Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler
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Original year of publication: 1997
From the pages of The Baffler, the most vital and perceptive new magazine of the nineties, sharp, satirical broadsides against the Culture Trust.
In the "old" Gilded Age, the barons of business accumulated vast wealth and influence from their railroads, steel mills, and banks. But today it is culture that stands at the heart of the American enterprise, mass entertainment the economic dynamo that brings the public into the consuming fold and consolidates the power of business over the American mind. For a decade The Baffler has been the invigorating voice of dissent against these developments, in the grand tradition of the muckrakers and The American Mercury. This collection gathers the best of its writing to explore such peculiar developments as the birth of the rebel hero as consumer in the pages of Wired and Details; the ever-accelerating race to market youth culture; the rise of new business gurus like Tom Peters and the fad for Hobbesian corporate "reengineering"; and the encroachment of advertising and commercial enterprise into every last nook and cranny of American life. With its liberating attitude and cant-free intelligence, this book is a powerful polemic against the designs of the culture business on us all.
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Mr. Geffen’s boys discover it angsting away in some bar in Lawrence, Kansas: It is no longer any different from the official culture it’s supposed to be subverting. The basic impulses of the countercultural idea, as descended from the holy Beats, are about as threatening to the new breed of antinomian businessmen as Anthony Robbins, selling success & how to achieve it on a late-night infomercial. The people who staff the Combine aren’t like Nurse Ratched. They aren’t Frank Burns, they aren’t the
pushing the edge of the envelope on design.”). Wired!% distinctive maimed typography and its fluorescent hues may be interesting, but the magazine’s truly marvelous feature is its corporate-cultural mission. Wired is technology’s hip face, an aggressive apologist for the new information capitalism that speaks to the world in the postmodern executive’s favored tones of chaotic cool and pseudo-revolution. Wind’s expeditious rise was the payoff of perfect product positioning by its founders and
curse, a remnant of the foolish fifties that exist to be defied, not obeyed. We live in what Peters calls “A World Turned Upside Down,” in which whirl is king and, in order to survive, businesses must eventually embrace Peters’ universal solution: “Revolution!” “To meet the demands of the fast-changing competitive scene,” he counsels, “we must simply learn to love change as much as we have hated it in the past.” He advises businessmen to become Robe-spierres of routine, to demand of their
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inspiration from Hunter S. Thompson and whose stories describe such things as a “disorganization” that inhabits an “anti-office” where “all vestiges of hierarchy have disappeared” or a computer scientist who is also “a rabble rouser, an agent provocateur, a product of the 1960s who never lost his activist fire or democratic values.” He is what sociologists Paul Leinberger and Bruce Tucker have called “The New Individualist,” the new and improved manager whose arty worldview and creative hip