FREAK CULTURE by Daniel Foss


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An exceptionally ambitious attempt to chart the sociological and ideological parameters of the kaleidoscopic social movements of the '60's. Foss, currently affiliated with the California Institute of the Arts (which also harbors Marcuse), adopts as his fundamental premise the technological obsolescence of organized, bureaucratized dissidence under conditions of advanced industrial capitalism. Drawing on Galbraith and Marcuse, Foss shares their notion of the institutionally unassailable technostructure: rebels can no longer compete with the ""sheer size and precision machinery of contemporary corporate and state structures."" Marcuse's totalist vision is essentially correct -- repressive tolerance which co-opts, manipulates, and processes dissent through study groups, joint advisory boards and ad hoc committees ""prevents the formulation of alternatives to itself."" Seen from this perspective the irrationalism and subjectivism of the Yippie freak becomes the only possible response to the middle-class mass culture of repressive consumerism. Confrontation politics, ""senseless violence,"" guerrilla theater, and the ""mind-fuck"" take on new meaning; the episodic frenzy of the freak undermines mass culture through the ""annihilation of meanings, the scrambling of communications and the repudiation of culturally accepted principles of causality."" Levitating the Pentagon makes sense: The System cannot be overthrown but it can be ""lost in the shuffle"" and laughed off the stage. Charting the Counterculture's permutations through a decade from beatniks and various New Left elements to drug culture, flower power, and Yippiedom, Foss sees the self-styled ""freak"" (""Reality is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there"") as the end-product and vanguard of the ""Rebels without a Program"" who will eventually usher in the liberation of the masses from the ""idiocy of industrial life"" just as Marx correctly identified the bourgeoisie as the group which would liberate the rural (feudal) masses from the ""idiocy of rural life."" A provocative and challenging analysis portending cultural apocalypse which is, ironically, expounded in the linear sociologicisms of a culture destined for the historical rubbish heap.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1972
Publisher: Dutton -- New Critics Press