Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution

Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution

by Alan Trachtenberg, James Livingston
     
 

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The rise of corporate capitalism was a cultural revolution as well as an economic event, according to James Livingston. That revolution resides, he argues, in the fundamental reconstruction of selfhood, or subjectivity, that attends the advent of an 'age of surplus' under corporate auspices. From this standpoint, consumer culture represents a transition to a

Overview

The rise of corporate capitalism was a cultural revolution as well as an economic event, according to James Livingston. That revolution resides, he argues, in the fundamental reconstruction of selfhood, or subjectivity, that attends the advent of an 'age of surplus' under corporate auspices. From this standpoint, consumer culture represents a transition to a society in which identities as well as incomes are not necessarily derived from the possession of productive labor or property. From the same standpoint, pragmatism and literary naturalism become ways of accommodating the new forms of solidarity and subjectivity enabled by the emergence of corporate capitalism. So conceived, they become ways of articulating alternatives to modern, possessive individualism. Livingston argues accordingly that the flight from pragmatism led by Lewis Mumford was an attempt to refurbish a romantic version of modern, possessive individualism. This attempt still shapes our reading of pragmatism, Livingston claims, and will continue to do so until we understand that William James was not merely a well-meaning middleman between Charles Peirce and John Dewey and that James's pragmatism was both a working model of postmodern subjectivity and a novel critique of capitalism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Livingston has reached deeply into the resources of literary and cultural theory to produce a new narrative and analytic frame.

Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh

Livingston engages with boundless energy and intelligence technicalities of economic development, the nation's literary traditions, [and] thorny philosophical questions.

Nineteenth-Century Prose

[Q]uite simply, brilliant.

American Historical Review

[A] provocative juxtaposition of economic and intellectual history.

Journal of American History

[A] pathbreaking cultural study, filled with boldly original arguments and provocative reinterpretations of familiar material.

Indiana Magazine of History

Booknews
At the core of the book is an argument that takes a historical commonplace--which holds that between 1850 and 1940 the US underwent a revolutionary change from proprietary to corporate capitalism--and transvalues the lament this change evokes among intellectuals. The author asserts that this transition enlarged rather than diminished the realm of human freedom and that corporate capitalism actually entails the social death of the older capitalist order by shrinking the realm of necessity in personal life. He is no apologist for corporate capitalism, however, arguing that it gives birth to possibilities that will be its undoing. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807846643
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
09/15/1997
Series:
Cultural Studies of the United States Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
424
Sales rank:
918,283
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.11(d)
Lexile:
1590L (what's this?)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Provocative, polemical, scolding, prophetic, Livingston's book proposes a brilliant new interpretation of the origins and character of modernity in the United States. . . . An integrated work of criticism and history, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution raises a host of issues in the process of teaching its lessons, not least of which is its own example of cultural studies as history with an eye on the future.—Alan Trachtenberg, from the Foreword

Meet the Author

James Livingston, professor of history at Rutgers University, is author of Origins of the Federal Reserve System: Money, Class, and Corporate Capitalism, 1890-1913.

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