chapter  8
16 Pages

Cruising America

WithBryan S. Turner

America combined a democratic polity which flattened social values behind the 'herd', as F. Nietzsche had called the democratic mass, with a technologically advanced capitalism, which standardized life by making technical trinkets available to a consumer market. The important feature of the conservative critique of American materialism and cultural vulgarity by German intellectuals was that it was reiterated throughout Europe by radical left-wing writers. The crass materialism of the 'culture industry' was a favourite topic of Frankfurt School radicals; it was the very foundation of Theodor Adorno's views on jazz, film and mass culture. 'America' is always already constituted within political discourse as the idol of modern times. The spectacle of astral America is magically conjured up by the physical experience of travelling in a hot landscape—'gliding down the freeway, smash hits on the Chrysler stereo, heat wave'. American mass democracy and American mass culture have been interpreted as necessary components of an inferior capitalist system.