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Utopia Limited: The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern (Post-Contemporary Interventions) Hardcover – May 10, 2004
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From the Back Cover
""Utopia Limited "will set in place a new way of understanding the interface between social, cultural, and political impulses in the sixties. Its aim--and its success--is not simply to mark out what we can now see as the emergent postmodern in texts as diverse as "The Port Huron Statement" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, " but to interpret, through attentive close readings, precisely how and where the modern and nascent postmodern are joined in such texts."--Cora Kaplan, author of "Sea Changes: Essays on Culture and Feminism"
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The 1960s (and postmodernism) was essentially a reaction to the previous decade (when modernism dominated) and Marianne DeKoven puts this well in context.
I would like to read the book more fully sometime and review it on my blog Feminist Truths. If you read this Marianne DeKoven please get in touch with me. :)
NOTE: I also recommend IGNORING David Williams review of this book because he is clearly just trying to sell his book. (If Amazon was moderating the reviews they would remove his for being a flagrant advertisement for his own book, but sadly they don't moderate very much.)
The sixties, on the other hand, were an essentialist response to the neo-0rthodox cynicism that preceded that decade. It was an attempt to find some "truth" under the rubble of a culture in the implicit assumption that "truth" could be found. Furthermore, that truth was to be found outside of the lies of civilization in nature, most specifically in human nature, in the depths of the truths of ones own profound self. It rejected the old meta-narratives, but not in favor of post-modern emptiness. It did so in the search for truer truth and better meta-narratives founded on what Mailer called the radical imperatives of the self.
Martin Luther King set up conscience as the alternative to the law, a truth in the self which exists independent of any collective text. And as a Baptist minister he named that truth God. Even Malcolm X, who began as a cynical street punk, became the hero he did by discovering an essential truth within himself, which he called "Allah." Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Dass believed that LSD cleared away the constructs of the state but made possible a sense of a greater truth within. The Beatles went to India to commune with the divine. The 60s were thus completely essentialist, the very term post-modernism sets itself up in opposition to.
All this book does is to take the anti-institutional language with which its 60s texts attacked the establishment, then ignores the actual content of their arguments, and finally claims these esstialist 60s texts for post-modernism on the simplistic grounds that post-modernism too attacks the establishment and undercuts the old narratives.
Which it does. But it also attacks essentialist alternatives, which is what the 60s offered. All post-modernism did was to take the old neo-orthodox cynicism and dress it up in Francobabble jargon with a dash of Marxist theory on the side. It is, to paraphrase Norman O Brown, a veil spun (constructed?) to hide the void.
One can in fact find some foreshadowings of postmodernism in the great 60s texts, but these this book skips over. Take Norman O Brown in Love's Body: "The Fall is into Language" or "The world is the veil we spin to hide the void." But Brown was a Christian theologian who believed that the elimination of psychological repression unleashed the true body, the id, and that this was the "resurrection of the body" which Christ announced. Better yet: read the rantings of Charlie Manson. But Manson was a product of the end of the 60s, a link to the future not an example of the 60s romantic core. In him, perhaps, is your 60s link to post-modernism attacking all words, all texts, all narratives as utterly empty at the core.
As this confused gobbledyguck of book is.
For more of this approach, check out my alternative reading of the '60s:
Searching for God in the Sixties