of the structuralist
activity, "What is Criticism?" Critical Essays: 257. "All criticism must include in its
discourse (even if it is in the most indirect and modest manner imaginable) an implicit
reflection on itself; every criticism is a criticism of the work and a critcism of itself. In other
words, criticism is not at all a table of results or a body of judgements, it is essentially an
activity, i.e., a series of intellectual acts profoundly committed to the historical and
subjective existence (they are the same thing) of the man who performs them" (second
emphasis mine).
17 See Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, trans. Peter Collier (Stanford: Stanford
UP, 1988): 121-22.

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purposes dead on arrival, superseded at the very moment of its transcontinental inception by
the work of Jacques Derrida.18 But American poststructuralists retained both structuralism's
totalizing scope of analysis and its appeals to a scientific ethic in the discourse of "rigor."19
This tactic was, among other things, an early attempt to establish a kind of interdisciplinary
hegemony in what de Man in 1966 called the "impatient competitiveness with which the
various disciplines vie for leadership."20 More importantly, to the degree that this discourse
registered the necessity of a kind of professionalization, it represented a strategy to appeal
to both the technical authority of science and the sometime religious authority of the general
intellectual. In this way, the descendants of French structuralism in the United States
positioned themselves in ways structurally homologous to technical intelligentsia, even as
their institutional position rendered them closer to critical intellectuals of what Alvin
Gouldner calls the New Class.21 By the same logic with which Barthes granted to the reader
the sovereign role as producer of meaning while hollowing him/her out as a "space" of
production, the poststructuralist appeal to a specialized scientific rigor nonetheless also relied
on the general notion of the text, such that, despite its specificity, it might nonetheless claim
18 See Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticism (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980):
ch. 5.
19 See, on the question of "rigor" as ideologeme, John Guillory, Cultural Capital
(Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994): 176-265.
20 Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary
Criticism, 2nd. ed. (Minneapolis: Uof Minnesota P, 1983): 5
21 Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (New
York: Seabury Press, 1979): 48-73.

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anything as its object. Such a gesture, accomplished by whatever "rigorous" philosophical
procedures, not only toppled the literary object from its relative disciplinary privilege, it
transformed the scope and nature of what was called criticism. On a structural level, the
potentially queer appeal of Barthes' work coincided with both this institutional necessity of
scientific specialization and professional "expertise," and the populist—and perverse-fantasy
of the potentially infinite readerly text.
As I will argue momentarily, the performative dimension of Barthes' work as we see
it is also governed by a shift in the function of the university in recent years. But what's
important here is to note the way that Barthes succumbs to this early moment of structuralist
euphoria in a way that's instructive for understanding the problems that Judith Butler will run
into after the publication of her groundbreaking Gender Trouble (1990).22 For both, the
implicitly totalizing reach of the (post)structuralist activity seems to herald a more far
reaching transformation in the social field: for Barthes, the vision is embodied in "structural
man," while for Butler it happens in the "subversion" of identity or some version of the
Lacanian symbolic through the lessons available in drag performance. But in a rather
beleaguered interview in Artforum in 1992, Butler has to play clean up to the "which gender
should I wear today" readings of Gender Trouble, and defend herself against the voluntarist
reading of that book by reminding us that the fragmented resumption of the rules of
association is a condition, not a result of personal agency: "the very formation of subjects,
22 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New
York: Routledge, 1990). Hereafter G.

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the very formation of persons presupposes gender in a certain way—... gender is not to be
chosen and ... 'performativity' is not choice and it's not voluntarism.... Performativity has
to do with gender repetition."23 The relation between her own reading and Barthes', the one
that necessitates these kinds of interventions, is borne out early in the Foucauldian project
of Gender Trouble, where it's clear that the source of this genealogy is also its Achilles' heel:
if the production of gendered subjects can be understood as the inscription of "regulatory
practices" on the body (G 16), then it's reasonable to imagine that other, more or less
"counterregulatory" practices can resist, even rework the normative ones. Such, in fact, no
matter how carefully circumscribed, is the implicit promise of drag, whose general
conditions Butler describes in terms redolent of Barthes' description of the structuralist
activity: "acts [of identification], gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative
in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are
fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive
means" (G 136). But the implicitly totalizing reach of Butler's rendering of "practice" and
the general opacity of the meanings of "production" reduce drag—and parody in general—to
a practice whose ability to subvert is contingent on "context" (G 139), which, suffice it to
say, doesn't go very far for Butler.
Butler's frustration, as evidenced in the Artforum interview and the rather defensive
opening to Bodies that Matter, responds on one level to the failed expectations of the utopian
possibilities opened up by the application of speech act theory to identity inscription in
2j Judith Butler, "Interview," Artforum International 32.3 (Nov. 1992): 84.

152
general. Indeed, the question to which Butler addresses the latter text expresses this deflation
rather economically: '"What about the materiality of the body, Judy?"'24 What I am
suggesting, however, is that the promise itself represents a kind of discursive compromise
wrought by this discourse with one of the contradictions embedded in the fantasy of "public
education": namely, the mediation of social reproduction in the field of cultural or scientific
reproduction. And, indeed, as if to bear this out in the most deceptively "literal" terms
possible, Butler admits to treating the cultural and social as if they existed in "uneasy
interchangability" (B 5).25 The dual need for "rigorous" professional specialization and an
interdisciplinary ethos that issues in the epigones of studies in "popular culture" no doubt
reformulates this structural impasse at the disciplinary level. What made popular cultural
studies possible in its present form was precisely the totalizing character of the field of
objects that theorists of queer performativity inherited from theory and criticism make the
most confident claims to have Barthes—or, more problematically, Derrida—at the very
moment that the demographic constraints of mass postsecondary education became as
important as the intellectual ones. Needless to say, this was accomplished by suppressing the
history of American Marxism, studies in popular culture and their cold-war variants in the
academy. In any case, however, it was precisely when intellectuals in the humanities
24 Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York:
Routledge, 1993): ix. Hereafter B.
25 Frederic Jameson argues that the collapse of the social into the cultural
characterizes postmodemity, whose origination he traces to sometime between 1967 and
1973. See "Periodizing the Sixties," The Ideologies of Theory, 2 vols. (Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 1988)2:201.

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aggressively professionalized themselves as a way of sustaining forms of cultural authority
within the university that they were also called on to assume the political posture of
something closer to an "engaged" or, to use a vocabulary that I will comment on
momentarily, "organic" intellectual.
One might also get some indication of the failure of such theories of the performative
in the trajectory of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's evaluation of the promise of performativity in
cultural studies discourse. In "Queer Performativity, Henry James's The Art of the Novel,"
Sedgwick closes with a rather irritated denunciation of what she calls the moralizing
tendency in the use of performativity: its use alongside Foucault's critique of the repressive
hypothesis in contemporary debates, she suggests
has been all but fully recuperated in new alibis for the repression hypothesis
[. . .] in all the dreary and routine forms of good dog/bad dog criticism by
which, like good late capitalist consumers, we persuade ourselves that
deciding what we like or don't like about what's happening is the same thing
as actually intervening in its production [my emphasis].
I seem to see this happening now in some of the uses scholars are trying
to make of performativity as they think they are understanding it from Judith
Butler's and other related recent work: straining eyes to ascertain whether
particular performances (e.g. of drag) are really parodie and subversive (e.g.
of gender essentialism) or just uphold the status quo. The bottom line is
generally the same: kinda subversive, kinda hegemonic. I see this as a sadly
premature domestication of a conceptual tool whose powers we really have
barely begun yet to explore.26
Needless to say, Sedgwick never offers a theory of production or a distinction between the
kinds of objects whose production intellectual work might affect, given that it can’t intervene
26 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Queer Performativity: Henry James’s Art of the Novel,"
GLQ 1.1 (1993): 15.

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in their production. And in her recent work on Silvan Tomkins, instead of insisting on a
rigorous definition of the value and meaning of performatives, politically and otherwise,
Sedgwick dismisses the effort to align this once powerful tool with criticism's more
progressive motives. And she does so by appealing to the same condescending and
denunciatory language as in "Queer Performativity":
Contemporary mastered techniques for putting the ruses of the repressive
hypothesis firmly out of bounds, yet we are made skeptical of current claims
both by the moralism of current theoretical writing [. . .] and also by its
impoverishing reliance on a bipolar framework that can all too adequately be
summarized as "kinda subversive, kinda hegemonic." Clearly, if there are
theoretical adventures to be pursued beyond or to the side of the repressive
hypothesis, they are not likely to share the good dog/bad dog rhetoric of
puppy obedience school.27
Even if it's true that working as a critic (deciding what one likes or doesn't like ...) cannot
be confused with intervening in the production of the narrative, theoretical or commodity
objects over which we spill so much ink, this recognition hardly necessitates jettisoning the
entire theoretical apparatus of performativity. The problem is that, in moving from thinking
about feminist performance as such—the early scholarly work of Sue Ellen Case, the
performances of Split Britches and Cindy Sherman—to a quasi-totalizing theory of
performance as a mode of regulation, queer theory has lost—or never had—a distinction
between social and cultural (re)production, that is, between the totalizing theory of cultural
signification embodied in (post)structuralist theory and a potentially totalizing theory of the
social field as an arena ofpractices. Indeed, one might read Sedgwick's patronizing tone as
27 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, "Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading
Silvan Tompkins," Critical Inquiry 21.2 (1995): 500-501.

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an effect of the recognition that queer performativity's totalizing character might be also the
source of its principle liability. In the introductory chapter to Epistemology of the Closet,
Sedgwick in fact betrays this anxiety by making a point of refusing to know precisely how
far the analytical apparatus she deploys is generalizable: "A point of this book is not to know
how far its insights and projects are generalizable, not to be able to say in advance where the
semantic specificity of these issues gives over to (or: itself structures) the syntax of a
'broader' or more abstractable critical project."28 What is missing, in other words, in the
quasi-populist fantasy of an ever-receding horizon of objects subject to performative
analysis, is an account of the social totality in which one might take that analysis as one
performance among others, or, to once again use Bourdieu's phrase, one might objectify the
conditions of theoretical, cultural objectification.
As I want to suggest in the second part of this paper, one route to such a theory is
Marxism, pursued, for example, through the sociological descriptions offered by someone
like Bourdieu. In particular, and by returning to the examples with which I began, I want to
argue that we can recoup the distinction lost in queer theory but borne out by its fantasies
of the public queer—that is, in the fantasy of the simultaneously rigorous, specialized and yet
"organic" intellectual—by remembering the material and ideological effects of the mediation
structured by the university in the social field. In a material-ideological formation in which
we can no longer separate the institutions and processes of cultural from social production-
even if we can distinguish them—we are left with a field where intelligence or knowledge
28 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: U of California P,
1990): 12.

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itself describes social differences. This much, at least, is evident by the way the university
has been positioned in disputes over public funding: that is, as a holdover of "the welfare
state." Marxism, it seems to me, is a viable response to this situation for two simple reasons.
First, it allows us to imagine the different discursive performances as they are situated in
localizable institutions of production, and so allows us to more rigorously imagine the
political and economic pragmatics of what intellectuals do—namely, intervene in the
production and reproduction of kinds of cultural and symbolic capital. Second, and
consequent to this, Marxism allows us to reimagine the sites of these discursive
performances as scenes of production in an even more traditional sense: that is, as
workplaces. In so doing, it not only helps to dislodge the ideological power of the
"information age" or "knowledge economy" arguments in favor of a question about labor;
it also, then, helps us to reclaim the ideal of a certain social agency necessary for an actually
existing public queer.
Performing Success: Homo Academicus
Gramsci's incomplete remarks about the difference between "organic" and
"traditional" intellectuals help us, once again, to reformulate one of the contradictions of the
fantasy of "public education": on a disciplinary level, the epigones of queer theory register
both the intense demand for professional, scientific, specialized kinds of authority and the
need for a more nominally democratic distribution of symbolic and cultural resources; these
demands are functionally represented in the field by the emergence of the logic of "rigor" and
possibility of "popular culture" as the object of study. The "traditional" and "organic"

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retranslate the values of this contradiction as an historical dynamic: according to Gramsci,
intellectuals' relation to the world of production gets mediated by civil society and the state,
of which they are functionaries; and he says that the "organic quality" of different intellectual
strata and "their degree of connection with a fundamental social group" can be gauged
precisely according to their positions between these institutions and their functions.29 What
I have been suggesting here is that it is precisely a measure such as this one that is embodied
in both Habermas' early work on the public sphere and the fantasy of "public education" as
it referred to the university in America beginning in the 1960's. The organic and traditional,
in this sense, refigure values laden in Gouldner's distinction between the scientific
intelligentsia and the humanist intellectuals of the New Class; each represents a position, for
Gouldner, that consolidates its power by way of referring to the people, knowledge, capital,
or the state. The terms also transcribe the political values attributed to humanities'
scholarship in current debates, as is evidenced by the diatribes against the humanities that
condemn it either for politicization in general (the failure to be sufficiently "traditional") or
for its failure to be adequately political ("organic").30
29 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, trans. Quintin Hoare and
Geoffrey Novell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971): 12.
301 refer, of course, to the texts cited in note 2. In addition, there are the following
more or less well-known accounts. Walter Kendrick, "Critics and Their Discontents" New
York Times Book Review 24 Dec 1995: 12-13; George Will, "Curdled Politics on Campus,"
Newsweek 6 May 1991: 72; idem, "Literary Politics," Newsweek 22 Apr. 1991: 72; Dinesh
D'Souza, "Sins of Admission," New Republic 18 Feb. 1991: 30-33. For more "studied"
versions of this genre coming from the left, see Terry Eagleton, "Discourse and Discos:
Theory in the Space Between Culture and Capitalism," Times Literary Supplement 14 July
1994: 3-4; Denis Donoghue, "Doing Things with Words: Criticism and the Attack on the
Subject," ibid: 4-6; and J. Hillis Miller, "Return, Dissenter," ibid: 10. Russell Jacoby, The

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I have chosen Judith Butler as an example for this reading of queer performativity
precisely because her text on one level represents the contradictions enacted upon this
discourse in the most "literal" way possible.31 As I have suggested, Butler quite un¬
selfconsciously treats the social and cultural domains as interchangeable, and so reformulates
one of the primary contradictions of the fantasy of "public education." In addition to this,
Butler explicitly frames her discussion in Bodies that Matter as a politically transformative
act, at least nominally shifting the question of queer theory to the site of intellectual
Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New Y ork: Basic Books, 1987).
One might see, for "sympathetic" questions about queer theory's politics, for example, Lisa
Duggan, "Making it Perfectly Queer," Socialist Review 22. 1 (1992): 1-31; Cindy Patton,
"Tremble, Hetero Swine!" Fear of a Queer Planet, ed. Michael Warner (Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 1993): 143-77; and Donald Morton, "The Politics of Queer Theory in the (Post)
Modem Moment," Genders 17 (Fall 1993): 121-50. As is clear from my argument, I share
a basic kind of structural agreement with both Patton and Morton—namely, in saying that
performatives happen in historically, ethically, and economically overdetermined sites—for
example, the university. I would simply add that the ethical interpellation that Patton sees
as founding queer identity includes, for queer intellectuals, an intellectual dimension—one
that refers on some level to a responsibility to the university, among other things. It must
suffice to say, in the case of Morton, that I have some serious reservations about his
characterization of the "ludic postmodern textualism" that he is anxious to distance himself
from, whatever kinds of problems I have with the figures he criticizes (Sedgwick, for
example). I have also greatly benefitted from Rosemary Hennessy's "Queer Theory, Left
Politics," Marxism Beyond Marxism, ed. Saree Makdisi, Cesare Casarino, and Rebecca E.
Karl (New York: Routledge, 1996): 214-42.
31 In this context, we would do well to remember the distinction that Bourdieu makes
between epistemic and empirical individuals. The latter exists as a function of the name as
a tool to assist in recognition in a social space left practically undefined or unconsciously so,
while the former exists as a function of the name as a tool of cognition, used to denote a
position in a social space defined by sets of properties named in a "scientific" discourse. As
my argument will suggest, Butler's status as empirical individual is subsumed by her status
as epistemic individual at the moment she interpellates herself by using categories mappable
on a social grid such as the one this analysis implies, and in a context in which her status as
an intellectual in a social field is at stake. See Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Académicas: 21-35.

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performance: Butler claims that the "normative" dimension of Bodies that Matter "consists
precisely in assisting a radical resignification of the symbolic domain, deviating the citational
chain toward a more possible future to expand the very meaning of what counts as a valued
and valuable body in the world" (B 22). And she offers a "radical rearticulation of what
qualifies as bodies that matter [. . .]" (B 16). Her goal is a "radically altered" symbolic,
which, she says, will only be possible if omosexuality resists normalization in the process
of becoming part of the symbolic domain: "the entrance of homosexuality into the symbolic,"
she writes, "will alter very little if the symbolic itself is not radically altered in the course of
that admission. Indeed, the legitimation of homosexuality will have to resist the force of
normalization for a queer resignification of the symbolic to expand and alter the normativity
of its terms" (B 111).
Before we go on to evaluate these claims, it's worth pausing to notice how the
position itself reinscribes the contradiction I've been talking about and simultaneously
circumscribes the kinds of terms on which it can and cannot be addressed. On the one hand,
Butler persists in imagining that legitimation and normalization more or less work in tandem,
such that even if homosexuality were admitted to the symbolic, she might somehow still have
some purchase on its "normativity"; thus, whatever purchase Butler presumably possesses
now, she supposedly has it for being "outside" or "excluded" from the symbolic. On the other
hand, the symbolic (if local) legitimation of the entire discursive lineage that Butler puts on
display here (Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Aristotle ...) makes this whole adventure possible,
such that one can only wonder from whence Butler presumes to speak if not from "inside"
it. In short, Butler imagines that she can and does simultaneously occupy positions both

160
inside and outside the institutions of symbolic authority and legitimacy that she is so anxious
to "radicalize," such that her position amounts to an incredibly strained, psychoanalytic
version of the "traditional," "professional," "scientific," "specialized" vs. "populist,"
"democratic," "organic" opposition that I have been describing. Except that here, the
hierophant of the rigorous science claims to pass on the benefits of her work from outside
the institutions that legitimate it at the very moment that she deploys its resources; and she
passes them on directly to affect the social field.
This strategy works quite actively to shut down questions about the social dimensions
of the intervention, despite its seemingly transformative trajectory. I would suggest this by
referring to Butler's own interpellation of herself, tellingly drawn from someone else's
interpellation of Jennie Livingston, which Butler cites, as a "white Jewish lesbian from Yale"
(B 133). If the strategy of positioning herself "outside" the symbolic expresses anxiety over
agency, then it also displaces questions about the conditions of production in which the
intervention happens. As Bourdieu reminds us, the conditions in which any performative can
succeed are inevitably social conditions.32 Forgetting even Yale's history as the epicenter of
the once prestigious Yale school of criticism and that school's enduringly awful labor record,
the move works to close down the distinction between university activity that might be
described politically—that is, as having a politics—and political activity as it happens beyond
32 Pierre Bourdieu, "Price Formation and the Anticipation of Profits," Language and
Symbolic Power. 73.

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the university.33 That is, it also closes down a crucial dimension of the production of
discourse of performance: that is, the nature of this performance as "work."
As my introductory description of the performance of "school" in Paris Is Burning
suggests, the film stages a canny response to Butler's staging of the white Jewish lesbian
from Yale: namely, in the performance of the young, androgynous, (gay?) Hispanic male
who performs "school" in the Yale t-shirt. As I've suggested, he demonstrates how much
education is a project of class consumption; unsurprisingly, "consumerism" is something that
Butler anxiously disavows as part of her account of the subject (B 15). In addition, I also
suggested that the intelligence involved in these performances in general is suggested by
both Dorian Corey's explanation of "reading" and the film’s representation of one femme
queen’s interaction with a group of teenagers. Butler's indifference to the social conditions
of these knowledges is perhaps best exemplified by her account of the former. As opposed
to Dorian Corey's explanation, which stresses the categorically social character of this
performance of literacy, Butler maintains that "'reading' means taking someone down,
exposing what fails to work at the level of appearance, insulting or deriding someone" (B
129). That is, Butler proceeds as if in fact the entire history of the circulation of texts and
their technologies weren't involved in the production of literate classes, as if the exquisite
polysemia of this symbolic were enough to explain the sociolect of this urban site so
overdetermined by the coincidence of race and class immiseration as to be shocking insofar
as she ignores it: "Paris" as ghetto: "Harlem."
33 With respect to labor concerns, see Toni Gilpin et al, On Strike for Respect: The
Clerical and Technical Workers’ Strike at Yale University 1984-85 (Urbana: U of Illinois P,
1995).

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Indeed, read in a particular way, the film stages a rejoinder to any account of the
performative that would forget that the conditions that make performatives "successful" are
above all social conditions. In this sense, the drag ball "scene" in Paris is an admittedly
problematic version of what Negt and Kluge call a public sphere of production. There, what
the traditional bourgeois public sphere casts as private and secret--for example, the processes
of non-traditional literacy production, gender/race/sexuality articulation, and the sex work
that funds both of the former—gets staged in a way that would otherwise be definitionally
obscene.34 Paris very ambivalently accomplishes this and so prompts us to ask about the
conditions of production in a traditionally bourgeois institution such as the university. In
doing so, as I will demonstrate, it also helps us to cast doubt on the periodization of late
capital described in terms of a "knowledge economy."
Paris makes this response by narrating the "successful"—"intelligent"—deployment
of performativity in the drag ball scenes according to a logic that reminds us, again, of the
relation between these "successful" performatives and the social conditions in which they are
performed. Now, as far as Butler is concerned, the success of the performers in the film is
gauged by their cooperation with her project of adjusting the symbolic:"Paris is Burning,"
Butler writes, "documents neither an efficacious insurrection nor a painful resubordination,
but an unstable coexistence of both" (B 137). But Butler doesn't say anything about the
specifics of this unstable "coexistence," except to note that it is '"no accident'" that Willi
34 Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an
Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, trans. Peter Labanyi et al.
(Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993): 12-18.

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Ninja "ascends" while Venus Xtravanganza dies (B 130). But these coincidences can be
accounted for if we consider our present material-ideological formation in terms other than
psychoanalytic ones. Lyotard once suggested that performativity in postindustrial society
addresses the pragmatic functioning not only of the educational system—to the degree that
it becomes a subsystem of the social—but also the legitimation of "intelligence" as power-
knowledge in pursuit of surplus time: efficiency.35 In this context, performance is not simply
the dismantling of a recourse to essences or natural spheres of meaning that exceed the
constructions of historical systems, but the working out of pragmatic strategies that adapt to
the fact that the classical principles of economy—which, in this context, are co-determinate
with other sectors of the social, political, ethical, legal—are available only by virtue of their
constant transformation and transcoding. Paris Is Burning, in this context, represents the
emergence of this incessant transcoding over the last 30 years through the nostalgic narrative
of Dorian Corey and the one offered by Pepper Labeija. Not only has there been a
proliferation of categories by which performativity is recognized in this time—a change that,
according to Pepper, begins in the 70's—but also, correlatively, a diminution of the time that
anyone can spend developing one particular look. At one moment in the film Freddie
Pendavis expresses surprise at how long his partner, Kim, has taken to make a shirt. "An
hour! That's not your speed!" he exclaims. These pressures partly explain the explicit appeal
of commodified objects as narrative referents for the younger generation of performers: they
(the performers) are, according to Dorian, consumed with having designer labels, and,
Jean-Fran^ois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans.
Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984): 41-53.

164
according to Pepper, with looking like fashion models. The logic of these narratives plainly
transcodes the change from relatively fixed, unified spheres of consumption and production
to multiple, highly specialized spheres of consumption and "flexible specialization" that have
been characteristic of capital over the last 20 years; and they also reference the corresponding
drop in wage--that is, time—that has accompanied it, at least for those in the lower and
middle segments of the wage scale. But even more suggestively, the proliferation of
categories of performance corresponds to a similar explosion of aesthetic distinctions
characteristic of what Kwame Anthony Appiah has called "the underlying dynamic of
cultural modernity" in postmodemity: namely, "the need to clear oneself a space."36 If
modernity misrecognized its fundamental ability to clear this space under the idea of the
triumphal march of reason, he argues, postmodemity is characterized by the attempt to
reactivate this possibility—by means of the new distinctions—in the face of an ever-expanding
horizon of commodification. To understand performance as a space-clearing gesture is, of
course, to give new meaning to Paris Dupree's injunction in Paris to "give her some walking
room." More importantly, it is also to notice the irony in which the performers are mired: the
proliferation of distinctions—even the ones that don't appeal explicitly to commodity
narrative objects, like "bangee"—is the site of the expansion of gender transitive "flexible
specialization" and ultra-specialized commodity production, as well as the scene of
resistance.
36 Kwame Anthony Appiah, "Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in
Postcolonial?" Critical Inquiry 17.2 (1991): 346.

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One of the things that Livingston's film has rightly been criticized for is the way it
"objectifies" the participants as the subjects of naive fantasies that the camera and
disembodied interpellating voice of the director rather celebratingly figure as the "exotic"
and "transgressive." At the same time, the film represents how far subversion is from the
intentions of the performers; here "realness" in every case devolves into the desire to "fit"
in racial, class and gendered terms. It's not a parody, Dorian tells us, it's about really being
white, educated, wealthy and female. Indeed, this is done without setting in motion any
interrogation of the "documentary" position of the camera. As a result of being shot in this
way, the film demonstrates that gender performance is not necessarily subversive or
empowering to its participants, because what makes a difference in performing difference
is capitalizing on the excess that performativity engenders. If, to use Lyotard's formulation,
performativity is a mode of adaptation to strategies of power-knowledge in a particular
economy, then "successful" performatives are ones that can be appropriated and transformed
into symbolic, cultural or monetary capital. This much seems evident simply listening to the
terms in which most of the performers describe success. But none of the performers—with
the exception of Willi Ninja—is able to make this transformation happen in or out of its
diegesis,37 and Jennie Livingston never does anything to suggest that the differences
produced in the ball performances are figurations of another kind of difference: the
difference between performances that accrue different kinds of capital—Livingston's, Ninja's-
37 This history is now infamous. See Jesse Green, "Paris Has Burned," New York
Times 18 Apr 1993 Sec. IX, 1+.

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-and those that don't. Moreover, in treating the social and the cultural as interchangeable,
Butler actually repeats as if it were true Dorian Corey's insistence that performing or
signifying status is as much as becoming it.
It is, indeed, "no accident" that Willi Ninja is the only one of the performers to be
able to capitalize on his performance. This historical coincidence, however, can be specified
as the work of a particular kind of ideological formation characteristic of neo-Fordism.
Within this formation, which Evan Watkins calls "technoideological coding," the appeal to
race and gender as categories of social asymmetry becomes obsolete as class comes
simultaneously to take their places and to measure the mobility of individuals within these
once-natural categories.38 "Race" and "gender" appear in this formation precisely as they do
in Paris Is Burning: they are choices—linked to corresponding commodity ("category")
choices—that one has at one's disposal in order to achieve a certain class distinction—here,
it could be "legendary" status or the more palpable one that Octavia St. Laurent offers to the
camera as it peers through her legs: "I want my name to be a household product." Willi Ninja
"succeeds," then, as a man who shows women how to be feminine while remaining a "man,"
simultaneously effecting the trope of the mysterious foreign aggressor known precisely for
ultra-mobility, stealth and masquerade (Ninja); in the end, we witness the results of his
performative savvy in the conspicuous consumption and display of the earring that, he insists
on reminding us, he buys, instead of "mopping" up. While the other performers understand
that "class" is a set of signifiers ready to be put to work in the production of gender, race
38 Watkins, Throwaways, 41-82. Hereafter T.

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and/or professional categories, only Willi Ninja and Octavia St. Laurent understand the
performance of gender and race to be a displacement of the more binding and totalizing
category of class; instead of simply performing "class," each of them mobilizes the other
categories to the end of achieving it. She, as a would-be transsexual, serves up something
already proliferating in the culture, that is, the iconic black female, and she tries to
"naturalize" it by having her gender surgically changed. He, on the other hand, offering a
consumer "novelty" and the refusal of natural gender, national, or racial coding, proves more
«
mobile, and, in the end, more "successful." In an uneasy way, Livingston duplicates Ninja's
performance by her evident absence from the scene of the film; like that of the invisible
assassin, her presence is killer.
The ethnographic framing of the film in this way gives no account of or for the
evident differences in the conditions or the effects of each performance. Technoideological
coding, as an ideological formation, helps to explain the way that such differences both
"happen" and are justified at any particular moment. As Watkins explains, "because it
[technoideological coding] doesn't do away with the positionalities of race- and gender-
marked agents, those positionalities must be rewritten into the terms of class as
simultaneously universalizing and distinctive: anybody must be able to change with the
times, but not everybody does" (T 57). For the way they are represented in the film, and for
the way that Butler represents them, the performance of the category "opulence," or "Town
and Country" might be quite as "effective" as those offered by Ninja and Livingston:
everyone performs. But, in the end, not all "performances" count in the same way. Both the
film and Butler's reading of it foreclose this distinction, such that if Paris stages without

168
playing out the scene of intellectual production that Butler simply refuses to, then it also
reproduces the invisible "white Jewish lesbian from Yale" in Livingston herself.
But, to its credit, Paris Is Burning imagines the power-knowledge linkage that
Lyotard describes as characteristic of the postmodern as invariably a question of the
performance of "work." The film represents the conditions of production for these
performances in the scene where Kim Pendavis is sewing the shirt, in the discussion of
mopping, and in the scene where Dorian Corey more or less paraphrases, in more pragmatic
terms, the runway injunction "You'd better work!" Here, Corey reminds the viewer that in
New York City the performers work or they starve. Additionally, one of the film's subjects
tells us, with something of a wink in her eye, that the performers are usually "showgirls" for
a living; and, finally, we are gloomily reminded by Venus Xtravaganza's presence that sex
work frequently becomes at once the scene of performance and that which funds the purchase
of its material accoutrement.
With this in mind, we can understand the runway injunction "You'd better work!" as
condensing and displacing a question about labor in the material ideological formation that
I have been discussing. An argument like Lyotard's treats the postmodern condition by
evacuating the question of labor for an analysis of the performance of locutions in an
economy of knowledge—where what counts is the performance whose success can be
measured in increased "efficiency." For whatever its explanatory power in describing the
conditions in which technical and intellectual elites operate, Lyotard's formulation doesn't
consider that knowledge production itself might count as labor, or that, outside the of the rich
core of Northern capitalist states (or rather, cities), the "knowledge economy" doesn't look

169
appreciably different from the previous productive regime, except perhaps in its savvy
strategies of self-promotion. "You'd better work!" in this sense represents the performative
injunction so aptly described in Lyotard's formulation and the injunction for an increasingly
marginalized sector of the world that the "knowledge economy" leaves to the side.
As much as it is an obscene public sphere of production to its critical other, Paris
stages what one might begin to imagine as a genuine scene of "reading," where academic or
directorial performance might be scrutinized as having as much to do with "categories"
whose performances are also alignments of "intelligence" and social distinction as well as
those of gender, class, or race: "white Jewish lesbian from Yale, first time in (university)
drag." For the epistemological difference between, say, Butler or Livingston and Kim
Pendavis is also a social difference that is understandable as a difference in the relationship
of subjects to the organization of symbolic, cultural and economic capital where they take
up positions. To forget this is to forget not only the narrative the film tells but also the
palpable, materially inscribed logic by which such citations of gender codes become legible.
Without a doubt, such a reading of Paris can only suggest the ways that homophobic
culture reflects the organization and contradictions between capital and labor. And certainly,
an ethos of self-reflexivity that someone like Bourdieu constantly reinscribes in his work—
and which I am insisting on here-doesn't suffice to extricate him or us from the
contradictions inherent in our institutional conditions. The "self analysis by proxy" that I
undertake here instead is intended to reframe the questions of performativity as
fundamentally historical ones, and ones that ultimately refer to capital as accumulated labor.
In fact, in taking this lesson from Paris, we would certainly be doing more than Jennie

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Livingston does to objectify the conditions in which she works. But it is only by insisting on
this that we can ever understand either the social dissymmetries represented in Paris or
recapture the distinction between social and cultural production that is at the heart of the
contradictions in the meaning of work in English departments and the university at large.
This seems eminently worth doing if we want to respond not only to the conservative attacks
on the university in the mainstream press but also the redoubled political effort to gut public
funding to education on all levels. Only by retaining this distinction might we transform
English departments not only as sites of possible social intervention, but also as workplaces,
and as places where the uneven distribution of forms of capital might be re-tooled according
to a vision of an actually existing public queer. That, perhaps, might be our incomplete
project.
More importantly, this kind of reading also points to the inherent limitations of any
model of cultural analysis that mistakes any talk of orders of determination for determinism
plain and simple. Nowhere has this been clearer than the recent spate of public appearances
in which Judith Butler has made an unspecified "neo-conservative left" a cause celebre in
left academic talk. According to Butler, this putative neo-conservatism takes identity politics
(particularly those of the queer variety) as being the "merely cultural" byproduct of the "real"
mode of production, while it ignores the "material" difference that identity formations have
in everyday life. In that context, Butler turns to Lévi-Strauss (and Marcel Mauss) to imagine
the reciprocality of economics, culture, and reproduction:
Lévi-Strauss showed that this relation of exchange [of women] was not only
cultural and economic at once, but made the distinction inappropriate and
unstable: exchange produces a set of social relations, communicates a social

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and symbolic value—the coupling of which becomes salient for Lacanian
departures from Lévi-Strauss—and secures routes of distribution and
consumption.... The question is not whether sexual politics thus belong to
cultural or economic, but how the very practices of sexual exchange
confound the distinction between the two spheres.39
Like Nancy Fraser, I can't imagine why Butler turns to Lévi-Strauss and Mauss to talk about
the cultural perils of global Fordism (or neo-Fordism in the U.S.), since both of them are
talking about pre-capitalist social formations.40 But, more importantly, by announcing the
inseparability of culture and economy, Butler takes leave of the particular orders of
determination at work in different historical moments. Since all we can say is that there's no
easy distinction between culture and economy, everything from WWF wrestling to the
Multinational Agreement on Investment is just as cultural as it is economic. And never could
we imagine that the cultural or economic effects of one or the other had particular pertinence
to queer politics—or politics in general.
In other words, one might counter this argument by saying that just because
everything might be described as adhering to logic of citationality doesn't mean that all
citations or performances have the same effects as any or every other. As I've implied above,
in the absence of an analysis of simple or complex determinations that color American
political culture and cultural politics at the end of the century, Butler's invocation of left
"democratic promise" here and in her other recent work is a joke, since no democracy—least
of all one within a political movement—takes shape in the ether of iterability, that all
39 Judith Butler, "Merely Cultural," New Left Review 227 (1998): 43.
40 Nancy Fraser, "Heterosexism, Misrecognition, and Capitalism: A Response to
Judith Butler," New Left Review 228 (1998): 147-48.

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encompassing non-place where all Butler's imagined enemies gather strength. In the U. S.
at any rate, democracy takes shape now, as it always has, in the context of the state's support
for capital expansion and the historical balance of power in favor of the American
bourgeoisie. Whatever has been won in the struggles of the working class, feminists, and the
civil rights movements, the cumulative effects of bourgeois retrenchement against even
modest social-democratic agendas cannot be spirited away by a new secular eschatology,
however sophisticated.
Finally, then, while I'm grateful that, in this context, Butler eschews smug teleologies
of liberal, media-fed histories of political change, I do not share her messianic vision of a
democratic left, borne as it is on the existential wing of affluent pluralism. Where any vision
for the left is possible, it won't come as cipher of difference, or materialize out of an
agentless speech of culture, but in the unremitting gaze at the wreckage of the past, and the
historical excavation of the agencies that might forge a future. That is what this vision of the
public queer" would hope to begin.

CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION:
Geophilosophy
In the enchanted world of millennial America, I have been arguing, sundry political
and aesthetic claims about such seemingly unrelated things as documentary film and schools,
"real-world" economic events and disaster narratives have tended to reproduce a view of the
world consistent with that of "globalization" narratives. Over the last twenty-five or so years,
that worldview has been solidified as "globalization" has become the lingua franca of
economics, cultural studies, sociology and journalism. Distinguishing the claims of
globalization narratives from what we might know about actually existing international
movements of labor, currency, discourse and cultural objects has been one of the
primary—and most difficult—tasks of this dissertation. No less important has been the
attempt to construct a different kind of picture—and another cultural and civic
agenda—appropriate to this moment.
No doubt, the success or failure of this project redounds in some way to the fates of
"Marxism" both in the U.S. academy and the geo-political imagination of the U.S. at present.
Many of the cultural, political and social characteristics of the enchanted world express
perennial tendencies of capitalist cultural and social formations, to be sure. Still, it is nearly
173

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universally believed that Marxism as an analytic language is obsolete or, correlatively, that
it is "reductive" of the bright, shining heterogeneity that is life in the millennial North. A
research project such as this one—one that puts economic history on the same agenda as
cultural analysis—is likely to be understood as "Marxist," even though, for the most part, I've
referred to Marx rather sparingly, and even though I've tried to reanimate a traditionally
liberal concept—namely, public space. Moreover, as I've been at pains to demonstrate, the
boosters of globalization most richly deserve to be called reductionist—not to say
vulgar—certainly more than those who attempt to enumerate the ways that such vulgarity
impacts everyday life at present. The processes through which economic decisions, events
and tendencies affect non-economic realms so-called have always been complex. As this
dissertation implies, they have also always been "cultural" questions—though not only that.
In attempting to draw out the cultural and political implications of the globalist world-
picture, indeed, I haven't argued for any kind of "final instance," but rather for the
importance of the contingencies through which what's called economics comes to matter
anyway. One of those contingencies has been the emergence and circulation of the notion
of "globalization" itself. I've also argued that it is possible and desirable to consider some
finite, historical agencies—like the nation-state, democratically elected officials, the cultural
intelligentsia—as able to exert measured pressure on this arrangement. That argument is
based less on a fantasy of revolution than the desire for a more humane and, dare one say it,
"civilized" global cultural and civic order.
That desire is not the same as "the desire called Marx" although it is informed by one
of Marx's lasting concerns—namely, political economy. Although for most of the world it

175
goes pretty much without saying, it's perhaps worth repeating that capital has become
increasingly destructive—indeed, ie/^destructive—in the last 25 years. Even financier George
Soros has recently recognized that the invisible hand so dear to neo-liberals and investment
consultants has recently started to look more like a "wrecking ball" than an unseen and
beneficent guiding principle.1 But the fundamental idea of capital's contradictions has not
gotten through, as it were, to the sometime architects of the global economic arrangement.
Despite the havoc visited upon developing countries due to massive exchange rate
fluctuations—itself the effect of whipsaw movements of capital—Robert Rubin and Larry
Summers have stuck to their free capital movement guns, rather than imagine an alternative
international financial architecture. At the same time, the political projects and agendas, the
political philosophies of the present have been to a large degree impoverished by the lack of
any sustained engagement with the full-blown tendencies of capital near the millennium. If
all Cornel West and Roberto Unger can muster as a "progressive" project are proposals for
"collective tinkering" and "jazzlike improvisation" with the institutional status quo, then
perhaps "the desire called Marx" wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.2
The task that I've imagined here, in the interstices of these fairly incomplete chapters,
however, is not so much to defend Marx, though I regret to say that "Marx" needs some
1 Soros originally gave this characterization in testimony before U.S. congress in
September of 1998, which is reprinted in The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society
Endangered (New York: Public Affairs, 1998): xvi.
2 Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Cornel West, "Progressive Politics and What Lies
Ahead," Nation 23 Nov. 1998: 11-15.

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defense these days. Rather, it has been to construct something like what Gilíes Deleuze and
Felix Guattari have called "geophilosophy" for this moment. Although this could be
articulated more forcefully here, I imagine that I've tried to rebuild, in a certain disciplinary
place, a concept like "public" for a moment whose most profound mistake is the notion of
"globalization" itself. The concept interests me as a reference point for understanding
cultural, civic, and economic life. It also betokens a set of values—collectivity and
provisional "universality," though perhaps a better word for the latter is inclusivity. The
effort to reconstruct it, however, immediately runs into a "threshold of indiscemibility"
between the "global" imagined as it is at present, and the "public" as it is fashioned in the
U.S. and elsewhere. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, every notion, like that of "public space,"
"partially overlaps, has a zone of neighborhood ... with another one."3 At that place, where
the globalist agenda and the more local civic and cultural pragmatics overlap, "globalization"
becomes irreducible to understanding American culture. And, as "Marx" is irreducible to
understanding contemporary globalization processes (including its phantasmatic
enunciation), "Marxism," however construed, is also be indispensable to contemporary
geophilosophy, and American cultural studies.
With that in mind, I’ve used the regulation school’s revisions of Marxist political
economy to reffame debates that occur in "cultural studies." I’ve done this in the context of an
inspection of the widely circulated belief in "globalization" at present because "globalization," in
my view, is the most widely circulated master-concept meant to illuminate the transformation of
3 Gilíes Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia UP, 1994): 19.

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geo-politics, -culture, and -economy over the last twenty-five years. But, as I argue, it does less
to explain the complex causalities of these changes than to glorify what is essentially a reassertion
of American hegemony over the world-system. The regulationist model remains central to
understanding these changes, as it rests on an historical research agenda that excavates how
discourses, laws, urban design, banks, schools, and media help to support geo-political and
economic formations, such as the one that goes by the name "globalization." At the same time,
it offers us some purchase on the ways that each of these different kinds of activity impact back
on the "global" world so-called.
In the disciplines that claim to do something akin to "cultural studies," the effects of the
myth of globalization have been startling. Among the effects that I’ve tried to isolate here is a
benign neglect of the state and political economy as cultural objects or as agencies that have
cultural effects. Likewise, I’ve tried to show that much of what passes for cultural studies analysis
these days shows a wholly unjustified faith that "civil society" so-called has now become the
primary site of political struggle in general, and that it can manage the functions once
performed-even if ineptly so-by the state. More than simply "correcting" these views, I have
aimed to imagine what cultural studies would look like if its practitioners didn’t take these myths
for granted. One way I’ve tried to do so is by salvaging the recent histories of public space and
the public sphere. These notions, and their on-the-ground referents, serve as sort of barometers
for the relations between cultural, economic, and civic life in the United States. At the same time,
their re-tooling at the hands of short-sighted neo-liberals or cultural critics wary of their
"universalizing" implications provide the context to suggest a counter-memory to histories
embedded in cultural studies discourses at present. In a word, it’s by salvaging these terms that
I should think it possible reimagine the scope and ambitions of cultural studies. At the very least,
I’d argue this disciplinary formation could be retooled for the exigencies of the moment. That

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would require at least rephrasing the questions about the relations between civic and cultural
realms in the context of newly defined public spaces and economic processes.
What’s "cultural" about the cultural studies project that I imagine, then, is the degree to
which what might once have been called "literary" genres enter into or are informed by the
processes that I’ve described above. In reconstructing the value of Ian Watt’s The Rise of the
Novel for this purpose, I’ve had three things in mind. First, I’ve tried to bring the analysis of class
formation around an historically constructed "literary" genre (i.e., the novel) to the tensions
between identity politics and the construction of "cultural studies" in the United States at present.
To put it briefly, the reconstruction of cultural canons around "post-national" gender, race or
ethnic identities in the present is no less difficult than that constructed around "class" in the late
1950's, although it is frequently treated as such. It has more or less been assumed that "new"
identities are exclusive of class or that the latter is somehow, like all Marxist categories, obsolete
or reductive of the others. It’s my contention, on the contrary, that gender, race, ethnicity and
nationality matter precisely because of the way that "class" continually reasserts itself in the
present. Second, I’ve tried to read Watt’s book as a kind of exemplary response to an ideological
"end of history" such as the one that we face at the moment. Third, I’ve argued, both implicitly
and explicitly, that if a "public" intellectual position is possible at the moment, it will have to be
reconstructed in the context of analyses of the circulation of value, such as the one Watt describes
around the novel. One might argue that such circulation is "global" today in a way that it wasn’t
in the America of the 1950's or Britain of the 1740's. However, it is the uneven character of that
circulation that bears comment today-as much as those other moments.
In "Structural Transformation of the Public Queer," I have tried to bring these concerns
to the analysis of Jennie Livingston’s documentary film, Paris is Burning. The concerns
materialize in my concern for two locations in the film that commentary about it has pretty much

179
ignored: "school" and "Harlem." Both of these places serve as the sites at which cultural, social,
and economic production overlap. In that sense, they foreground the ways that the subjects of the
film don’t simply perform categories that might or might not travesty norms of intelligibility.
They do that, of course. But those performances are both informed by and impact the economies
in which the performers live and "work." To the degree that that’s so, they help us understand the
limits of a notion like a "knowledge economy" to describe the current regime of capital
accumulation. At the same time, they proleptically respond to cultural studies work that would
bracket such concerns out of interest in the gender and racial categories themselves. In that sense,
the film cannily puts "globalization" and cultural studies to work, as it insists on the places in
which each takes place-for instance, school and New York right after the Koch "urban
redevelopment" push of the late 80's. It suggests the ways that cultural studies scholars,
economists, and urban planners could take a cue from Paris Dupree: "give her some walking
room!"
I should hope, finally, that by casting some doubt on the novelty of globalization
processes, this project might also offer some purchase on the long histories of cultural and
political modernity. As Giovanni Arrighi's recent argument bears out, what we have recently
been calling "globalization" is simply the latest phase in a roughly six-centuries long process
of capitalist expansion.4 That expansion has coincided with the emergence of the nation-state
and the inter-state system, the former now believed to be on its last legs. As I've argued here,
it is more or less taken for granted that these more recent developments suggest a seismic
cultural alteration for the world at large. However, some sensitivity to the more enduring
qualities colonial and post-colonial worlds is long overdue. Indeed, "globalization" is not the
4 Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of
Our Times (New York: Verso, 1994): 1-84.

180
first economic world-picture to appear on the horizon, and certainly not the first image of the
globe to mystify the social relations of power and exchange that constitute it. It seems to me
those relations constitute the possibility of "geophilosophy" in the present and might furnish
an agenda for cultural studies to come.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Christian A. Gregory did his undergraduate work at the University of Tampa, from which he
graduated in 1987. He received his Master’s Degree in English in 1992 from the University
of Florida. His future is undecided.
196

I certify that I have read this study and that it in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation
for degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that it in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is folly adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation
for degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
&
i
A
Daniel A. Cottom
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that it in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is folly adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation
for degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that it in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is folly adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation
for degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
¿ohn Murchek
Assistant Professor of English

I certify that I have read this study and that it in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation
for degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Associate Professor of History
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of English
in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
May 1999
Dean, Graduate School

LO
1780
1999
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08555 0217



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