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By James Livingston

On the flip of the century, a battery of latest highbrow and cultural currents got here jointly to reorient society - Progressivism, Pragmatism, feminism, labour activism, and client tradition. during this paintings, Livingston reads philosophers like John Dewey along activists like Jane Addams and reveals of their principles an analogous and novel feel of the individual's position on this planet. via drawing new connections among those advancements, Livingston recasts dialogue of the arriving of modernity.

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Yet he emphatically rejects the notion that the function of mind or consciousness is to copy or represent a fixed, external reality and, by implication, the notion that money is only a means of exchange, that is, a set of symbols that necessarily corresponds 42 Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy to objects “out there” in the “real world” constituted by the products of labor. In effect James is simply claiming that money, as redefined by modern business enterprise, is an appropriate metaphor for mind, language, and thought.

Fourth, with the completion of proletarianization under the auspices of corporate management, the commodity form penetrates and reshapes dimensions of social life hitherto exempt from its logic, to the point where subjectivity itself seemingly becomes a commodity to be bought and sold in the market as beauty, cleanliness, sincerity, even autonomy. In short, consumer culture—the “age of surplus” determined by corporate capitalism—is the solvent of modern subjectivity. 5 Now, what exactly is wrong with consumer culture so conceived?

Meanwhile, “popular notions of abundance were moving away from their origins in the rhythms of agrarian life and bodily existence,” because under the regime of reification perfected by corporate managers, “factory and office employees were increasingly cut off from the vernacular artisanal traditions that linked brain and hand in ‘local knowledge’” (117). Lears concludes, in view of these claims, that the “disembodiment of abundance” involved not only the “containment of Carnival”—of the playful and grotesque confusions specific to the “commercial vernacular” and its antecedents—but the “devaluation of female authority” (118).

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