Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture

Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture

Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture

Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture

Excerpt

This is a book about collective memory and popular culture in the United States since 1945. It does not survey or analyze the aesthetics of popular culture itself, nor does it chronicle direct references to "historical" issues within popular culture texts. Rather, I wish to explore the ways in which collective memory and popular culture are peculiarly linked—how the infinitely renewable present of electronic mass media creates a crisis for collective memory, and how collective memory decisively frames the production and reception of commercial culture. This is not an uncritical celebration of massmediated imagery. I believe that the ever expanding influence, reach, and scope of the mass media has worked insidiously to legitimate exploitative social hierarchies, to colonize the body as a site of capital accumulation, and to inculcate within us the idea that consumer desire is the logical center of human existence. But neither is this a jeremiad against popular culture and the individuals who create and receive it. People act in the arenas open to them; there is nothing intrinsically better or worse about the generation and circulation of ideas through electronic mass media than through the printed word. Our time has more than its share of barbarism, but that barbarism is more the product of very old patterns of social organization than it is the product of new communications technology. New technologies do lend themselves to new forms of exploitation and oppression, but they also have possible uses for fundamentally new forms of resistance and revolution.

In the first section of this book I present discussions of history and popular culture. My intention is to show how forms of popular cul-

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