Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fredric Jameson / Postmodernism: high culture and popular culture – the case of Bonaventure hotel

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary part
 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Depthlessness, pastiche, the fragmentation of the subject and other characteristics of postmodern culture introduced by Fredric Jameson (see previous parts of the summary) strongly question the notion of "high culture" as opposed to popular culture. Jameson notes how boundaries between high and low culture have been transgressed in postmodern times with kitsch and popular culture integrating with forms of high culture to produce one big varied consumer culture.

Jameson argues that not only is postmodernism a cultural dominant (i.e. the dominant form of cultural production) but that it has turned into a prime consumer product, with the aesthetic production being integrated into the general production of consumer goods. The growing need to produce ever newer products now allocates an essential structural position to aesthetic novelty.

Jameson notes to the aesthetic field which has the strongest ties with the economical system is that of architecture which has strong ties with real-estate and development which give rise to a tide of postmodern architecture, epitomized in the grandeur of shopping malls.   

Jameson famously analyzes the postmodern features of the L.A. Westin Bonaventure hotel. His main argument concerning the Bonaventure hotel is that this building, as other postmodern architecture, does not attempt to blend into its surroundings but to replace them. The Bonaventure hotel attempts to be a total space, a whole world which introduces a new form of collective behavior. Jameson sees the total space of the Bonaventure hotel as an allegory of the new hyper-space of global market which is dominated by the corporations of late capitalism.
It seems that in Postmodernism Jameson often laments the shortcomings of postmodern culture, though there is also a sense of inevitability in his writing. Postmodernism according to Jameson is an historical situation, and therefore it will be wrong to assess it in terms of moral judgments. Jameson proposes to treat postmodernism in line with Marx's thought which asks us to "do the impossible" of seeing something as negative and positive at the same time, accepting something without surrendering judgment and allowing ourselves to grasp this new historical form. 

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary part
 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

additional resources:

Two first chapters from the book

about Jameson at Wikipedia

short introduction to the text

The Political Unconscious by Jameson

More by Fred: