Criticism

So while I was away the Internet was talking about the widespread firing of arts and movie critics from our nation’s papers, and the situation that puts us in. It may be a general coincidence that the death of criticism, for economic reasons, follows so closely after the death of theory (in this case, supposedly, for non-economic reasons.) It certainly is a personal coincidence that I was catching up on this while belatedly reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. So my thoughts processed like this:

It is only natural that criticism’s defenders are critics. It is much like this week’s letter in defense of corn syrup, penned by Corn Refiners Association president Audrae Erickson. But exactly what are the readers consuming, and what will they lose if criticism disappears? At its most refined, criticism after theory takes a work of art and processes it until it emerges, just to pick a random example, as a vehicle for discussion of Marxist struggle. Now that piece of criticism can be really satisfying, but not everyone is going to believe those ingredients were there in the original. Which is to say that criticism is a value-added. It is something new, and artificial. It is corn syrup, chicken mcnuggets—the same nutrition in higher density.

So life after criticism, if what the papers say is right, will probably see a go-organic or return-to-natural movement, which I guess would mean taking in our movies and music raw and un-pre-criticized. Or it could be a return of artistic locavores—more “Fugazi fucking rock because they’re from DC!” and less “José González fucking rocks because he’s from everywhere!” It would be hard for me to say what effect any of these developments would have on the triumph of global capitalism.

Fact: Corn syrup is the best!

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One Comment

  1. Gavin
    Posted July 7, 2008 at 9:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Interesting post. I wonder if the fate of professional critics is linked to the dire straits that many older media outlets find themselves in these days. For example, the link to the FT offers two paragraphs before asking for money.

    On the other hand, it can sometimes seem like criticism is everywhere. In some ways books such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma can be seen as the popularization of certain aspects of Marxist thought. Certainly they encourage people to be aware of the production process – in other words, these kinds of books (there are a few others out there) seek to address the commodity fetish, albeit in one specific area and industry. Terry Eagleton would be proud.

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