28 January 2023

Paul Goodman—Class Cultures

Paul Goodman
Growing Up Absurd

[161] A persistent error of the sociologists has been to regard middle-class and working-class values as co-ordinate rival systems. Rather, they are related vertically: each is a defense against some threat of the other. Primary values are human values. The middle-class "values" are reaction formations to inhibit in themselves some human values still available to simpler people. Therefore, under stress of life or disillusion, such inhibitions may give way. They may give way to an ambivalent opposite, like becoming a bum; but they may also simply relax to ordinary nature and community, spontaneity, nonconformity, etc. Conversely, the working-class "values" are nothing but ignorance, resignation, and resentment of classless values of enterprise and culture, at present available only to the middle class; and many a poor boy escapes his petty class attitudes and achieves something. In brief, it takes effort to make a middle class obsessional, and it takes effort to make a poor boy stupid.

Paul Goodman
"Compulsory Mis-Education" (1964)
in Compulsory Mis-Education and The Community of Scholars

[21] Because of the increasing failure of the schools with the poor urban mass, there has developed a line of criticism...asserting that there is a "culture of poverty" which the "middle-class" schools do not fit, but which has its own virtues of spontaneity, sociality, animality. The implication is that the "middle class," for all its virtues, is obsessional, prejudiced, prudish.

Pedagogically, this insight is indispensible. A teacher must try to reach each child in terms of what he brings, his background, his habits, the language he understands. But if taken to be more than technical, it is a disastrous conception. The philosophic aim of education must be to get each one out of his isolated class and into the one humanity. Prudence and responsibility are not middle-class virtues but human virtues; and spontaneity and sexuality are not powers of the simple but of human


health. One has the impression that our social-psychologists are looking not to a human community but to a future in which the obsessionals will take care of the impulsives!

In fact, some of the most important strengths that have historically belonged to the middle class are flouted by the schools: independence, initiative, scrupulous honesty, earnestness, utility, respect for thorough scholarship. Rather than bourgeois, our schools have become petty-bourgeois, bureaucratic, time-serving, gradgrind-practical, timid, and nouveau riche climbing. In the upper grades and colleges, they often exude a cynicism that belongs to rotten aristocrats.

Naturally, however, the youth of the poor and of the middle class respond differently to the petty bourgeois atmosphere. For many poor children, school is orderly and has food, compared to chaotic and hungry homes, and it might even be interesting compared to total deprivation of toys and books. Besides, the wish to improve a child's lot, which on the part of a middle-class parent might be frantic status-seeking and pressuring, on the part of a poor parent is a loving aspiration. There is here a gloomy irony. The school that for a poor Negro child might be a great joy and opportunity is likely to be dreadful; whereas the middle-class child might be better off not in the "good" suburban school he has.

Paul Goodman—What is a picture?

Paul Goodman
Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals

"What is a picture?"
(pp. 182-190)

[185] A strong sculpture controls its surrounding space and draws us into it; therefore our space is made continuous with the art-work's, there is only special space. Consider a contrast. Imagine a frame around the Apollo Belvedere and it easily turns into a picture... But imagine a frame around the Moses and you at once get colossal Dada. Going further, imagine a frame around the Captives, not yet free of the rock, and the effect is abhorrent. ...

I take it that this was Jackson Pollock's idea, to control our space and make only one special space, when he said that the onlooker was supposed to be entangled in his big canvases, as in a woods. Not dissimilarly, Rothko's big colored stripes have been called backgrounds that make the people look good; the onlookers have entered a special space and actually are in the picture.

A colored wall limits our continuous space rather than itself being limited, so we do not see it as a picture; but when it is painted with figures, like a mural, it is often a matter of choice whether or not it is a picture. The more architectural, the less pictorial.


[187] The fresco fury of Michelangelo is even his outstanding painterly quality... In the past, however, this painting-action was mostly used to underscore such picture properties as appropriateness to the subject, atmosphere, composition, decoration. It has been the genius of our times to isolate painting-action as sometimes sufficient to itself. Such pure gesture sophisticatedly recalls the painting of children or aboriginal petroglyphs ,


in what fascinates us is not the painted product but the transmitted action, the sense of the painter painting.

Our man here finds said transmitted action to be recall ed by said pure gesture . Being initiated, we can propose no remedy. But if a non-initiate found, conversely, that the painting merely recall ed a painting and not an action, we would like to know what (if any) remedy he might propose thereby.

I do not think that such action organizes a special space in any of the ways we have been discussing.


There is no illusory space and no composition of flat surface. Therefore there is nothing to frame.


Further, putting a rectangular frame around the action creates wrong assumptions and confuses the direct meaning of the gesture.

Well, I think it depends on who's looking.

Consider, for instance, a real girl skipping down the street or a young chap making a neat double play at second base in a ball game. These are lovely gestures, but to frame them is to kill them: it turns them into cinematographs and destroys their continuity with our space and life.

But perhaps a painting-action might be compared to a dramatic action on a stage,

This is a drama-free zone.

in its specially lit special space framed by the proscenium arch. It seems to me this is a poor analogy.


The proscenium-framed space is much weaker in esthetic texture than the words, acting, and blocking of the drama;

Thank God.

it is easily unattended to; we look past the arch. In a painting, however, the negative rectangle surrounding the painting-action is of almost equal textural value with the painted



I find this assertion rather bizarre.

it is colored like them, and extended like them. Therefore it either must be attended to, making a conventional composition, a picture; or it is a dead weight on the action, like an obtrusive set in a play.

The same reasoning holds against those painters who claim that the rectangular canvas is the playground for their action, like the football field for the game. It is again a poor analogy. The spectators of the game do not importantly notice that the grass at the fifty-yard line is worn thin and that the corners want cutting, but the spectators of a painting notice the texture, color, and painted or unpainted quality of the background.

The distinctiveness of certain hallowed stadiums and grounds is actually a huge part of the appeal of sports, whereas certain dimensions, rules, and (occasionally) customs are held constant. For the "true fan" this diversity-within-unity is absolutely a conscious part of the experience. You know when you are looking at Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, or Pebble Beach.

Also, the spectators of the football game know that, by the rules, the game may at any moment spring into any unoccupied territory, so that the whole field is necessary for the game and is potentially alive; whereas a painting gesture is already achieved and much of the rectangle has become dead past.

Is he serious?

When we say that a girl is "pretty as a picture," we mean

We'd really like to get with her but could do without the high-maintenance shenanigans?

that she makes the place of her presence and of her movements divinely special. ...

We speak of the space of the object in the picture, but of the place of the gesture in the world.

Paul Goodman
Growing Up Absurd

[239] The young people have latched on to the movement in art that is strongest in our generation, the so-called Action Painting or New York School. ... I have tried to show that this disposition to go back to the material elements and the real situation, is intrinsic and spontaneous in the art action and poetry action of some of the young groups. This means that they are not off the main track. It can be said that this Action art lacks content, it does not carry enough humanity. I think this is true. But it is just its eschewing of a stereotyped or corrupt content while nevertheless affirming the incorruptible content of the artist's own action, that is its starved and brave humanity—a step beyond the nihilism of Dada—a beginning.

Paul Goodman—Communication and Censorship

Paul Goodman
Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals

"Pornography and the sexual revolution"
(pp. 49-69)



...a philosophical question..., which is, in my opinion, even more important for our society than the sexual matter: What is the nature of speech and art? To protect their "serious" books, the courts attempt to distinguish speech as communication of an idea or even as talking about a subject, from speech as an action that does something to its speaker, subject, and hearer. ...


... The judges reason that if something like this can be established, a book can be protected under the Bill of Rights' guarantee of freedom to communicate opinion. Yet, although this is a useful distinction for some kinds of speech—e.g., scientific reporting and conscientious journalism—it simply does not apply to common speech, and it is necessarily irrelevant to art, for one essential function of art is to move the audience. If Joyce and Lawrence felt that all they had done was to convey ideas, they would have considered themselves failures.

Naturally the decisions themselves, based on an unphilosophical distinction, have been notoriously inconsistent. For example, The Well of Loneliness was banned because "it seeks to justify the right of a pervert . . . it does not argue for repression of insidious impulses . . . it seeks to justify and idealize perverted ideas." Yet these are merely the ideas of the author. But contrariwise, Justice Stewart defended the film of Lady Chatterley by saying, "The picture advocated an idea—that adultery under certain circumstances may be proper behavior. The First Amendment guarantee is freedom to advocate ideas." Jerome Frank has wryly commented that if an "idea" is eloquently argued, it is in danger; if it is dully argued, it is safe.

Here is an example of the legal doctrine at work. At Marble Arch in London, crowds gather to listen to popular orators vent their grievances and longings on every topic under the sun:... Like Bernard Shaw, the orators test their repartee against a powerfully insolent audience. All is strictly legal. But if a man comes within twenty-four inches of the speaker, he is at once hauled off by a guardian bobby! A man can say anything, but he mustn't do anything;...


Freedom of speech means freedom to talk about. Speech is not saying-as-an-action. The limitations are clear. If there were incitement to riot, the freedom would cease. "Fighting words" are forbidden because they lead to fights. ...there are even particular topics...where merely to treat them at all in some public way is tantamount to sanctioning their existence in the universe. Here speech becomes magic, to name the Name creates the thing.

Jefferson and other revolutionaries who insisted on the Bill of Rights probably had a more risky notion of freedom of speech than our courts, as they did of political action in general. But if to them freedom of speech meant merely freedom to communicate opinions, they could not have intended the First Amendment to apply to belles-lettres at all, for the neoclassical esthetic doctrine of their time held that the function of art was to move and instruct, to instruct by moving. In our modern esthetics, the legal embarrassment is extreme; we pay less attention to imitating reality and lay all the more emphasis on speech as action. ... In advance-guard art, where the artist is reacting to and vomiting up something intolerable in society, the art-act cannot help being offensive. Since the nineteenth century, the naturalists have meant to defy and shame when they stripped away the mask of hypocrisy. The primary aim of Dada is to shock. In his Theater of Violence, Antonin Artaud declares that theater is precisely not communicating ideas but acting


on the community... The "poetry readings" of the Beats try to give us their "existent situation," usually drunken, and the audience copes with it as best it can. I could continue a long list.

To these facts of modern art, the doctrine of Woolsey, Brennan, and van Pelt Bryan is not adequate. Such art cannot be defended as communicating ideas, and anything objectionable in it (there is much) must condemn it. Indeed, the arguments of the censoring customs officer or postmaster betoken a more genuine art-response, for they have been directly moved , although in an ignorant way, by the excitement and inner conflict of Joyce and Lawrence. Their experience is ignorant and low-grade because they are unwilling to let the sexual excitement belong to a larger world of experience , and this is why they excerpt passages. But at least they have been made to feel that the world is threateningly sexual. As the British Magistrate Mead said, on paintings by Lawrence, "Art is immaterial . . . Obscene pictures should be put an end to like any wild animal which may be dangerous." And so Justice Manton, in his dissent on Ulysses, "Obscenity is not rendered less by the statement of truthful fact," for it is precisely the fact, the nature of things, that is obscene to the censor .

Woolsey's doctrine is insulting to the artist. He says that the book did "not tend to excite lustful thoughts, but the net effect was a tragic and powerful commentary" (italics mine). Surely the author wants to say, "It is lustful among other things, and therefore its net effect is tragic."


In our culture an artist is expected to move the reader; he is supposed to move him to tears, to laughter, to indignation, to compassion, even to hatred; but he may not move him to have an erection or to mockery of public figures making a spectacle of themselves. Why not? By these restrictions we doom ourselves to a passionless and conformist community. Instead of bracketing off the "classics," as especially the British courts do—indeed, the legal definition of a classic seems to be a "nonactionable obscenity"—let us pay attention to the classical pornography and we shall see that it is not the case, as the court feels obliged to prove, that a work has a "net" social use despite its sexual effect, but rather that the pornography, in a great context and spoken by a great soul, is the social use.


[66] ...I do not think that moral problems are private problems and can be left alone. Here I must dissent from my bold and honest classmate, Judge Murtagh, who wants to leave most such issues to a person's conscience before God. On the contrary, it is because moral problems are so publicly important—sexual practice is crucial for family, courting, friendship, education, and culture—that they must be ongoingly decided by all groups, as well as individuals; and they are so subtle that only the manifold mind of all the institutions of society, skirmishing and experimenting, can figure them out and invent right solutions.

This is clear and thoughtful, but the rejoinders are obvious:

(1) if moral problems are just this publicly important and subtle, there is as good a case against art as the ideal (or even adequate) vehicle for figuring them out; this on account of the irreducible aesthetic impulse which is always already a distorting impulse.

If Joyce and Lawrence felt that
all they had done was to convey ideas,
they would have considered themselves failures.
This says nothing about the wisdom or folly of censorship, but it certainly undercuts one of the above pillars of art's defense as speech.

(2) Goodman writes here as if there has not already been a long recorded history of eminently subtle and manifold thought-and-action on such matters. The notion that all of this is in constant need of decision by all groups, as well as individuals is faintly ridiculous. Posing the need for constant (re)discovery against the idea that moral problems are private problems preempts the solution, which can be a public solution but is also, in an unfortunate word, a conservative solution.

Goodman himself elsewhere says as much:

Modern times have been characterized by fundamental changes occurring with unusual rapidity. These have shattered tradition but often have not succeeded in creating a new whole community. We have no recourse to going back, there is nothing to go back to. If we are to have a stable and whole community in which the young can grow to manhood, we must painfully perfect the revolutionary modern tradition we have.

This stoical resolve is, paradoxially, a conservative proposition, aiming at stability and social balance. For often it is not a question of making innovation, but of catching up and restoring the right proportions. But no doubt, in our runaway, one-sided way of life, the proposal to conserve human resources and develop human capacities has become a radical innovation.

(Growing Up Absurd, 231-232)

If the perfect ignorance of history and precedent is what everyone would rather do with their individualist "freedom," then the point of that freedom has been missed. And of course our point in choosing to remount the great struggle as our struggle, to perform struggle rather than holing up with a book or a trusted mentor, the point of this is unmistakable. (See Ernest Becker et al.)

"Designing pacifist films"
(pp. 70-79)

[71] What a theater audience experiences most vividly is how it has, anonymously, shared in breaking a taboo, in witnessing with accomplices the forbidden and shocking. The "message" of the spectacle is then employed as a rationalization. Of course it is only the rationalization that is mentioned outside the theater or in the reviews, though the advertising hints at the shocking.


[72] bad audiences cannot be relied on to respond to a whole work of art; they will select from it what suits their own repressions and interpret according to their own prejudices the very fact that they have been moved despite themselves. The lovely is taken as dirty, the horrible as sadistically thrilling. The derogation is partly revenge against the artist. Bad audiences follow the plot as a story; they do not identify with the whole work as the soul of the poet, but they identify with the actors of the story and take sides. Given a film about capital punishment, for instance, a Camus will notice, and be steeled in revulsion by, the mechanism of execution: he will deny the whole thing the right to exist because it is not like us (this is the reaction-formation, denial, that is characteristic of active compassion); but a vulgar audience will identify with the victim, get involved in the suspense, thrill to the horror, and weep with pity. The effect is entertainment, not teaching or therapy; and to be entertained by such a theme is itself damaging.




Factual and analytic handling of images of war can neutralize their pornographic effect . My bias is that even the exemplary images of pacifist action are best handled in a documentary fashion, avoiding audience identification with their heroes and keeping the real situation in the foreground. The purpose of the film is not so much inspiration as to point to opportunities in the audience's real environment. It is better to err on the side of dryness. The heart is already enlisted. Emphasis on the pacifist "movement" with its charismatic symbols and "leaders" betrays us into the field of public relations, where we are swamped. The charismatic excitement that gives courage and solidarity must emerge in each concrete occasion of pacifist action, and it will emerge, if it is really a man's own occasion. We are in the tradition of bearing witness. It was just the genius of Gandhi to notice faultless occasions.

"Advance-guard writing in America: 1900-1950"
(pp. 191-216)

[215] From the point of view of society, again, it is certainly no advantage to be manipulated "for its own good" by artists, and it is even worse when the aim is to make society into a work of art. Yet there is, in life, an important factor that can be called "the art of life"—concern and distress for the style we live—and in a disintegrated culture like our own, very few are busy with it, and among these is the advance-guard artist. And from the point of view of the artist, again, in a shell-shocked society like ours there is a general estrangement, and the artist is estranged, in the sense especially that he feels helplessly without status. But being more conscious of his estrangement, he is really less estranged than the others, and he is used to inventing means of communication, patters, irritants, bridges; this is his forte.

"Underground writing—1960"
(pp. 222-235)

[229] ...another motive for writing up the underworld... By making all scenes equal, by writing one's situation as it is, whatever it is, writers might hope to get rid of "standards" altogether and perhaps of "writing" altogether. (Unfortunately, the writers who seem to have this motive...are both so ignorant and so hopped up, that they don't know what they're after and sell themselves short.)

This is to revive old-fashioned nihilism, to clear the decks. In the nineteenth century, in a scarcity economy, nihilism was more politically revolutionary and religiously Christian; in the "affluent society" it consists of quitting and being religiously Taoist and pacifist. The aim is certainly not to substitute the underground as a new power, but to form a new community from scratch. I have shown elsewhere that this is a happy direction for an advance-guard.


[231] Culturally, they [the Beats], and we, are not up to this nihilism. Those who abdicate from the economy and university of the big society become a sect rather than a universal solvent. The "scene" soon becomes a stereotyped subject matter, with monotonous repetition of jejune experiences and standard props, rather than a modest account of just where one happens to be thrown, with its materiality and wonder. Public readings become boringly drunken rituals. And to one's astonishment, the creative community spits with envy at proper writers. ...


[233] To one with any memory or history, it is evident that the need for prejudice, for inner boundaries, goes deeper than the particular content people are prejudiced against at any time. Right-thinking people were just as upset by tobacco as they are now by marijuana. Reading in popular novels of 1880, one eerily senses the same dismay about marriage across class lines that is now felt about marriage across color lines; and, especially among Jews, marriage across religious lines used to be mourned like death. It is as if people cannot feel they exist except by affirming, with a shudder, that they are different from something they are against.

See again Becker.

But to be rid of it, we must indeed do without the boundaries. This might mean, for instance, taking it for granted that a chap (like young Freud), busy with God's work and touchingly in love with a well-bred girl, is also sending himself on cocaine, and that's just how it is; or to give a common example, that a splendid teacher is naturally queer for his students.


As might be expected, it is just this matter-of-fact attitude that is shocking to the audience and unacceptable to the publishers, whereas any kind of "underground" writing has become perfectly acceptable. The problem for modern writing is not treating some "underground" property, but simply coping with the facts of life with reason compassion, learning, and imagination.

"Some problems of interpretation: silence, and speech as action"
(pp. 236-254)



...the argumentum e silentio. There may be no text not because speech was irrelevant compared with some other action, but because speech itself was in the situation so powerful an action that it was forbidden or later excised. This is the case with official censorship. The libelous, whether true or not, is censored because it is an act; the pornographic is censored because it leads to likely acts;... In such cases the interpreter will take the known absence of a text or the evident deletion of certain passages as very significant. But we know from overwhelming common experience that the implicit censorship of social condemnation leads to important reticence or various dodges, like esoteric writing, which must then be read as esoteric. ...


[242] By and large, where censorship of certain ideas is strong, the ideas are taken seriously,... Even if their books appear to be abstractly theoretical, they are implicitly heavy with concrete reference; and the interpreter must explicate this, for it is the meaning that the ideas had in fact for both author and public. On the other hand, the kind of total freedom that we have for such writings may be evidence that reasoned ideas don't much influence our institutions. Indeed, the fact seems to be with us that such ideas can first become effective when they enter the mass media, and it is at this point that they are strictly regulated in style and content. With us it could almost be said that format is the chief meaning to interpret. To break the format is the censorable act.

A notable simultaneity here with McLuhan and Riesman; or perhaps hardly notable given the prevalence among "intellectuals" of both cryptamnesia and simultaneous discovery.

Note well in any case: the properly utilitarian/practical need (as opposed to a recreational, aesthetic or spiritual one) for interpretation is here, once again, an artifact of oppression of the basest kind: authors who are not free to express certain ideas must get at them implicitly . And now the writing can no longer be read literally or read for surfaces; in fact it is taking the side of the oppressors to read it (only) this way!

The point about the freer alternative betokening an ultimate impotence vis-a-vis Western institutions certainly is important in its own right, but it does not in and of itself contradict the point that the necessary concealment of concrete reference beneath theoretical abstractions, though it indeed may be the best among bad options for authors in real danger, transfroms and perpetuates the oppression without (completely) overcoming it.

In historical studies the problems of the absence of texts have risen globally as our focus of interest has shifted away from kings, war, and intellectuals to social conditions and everyday morals. Texts are scarce


because sometimes such important pervasive matters did not have to be noticed in writing, and sometimes, according to the ideology of the scribes, they were not worthy of being noticed in writing. Historians have then delved manfully for every kind of unlikely laundry list and other relic, and by reasoning, often between the lines, they have made them speak.


[245] Albert Schweitzer's interpretations of the New Testament depend on the thesis that those people thought they had a real experience of a new heavens and earth, making them believe things senseless to us. But perhaps they did have the experience; then it is we who are thrown off balance. A variant is the method Buber sometimes uses in Moses: the people experienced something so extraordinary that they were threatened with losing their wits; and the texts we have are rationalizing reaction-formations, in order to grip again our common world. This is like Bergson's ingenious theory that the apparent species are not the forms of life but are the negative impressions of the élan vital in inert matter. Using a different metaphor, Karl Barth says that the Bible consists of burnt-out volcanoes from


which we may guess the fire that was there—the theory of his Dogmatics is that the fire recurs when the preacher ascends the pulpit.

My note says:
*taleb's ice cube, now a volcano*

Paul Goodman
"The Community of Scholars" (1964)
in Compulsory Mis-Education and The Community of Scholars

[254] the American Association of University Professors is a national craft union, largely of entrenched seniors, that copes with distant crises by dilatory committee work. According to its rules, it will not protect freedom in cases of pragmatic action, but only in academic "inquiry" and teaching—but what kind of inquiry is it that is not essentially involved with pragmatic experiment and risk? And it explicitly enjoins against involving the name and strength of the community of scholars in any action that one may take as an "individual." Such limitations would have been unthinkable in the medieval, nonacademic community of scholars.

Paul Goodman
Growing Up Absurd

[xiii] These same Congressmen are concerned "how to discourage low-level programming in private TV stations without censorship." Their question presupposes that in communication the prior thing is the existence of networks and channels, rather than something to communicate that needs diffusing. But the prior thing is the program, and the only grounds for the license to the station is its ability to transmit it. Nothing could be more stupid than for the communications commission to give to people who handle the means of broadcasting the inventing of what to broadcast, and then, disturbed at the poor quality, to worry about censorship.

Paul Goodman—Compulsory Mis-Education

Paul Goodman
"Compulsory Mis-Education" (1964)
in Compulsory Mis-Education and The Community of Scholars

[53] the docility, neatness of appearance, etc. that are useful for getting petty jobs, are not created by years of schooling but they are accurately measured by them.


[54] It is claimed that society needs more people who are technically trained. But informed labor people tell me that, for a job requiring skill but no great genius, a worker can be found at once, or quickly trained.


[56] In his speech the Secretary referred to the admirable extension of free education from 1850 to, say, 1930. But this is again entirely misleading with regard to our present situation. To repeat, that opening of opportunity took place in an open economy, with an expanding market for skills and cultural learning. Young people took advantage of it of their own volition; therefore there were no blackboard jungles and endemic problems of discipline. Teachers taught those who wanted to learn; therefore there was no especial emphasis on grad-


ing. What is the present situation? The frantic competitive testing and grading means that the market for skills and learning is not open, it is tight. ...a few great corporations are getting the benefit of an enormous weeding-out and selective process—all children are fed into the mill and everybody pays for it.


[84] Dr. [Lauren] Resnick's system explicitly excludes all notions of "inward" meaning. ...

...unlike the liberal or "faculty-developing" curriculum of the Enlightenment theory, no particular subject of learning is chosen because of its characteristic appeal to or stimulation of the powers, liberation, or needs of the learner. Operant-conditioning theory, she says, is essentially "contentless"; it is a pure technique that can teach anything to almost anybody. ...

In sum, on this view, compulsory schooling, so far as it is programmed, is identical with compulsory training to the goals of the controllers of behavior, and such goals are set by the "we want" of the first paragraph I have cited...

There is a typo or formatting error here which makes this a bit hard to navigate. I believe the referenced passage is:

[81] programmed instruction is applicable only where we do in fact want to change behavior in a given direction. There are cases where for political or ethical reasons we do not want to.

And so,

...I am curious to hear from Dr. Resnick the constitutional justification for


compulsory schooling in terms of the "we want" and "we do not want" of that paragraph. Who, we? and what limitation is there to "want" or happen to want? ...

...the "Discovery Method" as contrasted with step-by-step programmed instruction. One advantage claimed for the Discovery method...is that the leap over the gap is itself exciting and reinforcing, providing stronger motivation. Dr. Resnick agrees that this might be true for bright students; but she wisely points out that culturally-deprived, poorly achieving youngsters get more satisfaction from steady success, without risk of new failure. A second advantage claimed is that the trial and error in the Discovery process fits the student for the kind of learning that he will have to do outside the classroom; but here Dr. Resnick doubts that the student learns from his errors unless he is trained in


what to ask about them, that is, to notice them. (She is right. For example, a good piano teacher will have the student deliberately play the wrong note that he repeats inadvertently.) ...

What is astonishing in this thoughful analysis, however, is that she entirely omits the salient virtue that most teachers, classical or progressive, have always hoped for in letting the student discover for himself, namely the development of his confidence that he can, that he is adequate to the nature of things, can proceed on his own initiative, and ultimately strike out on an unknown path, where there is no program, and to assign his own tasks to himself. The classical maxim of teaching is: to bring the student to where he casts off the teacher. Dewey's model for curriculum and method was: any study so pursued that it ends up with the student wanting to find out something further.

Apparently Dr. Resnick cannot even conceive of this virtue, because it is contradictory to the essence of controlled behavior toward a predetermined goal. It is open. From her point of view, it is not instruction at all. In terms of social theory, it posits an open society of independent citizens—but she and Dr. Skinner think there is a special "we" who "want."


[88] I am rather miffed at the vulgarity of the implication that, in teaching the humanities, we should at most attempt "exposure"—as if appreciation were entirely a private matter, or a matter of unstructured "emotion."

This refers to the remainder of the above-cited excerpt:

[81] We do not, for example, want to train all students to be active partisans of a given political or religious viewpoint, or make everyone like the same kind of literature or music. In such cases . . . 'exposure' is the most we should attempt.


[88] When Dr. Resnick speaks of the unshaped response to the kind of literature or music "they like," she condemns their esthetic life to being a frill, without meaning for character, valuation, recreation, or how one is in the world. Frankly, as a man of letters I would even prefer literature to be programmed, as in Russia.

That is, even if behavioral analysis and programmed instruction were the adequate analysis of learning and method of teaching, it would still be questionable, for overriding political reasons, whether they are generally appropriate for the education of free citizens.


[89] It has been a persistent error of behaviorist psychologies to overlook that there are overt criteria that are organically part of meaningful acts of an organism in its environment; we can observe grace, ease, force, style, sudden simplification—and some such characteristics are at least roughly measurable. It is not necessary, in describing insight, knowledge, the kind of assimilated learning that Aristotle called "second nature," to have recourse to mental entities. It is not difficult to see when a child knows how to ride a bicycle; and he never forgets it, which would not be the case if the learning were by conditioning with reinforcement, because that can easily be wiped away by negative reinforcement. ...

On the other hand, it is extremely dubious that by controlled conditioning one can teach organically meaningful behavior. Rather, the attempt to control prevents learning. This is obvious to anyone who has ever tried to teach a child to ride a bicycle, allay his anxiety, tell him to keep going, and not to try to balance. I am convinced that the same is true teaching reading.


[90] But I am more impressed by what is perhaps Dr. Resnick's deepest concern, the possible psychotherapeutic use of more complex programming for the remedial instruction of kids who have developed severe blocks to learning and are far behind. For youngsters who have lost all confidence in themselves, there is a security in being able to take small steps entirely at their own pace and entirely by their own control of the machine. Also, though the chief use of schools is their functioning as a community, under present competitive and stratified conditions it is often less wounding for a kid who has fallen behind to be allowed to withdraw from the group and recover. And this time can usefully and curatively be spent in learning the standard "answers" that can put him in the game again.

There is a pathos in our technological advancement, well exemplified by programmed instruction. A large part of its consists [sic] in erroneously reducing the concept


of animals and human beings in order to make them machine-operable. The social background in which this occurs, meanwhile, makes many people out-caste and in fact tends to reduce them as persons and make them irresponsible. The refined technique has little valid use for the dominant social group for which it has been devised, e.g. in teaching science; but it does prove to have a use for the reduced out-castes, in teaching remedial arithmetic.


[128] It is really necessary to remind our academics of the ancient history of Examination. In the medieval university, the whole point of the gruelling trial of the candidate was whether or not to accept him as a peer. His disputation and lecture for the Master's was just that, a master-piece to enter the guild. It was not to make comparative evaluations. It was not to weed out and select for an extra-mural licensor or employer. It was certainly not to pit one young fellow against another in an ugly competition. My philosophic impression is that the medievals thought they knew what a good job of work was and that we are competitive because we do not know. But the more status is achieved by largely irrelevant competitive evaluation, the less will we ever know.

from "The Community of Scholars" (1964)

[216] It is not an interesting question whether the school system should be harnessed to the "national goals," rather than devoted to individual development, intel-


lectual virtues, or pure research. Any extensive part of society is inevitably harnessed to the national goals. ... The question is what are the national goals, how broadly or narrowly are they conceived and how rigidly must they be enforced?


[249] I do not think that college teaching is a profession, for it has no proper subject matter. The sciences that are taught really exist in the practice of them. The youth taught are too old and independent to be objects of professional attention like childen or the sick; yet they are not like the clients of a lawyer or architect who are given an objective service. Pedagogy, child-development, is a profession, for the children are real matter and the subjects taught are incidental. (Indeed, if we treated the reading and arithmetic as incidental and did not spend so much time and organization on them, perhaps they would be picked up more spontaneously and better. This was the Greek way.) But at the college age, one is teaching young people by means of proper


cultural subjects, or even teaching proper subjects to them. There is no way to be a master of subjects without nonacademic practice of them; and it is in that practice, and not as a teacher, that the college teacher is a professional. ...

Everybody knows this and we emphasize the need for research as essential for a teacher; but there is considerable confusion as to what is involved. In the physical and biological sciences the university pattern of research-cum-teaching works well. The professor uses his advanced and graduate students as proper apprentices, laboratory technicians and junior partners, on real projects. Historically, both in America and Europe, the scientific academies have come to lodge in the schools in a viable symbiosis. Also, in our scientific and technological society, there are plenty of extramural markets for such practice, in case a scientist does not take to teaching.

In the social and political sciences, the pattern works much less well. Usually the research is not—it is not allowed to be—a pragmatic addressing of real problems, whether in extramural society or even among the students and teachers. ... And the kind of questionnaire-and-analysis research that is done is precisely academic and largely futile, though it has flooded the popular culture as social science. But even academic daring in the moral sciences is "dissensual knowledge," as Frank Pinner calls it, and there are attempts to muffle it. In such circumstances, there is a great need for practiced veterans of moral sciences to man the schools. Are there


any? A certain number from politics and public administration. The real veterans who could teach are few; few of the few would teach honestly; and almost none of these would be hired! It is not surprising, then, if the most gifted academic social scientists devote inordinate attention to Methodology, as if sharpening their tools for some use that is not yet.

Very fair point, though it is also the case that the lack of workable Methodology was being felt particularly acutely at this time; indeed, we might say that this lack was just being noticed, and subsequently addressed with the urgency of a field whose very internal coherence (to say nothing of its ultimate worth) was thus thrown into doubt. Also, Methodology is interesting. But I also, from a greater distance in time, have not failed to perceive a certain prepronderance of purely theoretical detours in the "social science" of this time.

Needless to say, this theoretical methodology is irrelevant to our ongoing society whose needs, rather, are glaring and hardly require so much subtle documentation and analysis before getting to work.

Well, perhaps not everyone agrees on what is a glaring need; and so social scientists have attempted to "prove" it.

And as always, the avoidance is more influential than the attention. ...

But the case of the humanities is even worse. The very notion of a nonacademic practice of history, philosophy, or humane letters has nearly vanished—whether in statecraft, serious publishing, criticism, the pastorate. There is no humanistic attempt to improve the public tone. History and philosophy do not exist except as school subjects; there are certainly no paying jobs. Journalism and both popular culture and earnest art and writing have divorced themselves (wisely) from university standards. Therefore a journalist or writer does not seek to teach, and if he teaches it is not as a scholar. The more impressive results of academic humanities sometimes get abroad as conversation pieces that cannot make any difference; they do not help to shape social policy. Free and learned thought is simply not a social force among us; therefore, strictly speaking, there are no veterans and the humanities cannot be taught in colleges at all. Naturally there are sage and learned men in the colleges, but they are there just


because they are salaried there; they would do as well on Guggenheims.

The learned professions, of course...are still importantly taught by veterans. But inevitably the teaching is enfeebled, both in the knowledge of the teachers and in the readiness of the students, by the absence of the moral sciences and humanities. There is no philosophy of medicine, and little attempt to treat the soul and body as one; law is not ethical and neglects political theory; and engineering is not sociological and aesthetic. And the social sciences themselves are made narrow by the academism of philosophy, literature and history; they keep counting and analyzing men as they appear, without belief in what they could be or knowledge of what they have been. But there is not much future in men as they appear.

Academism has emasculated the human disciplines also academically. Classically—e.g., for Artistotle—there was no such subject matter as "philosophy." Philosophy was the heuristic, critical, and methodical part of any proper science, relating it to the system of sciences and to man. But once having concurred in the opinion that "philosophy" is the preliminary vague stage of the various sciences, professions, and arts, academic philosophy has pompously set itself up as a special Department dealing with important remnants that have no scientific or professional bearings. The linguistic analysis, that is currently the rage, is more modest; but what is it doing in the Department rather than in each field? how can one specialize in analysis as such?


[255] Academic exercise, like the old disputations and philosophare, is a useful means to unblock thought and deploy the possibilities of a subject. It is play and has game rules, and might lead to serious insight or decision. ... But the academic exercises in our colleges are neither play nor earnest, but a third somewhat. The rules are not intrinsic to the subject, but are an imposed schedule of courses, grades, prerequisites, and departments that satisfy—at least symbolically—a social need for degrees, licenses and skills. ...neither the students nor the teachers become personally involved, as if they were somewhere. But indeed, a major advantage of the schedule-and-grading game for academic personalities is that it keeps them out of embarrassing contact with the students. Unfortunately, however, the social pressures of conforming, competing, and fear of failing, are for real, they cause anxiety; so that the academic process, which could at least be a refined way to waste four to seven years in an economy of youth unemployment, is not even painless.


[259] On one hand, one can adopt the European system, as Jefferson did, in which the student follows his own interests and submits to a comprehensive examination when he is ready. He is left to himself—or abandoned to himself—... Perhaps this is best, though it must of course result in dilatory exploration which does not fit with our contemporary notions of scheduling from the cradle to the grave. On the other hand, there might be a small staff-meeting of the student's teachers to advise him. ... One can conceive of a judicious mixture of the two procedures. Our administrative mentality, however, inevitably chooses a third, unviable alternative: it decides beforehand what the goal is, according to some educator's theory of the well-rounded individual, the intellectual virtues, or the national needs;...


[275] Our prima facie inference from the split between the social and the intellectual must be that the studies are not vitally important, or they would be the basis of friendships. Rather, what is transmitted by the academic teaching is just the split itself, between lively interest and studies for credit.


[284] What was the "therapy" employed by Professor Whiteis? It was non-directive interpersonal contact. In his words, he gave "acceptance and understanding" rather than "cajoling, coercing, ordering,..." In this atmosphere, it seems, it was possible for the students to feel again the spontaneous interest that any young persons might take in a reasoned subject matter and to exercise what intelligence they had. It does not matter if this is called "therapy" or not; I would prefer a use of language that would call it precisely the normal state of things: the lively response of normal students to a teacher who knows something and who pays attention to them as human beings.


[303] For the sake of both the university and the professions, the professionals must return and assume responsibility for the history and humanity of their arts by taking real places again on the faculty of the university. Responsible teaching of the young is always teaching of the more ideal, for the young must transform practice in the world. If the young are free, they will not put up with narrow practical teaching; it's too boring; it's not worth studying; they ask far-reaching and embarrassing questions. On the other hand, only real practice is believable and authoritative.

At present, there is no philosophy of medicine, no jurisprudence, and no social theory of engineering. The social consequences are disastrous. And in my opinion, it is importantly because they are not on the faculty that artists and writers are so individualistic and fragmented as to be almost treasonable in their co-operation with l'imfame, and in their failure to defend the plain sense and beauty that they know. On the other hand, if they were regent masters they could set the conditions of freedom under which they are willing to assume responsibility.


[308] The attempt to pierce to common humanity by self-awareness in groups is more realistic, I think, than the curricular program of Robert Hutchins and his friends to establish communication by teaching the common great books and philosophy. With adolescents, a great-books program is almost sure to result in merely verbal wisdom and, in fact, a superior kind of withdrawal from the world, rather than courageous initiative. Neither Hutchins nor his mentor Mark Van Doren even seems to remember that the course of study they advocate was explicitly postponed by Plato till age thirty to thirty-five, when a man had some practical experience to be scientific and philosophic about.


[313, footnote] people do not choose what "pleases" but what seems important, necessary, or exciting even though painful. I say "seems"—they are likely in error—but in such errors there is something important, if only to get rid of a conceit.

Instead, Dewey says. "The educator must have a long look ahead; he must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields . . . and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement" etc. This leads to the interminable administrative methodology of Progressive Schools. It is unnecessary. If the teacher and student stay in contact with each other and with the subject matter, in both enthusiasm and balkiness, rapidity and stupidity, the encounter will generate its own deep meaning and next attraction—or rejection.


[315] It is not necessary to plan for Society. Society is inevitably present in any school in how the children are, what the youth aspire to, what the teachers have mastered and can teach. This is the existing curriculum; the problem is, by scholarship, to outgrow it. And one is stuck with this curriculum, for—no matter what philosophers or administrators propose—nothing else will really be studied.

Goodman and Goodman—Surpluses

Paul and Percival Goodman

Industrial Plans

These are plans for the efficiency of production, treating domestic amenity and personal values as useful for the end, either technically or socially. ...

Yet every use of men is also a moral plan; if it seems not to be, that itself is morally problematic. ...


... the moral-technical motivation for a kind of industrial planning springs up in a different context altogether [than that of underdeveloped or emerging countries], precisely in the most advanced and overdeveloped technologies with a vast economic and technological surplus. This is technocracy. It is the cultural emergence of engineers' values against traditional humanist or business values, as so ably championed by Veblen. In contrast to the achievements of science and engineering, the ordinary standards, expressed in the system of consumption and especially of amenity, seem irrational, a mere cultural lag. Then it is felt that by social devotion to efficiency we can liquidate the cultural lag. But the only thing that can be efficiently planned is production and the physical parts of life most like machine products.


[77] In general, Fuller's plans amalgamate technical, ethical, and metaphysical principles. Thus, mass production is the new phase of Christianity where all men are again brothers. The obstacle to happiness is the clinging to material, especially landed, property; progress consists in "ephemeralization," dematerializing, and impermanence or process of experience and control.

Well, the millennials are hard at work on this, aren't we?

Social Insurance vs. the Direct Method

elementary subsistence and security cannot be neglected by any social order; they are political needs, prior to economic needs. So the governments of the most highly capitalized states intervene to assure elementary security which is no longer the first business of the economy. And the tack they take is the following: to guarantee social security by subsidizing the full productivity of the economy. Security is provided by insurance paid in the money that comes from the operation of the whole economy. The amazing indirectness of this procedure is brilliantly exposed by the discovery of a new human "right"—as if the rights of man could be so easily amended. This is the "right to employment," failing which one gets the insurance. Full employment is the device by which we flourish; and so the old curse of Adam, that he must work in order to live, now becomes a goal to be struggled for, just because we have the means to produce a surplus, cause of all our woes. This is certainly out of human scale, yet the statesmen of America and England talk this way with absolute conviction; and anyone who spoke otherwise would be voted out of office.

The immediate result of such a solution, of insurance, social credit, or any other kind of give-away money, is to tighten even closer the economic trap. Whatever freedom used to come from free enterprise and free market—and they are freedoms which were indeed fought for with blood—is now trapped in regulation and taxes. The union of government and economy becomes more and more total; we are in the full tide toward statism.

Of course. But how is what follows below supposed to take hold if not also in a profoundly statist fashion?

This is not a question of anybody's bad intentions,


but follows from the connection of the basic political need of subsistence with the totality of an industrial economy.

So much for the indirect solution.



The direct solution, of course, would be to divide the economy and provide the subsistence directly, letting the rest complicate and fluctuate it at will. Let whatever is essential for life and security be considered by itself, and since this is a political need in an elementary sense, let political means be used to guarantee it. But the rest of the economy, providing wealth, power, luxury, emulation, convenience, interest and variety, has to do with varying human wishes and satisfactions, and there is no reason for government to intervene in it in any way. The divided economy has, therefore, the twofold advantage that it directly provides the essential thing that is in jeopardy, without having to underwrite something else; and it restricts the intervention of government to this limited sphere.

Up to, say, sixty years ago, more than half of the productive capacity of our economy was devoted to subsistence; subsistence could be regarded as the chief end of the economy; and whatever their own motives, most enterprisers served the subsistence market. Now, however, in the United States less than a tenth of the economy is concerned with subsistence goods. ... Except for the biological and political factors involved, the economic machinery could roll almost as usual though everybody were dead of starvation, exposure, and disease. When the situation is viewed in this way, one of the causes is at once clear why prosperity and surplus lead precisely to insecurity: namely, that too few people are busy about subsistence, and as we know from recent farming history, those who are busy about it try to get out of it; there's no real money in meat and potatoes.

But once the economy would be divided as we are suggesting, the very techniques of industry that, when applied incidentally to subsistence, lead to insecurity, would, applied directly to subsistence, produce it with an even smaller fraction of the social labor than at present.

Probably there are various political means by which this


small fraction could be effectuated, and we will soon develop an obvious one, direct state production of subsistence by universally conscripted labor, run as a state monopoly like the post office or the army, but paying not money but its own scrip, exchangeable only for subsistence goods made by the same enterprise.

I volunteer. But seriously, anybody for statism?

(This is a vast undertaking. It would be apparently simpler to effect approximately the same end by using private semi-monopolistic concessionaires in the state non-profit subsistence-business. But if indeed the production cost is absolutely minimum and the types absolutely standard and non-competitive, how could a private firm profit? Further, it is intolerable, and unconstitutional, to have to work for a private concessionaire. Therefore we prefer the state production—taking over relevant private plant and building its own plant—because of its purity of method. It takes subsistence out of the economy. Subsistence is not something to profit by, invest in, to buy or sell. On the part of the consumer, it is not something to choose or reject or contract for or exchange his labor for, but simply work for.)

On whatever method...there is one principle: to assure subsistence by specific production of subsistence goods and services rather than by insurance taxed from the general economy. This involved a system of double money: the "money" of the subsistence production and consumption and the money of the general market. The subsistence-certificates are not money at all, for by definition a man's subsistence leaves nothing to exchange; this "money" is like wartime ration stamps, which are likewise not legally negotiable. A man's right to life is not subject to trade.

A major moral advantage of this proposal is that every person can know that the work he does for a living is unquestionably useful and necessary, and unexploited. It is life itself for himself and everybody else. In our times of so much frivolous production and synthetic demand, and the


accompanying cynicism of the producers, the importance of such a moral cannot be overestimated.

Another consequence: To everyone, but especially to the small wage earner, the separation of his subsistence, employing a small fraction of his labor time, from the demands and values of the general economy employing most of his labor time, would give a new security, a breath of freedom, and the possibility of choice. He is independent. He has worked directly for what he absolutely needs; he does not feel the pressure of being a drain on society; he does not fear that his insurance payments will cease. By the same token, people in general, including the small enterpriser, would be more fearless, for their risks are less fatal. But indeed, these things imply a change of social attitude so profound that we must think deeply about both the dangers and the opportunities.

The retrenchment of government from economic interference in the general part, again, might go very far, relaxing the kinds of regulation that are now indispensible... For where the prospective wage earner has a subsistence independently earned, the conditions under which he agrees to work can be allowed to depend on his own education rather than on the government's coercion of the employer.

Let us sum up by contrasting the actual plans offered by present-day governments with the plan here suggested. They propose:

Security of subsistence.
A tax on the general economy.
Necessity to maintian the economy at full production
    to pay the tax: therefore, governmental planning,
    pump-priming, subsidies, and made work; a still
    further tax, and possibly a falling rate of profit.
Insistence on the unemployed worker's accepting the
    third or fourth job available, in order to prevent
    a continuing drain on the insurance fund.


Protection of the workers thus coerced by regulating
    the conditions of industry and investment.

Against this we propose:

Security of subsistence.
Loss to the industrialist and merchant of the sub-
    sistence market and a small fraction of the social
Coercion of a small fraction of the social labor to produce the subsistence goods and services.
Economic freedom in all other respects.

Now financially, the choice between these two plans would depend on the comparison between the insurance and subisidied tax and the loss of labor time and market. ... Socially and morally, however, there seems to be no comparison at all: our way is direct, simple, liberating, and allows people a quiet interim to make up their minds about things.


[200] The [subsistence] minimum is based on a physiological standard, heightened by the addition of whatever is necessary to give a person a true possible freedom of social choice, and not violating our usual mores.

If freedom is the aim, everything beyond the minimum must be rigorously excluded, even if it should be extremely cheap to provide; for it is more important to limit political intervention than to raise the standard of living.


Teacher! Today Again
   Do We Have To Do What We Want to Do?

Now supposing such a system of assured subsistence with almost complete freedom of economic ties were put into effect. No doubt for millions of people, no matter how much they might resist the idea in prospect, the first effect would be immense relief, relief from responsibility, from the pressure of the daily grind, from the anxiety of failure.

But after this first commonplace effect had worn off, the moral attitude of a people like the Americans would be profoundly deranged. They would be afraid not only of freedom and leisure, which release both creative and destructive drives nicely repressed by routine, but especially of boredom, for they would find, or imagine, themselves quite without cultural or creative resources. For in our times all entertainments and even the personal excitement of romance seem to be bound up with having ready money to spend, Emotional satisfaction, too, has been intricated into the motion of the entire productive machine, it is bound up with the Standard of Living. Movies cost money, bars cost money, and having a date costs money. ... Apart from these, as everybody knows, there is nothing to do but hang around. (Sports do not cost money, sex does not cost money, art does not cost money, nature does not cost money, intercourse with people does not cost money, science and god do not cost money.)

The Americans would suddenly find themselves "rescued" from the physical necessity and social pressure which alone, perhaps, had been driving them to their habitual satisfactions. They might soon come to regard commercial pleasures as flat and unpalatable, but they would not suddenly thereby find any others. They would be like the little girl in the progressive school, longing for the security of having her decisions made by the grown-ups, who asks, "Teacher, today again do we have to do what we want to do?"


Would it be a salutary boredom to make these persons do what they want to do with their time, to discover what they want to do with their lives, rather than following widely advertised suggestions? And not for a couple of weeks of vacation—likewise organized into profit-bearing routines—but year after year. Or would the effect be like the unemployed adolescents on the corner who hang around, apparently unable to think up anything?

We are asking, in the framework of this model proposal, an intensely realistic question about the actual situation in our country. For indeed, in our surplus economy, millions really are technically unemployable—there is no necessary work for them to do, no man's work. If automation were allowed its full headway, these millions would become many millions. Because they are really economically unproductive, they have no culture and no resources of leisure, since culture grows from productive life. At the same time, each one of these people, no matter how he hangs around or perhaps spends his time in getting quasi-visceral "kicks" or being "cool," must also feed his face and come in out of the rain. It is this actuality that our scheme of a divided economy addresses and draws in black and white: we provide the subsistence part in an efficient, honorable, and compulsory way; and we leave open the horrendous question: then what?

The moment when large numbers of people first discover clearly and distinctly that they do not know what they want to do with their time, is fraught with danger. Some no doubt will at once follow any demagogic or fanatical leader who happens to come along with a time-consuming and speciously thrilling program. (Street-gangs on a mass scale.) How to protect the commonwealth against these bands of bored prejudice? Others, having lost the thread of compulsory mental activity, will wander in the maze of idle idiocy that we associate with degenerate rural classes, except that the food would be even worse, across the counter in a government store.

Paul Goodman—The Beats

Paul Goodman
Growing Up Absurd

[65] Despite having minority traditions of their own, our present poor are absolute sheep and suckers for the popular culture which they cannot afford,... Indeed, it is likely that the popular culture is aimed somewhat at them,......in these circumstances it is immensely admirable that the Beat Generation has contrived a pattern of culture that, turning against the standard culture, costs very little and gives livelier satisfaction. It is a culture communally shared, in small groups. Much of it is handmade, not canned. Some of it is communally improvised. We shall speak later about the limitations of this procedure and the weakness of its products; but the fact of it, of a culture that is communal


and tending toward the creative, is so capital that it must have a future, and it is worth while to study its grounding and economy.


[67] ...the writers on the Beat Generation are confused. For one thing, they have a false notion that the kind of artistic activity that proliferates among the Beats is art, and gives the justification of art as a vocation. It is not art but something else, and they do not behave as if they were justified by it.

[177] It is both an advantage and a disadvantage for an artist to have around him an intensely creative gang of friends who are not rival artists. They provide him an immediate audience that helps assuage the sufferings of art loneliness and art guilt. On the other hand, it is a somewhat sickening audience because it has no objective cultural standard, it is not in the stream of ancient and international tradition. So its exclamations, "It's the greatest!" or, "Go, man, go!" don't give much security. The artist finds that he is a parochial group hero, when the reassurance that he needs, if he is diffident, is that he is a culture hero for the immortal world. ...

[e.g.] An incident at a party for Patchen. Patchen is a poet of the "previous" generation, of long-proven integrity, with an immense body of work, some of which is obviously good, and the importance of the whole of it (may much


still be added!) not yet clear. The point for our anecdote is that Patchen has the respect of writers but has received no public acclaim, no money, no easy publication. Now at this party, one of the best of the "Beat" writers, a genuine young artist, came demanding that the older poet give some recognition to the tribe of Beat poets, to "give them a chance." This was ironical since, riding on the Madison Avenue notoreity that we have mentioned, they had all got far more public acclaim, invitations to universities, night-club readings, than all of us put together. But Patchen asked for the names. The Beat spokesman reeled off twenty, and Patchen unerringly pointed out the two who were worth while. This threw the younger poet into a passion, for he needed, evidently, to win artistic recognition also for his parochial audience, among whom he was a hero, in order to reassure himself that he was a poet, which he was and as Patchen would at once have said. So he insulted the older man. Patchen rose to his height, called him a young punk, and left. The young man was crushed, burst into tears (he was drunk), and also left. At this, a young woman who often accompanied him, came up to me and clutched me by the knees, pleading with me to help him grow up, for nobody, she said, paid him any attention.

That is, the Beat audience, having resigned, is not in the world; yet being an eager creative audience, it wins the love and loyalty of its poet who becomes its hero and spokesman. But he too, then, doubts that he is in the world and has a vocation. As a Beat spokesman he receives notoreity and the chance of the wide public that every poet wants and needs; but he cannot help feeling that he is getting it as a pawn of the organized system.

Here is a simpler illustration of the relation of the spokesman-artist to the objective culture. This fellow is a much weaker poet, more nearly Beat himself, and quite


conceited. At a reading of some other poet who is not a Beat spokesman, he tries to stop the reading by shouting "Don't listen to this crap! let's hear from X." His maneuver is to make the parochial the only existing culture; then, by definition, he himself is an artist.

And here is an illustration of the most elementary response. A Beat spokesman, not ungifted but probably too immature to accomplish much, gives a reading in a theater. During the intermission, he asks a rather formidable and respected critic what he thinks of a particular poem, and the critic says frankly that it's childish. At this the outraged poet, very drunk, stands in the lobby screaming "I hope you die! I hope art dies! I hope all artists die!"

These illustrations and the analysis of Beat conversation bring out the same point: In a milieu of resignation, where the young men think of society as a closed room in which there are no values but the rejected rat race or what they can produce out of their own guts, it is extremely hard to aim at objective truth or world culture. One's own products are likely to be personal or parochial.

Goodman and Goodman—Intentional Communities

Paul and Percival Goodman

[10] The trouble with this good instinct—not to be regimented in one's intimate affairs by architects, engineers, and international public-relations experts—is that "no plan" always means in fact some inherited and frequently bad plan. For our cities are far from nature, that has a most excellent plan, and the "unplanned" tends to mean a gridiron laid out for speculation a century ago, or a dilapidated downtown when the actual downtown has moved uptown. People are right to be conservative, but what is conservative? In planning, as elsewhere in our society, we can observe the paradox that the wildest anarchists are generally affirming the most ancient values, of space, sun, and trees, and beauty, human dignity, and forthright means, as if they lived in neolithic times or the Middle Ages, whereas the so-called conservatives are generally arguing for policies and prejudices that date back only four administrations.

Intentional Communities

Cooperative farming, pooling land for machine cultivation, reserving part for diversified gardening, with various degrees of family ownership, all as a basis for a more integrated community life: this exists in many places,... The driving motives may be economic, to get a fair deal with the city, to raise the cultural level of the peasants and rescue them from poverty, illiteracy, and disease, industrialize without urbanizing, etc. Such motives can be part of national policy.

It is a very different matter when the way of life itself,


a well-rounded life in a free community, is the principal motivation. Such an attitude belongs not to backward but precisely to avant-garde groups, who are sensitive and more thoughtful than the average, and who react against the extant condition of society as fragmented, insecure, superficial, or wicked. They are willing to sacrifice social advantages to live in a community of the like-minded. National policy and policy-makers are not up to these refinements; the communities are small, politically on the fringe (though often intensely political as a function of life), and they tend to be transitory; yet they are the vital engaged experiments in which, alone perhaps, new social ideas can emerge,...

Such "intentional communities," as the sociologists call them (modern examples are described by H. Infield), have come into being throughout history—in antiquity as philosophic or mystical brotherhoods; then as Christian fellowships; during the Reformation as part of the general dissent; as ways of coping with early industrial capitalism... But our modern conditions of super-organized capital and one neo-technology after another, have perhaps added a new chapter to the old story. To put it paradoxically, there is today so much communication, means of communication, and communication-theory, that there isn't any community; so much socialism, social-agency, and sociology that there isn't any society of work and living. ...

Consider our modern difference another way. Intentional communities have generally disintegrated, or so their members thought, because of outside pressures or outside temptations, bankruptcy, hostility of the surroundings, loss of religious faith among skeptics, attraction of big-city vices. It is generally agreed that non-rational motives, like religion or nationalism, wear better in this struggle than rational motives like philosophy, pacificism, or economic good sense.


But today we also think that communities disintegrate especially because of interpersonal difficulties; these explain the boredom, inefficiency, loss of faith; people are simply not up to living and working together. So the experts in community give sociometric tests (Moreno) to determine who among modern men are fit to live closely with their fellows, to bear the tensions and excitements of it. "Integration" is apparently no longer natural for all men. This seems to cut down the possibilies enormously, for to live well now requires, (1) To be disgusted with the common way; (2) To have a burning ideal to share, and (3) To have a cooperative character.

Given the paucity of candidates, such weeding-out tests are a poor expedient. Would it not be better, instead of regarding "non-cooperation" as a datum, to take the bull by the horns and regard community life as a continuous group-psychotherapy in our sick society, in which just the anxieties and tensions of living together become the positive occasions to change people and release new energy altogether? This would in turn diminish the reliance on non-rational ideals, since the excitement of contact is soon more valuable than the attractions of the world.


[108] In the educational community, the mores are in principle permissive and experimental, and the persons form, almost invariably, a spectrum of radical thought and life,...

[109] [leading] inevitably to violent dissensions, sexual rivalries, threatened families. It is at this point, as we have said, that the community could become a psychotherapeutic group and try by its travails to hammer out a new ideal for us all in these difficult areas where obviously our modern society is in transition. Instead, the community itself tends to break up.

Yet perhaps the very transitoriness of such intensely motivated intentional communities is part of their perfection. Disintegrating, they irradiate society with people who have been profoundly touched by the excitement of community life, who do not forget the advantages but try to realize them in new ways. ...[Perhaps like] those "little magazines" and "little theaters" that do not outlive their first few performances, yet from them comes all the vitality of the next generation of everybody's literature.


So when's the last time we actually had one of those in The Arts? In society broadly?

[111] Geophysical regions do exist spectacularly in our country. It is pathetic if the esthetic advantages of our unique landscapes, of our coasts, plains, subtropics, mountains, river valleys and deserts, cannot make us a more various America than we are getting. In our history, the Americans have thrown away one of our most precious heritages, the Federal system, a system of political differences of regions, allowing for far-reaching economic, legal, cultural, and moral experimentation... This was the original idea of our system. When the fathers gave up the leaky Articles of Confederation for the excellent aims of the Preamble, they were not thinking of a land with an identical gas station, Woolworth's, and diner at every crossroads; with culture canned for everybody in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue; and with the wisdom of local law dominated by the FBI.

27 January 2023

Michael Mayer—Music on the Eve of the Third Reich

Michael Mayer
"Music on the Eve of the Third Reich"
Towards the Holocaust : the social and economic collapse of the Weimar Republic
ed. Dobkowski and Wallimann

[316] Stripped of ideological jargon, the crisis in music is an expression of the inevitable tension between institutional and dynamic art and between different generations of artists. Having matured to Germany's outstanding and internationally reoognized cultural institution, music suffered from its own success.

In other words, institutions are not a priori vehicles of autonomy, but may just as well be (or become) "external" impositions upon music.

[317] The response to an alleged crisis of modern music in the Weimar period involved progressive and conservative formulations that overlapped and became confused with ideological categories and positions. Musicians themselves have contributed to this confusion. At least by the time of Carl Maria von Weber they had become accustomed to explaining their artistic and technical principles in music criticism, music theory, and teaching, which readily expanded into general cultural criticism with ideological overtones. It has been argued that the need for explanation, as opposed to simply composing and musicmaking, might itself be regarded as a symptom of crisis.

Refusing to explain won't make a real crisis go away, nor will it cause people who have merely imagined a crisis to snap of it. But refusal does, at least, allow us to keep our own hands (relatively) clean. And that is not nothing.

[320] Adorno had moved from reductionist Marxian aesthetics, which characterized the earlier work of the Institute of Social Research, to the defense of music's autonomy, its utopian and even transcendental powers, because of his conception of music's crisis in this overly rationalized and administered world, no less represented in Zhdanov's socialist realism of the 1930s than in the market-oriented music of the Weimar Republic or the artificial and manipulated folk music of the Third Reich's Blut und Boden cult.


[321] Strauss, the future president of the Reichsmusikkammer, had introduced expressionism to opera with his shocking Salome and Elektra, thus initiating a musical trend of subjectivism, which culminated in the dramatic works of Schönberg and Berg.

This ascription of subjectivism seems problematic; as if subjectivity had not existed prior. The advent of "subjectivism" seems to indicate merely that a conceit or illusion had been shattered, i.e. the conceit to/illusion of an epistemological unity of transmission with reception. The onrushing musical trend could just as well have marked (still can mark) an Eriksonian crisis of development rather than a mere "crisis" of anomie and civilizational decline.

As Rank says, the application of "psychological aesthetic" to creation is "a fallacy." Which is to say, it always was a fallacy, it just took some time to reveal itself as such.


[321] "absolute subjectivity is also subjectless . . . ; the more of the I of expressionism is thrown upon itself, the more like the excluded world of things it becomes."


[329] If hindsight seemed to guide many engaged analysts of the background to Auschwitz, there is no doubt that National Socialism had roots and synthesized much in German history: It was not an inevitable product of German history, but the fulfillment of a set among countless other sets of potentiality. What the empiricist thus is forced to document and has indeed traced through careful recording of thought and action in time--always being vulnerable to the charge of drawing on selective data in support of retrospective knowledge--theorists have explained, ordered in intelligible structures, and rendered as a negative program in opposition to and thus in confirmation of their own positive view of the world.

21 January 2023

pleasure is the law, but try not to think too hard about it

Schooler, Ariely, and Loewenstein
"The Pursuit and Assessment of Happiness
can be Self-Defeating


3.2 Changing Goals

[one] reason why the pursuit of happiness may be self-defeating is that it may cause people to treat activities not as ends in themselves, but rather as a means towards something else, namely the gaining of happiness. ...considerable research indicates that when individuals engage in activities for external reward (e.g., money) the activities lose their intrinsic appeal... Typically, in such studies the extrinsic reward is entirely distinct from the intrinsic hedonic value of the experience itself—for example, getting paid for a task that one would typically enjoy. Nevertheless, it seems plausible that if individuals view gaining happiness as something above and beyond the intrinsic appeal of the activity itself, such a motivation might similarly detract from the utility that is derived from an experience. For example, one might go to a concert with the primary motivation of genuinely wanting to listen to the music. Such a motivation would be unquestionably intrinsic and thus should lead to a positive experience. However, if a person goes to a concert with the explicit goal of gaining happiness, then the music itself is no longer the primary motivation for the task. In short, the hedonic value of an experience may be compromised to the degree that one is engaging in a task with the goal of achieving happiness, rather than with the goal of genuinely valuing the activity itself.

Granted the risks inherent in lay cherrypicking from specialist literature, and granted also the risk of "saying in bad English what everyone already knew," I of course find the point urgent, the logic sound, and the example well-chosen.

The question then arises, why tf go to a concert if not to be happy? It's easy to think of happiness itself as being the intrinsic part of concertgoing; banishing it to the extrinsic is on the surface nonsensical. It may be, though, that what we are really dealing with here is even more subtle than the intrinsic-extrinsic question: namely consciousness and unconsciousness (and perhaps the liminal space between them, if such a thing indeed exists). It is the subtle difference between a gainful mindset and its opposite, whatever word we want to attach to that (I can't think of a good one).

As soon as we first become aware of these inner workings, we are thrust out (probably unwillingly, perhaps unwittingly) into the ongoing struggle to recover our naive enthusiasm; to get back "in" to "the space," as I seem to recall Kenny Werner putting it in Effortless Mastery. The struggle against ourselves and our own notions of utility is hard enough. Throw in all of society's pressures and conceits and it becomes virtually unwinnable.

Also Paul Goodman, in Growing Up Absurd (1960):

[235] enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity;...

From the present philosophy of leisure, no new culture can emerge. What is lacking is worth-while community necessity, as the serious leisure...of the Athenians had communal necessity, whether in the theater, the games, the architecture and festivals, or even the talk.