The Critic As the Artist-Prophet's

Harbinger and Apologist.

November 19, 2005


As the cultural phenomenon of the Artist-Prophet dies, so too will the critic. Our

traditional style of criticism was formulated by 19th century German

literary feuilletonism. That is the period that gave us cultural nationalism

with its host of artist-prophets and their critics. These forms of

nationalistic elitism were inevitable developments as the bourgeoisie arose.

The Internet is just one more medium that helps to dissolve nationalism and

elite bourgeois status. As nationalism and class status become less

relevant, the critic's function as a spokesman of the elite will die.


Even in the "higher" arts, the corporatocracy of global capitalism will

require a new kind of feuilletonist -- a sort of generalist gadfly who is

part of a marketing apparatus focusing largely on celebrity. Eventually the

NYT cultural section, for example, will look a lot like People Magazine.

Much of The New Yorker is already a kind of People magazine for yuppies --

gossip with a touch of niveau couched in the publication's self-consciously

affected urbanity.


This should not surprise anyone. Art will always be culturally isomorphic

with the larger social structures of society. Mass marketing requires a

reductive concept of the human. The aesthetic values of global capitalism by

necessity esteem baseness.


The key is for some theorist to define and codify the new feuilletonism's

style, content, social and economic purpose. In the meantime, we should

remember: Blessed are the base, for they shall inherit the earth."