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The Mechanical Bride : Folklore of Industrial Man

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1584230502
ISBN-10: 1584230509
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Gingko Press (September 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584230509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584230502
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,873,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Vinay Varma on July 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is McLuhan's first book, originally published in 1951 and has been long out of print. It precedes his second book and cult classic 'The Gutenberg Galaxy', by a decade and a half. This is also quite unique in that it has no relationship with McLuhan's more famous theoretical ramblings.

In this book, McLuhan takes on myth-making in US society by showing how film posters, comic strips, advertisements, magazine covers, newspaper layout and articles etc., try to persuade people into something, and yet a close observation of their inherent contradictions allows you to escape their machinations.

The book celebrates deliberate misreading of commonplace things like advertising to show how the persuasive trap of mass culture/consumer culture can be escaped.

All articles in the book follow the format of article/poster/ad, its analysis and some sharp witty aphoristic observations in a boxed area that serve as liberating repartees against the messages that these products of consumer culture intend to send.

The philosophy of the book is derived from McLuhan's premise (borrowed from Edgar Allan Poe's story 'The Maelstrom') that to escape a maelstrom you need to study things going down and things that resurface and align yourself with things that resurface.

In this respect, it can be considered a jargon-free precursor of latter-day deconstructive literary and cultural criticism. And it is much more liberating and enlightening to a lay reader than jargon ridden discussions or purely vehement denuciations of the power of mass culture which don't help laymen liberate themselves anyway, because of their highly inaccessible prose.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John David Ebert on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This, McLuhan's first book, serves as a good introduction to him, since he has not yet begun to formulate his theories about media that would later make him so famous. Consequently, it is easier to read than, say, The Gutenberg Galaxy or Understanding Media. It is also much more fun.

The reader should keep in mind that this is still premature McLuhan, for he had not yet read Harold Innis's 1950 classic--which represents the true birth of media studies--Empire and Communications. This book hit McLuhan like an atomic bomb, for it completely ruptured his thinking regarding media. In The Mechanical Bride, he is still analyzing the content of the media, deciphering what the subliminal messages are saying to us unconsciously; but after reading Innis, he realized that it was not the message that was important (at least not for him) but rather the type of medium through which the message was conveyed, for Innis's discussions of how particular kinds of media affected the nature and structure of ancient empires caused McLuhan to realize that it was actually the medium that was the important thing. Whether a culture used clay or papyrus as its means of communication, Innis asserted, determined much about the fate of that culture.

With that caveat in mind, then, the reader is free to roam through these pages, observing a McLuhan that would never exist in the same way again. He comments, sometimes hilariously, on one advertisement, movie poster or magazine after the next.
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Format: Hardcover
The premise of The Mechanical Bride is that the American dream is shot through with pathological wish fulfillment in the form of trashy delusions perpetuated by the film colony, manipulative advertising, the false promise of mechanistic technologies (popular science, modern know-how, and market research) to hoodwink unsophisticated consumers.

He describes a number of corrupting influences, e.g. "the notion of distinction and culture as being a matter of consumption rather than the possession of discriminating perception and judgment," "the automatic leveling process exercised by applied science" that has equated the sexes, "the supremacy of technique at the expense of nutriment," the belief that success is measured by purchasing power, that the ultimate happiness consists in the acquisition of material goods, that culture is conferred upon those who purchase expensive and refined products, that the race to the top is so dehumanizing that the winners "arrive in a nude and starving condition."

For McLuhan, popular culture is an open book of all the unconscious or accidental motivations of the American people. They are unconscious because they are environmental, i.e. they are the unchallenged a priori principles and assumption that drive the American lifestyle. But all is not lost. If we stand back and contemplate this phantasmagoria with rational detachment rather than participate in mindless conduct, we will derive solutions to bring it under control.

McLuhan's genius and originality consist in applying the techniques of Freudian dream analysis to the social, cultural and economic spheres insofar as they evoke exhibits of the "American dream," and he did so with a consummate command of language, satirical wit, and the authority of unimpeachable scholarship.
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