Monday, March 20, 2017

The Culture Of Narcissism

This book is extremely informative. The author has a lot of good chapters dealing with politics as theater, propaganda, sports as escapism, mass education, feminism, the taking over of family decisions by the state, socialism and other chapters showing the changing times and culture after World War II. It especially deals with the culture of consumption and how it forces the masses to have desires and fears it shouldn't have. Though it was written in 1979 it definitely gives you a wealth of information critically analyzing society and culture. Even though the title says narcissism this book definitely deals with more than that as I noted above.

Here are some quotes from the book that I though were good:
In the early days of industrial capitalism, employers saw the workingman as no more than a beast of burden-"a man of the type of the ox," in the words of the efficiency expert Frederick W. Taylor. Capitalists considered the worker purely as a producer; they cared nothing for the worker's activities in his leisure time-the little leisure that was left to him after twelve or fourteen hours in the factory. Employers attempted to supervise the worker's life on the job, but their control ended when the worker left the factory at closing time. Even when Henry Ford established a Sociological Department at the Ford Motor Works in 1914, he regarded the supervision of the
workers' private lives merely as a means of making the men sober, thrifty, industrious producers. Ford's sociologists attempted to impose an old-fashioned Protestant morality on the labor force; they inveighed against tobacco, liquor, and dissipation.

Only a handful of employers at this time understood that the worker might be useful to the capitalist as a consumer; that he needed to be imbued with a taste for higher things; that an economy based on mass production required not only the capitalistic organization of production but the organization of consumption and leisure as well. "Mass production," said the Boston department store magnate Edward A. Filene in 1919, "demands the education of the masses; the masses must learn to behave like human beings in a mass production world. . . . They must achieve, not mere literacy, but culture." In other words, the modem manufacturer has to "educate" the masses in the culture of consumption. The mass production of commodities in every-increasing abundance demands a mass market to absorb them.
While modern industry condemns people to jobs that insult their intelligence, the mass culture of romantic escape fills their heads with visions of experience beyond their means-beyond their emotional and imaginative capacities as well-and thus contributes to a further devaluation of routine. The disparity between romance and reality, the world of the beautiful people and the workaday world, gives rise to an ironic detachment that dulls pain but also cripples the will to change social conditions, to make even modest improvements in work and play, and to restore meaning and dignity to everyday life.
The Spirit of Play versus the Rage for 'National Uplift Among the activities through which men seek release from everyday life, games offer in many ways the purest form of escape. Like sex, drugs, and drink, they obliterate awareness of everyday reality, but they do this not by dimming awareness but by raising it to a new intensity of concentration. Moreover, they have no side effects, hangovers, or emotional complications. Games simultaneously satisfy the need for free fantasy and the search for gratuitous difficulty; they combine childlike exuberance with deliberately created complications. By establishing conditions of equality among the players, according to Roger Caillois, games attempt to substitute ideal conditions for "the normal confusion of everyday life." They re-create the freedom, the remembered perfection of childhood, and mark it off from ordinary life with artificial boundaries, within which the only constraints are the rules to which the players freely submit. Games enlist skill and intelligence, the utmost concentration of purpose,on behalf of activities utterly useless, which make no contribution to the struggle of man against nature, to the wealth or comfort of the community, or to its physical survival.
Modem capitalist society not only elevates narcissists to prominence, it elicits and reinforces narcissistic traits in everyone. It does this in many ways: by displaying narcissism so prominently and in such attractive forms; by undermining parental authority and thus making it hard for children to grow up; but above all by creating so many varieties of bureaucratic dependence. This dependence, increasingly widespread in a society that is not merely paternalistic but materialistic as well, makes it increasingly difficult for people to lay to rest the terrors of infancy or to enjoy the consolations of adulthood.
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