Chicago School Economics and Postmodernism
newmusicbox Fall 2007
Thank you for the very interesting and informative post, Randy. The video is very interesting because it shows how elements of the American right are appropriating postmodernism for their own purposes. In its simplest terms, the general strategy is to define the commercialization of “high” culture (including classical music) as “cool”. This would reinforce the far right’s belief that the marketplace should be the arbiter governing virtually all human activity.
Ludwig von Mises Institute (which hosted the video you linked) describes their
economic theories as the “
The technical economic term for Friedman’s extreme form of unregulated capitalism is “neo-liberalism” (though it has nothing to do with the usual American usage of the term liberal.) In a word, Friedman’s neo-liberal economics advocates that virtually all human enterprise should be privatized, including traditionally communal institutions such as public water systems, highways, electrical grids, public schools, social security systems, and to a considerable degree even the military. This system is, of course, deeply opposed to public funding of the arts.
is confusing to call Friedman’s economics the “
One should also remember that American economic ideologues have consistently attempted to exploit BOTH modernism and postmodernism for their own political and cultural agendas. The CIA’s manipulation of modernist culture during the Cold War are a fascinating example. Our government wanted to promote modernism as a Western ideal opposed to the “Social Realism” of the East Block. The CIA went so far as to create phony front arts foundations and journals to support modernist art. The CIA’s agents also infiltrated the Boards of many of our major legitimate cultural institutions in order to shape cultural policy. Fances Stonor Saunders has written an excellent history of these activities entitled “The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters.” (The New York Press, 2000 – distributed by Norton.) There is a very detailed review of the book here:
CIA championed and secretly funded the careers of numerous modernist artists,
such as Jackson Pollock and Kristof Penderski.
Modernism was used as a symbol of individualism and freedom that could
also legitimize the hegemonistic global capitalism advocated by
Now that capitalism has become global and the cold war is over, elite financial interests are naturally also appropriating and shaping the ideals of postmodernism for their own agendas – though I should hope less covertly than using the CIA. The video you link by the rightwing think tank, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, is an example. As the speaker illustrates, the manufactured hippness of world music, and the commodification of “high culture” through cross-over genres, are a couple of the obvious ways the ideologies of global capitalism and postmodernism are being aligned.
We also see the subtle influences of what might be termed “Chicago School Postmodernism” in global record companies that stress cross-genre eclecticism and a kind of iPod plastic wrapping of commercialized classical music. In itself, the popularization of classical music in the marketplace could be very beneficial, but the darker sides of postmodernism’s ideals could also lead to a neo-liberal vision of a radically commodified culture.
goal of Chicago School Postmodernism is to destroy
When we read authors like Alex Ross (The New Yorker) or Greg Sandow (The Wall Street Journal), we should remember that these publications often represent very particular segments and viewpoints of a white, financial elite. There is so much more going on between and behind the lines of their writings about postmodernism than many people realize – perhaps even the authors themselves.