Russell Jacoby

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What does cultural pluralism signify in the absence of economic pluralism? ... The economic structure of society—call it advanced industrial society or capitalism or the market economy—stands as the invariant; few can imagine a different economic project. The silent agreement says much about multiculturalism. No divergent political or economic vision animates cultural diversity. From the most militant Afrocentrism to the most ardent feminists, all quarters subscribe to very similar beliefs about work, equality and success. The secret of cultural diversity is its political and economic uniformity.
The concept of “human existence” suggests an abstract human condition; “class existence” indicts bad conditions. The former suggests a nonexistent egalitarianism, as if master and slave, owner and worker, bomber and bombed all participate in the same universal abstraction. ... The human condition for the rich is the inhuman one for the impoverished.
Today's banalities apparently gain in profundity if one states that the wisdom of the past, for all its virtues, belongs to the past. The arrogance of those who come later preens itself with the notion that the past is dead and gone. ... The modern mind can no longer think thought, only can locate it in time and space. The activity of thinking decays to the passivity of classifying.
Dialectical logic is loyal to the contradictions, not by the reasoning of “on the one hand and the other” but by tracing the contradictions to their fractured source.
Endless discussions of multiculturalism proceed from the unsubstantiated assumption that numerous distinct “cultures” constitute American society. Only a few historians or observers even consider the possibility that the opposite may be true: that the world and the United States are relentlessly becoming more culturally uniform, not diverse. ... No group is able, and few are willing, to stand up to the potent homogenizing forces of advanced industrial society. All Americans, from African Americans to Greek Americans, buy the same goods, look at the same movies and television, pursue the same activities and have—more or less—the same desires for success. ... Multiculturalism is not the opposite of assimilation, but its product.
Instead of ideologically synchronizing contradictions, or assigning them to separate halls of the academy, critical theory seeks to articulate them.

Russell Jacoby (born April 23, 1945) is a professor of history at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) an author, and critic of academic culture. His fields of interest are Twentieth Century European and American intellectual and cultural history specifically the history of intellectuals and education.

Sourced[edit]

Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Laing (1975)[edit]

  • The application of planned obsolescence to thought itself has the same merit as its application to consumer goods; the new is not only shoddier than the old, it fuels an obsolete social system that staves off its replacement by manufacturing the illusion that it is perpetually new.
    • p. xvii
  • The free market in ideas has never been free, but always a market. To undo this necessitates not commissars and censors but critical intelligence loyal to an objective notion of truth. If there is a repressive tolerance, then there is also a liberating intolerance.
    • p. xvii
  • Today's banalities apparently gain in profundity if one states that the wisdom of the past, for all its virtues, belongs to the past. The arrogance of those who come later preens itself with the notion that the past is dead and gone. ... The modern mind can no longer think thought, only can locate it in time and space. The activity of thinking decays to the passivity of classifying.
    • p. 1
  • In the name of a new theory past theory is declared honorable but feeble; one can lay aside Freud and Marx—or appreciate their limitations—and pick up the latest at the drive-in window of thought.
    • p. 3
  • Society has lost its memory, and with it, its mind. The inability or refusal to think back takes its toll in the inability to think.
    • pp. 3-4
  • The general loss of memory is not to be explained solely psychologically; it is not simply childhood amnesia. Rather it is social amnesia—memory driven out of mind by the social and economic dynamic of this society.
    • p. 4
  • Exactly because the past is forgotten, it rules unchallenged; to be transcended it must first be remembered.
    • p. 5
  • The original Marxist notion of ideology was conveniently forgotten because it inconveniently did not exempt common sense and empiricism from the charge of ideology.
    • pp. 6-7
  • The sundering of a scientific from a poetic truth is the primal mark of the administrative mind.
    • p. 9
  • In accepting the bourgeois form of reason as Reason itself, Roszak does his bit to perpetuate its reign.
    • p. 10
  • Freud’s link to a Hegelian tradition—with which he otherwise shares little—is in the deliberate renunciation of common sense. “A person who professes to believe in commonsense psychology,” Freud is reported saying once, “and who thinks psychoanalysis is ‘far-fetched’ can certainly have no understanding of it, for it is common sense which produces all the ills we have to cure.”
    • pp. 19-20
  • The Adlerians, in the name of “individual psychology,” take the side of society against the individual. ... Adler’s later thought succumbs to the worst of his earlier banalization. It is conventional, practical, and moralistic. “Our science ... is based on common sense.” Common sense, the half-truths of a deceitful society, is honored as the honest truths of a frank world.
    • p. 23-25
  • [Freud’s] concepts are radical in their pursuit of society where it allegedly does not exist: in the privacy of the individual. Freud undid the primal bourgeois distinction between private and public, the individual and society. ... Freud exposed the lie that subject was inviolate; he showed that at every point is was violated.
    • p. 26
  • No matter how heretical the neo- and post-Freudians imagined they were in theorizing about the “values,” “insecurities,” “goals” of the individual, they were safely following the official ideology of the private and autonomous individual and consumer.
    • p. 26
  • Critical theory ... values Freud as a non-ideological thinker and theoretician of contradictions—contradictions which his successors sought to escape and mask. ... “The greatness of Freud,” wrote Adorno, “consists in that, like all great bourgeois thinkers, he left standing undissolved such contradictions and disdained the assertion of pretended harmony where the thing itself is contradictory. He revealed the antagonistic character of the social reality.” ... A parallel can be established between Marx’s judgment on Ricardo and the post-Ricardians. To Marx, Ricardo was the classic and best representative of bourgeois economics since he articulated the contradictions of bourgeois society without glossing them over.
    • pp. 27-28
  • Freudian concepts exposed the fraud of the existence of the “individual.” To be absolutely clear here: the Freudian concepts expose the fraud, not so as to perpetuate it, but undo it. That is, unlike the mechanical behaviorists, the point was not to prove that the individual was an illusion; rather it was to show to what extent the individual did not yet exist. To critical theory, psychoanalysis demonstrates the degree to which the individual is de-individualized by society.
    • p. 30
  • Civilization is a scar tissue from a past of violence and destruction.
    • p. 31
  • The individual, before it can determine itself, is determined by the relations in which it is enmeshed. “It is a fellow-being before it is a being.”
    • p. 34, quote is from Institut für Sozialforschung
  • The story of the rise, fall, and forgetting of the individual is the tale of the rise, fall, and repression of psychoanalysis.
    • p. 38
  • The child ego, once nurtured and scarred by the family is no longer nurtured but simply integrated.
    • p. 39
  • As Adorno wrote of Anna Freud’s book, it evinces “the reduction of psychoanalysis to a conformist interpretation of the reality principle.”
    • p. 41
  • “When material needs are largely satisfied,” writes Carl Rogers, “as they tend to be for many people in this affluent society, individuals are turning to the psychological world, groping for a greater degree of authenticity and fulfillment.” The clear distinction between material and psychic needs is already the mystification; it capitulates to the ideology of the affluent society which affirms the material structure is sound, conceding only that some psychic and spiritual values might be lacking. Exactly this distinction sets up “authenticity” and “fulfillment” as so many more commodities for the shopper. Rather it is the fissure itself which is the source of the ills—between work and “free” time, material structure and psychological “world,” producers and consumers.
    • p. 48-49
  • “Rebelling acts as a substitute for the more difficult process of struggling through to one’s own autonomy, to new beliefs,” writes Rollo May, as if one could struggle through to one’s own identity without rebelling.
    • p. 51
  • The post-Freudians ... have fallen victim to the ravages of the intellectual division of labor.
    • p. 58
  • The professional philosopher in keen competition with the natural scientist resolves to be more certain about less.
    • p. 59
  • To fasten on the facts while forgetting the social content is to fall prey to a mystifying immediacy. In an antagonistic society, appearance and essence, immediacy and mediacy, diverge; things are not what they seem to be.
    • p. 60
  • Dialectical logic is loyal to the contradictions, not by the reasoning of “on the one hand and the other” but by tracing the contradictions to their fractured source.
    • p. 60
  • As Comte wrote, the task of positivism was to “imbue the people with the feeling that ... no political change is of real importance.” ... As Marx wrote, to it “everything that exists is an authority.”
    • pp. 60-61
  • The inner connection between a positivism of numbers and quantities and one of human values and qualities is the excision of a critical distance and theory. Both surrender to different faces of reality—its facts or its ideology—and both stay clear and clean of antagonisms and contradictions.
    • p. 61
  • The concept of “human existence” suggests an abstract human condition; “class existence” indicts bad conditions. The former suggests a nonexistent egalitarianism, as if master and slave, owner and worker, bomber and bombed all participate in the same universal abstraction. ... The human condition for the rich is the inhuman one for the impoverished.
    • p. 62
  • What must be acknowledged, for example the prevalence of anxiety, is grafted onto man’s essence as if it grew there. Such is the tried and tested method of the apologist: what is social in origin is presented as natural.
    • p. 63
  • Existentialism is bourgeois ideology in the hour of its defeat.
    • p. 63
  • The laws of social development are not identical with the laws in the natural sciences. The content of the social laws is not nature but second nature: coagulated history. They are manmade, but they also make men; they are dialectical, at once subject and object.
    • p. 65
  • [Carl] Rogers’s Encounter Groups ... is copy for the campaign of self-manipulation in an age of mass manipulation. ... The notion here is simple: the real person is locked within the artificial, the role, and needs a little encouragement to step out into the fresh air. As with the neo-Freudians, society is conceived as an external factor, an outside force acting on the individual, but not decisively casting the individual from without and from within. The mechanical conception, severing within and without, and presupposing that only the outside is prey to social forces, is assumed or stated throughout the post-Freudian writings.
    • pp. 67-68
  • The neat division between roles and real selves reduces society to a masquerade party. Yet not even plastic surgery can heal the psychic disfigurements. The social evil reaches into the living fibers; people not only assume roles, they are roles.
    • p. 68
  • Rat and behavioral psychology ... mirror the actual inhumanity of reality. Rat psychology is human psychology where a total society has trained human beings to be creatures of stimulus and response, i.e. rats. “Insofar as the hardening of society has reduced men more and more to objects,” wrote Adorno, “methods which convey this are no sacrilege. ... The method serves freedom in that it wordlessly testifies to the prevailing unfreedom.” Or, as Adorno and Horkheimer wrote in another context: “The usual objection that empirical social research is too mechanical, too crude, and too unspiritual [ungeistig] shifts the responsibility from that which science is investigating to science itself.” ... The idealistic misconception of ... behavioral methods ... shifts the evil from the social conditions that coerce men and women into standardized roles onto the social science that is merely registering these conditions.
    • p. 69
  • Skinner ... decrees ... the abolition of freedom by way of behavior modification and a souped-up environment, in the name of a new “scientific” value—survival. The irony is that freedom and individuality have only existed in their mangled bourgeois form; to propose junking them in the name of survival is to propose the very society we now have, one that subsists exactly by an ethos of survival, paying lip service to freedom and the individual while rewarding the victors and punishing the victims. Freedom and individuality have never been more than adornments for an ugly environment of survival of the fittest.
    • pp. 70-71
  • Instead of ideologically synchronizing contradictions, or assigning them to separate halls of the academy, critical theory seeks to articulate them.
    • p. 73
  • Those seeking to work out the relationship between Marxism and psychoanalysis have not been immune to the intellectual division of labor that severs the life nerve of dialectical thought.
    • p. 74

The End of Utopia (1999)[edit]

  • The left once dismissed the market as exploitative; it now honors the market as rational and humane. The left once disdained mass culture as exploitative; now it celebrates it as rebellious. The left once honored independent intellectuals as courageous; now it sneers at them as elitist.
    • pp. 10-11
  • Once upon a time leftists and radicals talked of liberation or the abolition of work. Now the talk is about full employment.
    • p. 21
  • Though the ancient world understood that work was a curse, modern industrial society spreads its gospel. The working class, Lafargue hopelessly hoped, must reject the work fetish.
    • p. 26
  • Over the years and against conventional wisdom, utopians sustained a vision of life beyond the market. ... Georg Lukács set forth a theory of the “old and new culture” in which he argued that the socialist economy was not the goal; it was simply a precondition for humanity to advance to a new and humane culture. Most radicals do not understand that political power and economic reorganization is not the end-all, stated Lukács. The goal is not a new economic order, but freedom from an obsession with economics.
    • p. 27
  • The disdain for culture expressed by Johst and Fanon is not identical, however. Both despise the deceit of culture, but for opposite reasons. For Johst, culture is in itself a fraud, the cheap talk of weaklings; for Fanon, culture deceives by reneging on its promises. Johst and the Nazis hated culture itself; Fanon hated its hypocrisy, a very different notion.
    • p. 35
  • Multiculturalism relies on an intellectual rout, the refusal or inability to address what makes up a culture.
    • p. 39
  • What does cultural pluralism signify in the absence of economic pluralism? Perhaps the question seems meaningless. Yet the apparent lack of meaning signals the intellectual retreat. The economic structure of society—call it advanced industrial society or capitalism or the market economy—stands as the invariant; few can imagine a different economic project. The silent agreement says much about multiculturalism. No divergent political or economic vision animates cultural diversity. From the most militant Afrocentrism to the most ardent feminists, all quarters subscribe to very similar beliefs about work, equality and success. The secret of cultural diversity is its political and economic uniformity. The future looks like the present with more options. Multiculturalism spells the end of utopia.
    • pp. 39-40
  • David Bromwich has wondered whether intellectuals today would oppose an economic slavery if it lacked any racial or cultural dimension.
    • p. 40
  • Endless discussions of multiculturalism proceed from the unsubstantiated assumption that numerous distinct “cultures” constitute American society. Only a few historians or observers even consider the possibility that the opposite may be true: that the world and the United States are relentlessly becoming more culturally uniform, not diverse.
    • pp. 47-48
  • No group is able, and few are willing, to stand up to the potent homogenizing forces of advanced industrial society. All Americans, from African Americans to Greek Americans, buy the same goods, look at the same movies and television, pursue the same activities and have—more or less—the same desires for success.
    • p. 48
  • Multiculturalism is not the opposite of assimilation, but its product.
    • p. 49

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