Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Publications ยป 1970s

Charles Reich as Revolutionary Ostrich

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"Charles Reich as Revolutionary Ostrich," in The Con III Controversy: The Critics Look at The Greening of America, edited by Philip Nobile (New York: Pocket Books, 1971), pp. 15-17.

    Ralph Dumain offer the following commentary:
    "This review was published in a book of criticism of Charles Reich's THE GREENING OF AMERICA. I don't know how many of you are old enough--or I presume American--to remember this awful pop intellectual explanation of the countercultural rebellion of the '60s. (I had an English teacher who claimed he was Consciousnes III, I think because he rode a bicycle, whereas I thought he was still struggling to master Consciousness I.) While Marcuse's essay is a fairly superficial knock-off, it does occasion a remembrance of the competing ideologies of the time, and especially the lite middlebrow fare peddled to the liberal educated middle class, which should serve as a reminder of what kind of literature the culture industry enables for a popular audience. I'm not sure who the first pop intellectual was--I do remember being nauseated by Marshall McLuhan before Reich, Roszak, and others came along. I think pop intellectuals bear some ideological scrutiny, though times have indeed changed and the winds of fashion are blowing their farts in different directions. Pop intellectual products fashioned for middlebrow audiences are revealing of the forces of commodification, fetishism, ideology, mystification, and fragmentation affecting the intelligentsia. Critique itself becomes commodified, not just in terms of marketing but in intellectual content. The more superficial it is, the more it mimics the ideological forms of appearance of its object, the easier it is to generate as well as to sell. It provides us one more layer we have to cut through. Sometimes two, as with Curtis White's THE MIDDLE MIND, a piece of crap that mimics the very middlebrow culture it excoriates.
    As you may recall, Marcuse also faced off against more serious scholars hawking a mystical view of cultural revolution, such as Norman O. Brown, who wrote a serious book, LIFE AGAINST DEATH, with a panoramic vision in competition with EROS AND CIVILIZATION, and a bunch of crap much later on.

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Index entries: Nobile, Philip