Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution

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, ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Livingston's] discussions, often lengthy and learned, of marginalist economic theory, James's use of the term 'cash-value,' Lewis Mumford's misguided romanticism, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and the New Woman are, quite simply, brilliant."—American Historical Review

"[A] provocative juxtaposition of economic and intellectual history."—Journal of American History

"Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution is an achievement of considerable sophistication and virtuosity. It is in some ways a pathbreaking cultural study, filled with boldly original arguments and provocative reinterpretations of familiar material."—Indiana Magazine of History

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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846643
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/1997
  • Series: Cultural Studies of the United States Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Lexile: 1590L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.11 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 The Political Economy of Consumer Culture, 1850-1940 1
Ch. 1 Making Use of Marx 3
Marx's Model and Its Echoes 3
Social Origins of Economic Growth 13
Composition of Capital, Decomposition of Capitalism 21
Ch. 2 Consumer Goods and Continental Industrialization, 1850-1900 24
Households into Markets 24
The Politics of Continental Industrialization 31
Production and Consumption as Political Culture 41
Mass Consumption and Marginalist Economics 49
Ch. 3 Between Consumers and Corporations 57
Economists and Cultural Critics 57
Advent of the "Age of Surplus" 66
The Priority of Class and the Production of Irony 77
Ch. 4 Corporate Capitalism and Consumer Culture, 1890-1940 84
From Cultural to Economic History 84
The Human Element 98
The Limits of Consumer Culture 109
Pt. 2 Naturalism, Pragmatism, and the Reconstruction of Subjectivity, 1890-1930 119
Ch. 5 Ghosts in the Narrative Machine 123
The Politics of Historiography 123
The Price of Historiographical Progress 127
Ch. 6 The Subject of Naturalism 132
Language, Form, and Style in Character Building 132
Sister Carrie as Romance 137
The Political Economy of the Self 146
The Politics of the Poetry of the Self 149
The Uses of Historicism 154
Ch. 7 Transition Questions: William James at the Origin of Our Own Time 158
Speeding with the Train to Buffalo 158
Toward the Limits of Relations of Production 172
Ch. 8 Money Questions and Moral Equivalents in the Future Tense 181
Conflict from Consensus on a Credit Economy 181
John Dewey's Sympathy for the Devil 187
Thoughts and Things in Emersonian Perspective 199
Pragmatism Accredited 208
Modern Subjectivity and Moral Philosophy 214
Ch. 9 The Romantic Acquiescence: Pragmatism and the Young Intellectuals 225
Young Intellectuals, Then and Now 225
Mumford, Bergson, Melville 231
Technics and Personality 240
Poiesis and Politics 247
Ch. 10 The Past and the Presence of the Postmodern in Pragmatism 256
Davidson, Dewey, and the Death of the Subject 256
Does Consciousness Exist? 263
Pragmatism as a Postrepublican Frame of Acceptance 273
Rorty, Relativism, and the Problem of History 279
Transitive Subjects 289
Notes 295
Index 389
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