“Against Commercial Culture”

Case Western Reserve University’s Department of English will host a lecture by Michael Clune, the Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities, titled “Against Commercial Culture” Friday, Nov. 1, from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m., in the Guilford Hall parlor.

About the talk

Earlier critics of popular culture tended to define it in terms of specific formal properties—facile rather than difficult, realist rather than experimental, conventional rather than defamiliarizing. In this talk, Clune will argue that, while the great majority of stuff churned out by the culture industry is degrading, we are misled when we try to diagnose its key feature as a property of objects.

Commercial culture, rather than describing particular kinds of objects, describes a particular approach to value. The idea that all tastes are equal, that taste is private opinion, and that there is no reason to transform or challenge a consumer’s taste is at the heart of the contemporary culture industry, ruled by the algorithm. Drawing from his book-in-progress, A Defense of Judgment, Clune will trace a historical genealogy for this formation in the transition from Mill’s economics to the neoclassical model. He will conclude by showing how commercial culture militates against human cultivation.

About the speaker

Clune is completing his fifth book, A Defense of Judgment, with the support of a 2019-20 Guggenheim Fellowship. His recent critical and creative work has appeared in Harper’s, The Atlantic, Critical Inquiry, PMLA and Tin House.