Tag Archives: James Joyce

The Culture of Spectacle

Life will go on.  Machines will grow smarter, human beings gradually dumber.  Round the world the vast majority might possibly feel that something grand is missing, though they shan’t have a clue to what it might be–Joseph Epstein

Recently, I took issue with Mr. Epstein’s lament in The Weekly Standard over the shrinking “elite” whose self-imposed obligation it was to define “high culture” for the rest of us, and defend it from the plebes.  The diminution of any segment of the overseer class seemed like good news to me.  However, his description of the current state of Western culture, the “culture of spectacle,” is both insightful and very, very sad.

Epstein makes several references to a recent collection of essays by Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the few “international literary figures still at work.”  Vargas Llosa contends that in the culture of the spectacle “frivolity, superficiality, ignorance. gossip, and bad taste” dominate.  It “has no interest in ideas.”  It renders serious art and intellect “as remote and eccentric as the medieval scholastic debates over angels or the alchemists’ tracts on the philosophers’ stone seem to us.” Continue reading