Bourgeois, anarchist, aesthete, activist: which liberal are you?

 From Girish’ post on James Naremore:

From the 19th century onward, liberally educated people from a variety of backgrounds have had at least four ways of responding to the onward march of industrial capitalism and state-supported ideology: they can become bourgeois (like most college professors), they can become anarchists (which means dropping out and behaving badly, like Rimbaud, Tzara and the Sex Pistols), they can become aesthetes (like Baudelaire, Wilde, Joyce, Woolf, and all the great modernists), or they can become revolutionary political activists (like Mother Jones, Lenin, Fanon and Malcolm X). One of the best dramatic representations of these alternatives is Tom Stoppard’s very funny play, Travesties, which imagines a crazy encounter between Tzara, Joyce, Lenin and an ordinary bourgeois in Zurich during World War I. For my own part, I often feel as if my personal subjectivity were split among the four positions. At certain points in my history, some of my selves can form alliances, but at other points, which are the true moments of crisis, the bourgeois, the anarchist, and the aesthete tend to get pushed aside by the activist. Where modern society in general is considered, one of the major crisis periods for artists and intellectuals was the 30s. Another was the late 60s, a period that left its mark on radical film theory in the 70s. As I write this response to you [September 2002], American capitalism appears to be pushing the world ever closer to war, and the contradictions in the system are once again becoming apparent. Perhaps a new crisis will develop, in which case it will become increasingly difficult for any of us to maintain a balance between cinephilia and social action.

I’d say I’m 40% aesthete, 30% bourgeois (and climbing :-(), 20% activist, 10% anarchist.

One of the most sobering moments of life is when one realizes that one can no longer deny one’s bourgeois tendencies and predilections.   I use the alibi of needing to be able to communicate with others and thus engaging in discussion on a wide array of consumer products (from clothes to reality TV shows to professional careers) I never much cared for previously.  One can spin all this as cultural literacy, but there’s at least 30% of me left that still thinks this all just stinks.

Author: alsolikelife

This is my pet project

  • CodeKnown

    I’m probably 90% bourgois, and 10% anarchic. It comes with the area i live in – white, middle class, booming house prices, expensive schools etc

    I dont meet people often from out of the area so i’ve never had to apologise for any tendencies, to be honest my peer group see it as kind of funny how middle class we are and our area is – compared to the working class problems that take up so much of the national news.

    I’d add that the UK is increaisngly becoming a predominantly middle class (or middle class-lead) country. A boom in the property market that has lasted over 10 years has given a lot of people money they otherwise wouldn’t have – that money’s been reinvested in the economy to the point that everyone is driving everyone else up socio-economically speaking. Even the current benefits/welfare system is paying out more than it ever used to (much to the consternation of some).

  • Salmon67o0

    i would love to read more from you on this

    james orel
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