Tag Archives: Culture

Reading in the Age of Fake News

“In order to have an overall developed personality to cope with modern-day crisis, it becomes vital not only to study literature, but also see its relevance in economic, political and class terms. Such is the coalescing of radical sociology and the humanities, more so at a time when the old certainties are questioned and a civil society is being built around new identities and forms of empowerment.

“In Praise of Literature [the authors] argue for the redirection of sociology and literature towards active politics, justice and freedom. In other words, art and literature can never be cordoned off from social sciences and social theory. Literary scholars bring perceptive readings to bear upon social and political texts in the same way as sociologists throw light on the human condition. For instance, Greek Tragedy is aptly used in putting across a case in criminal law having direct bearing on social welfare, or Plato and Gibbon facilitate the understanding of diplomacy or important aspects of human value and the meaning of life, the chief concern of liberal arts.

“The crossing over from literary practice to social theory or vice versa gives a broader critical and philosophical grounding to the study of ideology and resistance, knowledge and power, the major concerns of humanities in a world overtaken by ‘pseudo modernism’ that spells disaster for our pulverised culture of ‘unreliable Wikipedia and blogs.’”

From, and more: https://www.tribuneindia.com/mobi/news/spectrum/books/words-that-drive-society/303323.html

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Culture on the Battlefields of the Cold War


The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was “a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War — the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument — including the magazines on this left — were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement”:

From, and more: https://theawl.com/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked-93e65a5a710a#.wmnc741ah

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Bestsellers Bad for Reading Culture?

“Michael Dirda wrote about book best-seller lists for BookForum, calling them “bad for readers, bad for publishing, and bad for culture. Above all, despite appearances, the best-seller list isn’t populist; it’s elitist. If there are a dozen slots, six are filled by the same old establishment names. For every James Patterson novel on the list, that’s one fewer novel by someone else.” He continued:

The best-seller list functions, in essence, as a restraint of trade, a visible hand that crushes the life out of the literary marketplace. If one were to magically eliminate every form of the list, in print and online, as well as all those best-seller tables in Barnes & Noble, what would happen? People would spend more time browsing a bookstore’s stock, they would skim a page or two of various interesting-looking titles, and eventually they would plunk down their twenty dollars. In short, they would actively engage with a greater portion of our literary culture. Customers might even discuss their tastes with the shop’s owner or staff, who would actually recommend a few appropriate titles. Friends, neighbors, and colleagues might also suggest beloved novels, biographies, and poetry collections.

Without a best-seller list, authors would compete on something like a level playing field, while readers would buy the books that spoke most meaningfully to their particular interests and tastes rather than settling for the one-size-fits-all titles found in the back pages of the New York Times Book Review.”

From” salon.com/2014/06/22/casey_kasem_ronald_reagan_and_musics_1_percent_artificial_popularity_is_not_democracy/

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Writers as Activists

“If […] creative writers, researchers, playwrights, artists and film-makers care more for how the posterity is going to judge their work and their times, then they should not care for publishers of the Establishments, funding agencies, interviews to corporate media, acceptance by ‘refereed journals’ and the so-called international awards, but should consciously orientate their work for directing the struggle to face its due target and for giving confidence and optimism to the masses”…

From:  tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=37252

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Political Will can Build Cultural Prosperity

“It should be noted that while one’s willingness to read is important, forging a reading-friendly environment is also crucial. From this viewpoint, efforts should be strengthened to build more libraries across the country ― hopefully to put every resident within walking distance of the facilities ― and to organize various events and programs aimed at establishing a strong reading culture. It may also serve this purpose to offer tax deductions on book purchases or provide book vouchers for low-income families, who put aside much less to spend on books.”

The “President […] has advocated cultural prosperity as one of her key policy goals. Encouraging people to read more books will be the foundation for achieving it and building a society in which all people feel happy and find meaning in their lives.”

From: m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140501000391

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Market-Driven Death to Literature

“There is an unholy practice to bring fundamentalism, capitalism and even politics into literature and culture. Literature goes beyond any religion, politics and capitalism. The purpose of literature is to bring positive change. If that is not done, the next generation will be misled.”
…”literature and activism are the two faces of the same coin” … “Both these elements are interlinked. The very purpose gets defeated if even one element is lost. Let us resolve not to receive any award or accept invitation by individuals, organizations or even the government which encourage communalism and fundamentalism directly or indirectly.”

“The early writers and poets used literature as a weapon to fight against social evils. But that does not largely happen now. Market-driven society and anti-social issues have hijacked the very essence of literary works”…

Source: daijiworld.com

Writers driving a wedge into society

“In 2004, philosopher and literary critic Kojin Karatani declared, in his essay “The End of Modern Literature,” that Japanese literature had lost its privileged position within national consciousness while embracing minor subcultures … thus becoming a mere commodity. As a consequence, literature had lost its power to affect social or political change.”

However a writer “Tomoyuki Hoshino indirectly expressed his disagreement with Kiratani’s bleak vision. According to him, “we cannot expect literature to directly effect change in a clearly observable form. At best, it is a tiny wedge the writer can drive through the social and cultural status quo. Still, it is exactly literature’s ability to allow readers and writers to inhabit minor (…) worlds that allows literature to affect society as a whole, one story, one reader at a time. …

In the end, by refusing to passively accept conventional truths regarding sexual, cultural and national identity, and inciting in both his characters and readers this revolutionary desire to change, Hoshino’s work becomes more political than any open social criticism or ideologically charged novel.”

More: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fb20121021a1.html

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No Society without Literature

“Literature is all-encompassing: it ranges from societal utilitarianism of the didactic through to the celebration of individualism embodied in post-modern work. Literature, as part of a larger cultural body, is both instructive and entertaining, and has the power to facilitate personal understanding and encourage social cohesion. The society depicted in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is disillusioned with literature: the populace has forgotten its potential to educate and entertain, and has become sceptical of the intellectual elitism it is seen to represent. People are now captivated by the possibilities of non-discriminatory media such as television and popular music. The focus of education and recreation has shifted away from the intellectual and towards the instant gratification of physical stimulation. Initially this is seen as a solution to short-term societal problems, and as a means of promoting the happiness of the greatest number of people. However, in the long term, the removal of literature from society distances people from each other, stunts communication, and eventually effects mass isolation, dehumanisation and the collapse of all societal structure. Although this may seem unrealistically dystopian, there are elements in our society that have been developing since before Bradbury started writing – television, film and radio – that may have the potential to instigate the social collapse Bradbury foretells. Indeed, Adorno and Horkheimer, writing in the forties, argued that this potential had already been realised in the mass-production of film, and feared that television would further degrade society until the individual ceased to be defined without the general ‘society’ of which it was an element. The parallels between this view and Bradbury’s are significant. Most importantly, these commentators share the notion that truly artistic, intellectual culture is essential to society. Figures like Matthew Arnold, Victorian poet and spokesperson for education reform, have been prominent in shaping this understanding of culture. Arnold’s notions of cultural education as promoting the best aspects of society and discouraging the worst illuminate the groundwork behind Bradbury’s own fears about the loss of culture in society.”

More: http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/606/literature-as-a-social-tool-education-and-cohesion-or-class-domination

Pick up a book and ditch your TV!

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A World Without Books

Le Clezio, recipient of Nobel prize for literature: “books have played an essential role in the development of the world, by granting universal access to knowledge and turning it from the privilege of dominant classes into ordinary people’s rights a role it performed especially well during Enlightenment.

Without printed books we would be living in a totally different world. It may prosper as well, but it will be a closed world resistant to progress, desperately imbalanced, filled with unfairness and injustice.” He cites the ancient Mayan civilization as an example. What was once illuminating and ripe disappeared for want of print: “There was no democracy and hardly equality before the law while the quality of citizen dwelled on a relatively low level.

In such a world, knowledge would not serve interaction or social progress, but only draw a new line between those who have knowledge and those who don’t There can still be marvellous wonders like the Pyramid, but the people will only build them like slaves, not understanding the meaning of their labor.

The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate.”

More: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-08/31/content_13224456.htm

Support literature for a better society

“Literature is about social liveliness, it’s a life-blood […] It enriches life. Culture enriches people, it makes for a better society, it makes for a better educated and more cultivated and humane society. Literature is part of that […] It was hugely important for corporations, such as banks, investment firms, construction companies and property developers to support literature as part of the arts, and for us to say to them: You can’t just develop properties, you have to let people develop as well” SOURCE