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The Mechanical Bride - Facsimile Paperback – June 30, 2008
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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.
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.