“The escort service of the intellect”
Dedicated to Christopher Caudwell (1907-1937)
(Pseudonym of Christopher St. John Sprigg)
Martyr of the Spanish Civil War
Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could,
forever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.
— William Blake, Preface to Milton
What is to become of critical culture in this dumbed-down millennium? Can critique be reduced to an algorithm? Can critique mystify as well as reveal? Is it possible to escape being overwhelmed by the propaganda environment? How does one climb out from under layers piled upon ideological layers? How to think one’s way out of this morass? How to escape the confines of popular, middlebrow, and academic culture? How to avoid entrapment and stasis, and creatively surmount the limitations of the age?
“Everybody wants to get into the act!” Even the culture of critique is overloaded, as the dumbing down of America gets more lowdown than anyone imagined possible, and American culture scrapes the dirt far beneath the bottom of the barrel. Yet no one manages to dig deep enough to undermine this process. The benumbed and demoralized general populace remains uncritical as ever. What of critical culture, then?
With these thoughts as well as reservations I approach the already bloated blog culture. This cultural crisis is not just a replay of the 1930s, but aside from taking note of discomfiting historical parallels, we can pay tribute to the courageous resistance of the past. Christopher Caudwell’s Studies in a Dying Culture (1938) and Further Studies in a Dying Culture (1949) were my inspiration when I first publicly spoke on this crisis in December 1988, a year that was a turning point for me. My framework has since grown more sophisticated, but the political decline of the USA has now reached crisis proportions. Hence again I borrow Caudwell’s title for my own. (RD—10 July 2006)
— William Blake?, 1796