23 May 2021

Lipstick Traces—Mass Culture's Pop Heart Is Late To The Party...Again

Greil Marcus
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (1989)

[My notes say:]

pp. 70-73—on the explicit drawing of parallels between Punk and the Frankfurt School
p. 70—"The inane radio jingle you heard too many times a day fed into a totality: to get that jingle off the air, you somehow understood, the radio had to be changed, which meant that society had to be changed."

This "you somehow understood"...how isn't terribly important, unless it is. For me individually this was a (rare) textbook case of maturity interacting with experience; for a larger group of people not understandable as a monolith in either respect (or were they?) it's hard for me to imagine exactly what must/might have been In The Air the moment this totalism was realized as mass consciousness. Which is to say, I wonder if the totalistic thinking actually came first, arising from general (and legitimate) discontent but also being truly ignited by genuinely puerile and anti-social tendencies which are in no way either unique or interesting. Certainly these tendencies will tend towards the Total, and that is not a strength but a weakness, i.e. because this becomes, let's say, a very clumsy (if not bedridden) vehicle of both theory and praxis. It has no nuance or flexibility. And of course everything IS connected, but the connections themselves can be quite varied.

[from a post-it, 2017]

[A second such note:]

p. 70—"...now the premises of the old critique were exploding out of a spot no one in the Frankfurt School...had ever recognized: mass culture's pop cult heart."

Great news as far as it goes. But as for "positing punk music as a transhistorical phenomenon" (paraphrasing a passage from GM's Wikipedia page), the question remains of where/how/why this Critique does and does not bubble up; why it is, say, not always, and not never, but rather Transhistorical, ebbing and flowing. Hence as the punks were getting woke, others were dozing; and now that yet further groups of woke people are coming and going, Punk has passed into History, and a real live Punk is a sight to be pitied at least as much as respected. Hence the Transhistorical encompasses much that is in fact merely ephemeral; much that never Gets Over The Hump; much which cannot manifest and pass gloriously into history because no one person or demographic or occupational group can be counted upon once they're Woke to stay that way. So, uh...were the Frankfurt School ahead of their time, or the Punks behind theirs?

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