Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Culture is culture war . . . Philip Rieff

I am working on a "Girardian" reading of the work of the sociologist Philip Rieff. Not sure where it will lead, I have decided nevertheless to simply post random quotes from Rieff's work on this blog, many of them at least slightly bewildering due to Rieff's penchant for creating his own categories and vocabulary. For the most part I will not try to explicate them here, but just toss them out for your pondering. I will begin with this opening gambit from Rieff's My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority:
1. Let there be fight? And there was. And there is, James Joyce's pun, on the words of Jewish second world creation, Genesis 1:3, is more than mildly amusing; it give readers the most exact and concise account I know of the sociological form of culture. Culture is the form of fighting before the firing actually begins. Every culture declares peace on its own inevitably political terms. Unless a culture is defeated politically, as the Jewish was from the Roman conquest to the founding of Israel, it will assert itself politically, later if not sooner. A living culture, even one that imitates life by politicizing its cultural impoverishment, works for itself. That culture work is the matter and manner of disarming competing cultures, inside and outside its previously bounded self. It its disarming manner, a culture makes the ultimate political means of enforcement, unnecessary.
Shortly to follow, an example of the kulturkampf: G. K. Chesterton and G. B. Shaw.

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