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In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here,  owes someth...

Monday, February 1, 2010


"Whereas directed thinking is an altogether conscious phenomenon, the same cannot be said of fantasy-thinking. Much of it belongs to the conscious sphere, but at least as much goes on in the half-shadow, or entirely in the unconscious, and can therefore be inferred only indirectly. Through fantasy-thinking, directed thinking is brought into contact with the oldest layers of the human mind, long buried beneath the threshold of consciousness."-- Carl Jung, SYMBOLS OF TRANSFORMATION,p. 29

"[the Frankfurt School scholars] poo-pooed the type of industries that make some stuff that's related to things you like."-- Charles Reece's take on my objections to the Frankfurt School, seen in more detail in this comments-section.

Though I debated Charles' statement in the comments-section to some extent, I want to draw particular attention here to his incorrect statement that the Frankfurters were objecting only to the "industries" that made and still make popular fiction, which organizations were subsumed by Mssrs. Adorno and Horkheimer into one satanic majesty designated as "the culture industry." The elitist Frankfurters were opposed not just to the culture industry but to popular culture as such, by invoking the fallacy that it was all controlled "from above" and thus in no way represented the true culture of the people.


"Not only are the hit songs, stars, and soap operas cyclically recurrent and rigidly invariable types, but the specific content of the entertainment itself is derived from them and only appears to change. The details are interchangeable. The short interval sequence which was effective in a hit song, the hero’s momentary fall from grace (which he accepts as good sport), the rough treatment which the beloved gets from the male star, the latter’s rugged defiance of the spoilt heiress, are, like all the other details, ready-made clichés to be slotted in anywhere; they never do anything more than fulfil the purpose allotted them in the overall plan. Their whole raison d’être is to confirm it by being its constituent parts."

I've devoted no small effort to demonstrating the untruth of this statement: of showing how some popular works are indeed purely functional and represent little more than an assemblage of cliches, while others are clearly "superfunctional" in terms of not only how they function under the critic's microscope but in their public reception. That Adorno and Horkeimer could actually believe that the "cliches" could be "slotted in anywhere" speaks to their inability to grapple with the question as to why one popular work, be it song or soap opera, should be more popular than another one.

I think part of the reason is that these Frankfurters had no real idea of the creative process: they simply worshipped a concept of "art" that was so wonderfully hermetic that it could be easily divorced from the sort of "cliches" that pleased the hoi polloi. I'd be surprised if either Adorno or Horkeimer, steeped in their doctrinaire Marxism, showed any cognizance of the human faculty that Jung calls "fantasy-thinking:" the faculty which accounts for the capacity of both storytellers and their audiences to enjoy stories for their own sake, apart from their status as "art"-- even though, in the inclusive sense of the word, Donald Duck is ever bit as much "art" as Adorno's beloved Kafka.

It's significant that Jung, who was not a literary critic but who probably shared much the same highbrow education of the Frankfurters, was able to "step outside the box" of High Culture to such good effect. Jung wrote very little on popular culture but his intuitions about how creativity takes place, whether in high art or low, have stood the test of time through the explorations of lit-critics like Leslie Fiedler and Raymond Durgnat. In contrast, Marxist critics today, appropriately enough, are the ones who are ceaselessly repeating a "rigidly invariable" form of criticism.

I'll have more to say in a future post about the silliness of the "things you like" part of Charles Reece's rhetoric.

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