Unhinging culture from culture?

While the old world (“air quotes”)  has its karnevals and regional theaters, the US thrives on daily disorientation and dislocation. This isn’t controversial, its rock n’ roll.  Otherwise, how can we so easily discount the fact that the entertainment industry is America’s largest and most popular global export?

While it’s a fun pastime to look at a country’s (Germany) lexicon and social dreaming, the elephant in the room (a pink one, one made of bubblegum and of ivory) swirls my attention back like so much water being drawn down the drain. The American narrative, that booster-ist colonial dream of the USA being the world’s last best chance because its lack of traditions, the newness of the “experiment”; this exists as the positive inversion of the critical stance inherent in the investigation of the social imaginary.

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Leipzig city distinguishes itself from its neighbors in its founding as neither a member of a merchants’ league (the Hansiatic League) nor as a palace town (…there was no Duke of Leipzig). It found its growth first in being chartered to host biannual trade fairs in the 12th century. It seems that up through the 18th century, it had an innovative bourgeois class (being able to out-compete bigger cities for major composers like Bachand, a major center for book publishing and its inherent intellectual culture.)

During the industrial revolution, the working class of Leipzig took a leading role along with the rest of Saxony in pressing for the Socialist reforms as critiqued in Marx’ The German Ideology. The city was one of the last major German cities to have an anti-Nazi government, it was a power center during the Soviet Era, and while its difficult for me to go through specific histories, it suffices to say that at key periods, collective forces within the  city have mobilized to push transitional moments.

A friend of mine reminded me of the saying, “Germans will show up for a revolution if its scheduled.” This makes a lot of sense ’cause there is no other prevailing alternative narrative.

One can understand a site in relationship to historic legacy in spite of (and through) moments of transition. Thus, the narrative imaginative of a non-aristocratic home for bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and a revolutionary working class city chomping at the bit of modernity is quite alluring.

All one needs to do is travel to the palatial homes on the surrounding countryside to gasp in awe at how oppressive kingly rule must have been. In pre-modern and early modern Europe, these dudes were able to amass huge fortunes on the backs of the generations of people living within their relatively small fiefdoms. (Seriously, my modern capitalist-era brain can’t visualize how so much wealth could have been drawn from the backs of such a small land-area. Of course, today, capital is so often removed from the site of its grossest exploitation.) What must have been such glaring inequity is gonna drive some social imaginary.

Nevertheless, this narrative leaves a lot open. The region birthed the printing press but also the German Peasant Wars. What were the dreams held in the minds of the peasants which were given militant form in the fiery sermons of Thomas Muntzer? Later, clearly did the feet of the mill workers align with the socialist/communist scheming of Lasalle and others who gave the organized push for Wilhelm’s liberal reforms.

The individual and collective dreams of so many remain  as stuff sealed to a historic record.

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The Unhinging of Culture from Culture.

I am a professional cultural worker. I have studied theory and practice. To me, “the unhinging of culture from culture” (here understood as the abstraction of “true cultural expressions” into something marketed… the Halloween hippie for example) is a sensible question. To others, its probably so much egg-headed thought better treated with a laugh and a slap on the back.

 

early modern bling

Wow. You didn’t build that.

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