Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bloody Crossroads by Norman Podhoretz

The Bloody Crossroads
by Norman Podhoretz

Summary: Poderhoretz, the neo-conservative intellectual examines literature of the last century in which politics and culture cross. The best part of this book for me was the explanation of what neo-conservativism is. Throughout the book however, the author tries to claim various authors for "his team". Interesting connection in first chapter, "Why the God that failed failed", Gramsci, and Abram Tertz(On socialist realism).

p11. Poderhoretz notes the dialectical relationship exists between literature and politics.
p12. Author says it is not simply tyranny which makes art/politics collide bloodily, but rather "the twentieth century's distinctive contribution to tyranny," totalitarianism.
p12 Author wonders why authors have defended totalitarianist communism for taking authors freedoms but not done so for the Nazi's.
p13 Ex-communist writers not enthusiastic about the western world as represented by the USA.
p13 Poderhoretz notes that one purpose of this collection is to "explore literary roots" of these attitudes against the USA
Into "Why the God that failed failed"
p19 Echo's of 'War of position, War of movement' of Gramsci when author notes that major difference between communist and Naziest versions of totalitarianism is that the Nazi's didn't have the hegemonic power of communism and could therefore be fought against with force alone.

p21 Idea that a book "The God that failed" MADE anti-communism a respectable position in intellectual tradition.

p26 Idea that these ex-communists attacking communism, but still remaining on the left and criticizing capitalism similarly is what made the work powerful...Importance of who is pushing the message.

p44 More Gramsci...talking of coercion and consent...the French Left Artists in a way consented to Nazi occupation by producing art to make it past the censors.

p45 Problem with interpretation in writing

Into "If Orwell were alive today"

p50 Idea that Orwell's work has been misinterpreted, so much so that his legacy has been claimed by both extremes of left and right.

p53 Good discussion on idea of vagueness and political speech....passage giving thought to Language and Orwell’s 'new speak'

[ Planet art network ]

p54 Orwell as a declared socialist after the age of 30

p54 Orwell notes that more then socialism is connoted in the word....the word he says today brings to mind every 'quack' out there....

p55 Orwell may have been a socialist but his work never shows socialism working

p56 Idea that Orwell’s work was addressed to the intellectual left of Britain, of which his work criticized from within.

[ good information in this section about the birth of neo-conservativism]

p66 Neo-conservative idea that there is a fundamental right to initiate and engage in own economic activity. {If this is true and I believe that it may be, that right runs into other peoples abilities to do so likewise, which is not the rule of capitalism, if that is Poderhoretz's position...if this is a right then it must run into others....just like you cant yell fire in a crowded theatre..}

p68 Author in 1986 seems to think that if Orwell were alive he would be a ne0-conservative.

Into Part 2. "The Adversary Culture"

Into "F.R. Leavis: A reevaluation"

p78 Lewis wanted to find the "master current" running through literature of the era, and distinguished it from all of the "minor currents".

p84 Vague idea that works of literature can have the "wrong approach to emotion and this leads to viciousness and corruption.

p85 Leavis explored the "revolution of taste" of the 20th century.

Skip past "Henry Adams: the "Powerless" Intellectual in America" ....*yawn*

Into "The Adversary Culture"

p117 The group which sprang up to combat big business culture which existed between civil war and WW2 attacked this group by using its own symbols against them, free competition and equality.

p117 -118 There was a separate movement at that time "whose weapons were not political" but cultural....a non-materialistic critique

p119 This cultural critique was rooted in Christianity.

p119 This was a time (as echoed by John Sinclair at the debut of "20 to life") which just joining the intellectual class meant joining the opposition to business culture.

p122 Intellectual class enlarged in the post WW2 USA or those who were exposed to or indoctrinated in the adversary culture of intellectuals

p122 Author contends that so many of these young indoctrinated people went on to careers in the mass media, these ideas acquired a newfound ability to penetrate into previously inaccessible areas of American Culture.

p124 Idea that Avant Garde had become the "country's most powerful cultural force" or "the establishment"

p124 Second wave of modernism in America, Jack Kerouac as representative, was more mad about mundaneness of life in America then even the first wave of modernism

p125 Author compares the growth of the intellectual adversary cultures, even though their reason for being adversarial was declining, was similar to the bourgeoisie revolutions in France, that didn't happen due to a worsening of situation but one in which they had grown more sure of themselves.

p128 Edmund Wilson noted that for artistic community to drop out of world was complacent acquiescence to the rule of the bourgeoisie.....for Gramsci...a type of consent

p131 Although full political power had not come...the adversary culture of the 60's thought that much power had been gained in the world of ideas, the ideas of the business class were no longer dominant in America.

p135 The anti-adversary culture intellectuals, also known as neo-conservatives, were a major reason for loss of cultural power of adversary culture....example of war of position....Gramsci

Into Part 3 "East or West"

Into "Kissinger reconsidered".....again *YAWN*, why was this included in essay?!?

Into "Open Letter to Milan Kundera"
*....Interesting personal side note> I checked this book out over a year ago(unbeknownst to me when I checked it out this time) after reading Milan Kunderas book of Laughter and Forgetting, as recommended by Mandy"

p180 The essence of totalitarianism is to politicize everything, including the arts...(similar to Abram Tertz's take on socialist realism)

p180 the Soviet Union somewhat completed a cultural annihilation of Western culture in Russia

p181 "The unity of the west was once based on religion, they are now based on culture"

p182 Poderhoretz contends that Kundera has shown us rather then the political, the cultural struggle...(Perhaps the idea of Purpose which Tertz notes was what made Kundera's novels seem political even though they were not intended so, the socialist realist idea of Purpose compelled him to write as he did...)

p182 "The Wisdom of the novel requires skepticism rather then dogmatic certainty, the raising of questions rather then the finding of answers."