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After modernism : Charles Olson, ecological thought and a postwar avant-garde 1999

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AFTER MODERNISM: CHARLES OLSON, ECOLOGICAL THOUGHT AND A POSTWAR AVANT-GARDE By PHILIP ANDREW KLOBUCAR B.A., University of Toronto 1991 M.Sc. Edinburgh University 1992 A THESIS IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES I I (Department of English)i i We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1999 ©Andrew Klobucar, 1999 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. 1 further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of £ N 6 T . I X S \ - ( The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date S 0^^<:'ovt<~ I'S^*^ DE-6 (2/88) Abstract At the end of World War II, American avant-garde culture underwent a significant transformation best qualified as an intellectual as well as social detachment from its original political contexts..Between the wars, in the US, most avant- garde art•and writing derived their respective mandates from Leftist politics and a Marxist critique of industrial capitalism. For many intellectuals, however, the Hitler-St'alin pact of 1939 effectively terminated any association of radical aesthetics with the Soviet system and orthodox Marxism. Couple this ideological catastrophe with the anti-Communist cultural policing of the McCarthy era, and the aesthetic and social appeal of a politicised art practice seemed increasingly unworkable as the first half of the 20̂ ^̂  century drew to a close. The failure of ideology-based revisionary thought and writing signified the need for new intellectual roles in society, as much as it suggested the political inability of extreme Left or Right wing positions to achieve their Utopian ends. For many postwar avant-garde writers, the shift away from ideology led to a more psychologically integrated vision of human activity as a setting of constant, natural self- transformation. Various ways of qualifying this development can be outlined with respect to the emergence of specific "ecological" approaches to the arts and social sciences. Ecological studies repudiated all forms of determinism in reasoning and emphasised instead a complex series of attitudes and informal speculations, non-specific to any distinct ideology or political apparatus. A small sampling of such work would include the theory of Gregory Bateson, Murray Bookchin and Karl Polanyi. As an exemplary postwar avant-garde writer, Charles Olson demonstrates an active use of ecological thinking in his own poetics and prose work. Influenced by revisionary Leftism while at the same time highly critical of the political conservatism of writers like'Pound and Eliot, Olson found it increasingly necessary to locate his oppositional poetics in a less overtly politicised discourse. This dissertation focuses on Olson's work done while he was rector of Black Mountain College (1950-1957). Among avant-garde writers and artists working in the 1950s, the College was a well-known site for progressive learning, intellectual freedom and innovative art practices. There Olson learned and further developed an extremely integrated, holistic approach to his art Ill and theory. Rather than the intellect alone. Black Mountain sought to shape what it considered to. be the entire person. The College encouraged a communal form of lifestyle, where cultural responsibilities could be explored alongside academic ones without overt references to political positions or religious faiths. In this framework, the key to re-capturing a stronger, more vital cultural practise depended upon an immanent sense of identity rather than an ideological one. Drawing upon the ideological criticism of Antonio Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Ferry, my dissertation investigates the discourse of ecology as an important response to the radical socialisms of the Right and the Left that developed during the interwar period. Discouraged by the lack of ideological alternatives to what they perceived to be the status quo, many intellectuals after 1945 increasingly substituted political beliefs with notions of "immediacy," process," "randomness" and other typical ecological values. This shift in counter-cultural poetics has been severely under-emphasised in most studies of this period; yet, an ecological view of culture and writing continued to inspire much of Olson's work as well as that of his contemporaries — most notably, Robert Duncan — throughout the 1950s. In these writers' works, a unique fascination with epistemological relativism and a highly holistic view of the relationship between language and place appear as primary, if not defining, aesthetic themes. Ecological theory provides the most important context for the development of these ideas and the new directions in aesthetics they subsequently inspired for an entire generation of writers. Table of Contents IV Abstract 11 Table of Contents IV Acknowledgements V Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Abbreviations Works Cited Charles Olson, Ecology and the Postmodern Vision 1 Ideology and its Discontents: the New Social Ecology The Un-American Typewriter: Hegemony and The New Left Intellectual Conservatism and the New Modernisms Disciplining Pound: Symbolic Power and the New Left The Ecocentric Poetics of Charles Olson 76 141 190 259 347 457- 458 Acknowledgemen i: s As with nearly all dissertations, this work owes much of its conception and subsequent completion to my Ph.D. supervisory committee, Peter Quatermain, John Cooper and Steven Taubeneck. Peter has been an excellent teacher as well as a good friend these past few years and I doubt very much that I will soon meet his equal either inside or outside the academy. His passion for contemporary poetry is matched only by a critical prowess that continues to inspire me in my writing and in my life. I have learned much from John and Steven as well. John's work defines for me what vital teaching can and should aspire to, and Steven has provided me with invaluable insights into much of the theory and history informing my project. A large part of my degree work was conceived far outside the boundaries of academia and I would like to acknowledge the many "contingent coalitions" and critical readers who have • supported me throughout my studies. They include Steve Harris, Sandra Tome, Rolf Maurer, Meredith Quartermain, and Bob Perelman, among others. In particular, special mention should be given to the Kootenay School of Writing and the many fine writers there who teach and influence me yet, Jeff Derksen, Dan Farrell, Deanna Ferguson, Colin Smith, Lisa Robertson, Dave Ayre, Dorothy Trujillo-Lusk, Michael Barnholden, Rob Manery, and Melissa Wolsak. Finally, I owe a very special thanks to Sharla Sava, my friend and co-adventurer, for her hands and the words they continue to make. Chapter One Chapter One Charles Olson, Ecology and the Postmodern Vision It was as if he [Olson] had left politics and Pound and headed towards himself in history and art and Black Mountain. (Fielding Dawson) In an important essay published in 1973, Charles Altieri saw the cultural shift from the modern to the postmodern as rooted in a phenomenology which specifically rejected symbolism for what he called "immanence." Postmodern poets, he argued, see "the immediacy of the poem as event, as itself the issue of an authentic being, or more properly 'doing,' in the world.... Poetry is the emergence of place into the energy of language."^ Altieri's adoption, and indeed adaptation, of several recurrent terms in the shift to the postmodern in the years 1945-1970 deserve close attention because they point to some of the complexities of that "immanence": immediacy; event; authentic; being; and (perhaps above all) place. In Altieri's essay, as in the poetics he sought to define, such terms serve emphatically to distinguish the "new" American poetry from its contemporaries and antecedents. -"- Charles Altieri, "From Symbolist Thought to Iirananence: The Ground of Post- modern American Poetics," Boundary 2 (1973): 605. Chapter One ; As we shall see, the principal distinction Altieri seeks to draw rests on his notion that phenomenology —with its rejection of both metaphysical transcendence and scientific empiricism — directed the development of postmodern thought in .general and of such poetry in particular. Immanence, the notion that the task of the poem is to convey an immediate —i.e., unmediated sense or apprehension of things (what William Carlos Williams had earlier called "the thing itself") —demands a radical' reconsideration of notions of form, which can no longer be seen or thought of as an abstraction independent of the actual context of its immediate appearance. There is much ambiguity surrounding Altieri's understanding of postmodernism. How exactly phenomenology, for example, directs or guides the development of postmodern thought requires some elaboration. Nevertheless, such key terms as "authenticity," "being," and "place" contribute strongly to the concept of "immanence" Altieri has located at the centre of this aesthetics. Evoking "immanence," as Altieri contends, the postmodern poem ostensibly re-imagines its entire relationship to language as a mode of interpretation. In other words, what might be called the formal aspects of language, i.e., those pertaining to its structure as a medium are, in a- certain sense, being called into question by this category of immanence. To profess or convey an immanent sense of things is to move beyond Chapter One ; form with its connotations of the abstract into the realm of the intrinsic. This is, perhaps, what Altieri means when he credits, postmodern poetry with "the emergence of place" into language. In the postmodern poem, expression seeks to expunge, both technically and theoretically, all barriers between the "Real" and its representation. Contrasting this aesthetic with earlier "symbolist thought," Altieri describes a mode of expression that, theoretically at least, is able to foreground a basis of meaning in its own context rather than represent it via some separate symbol or ideal image. The veil of language alluded to by poets as diverse as Eliot and Williams, usually in reference to the difficulty of capturing the object or situation in words (for example Prufrock's lament that "it is impossible to say just what I mean"), has less bearing on postmodern verse. Altieri runs some risk in his essay of over-generalising what is, in fact, a varied and complex poetics. After all, different postmodern writers would likely have their own concept of immanence, especially with respect to aesthetics. Altieri is useful, however, in outlining a distinct "postmodern" relationship to language, one that appears to emphasise the intrinsic generation of meaning over its representation. The distinction here originates in the process of signification. A postmodern sense of language tends to subordinate its function as a medium of representation to a more direct role in the Chapter One ^ actual construction of meaning. To evoke the postmodern is to authenticate an entire reality in itself, not merely reproduce some separate image of an object or structure. In his essay, "What I see in the Maximus Poems," Ed Dorn distinguishes a poetics of "enactment" from one of description, citing Olson's epic work as a prime example of the former (298) . According to Dorn, Olson's active use of language imbued his poetry with a sense of "place." He writes. It isn't that Olson doesn't manifest the same recognizable properties that mark writing. It is that the terms are not extractable from the whole art: there are no terms, but there is the term of the form. It isn't just a piece of logic to say that for the total art of Place to exist there has to be this coherent form, the range of implication isn't even calculable. (297) It may at first seem contradictory to point out that in Olson's work "there are no terms, but there is the term of the form," yet Dorn is, in fact, highlighting the ostensible novelty of Olson's entire concept of structure. Olson does follow a distinct methodology in his poetry. The Maximus Poems together constitute a highly rigorous writing project. But their structure, argues Dorn, cannot be defined according to any pre- set principles, of writing ,or otherwise. What terms or properties are exhibited in Olson's poetics remain confined to (i.e., "are not extractable from") the individual poems in which they are generated. For this reason, Olson's readers shouldn't Chapter One ; expect the poetry to provide tips on how to write, so much as specific insights into the very activity of perception. Dorn's commentary on what he sees in Olson as a perception- oriented, active aesthetics further clarifies Altieri's own notion of immanence, especially with respect to postmodern poetry. An important characteristic of both Dorn's and Altieri's concept of the "New American" poem centres upon the relation of aesthetic form to the communication of meaning. As Dorn shows, Olson's active sense of language evokes a close interdependence between form and meaning, so much so that neither element can be separated from the other. In this sense, Olson's poetics of "enactment" conveys "immanent" meaning. His poetry rarely contained any presuppositions about formal technique —a quality that makes it difficult to discuss his individual works purely in terms of their structure. Conventional terminologies of form begin to break down within the text of the poem. In "The Kingfishers," for example, Olson opens the poem with what appears to be a single prose narrative. He woke, fully clothed, in his bed. He remembered only one thing, the birds, how when he came in, he had gone around the rooms -and got them back in their cage, the green one first, she with the bad leg, and then the blue, the one they had hoped was a male (SP 5) The ambiguity of the narrative, with neither the protagonist nor the events surrounding "him" being explicitly identified, is not Chapter One ( resolved through any particular symbolism. The fact that one of the birds appears to be green and the other blue signifies little beyond what is being communicated in the scene itself. As readers, we learn only that two birds have been re-caged, both of them presumably female, by a single man with a penchant for sleeping in his clothes. Even the form of the text, that of a third person, realist narrative, does not help us much since it changes with each subsequent section. In this manner, Olson's poems appear to generate their own respective structures and nuances in relation to the different contexts giving rise to them. Such works convey neither a set of structural principles nor some archetypal identity beyond the poem itself. What formal qualities or techniques that appear within Olson's works remain, instead, highly symbiotic with each poem's respective themes and movements. It is poetry capable, in Olson's mind, of generating its own activity. It does not summarise or describe inspiration; it neither generalises nor symbolises specific points, but literally "enacts" its own concepts, brings them into being. In short, the postmodern poet can be said to participate in the conception of a reality as much as in an aesthetics — in fact, it is the very creation of a reality that constitutes this aesthetics. The poet who best exemplifies Altieri's reading of the postmodern, in some ways establishing its very terms, is indeed Chapter One 7 Charles Olson. As one of the first writers to describe his poetics explicitly as "post-modern,"2 Olson provides an important departure point in American letters from what has been traditionally identified within the postwar academy as "high modernism." In the early postwar period, specifically between the years 1948 and 1956, Olson was rector of Black Mountain College. There, as we shall see, Olson worked diligently on a new poetics.and pedagogy, often in direct response to the cultural criticism developing throughout mainstream universities. As Gerald Graff's recent history of the American post-secondary institute. Professing Literature, points out, the aesthetics of high modernism dominated the academy soon after the New Criticism established its hegemony in the 1950s (145ff). Graff emphasises the fact that the "the New Critics were originally neither aesthetes nor pure explicators, but culture critics with a considerable 'axe to grind' against the technocratic tendencies of modern mass civilization" (149). The subsequent pedagogy of writers like Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell carried a distinct social and moral agenda, one that operated within the internal structure of the literary works themselves. It is a formalism or idealisation of 2 Charles Olson, "The Material And Weights of Herman Melville," Collected Prose, ed. Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) 116. This was Olson's first published reference to "postmodernism," a term that had circulated in correspondence with Robert Creeley since 1950. Chapter One 1 form that, as we shall see in Chapter Two, was already implicit in much of T.S. Eliot's work. Such a moral sense of internal structure produced a corresponding cultural orthodoxy, and this is precisely the element of high modernism that Olson most directly attacks. The primary failing of New Criticism, for Olson, lay in its abstract emphasis upon form or "technique." Seeking to provide a stable cultural discourse of value for presumably all of western society. New Criticism organised a set of prominent literary paradigms from within the academy. Cleanth Brooks's The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1939),^ as is well known, provided an entire generation of new writers with general strategies of literary interpretation, complete with a reformed canon of exemplary texts to help illustrate them. This is not the place to summarise New Criticism's entire pedagogy, save to re-emphasise that much of the inspiration behind it derives from T.S. Eliot's critical vision. Eliot's essay, "Tradition and the Individual Talent," constitutes perhaps the single most influential mandate for 20^^ century mainstream literary criticism. For New Critics, this essay provided an important basis for understanding the very development of ^ One year earlier. Brooks also co-edited with Robert Penn Warren the New Criticism text book for teaching poetry at a post-secondary level: Understanding Poetry:.An Anthology for College Students (New York: Henry Holt, 1938). Chapter One ' western culture itself. Of particular interest was the following famous statement: The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so lightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, volumes of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. {Sacred Wood 64) Expressed here, in Eliot's conception of an "ideal order," is a strategic respect by practising poets for some greater historical continuum. The conception of an ideal literary order implies that, regardless of theme or talent, the new poet cannot help but threaten disarrangement; each emerging writer must present him or herself with a demeanour of conformity if there is to be any chance of altering existing historical forms, that is, of joining the company of canonical writers. Eliot's call later on in the essay for the poets' "continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality" urges the need for humility before larger, more established cultural movements and visions (Sacred Wood 64). This is not to say that Eliot advocated a type of blind, impetuous assent to the past. Indeed, he was quite critical of much of what was deemed canonical during his own emergence into the world of letters. Eliot's Chapter One 10 particular dissatisfaction with the work of John Dryden, for example, firmly countered that poet's privileged position in most British university curricula on 18̂ "̂  century poetry. The past, in Eliot's view, was not identical to history. History implied critical thinking; in other words, it demanded selection, change and informed choice, and that was precisely how tradition was built. The concept of a literary tradition implied, for Eliot, an active intellectual engagement with culture, not its obsolescence. The pedagogy of New Criticism followed closely Eliot's respect for tradition and historical techniques, properly defining formal principles of composition based upon a specific image of the order of literature itself. In some ways, the New Critics made Eliot out to be more of a traditionalist than he actually was, for Eliot's was a highly qualified traditionalism, including certain "minor" writers from the past (like Jules Laforgue), while abandoning such canonical entries as Hugo, Tennyson and Swinburne. For the New Critics, evidence of cultural universalism in the poem as a distinct historical work implied the absence of all personality of the poet. The logic of New Criticism was empiricist, emphasising technique and form as opposed to either personal expression or the poet's immediate sense of his of her context. All literary value or meaning in a poem derived exclusively from its place within a particular Chapter One 11 historical and cultural order. Without some form of reference to this order, both contemporary talent and any continuity in tradition appeared threatened with extinction. Olson's poetics, by contrast, invoked a less formal vision of history and cultural development. His writing deferred to no previous canon or model, offering instead an open approach to composition or what he called a "stance to reality [that] involves...a change beyond, and larger than, the technical" ("Projective Verse," SW 24). While Olson's repudiation of historical authority does not automatically imply a corresponding interest in personal expression, his work does, in fact, constitute a very different sense of history and the evolution of culture. Certainly Eliot's conception of an ideal order within culture to which younger poets must inevitably conform has little parallel in Olson's vision. His ambivalence towards the "technical" in writing strongly opposes any sense of permanent or fixed rationale behind the evolution of western culture through history. Where Eliot and his "New Critical" interpreters saw a transcendental order to the practice and development of all art, Olson theorised a more fluctuating, ongoing interdependence between form and content. This consistent antagonism to any sort of transcendental unity in aesthetics is laid out in some detail in his first major essay on poetics, "Projective Verse" (1950). Chapter One ' 12 As a theory of writing, "Projective Verse" operates on methods quite different from various earlier modernist strategies for poetry. Such critical writings echoed Eliot's concerns for an ideal order both within the poem and with respect to the poem's placement inside a larger cultural tradition. The poet who best represented this view and, as such, constituted the most significant early influence on the development of Olson's own unique position was Ezra Pound. As we will see, the forced re-patriation of Pound in 1945 from the ruins of fascist Italy, followed by his lengthy incarceration within the hospital, St. Elizabeths for the Criminally Insane, gave Olson an important first-hand glimpse at some of the more extreme political components informing revisionary modernism, especially as practised by Pound and Eliot. One of the primary theoretical concerns behind "Projective Verse" originated in direct response to the formally ordered views of culture found in the works of these earlier modernists. This is not to suggest that Olson regarded the two poets as in any way equivalent. In fact, Eliot hardly inspired Olson to the extent or degree that Pound did. Olson attributed to both writers, however, a similar necessity to outline a historically sanctioned cultural paradigm to which contemporary writing should conform. The failure of this methodology, Olson believed, was rampant in T.S. Eliot's work. Accordingly, Olson ends "Projective Verse" with the Chapter One 13 following comments on the original, "non-projective" modernism of the recent past: Eliot is, in fact, a proof of a present danger of 'too easy' a going on the practice of verse as it has been, rather than as it must be, practiced. There is no question, for example, that Eliot's line, from "Prufrock" on down, has speech-force, is "dramatic," is, in fact, one of the most notable lines since Dryden. I suppose it stemmed immediately to him from Browning as did so many of Pound's early things...but it could be argued that it is because Eliot has stayed inside the non-projective that he fails as a dramatist... his root is the mind alone, and scholastic mind at that... and that, in his listenings he has stayed there where the ear and the mind are, has only gone from his fine ear outward rather than, as I say a projective poet will, down through the workings of his own throat to that place where breath comes from, where breath has its beginnings, where drama has to come from, where, the coincidence is, all act springs. (SW 26) Like Pound, Eliot depends upon a poetics of appropriation in which different historical texts and text fragments are formally re-contextualised to produce a more legitimate, revised "cultural" discourse of value. As a result, the various fragments tend to support, despite their discontinuous format, an explicit hierarchy of account, a structural ranking designed to legislate an entirely new civic language. In The Waste Land, for example, Eliot juxtaposes the harsh cockney of a London barmaid with Shakespearean quotation, in effect, recognising the contemporary relevance of demotic speech while at the same time Chapter One 14 asserting his own loyalty to older, suppressed classicisms. The barmaid is meant to provide drama in the poem, to assert her own distinct claim of identity within some wider sea of disparate cultural movements and voices. To assume an easy transition from one language to the next, however, is to misread Eliot's own relationship to such discourses —a. by no means, arbitrary or especially tolerant cultural vision. In a similar manner, Olson, too, works from a wide variety of discursive sources, many of them deriving from histories much older and more exotic than Eliot himself ever encountered. "The Kingfishers" features text fragments from personal anecdotes, Maoist political doctrine, Mayan legends, and western philosophy among others. However, where in Eliot's poetics, such fragments are stoically and rigorously assimilated into a more completely unified framework of cultural reference, in Olson's work no such vision exists to help guide each separate discourse. Behind the respective textual collages that form The Waste Land and "The Kingfishers," consequently, there lie two very different conceptions of cultural history, with Eliot by far emphasising the more openly ideological sense of writing as a formal or distinct system of knowledge. The "principle" behind "projective" verse, "the reason," in Olson's words, "why a projective poem can come into being" owes very little to historical structure. Projective techniques Chapter One 15 depend almost exclusively upon the context in which they are written. Olson introduces this point with the following pronouncement: "FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT" (SW 16). This declaration, emblazoned in caps within the first paragraphs of his essay quickly emerges as one of the most succinct, yet provocative summaries of Olson's poetics. Olson actually attributes the statement to his friend and fellow poet, Robert Greeley, with whom he was in constant correspondence in the early 1950s. At the time, Greeley was living and working in the Ganary Islands, attempting to formulate, like Olson, a new, revised writing practice in response to the earlier modernisms of Pound, Williams and, due to his influence in the academy, Eliot. By the mid-1950s, Greeley would be back in the US, working even more closely with Olson at Black Mountain Gollege. Even at this early date, however, Olson recognised in Greeley's work a similarly equivocal regard for traditional forms in poetics. Both poets were highly suspicious of the authority of history as a dominant influence on contemporary writing practices. Yet much high modernist work, especially the long, epic visions contained in Eliot's and Pound's respective oeuvres, continuously alluded to an ideal cultural order able to guide all western art. In "Projective Verse," Olson clearly seeks an alternate concept of aesthetic form. Greeley's aphoristic statement on the Chapter One 16 interrelationship between form and content seems a step in the right direction. By tying form directly to the "process" of writing, Olson hopes to free contemporary writing from all configurations of historical confinement. History here, as understood by Olson, implied the hierarchical subordination of active thinking to social and cultural precepts. "Now...the process of the thing," he writes, "...how the principle can be made so to shape the energies that the form is accomplished...can be boiled down to one statement (first pounded into my head by Edward Dahlberg): ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION" (SW 16-7). Again Olson capitalises his most significant conclusions. The act of perception as a physical, substantial process plays an important role in his poetics. Exactly what he means by perceiving, as such, is never actually defined (he alludes briefly to "our management of daily reality"), yet almost every point in his essay seems consistent in its criticism of permanent, immovable poetic principles. The emphasis in "Projective Verse" is primarily upon movement: "Get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, the perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can citizen" (SW 17). No specific line in any one poem can be said to capture or somehow image enduring, larger truths. If there is a particular message being conveyed throughout his early poetry. Chapter One 17 it is the assertion, after Heraclitus, that only the essential impermanence of reality is permanent — or, as he opens "The Kingfishers," "Nothing changes / but the will to change." Some equivalent terms to "Projective Verse" include "composition by field," "open verse," "the kinetics of the thing," and "objectism." As distinct as these notions may first appear, what they do have in common is a specific criticism of the more fixed cultural positions Olson sees in "closed verse...the inherited line, stanza, over-all form" (SW 16) . Wary of all abstract truths, Olson neither possesses nor can even claim access to a hypothetical stance of evaluation. There is nothing "inherited," he claims, in the structure of his writing. This may seem paradoxical since "Projective Verse" does, on one level, attempt to outline a new "form" of poetry, complete with an alternate set of poetic "values." What the essay does not provide is any concept of an autonomous cultural tradition. Instead, Olson attempts to shift the ground of cultural "value" from a transcendental realm to a local, in some cases, physiological one. Personally inspired by what might be called the "informing spirit" behind these earlier "modernisms," yet consistent with his scepticism of absolute truths, Olson promises no revised cultural order in his poetics. His criticism and theory does not derive from any alternate canon or concept of fixed formal principles. When he marks "the process of the • Chapter One 18 thing" as a new "stance to reality," he is not abandoning all pretence to structure. Rather the immanent aspects of this methodology imply more a reconsideration of actual origins of structure. Here, too. Corn's reading of Olson emphasising, as it does, a strongly active sense of form, far removed "from the effete and at the same time the aesthetic...the zeal for material effect," seems highly relevant (297). "Images suffer," Corn continues, when "[t]echne is brought in" as a cardinal virtue in itself. The notion of immanence implies a much less abstract conception of language, one that uniquely associates the structure of any poem with the very context of its construction. There is a logic to Olson's poems, as various contemporaries like Corn and Greeley point out, yet it is a logic that is in constant motion. "I believe in Truth! (Wahrheit)," declares Olson in a separate letter written to Elaine. Feinstein almost a decade after "Projective Verse," "[m]y sense is that beauty (Schdnheit) better stay in the thing itself..." (SW 27) . The stance to reality to which Olson refers in the opening paragraphs of "Projective Verse," might be further described as an entirely new objectivity, one strongly rooted in the poet's individual sense of perception. Again, Olson is not implying here a revised subjectivism where writers and readers alike are encouraged to express their own interpretation of things. Personal vision is vital in his poetics, yet his subsequent Chapter One 19 emphasis upon movement and flux prevents the abstraction of any individual perception into an "over-all form." This is, perhaps, why Olson continues to stress the object in both his poetry and criticism. A writing conceived in itself as a "stance to reality" cannot be confused with personal expression.. He writes: It is a matter, finally of OBJECTS, what they are inside a poem, how they got there, and once there, how they are to be used. .This is something I want to get to in another way in Part II, but, for the moment, let me indicate this, that every element in an open poem (the syllable, the line, as well as the image, the sound, the sense) must be taken up as participants in the kinetic of the poem just as solidly as we are accustomed to take what we call the objects of reality; and that these elements are to be seen as creating the tensions of a poem just as totally as do those other objects create what we know as the world. (SW 20) "Part II," as Olson promises, elaborates further on the formulation of his poetics as a bona fide objectivity. Here additional characteristics of his poetics emerge under the rubric, "objectism" (SW 24). The term, itself, derives from the earlier poetic movement "objectivism" associated with the writings of Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff and Carl Rakosi.4 Louis Zukofsky, "An Objective," Poetry Magazine (1931): 13. Chapter One 20 Before exploring in detail this allusion, it is perhaps necessary to establish what exactly constituted the later poet's reading of it. It is generally accepted^ that Olson had studied, at the time of his brief dismissal of the movement, very little of its actual poetry. Likely his knowledge of objectivist writing depended almost exclusively upon Zukofsky's short summary of his aesthetics for Poetry magazine in 1931. In February of that year, at the instigation of Pound, Harriet Monroe formally contracted Zukofsky to edit a special issue devoted to the work of such new writers as Oppen, Reznikoff, Rakosi, and Zukofsky himself. The resulting text, as Rakosi recently complained, greatly simplified and abbreviated what was in practice a widely variable and individualistic poetics. Rakosi contends. No, Zukofsky was not speaking for the rest of us. The introductions were strictly his show. He did not ask us what we thought a definition should be. For one thing, hê didn't think it important enough to go to all that work of arriving at a consensus...All he was doing was cooking up a concoction for Harriet Monroe, which he hated doing because he hated categorizing. He was too intelligent for that.^ Given this wariness of categories, epistemological or otherwise, much of the theoretical basis behind Olson's specific ^ Ralph Maud's exhaustive bibliography of Olson's library, Charles Olson's Reading: A Biography (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1996) lists several of Zukofsky's books, though none published in the 1950s. ^ Carl Rakosi, "A Word about the Objectivists," TO 2.3-4 (Spring 1994): 63. Chapter One . 21 critique of objectivism seems contestable. Rakosi's later discussion of the movement suggests that Olson's limited view of objectivism derives more from Zukofsky's quick summary of it in 1931 than any actual knowledge of the poetry. In fact, Rakosi advises all new readers of objectivism to ignore most of Zukofsky's preliminary "introductions." Rakosi, of course, is hardly an "objective" witness of the movement, being so closely involved its development; yet he is right to discriminate between objectivist poetry and the criticism surrounding it. "If you want to know what Zukofsky's ideas were about poetry when he was still an Objectivist," Rakosi contends, "you have to go to A Test of Poetry. There he showed his extraordinary talent for making fine distinctions in critical judgement and met the most difficult challenges head-on with flying colors."'^ The Objectivist Press published A Test of Poetry in 1948, only a year before Olson first outlined his projectivist method. Consistent with Rakosi's own repudiation of objectivist categories, Zukofsky's anthology offers very little theoretical commentary on the work being featured. If there is a specific rationale or cultural vision informing the poet's choice of verse, it inspires no grand manifesto. Instead, Zukofsky summarises his efforts at this point in his career as merely an attempt "to suggest standards" (A Test of Poetry 12). The formal '̂  Rakosi, "A Word about the Objectivists" 64. Chapter One 22 evaluations he makes in this collection consequently depend less upon some fixed aesthetic schema than on various subtle, structural distinctions between the various works. A comparison of Thomas Hobbes's translation of The Odyssey to a later attempt by William-Morris, for example, is outlined with a single "note" on musicality: "the music of verse carries an emotional quality; when the music slackens, emotion dissipates, and the poetry is poor" (A Test of Poetry 67). In Zukofsky's view, objectivism could never properly be called an "ism." Even a brief glimpse at Zukofsky's own criticism at this time presents a much more complex notion of objectivism than what Olson understood as the abstract binary counterpart to an even more obsolete subjectivism. However limited Olson's exposure to the full development of these writers' ideas may have been, this lack of certainty does not change the fact that in 1949 he felt it necessary to respond to a very particular set of aesthetic issues — themes and ideas generalised here under the heading of "objectivism"; and this response, in itself, still establishes a useful dialogue between his methodological interests and certain earlier revisionary movements. Olson does not specifically mention Zukofsky in his essay, yet he does associate the movement with a distinct mandate that can be discerned in the writings of Pound and Williams. Olson's Chapter One 23 references to objectivism appear as part of a general effort to distance his poetics from the work of Pound and Williams. That said, if there were any poets to whom Olson appears indebted for his own poetics, they are Pound, Williams and D.H. Lawrence. His relationship to Pound may have been fraught with much political tension. But both Pound's and Williams's respective interests in the "real," their privileging, in other words, of a distinct material world of objects, critically inspired Olson's own methodology. As Olson notes, "the projective involves a stance toward reality outside a poem as well as a new stance towards the reality of a poem itself" ("Projective Verse," SW 24). This mandate strongly corresponds to what Olson sees as a similar reference to the real in the "objectivism" of Pound and Williams. Such "renderings" were important to Olson in that they constituted an essential aim of poetry in general. Inspired by Williams's use of form to summon an instantaneous relationship between the writer and his/her context, Olson affirms his own interest as a poet in the "thing itself." In his words: ...the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his -relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence. If he sprawl, he shall find little to sing but himself, and shall sing, nature has such paradoxical ways, by way of artificial forms outside himself. But if he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his Chapter One 24 nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets objects share. ("Projective Verse," SW 25) Seeking to extend poetic inspiration beyond the confines of the personal, Olson emphasises the importance of nature as a larger, more meaningful context in which the process of writing may develop. The fact that the poet conceives this context as the ultimate source of all "existence" endows it with an especial authority over every creative act, including poetry. Without some reference to nature, that is, to the object itself, no art can be considered "full" or "serious." The previous objectivism of Pound and Williams was, therefore, valuable in that it recognised the limits of personal expression. Again, their primary deficiency lay in their inability to move beyond this critique of what he calls "subjectivism" towards a fuller apprehension of the actual world. Subsequently, the logic behind objectivism remained too dependent upon an abstract notion of structure. Zukofsky, himself, in his 1931 essay, substantiates this quality when he describes his methodology as a new formal system of organising human knowledge. The capabilities of the Objectivist poem were such that they could provide what he called a "rested totality" within one's interpretative framework. Zukofsky writes in his essay "Poetry" (1946), Chapter One 25 The need for standards in poetry is no less than in science... Good verse is determined by the poet's susceptibilities involving a precise awareness of differences, forms and possibilities if existence - words with their own attractions included. The poet, no less than the scientist, works on the assumption that inert and live things and relations hold enough interest to keep him alive as part of nature. {Prepositions 6) While Olson would have endorsed Zukofsky's emphasis of different forms and structures in his work, few of objectivism's premises seemed to him to be particularly "natural." Particularly disturbing to Olson, in fact, would have been the debt that Zukofsky's aesthetics claimed to owe to the empiricism of conventional science. By Zukofsky's own admission within the 1931 text, little difference existed between Objectivism's fidelity to poetic "objectivity" and the technical notion of "objective" as defined by the science of optics: "A lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus" {Prepositions 12). For Zukofsky, the structures of verse operated in an analogous manner. Thus, one year earlier in "A"-6: My one voice. My other: is An objective - rays of the object brought to a focus. An objective - nature as creator - desire for what is objectively perfect... (24) Zukofsky's language tended to emphasise quite explicitly the importance of technical form above all other components in the Chapter One 26 generation of knowledge. In his work, the visible is directly reduced to the' very conditions of visibility. More than just metaphors, Zukofsky's linguistic devices collectively constituted an important set of instruments through which writing, itself, was demythologised, i.e., purified as a medium of the "Real." As Peter Cole writes, "the language of the objectivist poem aims to recreate in us the sensation of the poet's eye, ear, and mind moving along the contours of what is being sensed or thought. Literally the kinesthesia of this brought into the language."^ Cole correctly emphasises the sensuality inherent in objectivism as both a theory of poetry and a "way" of seeing. This - sensuality corresponds to Olson's own interpretation of language as a potential medium of disenchantment, a new eye as lens, so to speak. As an inspiration behind projective verse, objectivism was clearly useful. That these "objectivisms" continued to critique representational forms of writing as overly anthropomorphic further testified, for Olson, to the earlier movement's past cultural validity. Although inherently too formal in its basic approaches. Objectivism, nevertheless, continued to draw the reader's attention to many more serious misappropriations of the Real in a wide variety of other cultural discourses. For both Olson and Zukofsky, the "realness" of a poem's object or focus Chapter One 27 remained a function of disenchantment, not the work's ability to reference some form of universal. The aesthetic principle operating here, in other words, is not a type of mimesis; rather, Objectivist writing attempts to convey a more immanent notion of the Real. Poetry thus conceived does not record reality so much as it attempts to re-enact it as an integral, innately "present" process. The distinction between these two aesthetic procedures derives once again from divergent notions of abstract form and its relation to the material real. Consistent with the general philosophical objectives of immanent idealism, cultural modernism continues to refute all conceptions of a "final cause." What principles of function may be in operation here remain strongly dependent upon ideas of motion and variation; In the modernisms of Pound, Zukofsky, and especially Olson, the primary purpose of formal theorems is to express the diversity of the content to which they refer. The relationship, in other words, between abstract forms and various concrete elements of the particular real in modernist thought remains at times hard to distinguish. This is abundantly clear in the aesthetics of Objectivism, where such principles continue to be explicitly outlined in the poems themselves. The formal structure of Zukofsky's early contributions to "A," for example, derives simultaneously from the specific words and typographic ^ Peter Cole, "The Object and Its Edge: Rothko, Oppen, Zukofsky, and Newman," Chapter One 28 symbols used in the poem and a more abstract sense of how these symbols might eventually be ordered. "To find a thing," Zukofsky states in "A"-6, with respect to his poetic aim, "all things" (27). Language, if it is to be meaningful, must offer the concrete essence of objects; it must translate both sum and substance of the particular, while ordering it in a way that is interpretable to all minds. On that morning when everything will be clear. Greeting myself, despite glasses. The world's earth a rose, rose every particle The palm open, earth's lily. One will see gravel in gravel (27) As Michael Heller explains, "Words are real, in the Objectivist formulation, because they instate an existence beyond the words" (4) . Consistent with this logic, Zukofsky considered his poems to be nothing less than natural structures, "keeping time with existence" — a perspective that evokes as distinctive a paradigm of nature as it does a theory of writing. Zukofsky's sense of the Real stressed its precise organisation as a coherent framework or pattern. Reality, itself, in other words, remained commensurate with a discourse of value. Hence, the structural Sagetriebe 5 (Winter 1982): 133-4. Chapter One 29 aspects of an Objectivist poem actually helped constitute the work's identity as a natural construction. As a poetics of disenchantment, Zukofsky's writing literally encouraged objects to become objects; reality defined itself as reality. It is this characteristic "coherence" or structural integrity of Objectivism that Peter Quartermain further qualifies as a unique resolution of aesthetics with social activism where "the demand for the poem to be political is a formal demand" (11). To separate the two propositions, as Quartermain suggests, is to ignore one of Objectivism's most salient features. Once again, Blaser's "fundamental struggle for the nature of the real" appears to have inspired, first and foremost, a radically new theory of language composition, a revision of the symbolic. Properly read, each line, perhaps even each individual word in a Zukofsky poem inherently evokes wider moral themes. Hence, when Zukofsky himself describes aesthetic methods, it is usually with reference to notions of "sincerity" and linguistic "integrity." As Heller notes, Zukofsky's structural vision "has about it a moral burden: the Objectivist poet, meaning to inform, to convey or translate to the reader the existence which he knows through the media of objectification and sincerity, must resist not only the aleatory, freewheeling associativeness of words but also the usual decorative conceit of the symbol or image" (28). It was to Chapter One 30 this need for a-more specific formulation of a truly object- oriented poetics to which "objectism" now turned its attention. As with Olson's refusal to reference an ideal cultural order, Williams also repudiated any type of symbolism in which images and poetic techniques would properly evoke some authoritative tradition of western art and philosophy. "Doctrinaire formula-worship — that is our real enemy," he writes, in "A Novelette," attacking what he calls the "idea- vendors" for their tendency "to transmit abstract ideas" {Imaginations 279). By contrast, Williams's poetry would simply contain "no symbolism, no evocation of an image" {Imaginations 299) . The "symbol," then, and what it signifies in Olson's thought, clearly owes much to Williams's earlier criticism, a connection indirectly affirmed in much of his prose — for example, his 1954 defence of Williams's poetics written to the editor of New Mexico Quarterly. In this.letter, Olson discounts critics like Grover Smith for their unquestioned adherence to general aesthetic formulae, noting that the value in Williams's work derives precisely from its.lack of preconceived patterns. "It doesn't take much thought over Bill's proposition — 'not in ideas but in things'," Olson writes, conveniently misquoting Williams, "to be sure that any of us intend an image as a Chapter One 31 'thing,' never, so far as we know, such a non-animal as symbol."^ In Olson's view, Williams evoked through his images an entirely new sense of beauty, one distinct in its independence of all previous platitudes or accepted ideas of the subject. Further, Olson continuously applauded Williams for his vigilance against the "symbolic" abstraction of such images into new platitudes. Against the symbol, Olson also urged a more detailed focus on the moment itself. Williams exemplified this type of focus in his capacity to evoke the experience of beauty rather than some fixed definition of it. Again, the chief merit of Williams's work, for Olson, derived from its unique sense of movement, a dynamism conveyed through its attention to performance and human action; Williams, he noted in a book review contemporary with "Projective Verse," remained distinguishable as "a man who registers the going-ons (sic) of all the human beings he lives among" ("The Materials and Weights of Herman Melville," CP 115) .10 In his own thinking, therefore, Olson relied strongly upon the poetics and criticism of Williams and, as we'll see. Pound. Other writers he sometimes included in addition to this pairing were Hart Crane, e.e. cummings and D.H. Lawrence (A Bibliography ^ Charles Olson, letter to the editor, New Mexico Quarterly 24.1, {Spring 1954); reprinted in Human Universe and Other Essays, 1965. 10 Olson reviewed the 1952 edition of Moby Dick, edited by Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent (New York: Hendricks House) for the magazine New Republic. Chapter One 32 on America for Ed Dorn 8). Each of these writers, he felt, had contributed perceptive insights about the very nature of human thought. What intrigued Olson most about them, however, was how each poet successfully avoided the influence of previous cultural discourses and traditions on their own respective work and thought — an odd view of Crane, perhaps, given his immersion in Elizabethan rhetoric. In Olson's view. Change was not only embraced by these poets, it constituted the core rationale of their entire vision. Such an attitude of anti-absolutism translated for many of Olson's contemporaries, including Duncan, Creeley, Dorn, and Oppenheimer, into an especial agenda of political and/or cultural progressiveness. In fact, given its value of natural objects and authentic contexts, projective verse well parallels several concurrent developments within American postwar culture, notably the emergence of a new left intelligentsia and a revised liberal arts discourse within the academy. After World War II, a less doctrinal leftism, compared to the Marxisms of thel920s and 1930s, permeated most intellectual scenes across the US. One clear correspondence between the open, performance-oriented character of projective verse and these newer intellectual movements appears in the various ecological paradigms of social development on the rise during this period. In the ecological vision, important homologies quickly emerge between the Chapter One 33 particularity of Olson's "composition by field" and America's postwar management of both its natural and intellectual resources. As we've seen, a projective stance towards phenomena extols not only a more relevant social agency, but also a naturally authentic human voice. Here, in Olson's view, the objectivity at which Williams aimed in his poetry is effectively realised in-a manner that he, himself, could only imagine. Hence, what he saw in Williams as a highly conceptual struggle for the object itself becomes in his own hands an open engagement where concept is replaced by action, aesthetics with reality. In Olson's vision there is, above all, not one death but many, not accumulation but change, the feed-back proves, the feed-back is the law ("The Kingfishers," SP 8) Once again, repudiating any notion of fixed cultural vision, the complex terminology of projective verse emphasises an aesthetics of constant movement — a logic of flux in which perception after perception is successfully gathered together to form a new, unique poetic structure. In this way, the structure of Olson's narrative fragments continues to emphasise a series of voices rather than a single, dominant vision. Once drawn into these narratives, the reader's focus remains centred upon the quick, near-meteoric movement of individual phrases and sentence Chapter One 34 fragments. If there is any particular meaning to be accessed in this work, it continues to depend upon the ability of the reader to navigate a wider. variety of different issues and themes, not ', the author's ability to reproduce a specific reading or summary of different events. Such a method, for Olson, addressed, even if it did not fully.prevent, the controlling influence a particular narrative form might conventionally hold over its content. Throughout "The Kingfishers," Olson continually changes his technique and style. "Each of these lines," Olson writes, "is a progressing of both the meaning, and the breathing • forward, and then a backing up, without a progress or any kind of movement outside the unit of time local to the idea" ("Projective Verse," SW 23).. The actual form of "The Kingfishers," in other words, ceases to function here as a permanent category of knowledge able to regulate, as formal principles purport to do, the actual process of reading. Instead the poet envisioned a much more amorphous type of framework for his verse. As one critic notes, such a stylistics conforms well to Olson's critique of "closed" writing as a function of institutional structures of literacy such as the academy and the media. 11 The resulting phenomenology is Hegelian in the sense that it does envision an ideal condition or state of possibility 11 Burton Hatlen, "In That Sea We Breathe the Open Miracle," Sagetrleb 3.1, Chapter One 35 dialectically ordering individual perspectives>and events as particular moments of a larger historical idea. Consistent with his .interest in John Wiener's cybernetics, the dialectic, for Olson, was achieved through the notion of feedback. The prominence of feedback mechanisms in his poetry helped'ensure a constant dialogue between disparate discourses. As a result, no perspective ever holds in a static, hence, unnecessarily' didactic^manner. Fixed positions or statements such as those' represented by Eliot's work would only collapse of themselves, argued Olson, given their lack of dramatic engagement. Within a truly advanced "system" of writing, there simply would be no general conclusions, no symbolic references. Instead, writers would engage in a dialectical struggle of constant translation, an ongoing process of encoding and re-encoding. What specific objects might appear in such works fade in and out, change their shape from line to line, secure in the knowledge that, since they cannot be permanently located, their integrity can never be challenged. As I've suggested, the philosophical sources of Olson's poetics derive partially from Hegelian phenomenology, with its notions of the dialectic and feedback mechanisms. Hegel's thought on history and historical process compares with Olson's in its critique of all transcendental logic or teleology. (Spring 1984): 119-21. C h a p t e r One 36 H i s t o r y , a c c o r d i n g t o H e g e l , d i d e v o k e a p a r t i c u l a r w i l l o r l o g i c known a s " R e a s o n . " R e a s o n m a n i f e s t e d i t s e l f i n h i s t o r y , h o w e v e r , n o t a s a p r e - e s t a b l i s h e d i d e a l o r a b s o l u t e a i m , b u t r a t h e r t h r o u g h i n d i v i d u a l , l o c a l e n g a g e m e n t s , t h e s o - c a l l e d " b y - p r o d u c t s " of a l a r g e r , i n v i s i b l e s t r u c t u r e . One m i g h t e v e n a r g u e t h a t a b a s i c s t r a t e g y i n H e g e l ' s Phenomenology of Spirit i s t o u n d e r m i n e p a s t a b s o l u t e i d e a l i s m s by r e v e a l i n g t h e i r h i d d e n i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s - — u s u a l l y by r e f e r e n c i n g t h e s u b j e c t i v e c o m p o n e n t s e v i d e n t i n e a c h o n e . O l s o n d i d r e a d H e g e l , ^ ^ y e t t h e s p e c i f i c p h i l o s o p h e r h e f o l l o w e d m o s t c l o s e l y was A l f r e d N o r t h W h i t e h e a d . 1 3 I n W h i t e h e a d , a s I w i l l show, O l s o n d i s c o v e r e d an i m p o r t a n t p r e c u r s o r t o t h e t y p e of c u l t u r a l v i s i o n a n d e p i s t e m o l o g y he s o u g h t i n h i s own w o r k . The s p e c i f i c t e x t h e f o c u s e d on m o s t was Process and Reality ( 1 9 2 9 ) , a work t h a t Duncan a l s o c r e d i t e d w i t h c o n t a i n i n g many c o r e i d e a s b e h i n d p r o j e c t i v e v e r s e . I n f a c t . Process and Reality, a c c o r d i n g t o Duncan , " p e r m e a t e s - p r o j e c t i v e v e r s e , i t e n l a r g e s t h e i d e a of f i e l d . . . . When C h a r l e s t a l k e d i n SF , i t was t h e W h i t e h e a d v i e w o f h i s t o r y a s p a s t a n d f u t u r e , a n d t h e f a c t t h a t w e ' r e a t t h e p o i n t o f g e n e s i s a n d t h a t t h e e n d of t h i s i s b a c k o f u s " ("As an 12 In The Special View of History (1970) Olson s p e c i f i c a l l y appl ied Hegel ' s philosophy of the d i a l e c t i c . The t e x t he used was .The Logic of Hegel, t r a n s . William Wallace (Oxford: Oxford Univers i ty Press , 1892; 1950). See a l so Ralph Maud, Charles Olson's Reading: A Biography (Carbondale: Southern I l l i n o i s Press , 1996) 105. l-̂  Olson used Whitehead's metaphysics ex t ens ive ly in h i s l e c t u r e s a t Black Mountain, culminat ing in 1956 in the s e r i e s e n t i t l e d The Special View of Chapter One 37 Introduction: Charles Olson's Additional Prose," SP 150). Such a comment highlights the homologous attitude towards history informing both Olson's thought and Whitehead's philosophy. In particular, his summary of Whitehead's view of history "as past and future" describes well several of Olson's own critical preoccupations with time and non-linear modes of thought. Clearly, the intellectual "tone" of Olson's aesthetics shares with Whitehead (and with phenomenology in general) a similar philosophical aim in its effort to overcome its own formalism through an emphasis on movement. Olson's poetics derives strongly from his critical interest in,defining a wider rationalism out of. different dialectical responses. Such logic, however, was hardly limited to Black Mountain pedagogy. Ecological theory also makes use of synthesis. In fact, Hegel's definition of the subject in Phenomenology of the Spirit as "nature sick unto death" acquires new relevance in ecological thought, given the discipline's emphasis throughout the postwar era on environmental crisis. Comparable to Hegelian phenomenology, the concept of ecology demonstrates an overarching interest in combining different pieces of information into a larger, natural — yet, most importantly, unseen — totality. Its vision emphasises a fluid and perennially shifting set of ideas and practices that, as with Olson's History and, in the following year, a series of talks for the Poetry Centre Chapter One . 3 8 poetics, displays specific postmodern propensities. Rejecting traditional Enlightenment belief in universal social progress., ecological theory categorically opposes all notions of hierarchy and fixed systems in thought. Its focus remains on the particular components being organised within these systems and the complex manner in which they interact. The discourse's consistently arbitrary sense of traditional Enlightenment disciplines, whether they be national, historical or even cultural, furthermore, allows it to adapt to a diverse set of activities ranging from agricultural production to.political theory. As we will see, much leftist politics adopted the postwar mandate of the "ecosystem" in order to transgress traditional Marxist doctrines based on class and ideological hegemony. These more schematic Utopian movements, ecological theorists argued, placed too much emphasis on economic modes of conduct in .their social theory. The resulting vision was deterministic at best with a dangerous political pre-disposition towards tyranny in the case of Stalinist Russia. The conventional Marxist response to ecological .critique in turn pointed out the later movement's deficient analysis of ideology.and itS' subsequent failure to mobilise the working classes. The ecological vision, with its preference for integration over conflict, holism over partisanship, many in San Francisco. Chapter One 39 Marxists believed, risked suppressing even the most basic interests in social change. Ecological thinking remained, throughout the postwar period, highly mistrustful of any calls for open revolution, especially one originating in the industrialised labour classes. However, despite the traditional Marxist charge that ecological theorists had, in fact, betrayed labour movements by abandoning their critical interest in- class structure, an examination of American leftism in the first half of the 20^^ century reveals little impetus to form anything resembling a revolutionary labour political party. Conceptions of the political role of the proletariat certainly differed between America and Europe long before Russia's own labour revolutions: contrary to Europe's historically entrenched, rigid class structure, the ideology of American liberalism had always emphasised a more fluid vision of constant class mobility. The common New York image of labour, for example, was premised not on social revolution, but on a simpler narrative of individual achievement — one in which the poor, oppressed dishwasher worked towards the position of waiter followed by "maitre de," before eventually gaining ownership of his own restaurant. Ecological theory proposed a co-dependent model of interaction between organisms, rather than a theory of constant individual gain. Yet its emphasis upon movement often suggests Chapter One 40 strong roots in some of the more fundamental premises of American liberal thinking. Disenchanted with the promises of conventional Marxist and socialist politics, ecological thinkers responded with a series of new precepts and theoretical emphases, one of which had long been a component of American culture': the possibility of movement and the will to change. As the ecologist Karl Kroeber writes, "an ecosystem is a constantly self-transforming continuity. No ecosystem exists outside of time or is•adequately representable as anything other than an encompassing ongoing process made up of diversely intersecting subordinate temporal processes."^^ Such an emphasis in criticism upon this new sense of immanent social holism was also prominent throughout the postwar era, with Olson representing one of its earliest impressions. The ecosystem by definition remains adaptable to most social contexts. Dismissing all diacritical narratives of political identity, such as the earlier leftist conception of the. working class as a source of social,agency, these discourses consider no single position or specific activity to represent universal logic. In fact, consistent with its phenomenological origins, the structure of the ecosystem functions primarily as a type of formal hybrid. Its systematic character allows for little permanent distinction to operate between individual cultural forms and their content. Chapter One 41 As will be shown, a wide array of positions in an even larger matrix of divergent social fields have at some point engaged with the concerns of this discourse. To associate the critical imperatives of ecological theory with a distinct epistemology — i.e., a theory of knowledge or how we think — is to recognise in them the imposition of a discursive form or cultural discourse of value. Providing a strong framework of conceptual unity for a variety .of different texts and investigations, the ecological discourse formatted, like no other previous cultural logic, a homologous set of attitudes and strategies for describing individual organisms and their interactions. More than a specific sociological discipline, in other words, ecology constituted for both intellectuals and consumers of popular culture an entire belief system. Olson's aesthetics, as we've seen, drew much of its inspiration from the poet's critical attitude towards all fixed- cultural beliefs, especially those exemplified by Eliot. Within ecological theory, too, a strong antipathy towards rigid, didactic categories of knowledge can be discerned. Although such antipathy can be considered characteristic of postmodernist thought in general (and, as suggested, the ideology of American liberalism), ecological theory reveals important conceptual ^̂  Karl Kroeber, Ecological Literary Criticism, Romantic Imagining and the Chapter One • • 42 groundwork in this position decades prior to the intellectual adoption of the term. Ideas and theories, considered ecologically, rarely produce permanent concepts or systems of thought. Rather the ecological viewpoint tends to look at how different ideas interact regardless of their origin or subject matter. In this manner, once again, ecological concepts seem to be in continuous flux, as no relationship between objects or pattern in ideas can be reduced to a fixed theoretical premise. If there is a larger^ natural order to processes and forms, it cannot be abstracted beyond the processes themselves. For Kroeber and other ecology-informed cultural theorists, this correlation between process and order precisely constitutes the literary or cultural discourse in which their criticism is based. As a framework, it may be difficult to define permanently, but it does outline distinct sets of relations within most any individual discipline or study. Politically, it has offered leftists and socialist-minded thinkers of the postwar period new perspectives on society and social change without resorting to universal theories or linear notions of progress. Where traditional leftist ideologies promoted the rational development of society through centralised government and the equal distribution of wealth, ecological-politics tends to favour a more relativistic, de-centralised approach to power Biology of the Mind (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) 55. Chapter One 43 and social change. No single group or class, it maintains, can function-as the sole agent of social change. In fact., the entire concept of universal transformation in politics is suspect. Shifting in focus from ideology to the "environment," much postwar social critique waived issues of class for crises of place, for example: street violence, air pollution and urban poverty. In short, ecological theory appears to have left its mark on almost every discipline within the fields, of sociology and the human sciences. Moreover, as we will see in the art associated with Black Mountain, especially when Olson worked there, aesthetic theory was far from immune from this influence. The ecological quality of Olson's work at Black Mountain is evident in both his poetics and many of the intellectual sources he drew upon while teaching there. While Whitehead's phenomenology constitutes an important philosophical foundation to Olson's work, perhaps the most explicitly ecological writer connected with Black Mountain was editor and poet, Richard Grossinger. Grossinger was too young to have ever visited the college (he was only 12 when it shut its doors), yet both Olson and Duncan became familiar with his work in the 1960s.^^ Likewise, Grossinger was heavily influenced by Olson's poetry, publishing what he called his own "proprioceptive study of the •"•̂  Both Olson and Duncan contributed articles for Grossinger's journal, lo, published in the 1960s. It should be noted, however, that, according to Ralph Maud, nothing of Richard Grossinger's, except for a few issues of this Chapter One 44 natural world" in 1970, Solar Journal: Oecological Sections. In Grossinger's ecological readings of the postwar landscape a very strong correlation between natural process and social structure stands revealed. This is especially clear in Grossinger's etymological presentation of the very word ecology. Recalling the word's common linguistic root in the Greek term oikumene meaning "law of the house," Grossinger spells ecology with a capital "0." For Grossinger, the more integrated and ordered a social system is, the more it reflects larger, natural coherences. The symbolic framework he believes best exemplifies such coherences is that of the household or home, universalised here as a sort of primal space of human dwelling. Within the house, all events, all processes are interpreted collectively to represent this larger totality. For Grossinger, the system as home displays a transcendental logic, displacing all previous discourses of value, including both ideology and economy. Grossinger comments, "the house has been built, and we've been living in it all these many years, and we're long past the time of deciding whether it's beautiful'or functional. We've got to begin living in it."^^ Similar to Olson, Grossinger offers his readers a new epistemology or paradigm of object relations. In his vision of journal, was ever found in Olson's library. •"•̂  Richard Grossinger, Solar Journal; Oecological Sections (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1970) 8. Chapter One 45 nature as home, a distinct sensibility or language of spirit appears, providing its subjects with both a way of seeing and the social, grounding to support it. Unlike Olson, Grossinger has little trouble qualifying this language as universal, a point frequently emphasised throughout his work Solar Journal (especially•in the Oecological Sections), in which Egyptian hieroglyphs are able to interact with both astrological zodiacs and urban traffic lights with very little loss in translation. "Every motion," writes Grossinger, "wind through , trees, blue warpaint on the forehead, taste of pig flesh is as real, is universal" (31). Such is the cosmology described by Grossinger, and implicit in some of the more extreme expressions of social ecology. Absorbing all conflict between universal and particular wills, Grossinger's poetics reflects, at a basic level, a very holistic cultural logic. He uses many of the same terms Altieri associates exclusively with postmodern aesthetics, including immanence and being, while, like Olson, placing enormous value on concepts of "place." Grossinger's flirtation with linguistic consciousness might be situated, thus, within the larger political and moral idealism evident in postwar American thought and writing. Yet, as with Olson's search for rea'l "Kingfishers, " it is useless to seek in Grossinger's oecological journal a single symbolic key or legend that might formally reveal the inherent Chapter One 46 connection between "the taste of pig flesh" and "wind through trees." To do so would only re-emphasise certain categorical differences between the two phenomena, while obscuring the deeper, more important coherences that bind the oecological community. A more relevant knowledge of the world compared to that offered within mainstream culture must emphasise the larger patterns connecting all phenomena. God is food, is pig, is thought of warfare, is toss of spear, blue separate from red, is red, is cold and moist, is petrol, is the storm petrel, is a great petroleum drill on the plains of Oz is cold and moist, is sulphuric acid, is the urine of the horse, is motion sizzling one step ahead of the cognitive ether, twined in every snap of the bow, is a face behind a dream, is generative grammar, the yeast rising in the ovens, is seen from a body of frayed whipped skin because that priest is at a slant to the earth and can feel its invisible rays. (16) For Grossinger, "God" or the universal will exists purely in process, regardless of the various forms this will may take. Individual identities and structures in Grossinger's thought become subordinate to a larger harmony or holism. Importantly, this sense of harmony cannot be categorised in itself. Yet it is more than the sum of its parts. Structures and various paradigms (for example, food, petroleum and urine) may exemplify the universal will for a particular moment in time and space, but they cannot permanently capture it. In contrast to traditional epistemologies of the West, Grossinger's discourse describes a Chapter One . 4 7 very different set of guidelines for determining cultural coherence between phenomena. Questions ,of fixed epistemological definition seem considerably difficult to pinpoint, for within the philosophy of social ecology, discursive boundaries and limits have become largely extraneous. Any debate over which areas of this particular cultural "house" are more relevant than others tends to overlook this feature of a wider, "informing spirit" supporting the various texts and identities. At best such critiques can only appear inauthentic and insincere. Gaps in knowledge are far less threatening to the overall order of the cultural continuum in which they appear, as what remains questionable or ambiguous in one narrative may appear more meaningful in relation to some other text. No paradigm is permanent. New rooms are continuously being added or moved within the house. "What does not change / is the will to change." Grossinger's particular ecological theory conforms well to the ideas and practises of "deep .ecology." The deep ecology movement began in the 1960s, distinguishing itself from other ecological theories through its high reverence for nature and natural laws. It is not enough 'to have environmental concerns, most deep ecologists argue; a truly effective ecological theory Chapter One 48 must acknowledge society's actual "one-ness" with nature. ̂'̂  Like Grossdnger, for deep ecologists, the search for cultural value begins with asserting the naturalness of humans living in harmony with the environment. The first step towards this harmony, according to Grossinger, is in admitting the power which natural laws have over all cultural and social affairs and to try to accommodate them rather than work against them. Nature is seen here as an overall benevolent force, a nurturing framework as opposed to the more traditional western view of it as.a type of chaotic space or unstructured environment needing control. Grossinger writes. Here is where the universe eluded Newton, where he cast out his more obsessive and discontinuous thoughts, which burned in a physical experiment, sparks crackling, the snake spitting light between the spheres, a faint glow filling gap. And the dance of the benzenes is also back and forth, switching between double and single bonds, the house • held up in the interim just as the body is during the oscillation of thought, for there is only an interim. In the gap we live. (16) Accepting our place within nature to be in the interim, that is, in the gap between shifting forces and events, is tantamount to discovering our true role as humans. Ironically, it is Newton and western science (despite its emphasis on linear thinking) that Grossinger characterises as discontinuous, not the •'•'' See for example, the work of Steven Vogel, William McKibben, in particular. The Death of Nature, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990) and John Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our Living Earth (Oxford: Oxford University Chapter One 49 discourse of "oecology." Though Grossinger may shift from topic to topic throughout his writing, his faith in natural principles informing his thought provides an overarching, conceptual coherence to his work. Fragmentation in process, he notes, signals larger unities. Epistemologies that attempt to control nature through fixed definitions and identities encourage little more than the human subject's alienation from actual truths or meanings within the universe. Knowledge of nature and society, according to Grossinger, can still be recorded and communicated even if it doesn't- provide fixed definitions. In other words, it is still possible to write about the world while taking into consideration its tendency towards change and discontinuity. One example of a type of writing or aesthetics capable of capturing natural truths or meanings, he notes, is Michel Foucault's concept of "signatures, ...diagnostic occurrences in the Fabric of the World."^^ The signature, he notes, expertly locates any object within a wider tableau.of variable meanings and identities. The mere act of an insect landing on a sick man, for example, becomes suddenly "readable" when situated as a.signature within the context of an ecosystem. Comparable to Olson's compositional field or projective poetics, Foucault's ecological signatures provide a- particularly inclusive paradigm of meaning able to subordinate Press, 1989). Chapter One • 50 even the most radical shifts in identity to a larger "field" of interrelated ideas and concepts. As we've seen in "The Kingfishers," the short fragment detailing the actions of "He" — an unnamed protagonist — appears at first meaningless as an isolated narrative: He had left the party without a word. How he got up, /got into his coat, I do not know. When I saw him, he.was at the door, but /it did not matter, He was already sliding along the wall of the night, /losing himself in some crack of the ruins. (SP 5) Like this figure, the reader, too, seems perpetually on the verge of becoming lost between the ruins or fragmented remnants of some previously complete narrative. Each subsequent discursive interruption further disorients the reader's perspective. At one point, searching diligently for some small coherence, the reader might be inspired to consider the possible "symbolism" of his leaving the party with respect to the "kingfishers'" own mysterious absence throughout the rest of the poem. No explicit clue emerges, however, to verify this association. Projective verse refuses to make symbolic references. Past details of other characters and narratives disappear as quickly as they first surfaced. A perpetual amnesia "or lack of fixed context continues to plague the reader through the entire piece as positions and perspectives constantly shift ^̂  Grossinger, "Signatures in the World," lo (1966): 35. Chapter One • 51 and evolve from section to section. Yet while few distinct identities within this structure remain constant or stable, when considered as signatures within an ecosystem, such references nevertheless form specific patterns and congruencies. Comparable to an ecological sensitivity, the reader's ongoing awareness of some possible larger meaning prevents the poem from sinking completely into an ambiguous mess of contradictions. After Fernand's lisping narrative of "Albers and Angkor Vat," an even more obscure reference is made to the attrition of kingfishers as a source of exchange value. The unnamed protagonist exclaims in the monologue: ...That it should have been he who said, "The Kingfishers! Who cares for their feathers now?" ..."the kingfishers' feathers were wealth why did the export stop?" (SP 5) As a "signature" of obsolete exchange value, i.e., some long .lost political economy, "The Kingfishers" continue to indicate primarily discursive interruption and discontinuity. Once a stable medium of exchange, perhaps the economic foundation of an entire ruling stratum, kingfisher feathers appear more significant now in their virtual absence from all cultural narratives. In "Section 2," their lack of "symbolic" grandeur is emphasised .further. What mythological import these birds may have once possessed seems to have vanished long ago. The Chapter One 52 kingfisher, Olson notes, will no longer "indicate / a favouring wind, / or aver the thunderbolt. Nor, by its resting, / still the waters, with the new year, for seven days" (SP 6). If the birds invoke any significance at present it is that of refuse or discarded debris, in short, a type of "waste land." The lives of young kingfishers, he informs us (quoting from the Encyclopaedia Britannica), are associated exclusively with "rejectamenta" — the stuff of death and transience. Olson is liberal with his details. _. . . And, as they are fed and grow, this nest of excrement /and decayed fish becomes a dripping, foetid mass. (SP 6) Such imagery, however, does not invite a nostalgic mourning for their lost associations with economic value and political power. Far from constituting a sense of loss and failure, these more recent allusions together evoke a new source of development and regeneration. Within the natural or ecological environment of these birds, excrement signifies not waste but nourishment. Subsequently, in the life cycle of a kingfisher, Olson locates one of his most important concepts of knowledge in general. Due to its instinctive tendency to re-use or recycle objects of decay in its everyday activity, the kingfisher's very existence automatically aligns itself with the natural process of the feedback mechanism. The cyclic nature of this process Chapter One , 53 subsequently imputes an especial holism to the kingfishers' life and, by extension, the poem itself. Interpreted in this manner, the strange proclivity of the kingfisher for nesting on decayed fish parts becomes nothing less than a new model of objectivity, effectively replacing what Zukofsky laboriously sought to attribute to the more formal "optical objective," and Pound to the ideogram. In Olson's ecological reading of the Real, no such pretence to formal structure is needed. The various elements of "rejectamenta," the fishf> bones, the bare clay, the excrement, constitute in 'themselves fundamental stages of a potentially greater, more complete knowledge of what these kingfishers' actually are. It is this principle of continuous construction and evolution that further informs the poem's entire architecture, generating its aesthetic form. The text may be fragmented with many leaps of thought, but whenever it turns to new materials, it does so with an intensity of vision and specificity that only adds to the• poem's overall structural harmony. There are no actual waste products in Olson's landscape, for no object or image is without value when considered within the larger cycle of natural change, of growth and decline. In fact, each image appears to fulfil itself by not fulfilling itself, thereby constituting the grounds for future regeneration. In "The Kingfishers," the very process of construction remains inextricably linked to that of Chapter One • ' • 54 destruction or decay. Every loss is recompensed, in advance, by its dialectical relationship to birth or renewal. Paradoxically, then, it is precisely those images most evocative of notions of waste and excrement that tend to provide the poem with its primary sources of conceptual vitality and value. Only where objects are in the process of natural decomposition can a more dynamic process of rejuvenation apparently be outlined. In order to uncover • "honey," Olson concludes the work, one must be prepared to encounter "maggots" (SP 12). Read in tandem with Grossinger's concept of the Oecological signature, each disjunctive turning in the poem references a larger', often hidden, fabric of identities. Just as Grossinger in his "Oecological Journals" is able to configure a possible hybrid meaning out of "shaman ritual" and "rock and roll," a new alphabet out of an "atmospheric frontal system" and "the paying of electric bills," Olson, too, finds much that is "readable" in what, in his own terms, appears as a new sense of perpetual transition, ...a state between the origin and the end, between birth and the beginning of another foetid nest (SP 9) These are the particulars of Olson's revisionary poetics. So inclusive is his sensibility, so extensive, that nothing, no identity, is able to escape or even function outside its logic. Chapter One 55 , Olson's poetics of process, as we've seen, contrasts sharply with both Pound's and Eliot's earlier emphases on form and technique. With respect to the ecological"concerns that emerge from this contrast, it seems further possible to situate • Olson's work within a distinct homology of postwar texts and narratives. The defining characteristics of this homology recall Altieri's description of postmodern poetry, namely: epistemological relativism, immanence, authenticity, place and, of course, the ever-present emphasis on process. Other postwar art works and practices besides poetry exhibited similar qualities such as the American painting movements of automatism and abstract expression, eurythmic dance, gestalt therapy and bebop jazz styles in music. Much of the•art at Black Mountain was engaged with one or more of these movements, as might be noted in the choreography of Merce Cunningham and the visual art of Franz Kline and Robert Rauschenberg, to name a few. In a lecture given shortly after Olson's death in 1970, Robert Duncan specifically links Proprioception to gestalt theory and action painting. He had the term "field composition" which I'd seen before and thought about' in relation to painting. The gestalt had advanced the "field composition" of painting . [so] that intention does not move pointedly around a painting; the eye actually rediscovers the painting with different paths. You look at painting somehow in its entirety. Then the great question came up Chapter One 56 with the gestalt: don't we read the same way? Scan the entire area we're reading and then read into it so that we're already in an advanced state of recognition without much time passing at all. ("Projective Project: Charles Olson," SP 29-30) Focusing on Olson's anti-formalism, Duncan uses gestalt theory to address the epistemological claims he sees in projective verse. Such references are consistent with Olson's own view of his work as an actual "stance to reality." Within these "field compositions," Duncan suggests, a unique interdependence between form and content provides the reader with the necessary perspective to interpret the work before actually reading it. In other words, each field composition evokes simultaneously a mode of communication as well as an individual message. One does not interpret an Olson poem so much as one "scans" it, participates in its overall vision. It is a communicative process, moreover, that Olson further qualified as the "advantage of speech rhythms," i.e., a sense of language that was "non-literary, exactly in Dante's sense of the value of the vernacular over grammar — that speech as a communicator is prior to the individual and is picked up as soon as and With ma's milk" ("Letter to Elaine Feinstein" SW 27). The strong visual emphasis in Duncan's reading of Olson may derive chiefly from Duncan's own retrospective glance at the action paintings of his companion, Jess, who likely first Chapter One 57 introduced Duncan to gestalt therapy. Jess had been using the techniques of "field composition" in his paintings since the early 1950s. In fact, for most writers and artists who, like Jess and Duncan, had worked at Black Mountain, the aesthetic possibilities of gestalt were hardly new in 1972. After the arrival of Paul Goodman, co-author of Gestalt Therapy (1946),^^ at Black Mountain in 1950, many students and teachers alike became well versed in his psychology of spontaneous awareness in a cognitive field or gestalt. Joel Oppenheimer credited Goodman's class with opening for him entire new modes of awareness. 20 Robert Motherwell, who taught painting at Black Mountain that same year, also used field theory in.his classes on the visual arts and had suggested as early as 1946 that gestalt•psychology might provide the basis for a new theory for the social role of art, one that in turn would help distinguish the new American painting from earlier European modernisms such as surrealism. He wrote. For the goal which lies beyond the strictly aesthetic, the French artists say the "unknown" or the "new," after Baudelaire and Rimbaud.... "Structure" or "gestalt" may be more accurate: reality has no degrees nor is there a "super" one (surrealisme).... Structures are found in the interaction of the body-mind and the ^̂  Paul Goodman, Frederick S. Perls and.Ralph F. Hefferline, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality {New York: Julian Press, 1951). 2"̂  Martin Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community (New York: Dutton, 1972) 377. Chapter One 58 external world, and the body-mind is active and aggressive in finding them. 21 In re-asserting the link between avant-garde art and gestalt , psychology, therefore, Duncan recalls a central component in the intellectual context surrounding Olson's early writing. This is not to suggest that Olson's poetry, or Black Mountain aesthetics, in general, derive from a single set of related texts. If the inspiration, for the college's foundation could be linked to any one philosophy or school of thought, the Deweyian pragmatism that founder Jim Rice followed would certainly be the most logical choice. Yet, here, too, the multiple interests and developments that would characterise Black Mountain's pedagogical maturation problematise even this relationship., I would rather suggest that common discursive threads within postwar American counterculture find their most capable definition in the discourse of ecology also emerging after 1945. .If one follows Alt.ieri' s association of the postmodern with phenomenology, the influence of Hegelian philosophy on postwar American thought is also evident. In fact, given its emphasis upon epistemological relativism and anti- deterministic thinking, postmodernist theory in general offered a profound reconsideration of Hegelian phenomenology within a variety of different philosophies and discourses, including 21 Robert Motherwell, "Beyond the Aesthetic" (April 1946); reprinted in The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, ed. Stephanie Terenzio (New York: Chapter One 59 existentialism and anarcho-syndicalism. As Marxist criticism fell in influence, so, too, did its often misunderstood repudiation of Hegel. Dialectical reasoning, with its stress on process and constant thesis-antithesis engagement, presented postwar intellectuals with an effective counter-argument against development-based theories of society, like modernism and social Darwinism. Contemporary re-readings of gestalt psychology through Hegelian philosophy further suggest the common intellectual "heritage" of much American intellectual activity in general here.22 Echoing Hegel's notion of universal development through dialectical sublation, any meaning or truth value that emerges in Olson's early poems does so through its own negation. That is to say, consciousness maintains itself by way of negative self-relating, subordinating its particular will to some conception of a larger pattern or structure. According to Hegel in Phenomenology, In the world of culture [Bildung) itself, it [self-consciousness] does not get as far as to behold its negation or alienation in this form of pure abstraction; on the contrary, its negation is filled with a content, either honour or wealth, which it gains in place of the self that it has alienated from itself; or the language of Spirit and insight which the disrupted consciousness acquires; or it is the heaven of faith, or Oxford University Press, 1992)- 36 22 see for example, Eugene Graziano, Language-operational-gestalt awareness: a radically empirical and pragmatical phenomenology of the processes and systems of library experience (Tempe, AZ: Association for Library Automation Research Communications, 1975) Chapter One ' 60 the Utility of the Enlightenment. All these determinations have vanished in the loss suffered by the self in absolute freedom; its negation is the death that is without, meaning, the sheer terror of the negative that contains nothing .positive, nothing that fills it with a content. At the same time, however, this negation in its real existence is not something alien; it is neither the universal inaccessible necessity in which the ethical world perishes, nor the particular accident of private possession, nor the whim of the owner on which the disrupted consciousness sees itself dependent; on the contrary, it is the universal will which in this its ultimate abstraction has nothing positive and therefore can give nothing in return for the sacrifice. But for that very reason it is because it is the pure negative; and the >̂ meaningless death, the unfilled negativity of the self, changes round in its inner Notion into absolute positivity. (362) In Hegel, western self-consciousness, derived as it is from the epistemological' split between subject and object, can achieve knowledge of itself only through negation, since any positive determination of something depends ultimately upon abstraction. Failure to note this tendency towards the abstract in epistemology results in false consciousness, that is, a subjectivity bound, however loosely, in some pre-determined cultural discourse, such as, say, utilitarianism, a religious faith, or merely a love of wealth. In this way, Hegel's critique of abstraction parallels much of the postwar counterculture's specific epistemological imperatives, especially with respect to their mistrust of ideological polemics and economic determinism. Chapter One 61 Both positions proceeded to investigate a more open, boundless conception of knowledge and its actual principles. In Hegelian thought, however, the dialectical progress of history and civic society embodied a universal, determinate idea of "Spirit" that acted from within and outside individual historical circumstances. Few postwar countercultural movements offered this type of philosophical or aesthetic grounding, relying more on the repudiation of all determinations, whether'material or metaphysical in origin. Olson's important dismissal of subjectivism follows a Hegelian logic. In "Human Universe" (1951), Olson labels Platonic idealism with its penchant for universal forms "as dangerous an issue as is logic and classification" (CP 157). Abstraction . "in definition and expression," he notes, must be . exposed as having little or no truth value: "these are the false faces, too much seen, which hide and keep from use the active intellectual states, metaphor and performance" ("Human Universe," SW 157). Olson rarely referred to Hegel in his work. The most direct application of Hegelian philosophy appears in "The Special View History," where he quotes extensively from The Logic of Hegel, translated by William Wallace. As much as Hegel's dialectical sense of history generally complemented Olson's own work, enough contrasts between the two perspectives rendered them ultimately Chapter One 62 incompatible. In Ralph Maud's view, "in the end, [Olson] has to abandon Hegel, who is interested in result rather than staying in the condition of things" (105). Nevertheless, several distinct conjunctive themes appear in both Hegel's and Olson's thoughts, leading one to speculate about the central significance of Hegelian logic in postwar countercultural thinking in general. "̂1 Comparisons of postwar counter-cultural initiatives to Hegelian phenomenology inevitably emphasise the especial holism through sublation common in each set of discourses. Rather than dispute evidence of this holism, it seems more critically accurate to associate postwar•American counterculture with a specific set of epistemological imperatives at this time. Many Black Mountain poets, Olson included, explicitly envisioned their work as part of a larger cultural "spirit" or discourse of value. The revisionary aspects of Olson's work at the college have parallels in a variety of other,media and cultural movements, ranging from New Left socialism and improvisational jazz to abstract expressionism. Understood together, these movements evoke a type of collective statement against conventional notions of cultural orthodoxy — whether they are based in ideology or some metaphysical vision of moral standards. Emphasising the aesthetic basis of all social formations made it possible for many postwar' writers and 'artists Chapter One 63 to argue for a complete rejection of explicit social doctrine in their work. Since it was through artistic production that a culture developed, it might be possible, many intellectuals believed, to precipitate a change in the social structure through a change in epistemology, arrived at through experimental art. The artist, Wolfgang Paalen, writing in the avant-garde magazine Dyn, considered all socially inspired art to be dictated by conservative ideologies: "The true value of the artistic image does not depend upon its capacity to represent, but upon its capacity to prefigure, i.e., upon its capacity to express potentially a new order of things.... Everything that opens the way for new possibilities of experience is revolutionary — without the need of superimposed finalities."23 Paalen demonstrates in this passage a fairly Romanticist vision of the social role of artists, echoing, in some ways, Shelley's concept of the poet as unacknowledged legislator.' Such allusions to Romanticism again confirm the anti-modernist quality in much postwar thought. What should be stressed, therefore, is the immanent, anti-doctrinal quality of this formation, and its direct intellectual attachment to the ecological thought developing through and around it. The primary point of reference regarding Olson's aesthetics remains in'this context, not Hegel, but the immanent critique 23 Wolfgang Paalen, "The New Image," trans. Robert Motherwell, Dyn 1 (Spring Chapter One 64 found in much postwar western counterculture of the more formal, ideology-based reyisionary modernisms of Pound, Zukofsky and, to an extent, Williams. As I've suggested, the shift in "optics," in the poetic eye, implied by Olson's critique of earlier modernisms is emblematic of a much larger transformation of America's counterculture in general. Various ways of qualifying •this- development can be outlined with respect to the emergence of specific disciplines within the discourse of social ecology. The most evident difference in America between these newer ecological movemlents and previous countercultural writings lies in each generation's respective relationship to ideology and the politics of cultural expression. Both Grossinger and Olson present their work not so much as a new set of cultural forms as an alternate stance towards all form in general. Again, compatible with most tenets of social ecology, the aesthetics of projectivism demonstrate a conscious rejection of ends,, affirming instead a "negative will" placed in the service of self-overcoming. Movement becomes here the primary objective, not just a secondary means to an eventual finish or climax. Olson's perspective depends rather strongly on a resolute confrontation with constant process as an authentic experience of freedom. This notion may, in fact, correspond closely to Hegel's concept of "absolute" freedom through self-negation; 1942): 7. Chapter One •65 more significantly, Olson's poetics provides an important counter-argument to the aesthetic formalisms of writers like Pound and Eliot, writers for whom culture continued to describe distinct moral imperatives. Their more categorical (and, in Pound's case, ideologically explicit) view of culture encouraged a more class-conscious sense of objectivity as an economic construct — hence. Pound's proclivity to consider his poetics a medium of exchange comparable in function to any other currency or form of capital. As we will see, in Pound, a new poetics had much to contribute to both the political and economic reform of the modern state. No such penchant for political doctrine operated in the ecological discourse of the postwar period. Any attempt to reconstruct a fixed paradigm of objectivity, as one might introduce a new currency or means of financial exchange, violated, according to the "eco-sensibility," a much deeper code of natural process. The possibility of even defining one's subjectivity or consciousness as a fixed or formal perspective seemed almost fanciful in its ainthropomorphic 'conceits. Grossinger writes, _We are things across night and across day. We are dreamers, dreamed; we feel our bodies, feel like holdfasts; it won't hold. We are loose; we won't hold...we are the, lights we imagine we see, the saucers, neutrinos, comets, fields of Egypt...We are Chapter One 6.6 drunk. We have worms. We are a thousand people wanting to speak, and now are. (30-1) In Grossinger's vision, the poles of subject and object have more or less merged, producing an ever-shifting sensorium. Personal and, hence, poetic objectivity in this framework is .not so much in question, as it is completely questionable, since, the true limits of epistemology can never be fully determined. Given the phenomenologically inebriated state of the modern sensorium, any notion of objectivity evokes little beyond fragmented, half-formed perceptions and momentary flashes of intuition. If a position of subjectivity begins to emerge here, it does so on the very edge of its own dissolution, radically . . sacrificing its particular will for a higher, yet unseen, natural law. The result of this sacrifice is a subject that remains permanently split according to a variety of disparate, internal impulses and desires. For Pound, such a view of culture only added to the confused state of contemporary Euro-American epistemology. Yet within the context of an eco-system, the possibility of an active, progressive intellectual stance depended upon constant process and a respect for difference above all else. Meaningful patterns and relationships between objects could never be forced, but, instead, coaxed to emerge gradually and of themselves out of the surrounding environment. Chapter One • 67 The web of contacts envisioned by Grossinger .would not fail to reveal itself, given the right stance or orientation. Ecological studies, informed as they were by a complex plurality of interrelated narratives, repudiated all ideology- based doctrines or systems. So its emergence as a discourse marks a significant development in America's political economy as it developed after World War II. Characterisations of this discourse^^ have tended to emphasise a complex series of attitudes and informal beliefs non-specific to any explicit ideology or political apparatus. As we've seen with e'cologists like Kroeber, the very concept of an ecosystem opposes all traditional notions of schema, political or otherwise. The specific details of an ecosystem, Kroeber notes, are always more important than their formal organisation.as a totality. Still more significant, he adds,, is the overall energy flow through the various sections of ecosystems. As an .epistemology, ecology provided a radically new paradigm of knowledge itself, challenging traditionally empiricist grounds of cognition and identity. In theory, the structure and function of the ecosystem could be explained best in terms of energy transformations. Kroeber follows this logic in his work when he characterises the ecosystem as a "self-transforming continuity." ^̂  See for example John Porritt and Dennis Winter, The Coming of the Greens (London: Fontana, 1984) and E.F., Good Work (London: Abacus, 1973) who emphasise as a point of principle that ecological writers are neither left Chapter One 68 The person primarily responsible for this emphasis on energy in the study of ecosystems was Howard Odum. Odum, as David Pepper points out, was unique among ecosystem ecologists in that he reduced all ecological parameters, bio-mass, diversity, essential chemical elements, feedback mechanisms, etc. into energy (68). Although his major work. Environment, Power and Society {1963) had little impact on the intellectual climate of the postwar period, his energy-based approach to ecosystems influenced a large number of disciplines in both the . human sciences and the arts. Energy, as we've seen with respect to the arts at Black Mountain, continued to be a particularly vital trope within the counter-cultural art movements of the early postwar, period. At the same time, within postwar aesthetics both economic and political references in the arts become increasingly veiled, if not completely hidden. Despite his ongoing commitment to social change in American society, Olson along with most Black Mountain artists consciously avoided all direct mention of ideology. An important distinction to make here is that Olson's lack of interest in ideology and economic theory does not automatically imply a corresponding disregard for social issues. Olson, as befitting his background in politics and civil service, continued to evoke strong social concerns in his nor right, but "forward" or,"above the old politics" (Schumacher, 1973 35). Chapter One 69 writing. His teaching at Black Mountain went beyond conventional pedagogy, propounding at times a complete amendment of art and general humanities programmes at the post-secondary level. Such theories, however, though social in quality, were rarely advanced as a set of explicit visions or ideals. Part of the revisionary nature of Olson's writing lay in its complex approach to philosophical or theoretical enquiry in general. Before social structure could be altered, Olson argued, an' entirely different mode of perception would need to be engaged — one that repudiated abstract principles at every level of thought. • That a new cultural discourse of value 'is in operation informing these disparate narratives continues to be evident in their respective tones and themes. Grossinger's inebriated sensorium, swimming in a vast sea of constantiy mobile phenomena, for example, parallels well many other revisionary sociological and anthropological studies published at mid- century. A small sampling of such work would include the scholarship of Gregory Bateson, Murray Bookchin and Karl Polanyi. Focusing primarily on pre-industrial social structures, such as kinship groups, and nomadic camps, these studies also tended to conceive social relations as fluid, ongoing processes. Like Grossinger, they emphasised their own growing scepticism within their respective fields of study about discovering Chapter One 70 objective epistemological standards. Together these discourses reveal an important postwar response within the human sciences to the perceived failures of logical empiricism, on the one hand, and all ideology-based epistemologies, on the other. Given its prevalence among postwar intellectuals, the ecological response to ideology and traditional science clearly reveals a new social formation or cultural sensibility emerging within the US at this time. For the purpose of this, dissertation, this discourse further supplies the most perceptible intellectual context behind the development of Black Mountain aesthetics, especially during Olson's rectorship. Most of the writers, artists and critics working at Black Mountain at mid-century were highly conscious of participating in some larger, collectively organised break with the political and cultural prerogatives of the recent past. Yet it was primarily ecological' theorists who categorically defined this break in the form of a new academic discipline. As an institutional discourse, complete with its own formal methodology and objectives, ecological theory acquired an especial cultural legitimacy, while similar directions in art and literature remained relatively obscure. The inherent plurality of different narratives and approaches in the field ensured its wide influence within the academy. Writers as diverse as sociologists, Howard Odum, Karl Chapter One 71 Polanyi and the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, all identified ecological theory as the most progressive and innovative theory of society since Marxism. Once again, emphasising process over product, objectivity over definition, the concept of the "ecosystem" respected few discipline boundaries and instead offered theorists a radically new perception of knowledge itself. Unlike earlier Marxist critiques, therefore, ecological theory did not envision some final re-structuring of society; nor did it identify possible sources of this type of change — such as the re-distribution of economic and political power to the working classes. Although economic modes of production constituted important determinants of class structure, for ecological theorists, they no longer evoked the sole basis of social relations. In general, ecological sociology produced few social maxims. Definitions of social unity depended upon more than just a shared economic base; they expressed a complex system of widely varied relations and influences, including the epistemological, the spiritual and even chance inspirations. Few ecological theories prioritised a single source of social influence, and, subsequently, no two studies or even disciplines offer the exact same framework of state relations. References to ecological concepts appear throughout the postwar human sciences and arts, including anthropology, political theory and many forms of philosophy. Yet such pluralism in theory hardly Chapter One 72 affected the cultural legitimacy of the discourse as a whole. In fact, what continues to hold ecological thought together in all of its disparate studies and disciplines is precisely this repudiation of social determinism in any form. True to its agenda, ecological theory functions here in my dissertation, not as a single sociology, but rather as a network of related studies on human society and culture. Its value to my own investigation of Olson and Black Mountain aesthetics lies exactly in its indeterminism; for such a sensibility defines best not just the work, but the motivation and epistemology behind it. Before continuing our analysis of Olson, Black Mountain aesthetics and their respective relationships, we need to investigate more closely specific ecological studies, especially those published concurrently with Olson's work at the college. The particular epistemological imperatives common to these writings seem most thoroughly analysed in the theory of Karl Polanyi, Gregory Bateson and Murray Bookchin among others.. The following chapter will study further several exemplary texts produced at roughly the same time in which Olson and other Black Mountain writers were engaged in their own experiments in poetics and theory. The analytical aims of this dissertation are twofold. An historical topography of the immediate political context behind Chapter One 73 ecological theory and aesthetics seems necessary to explain more fully both the ideological choices these writers and artists made and the resulting new disciplines. As we've seen, ecocentrism emphasised a holistic sense of culture as an intrinsically integrated system of shared beliefs and practices. Historically and politically this cultural paradigm has several important sources. Perhaps the primary political context of ecological writing and theory lies in the emergence in the postwar west of an aggressive, information-based economy, polarised by two violent ideologically opposed military movements. By no means is it possible to demonstrate within a single study every intricate thematic and lexical connection informing the core intellectual mood after 1945. Yet a more inclusive cultural analysis of postwar revisionary art and writing demands an investigation of not just the dominant sensibility of this period, but the political contexts in which it flourished. Chapter Three will outline in detail some of the massive cultural changes endemic to this particular political economy and the responses intellectuals made to them. In particular this chapter,will isolate the overt political objectives of American conservatism after 1945, with an especial focus on the cultural influences of the cold war and the use of psychological coercion in government. Threatened by ideologically subversive elements Chapter One • 74 both within and outside the US, the American government affected an even stronger, more profound psychopathology of the everyday, outlining precise roles and services for its intellectuals, writers and artists. Chapter Four will explore in more detail exactly what these roles were, situating the New Criticism and other mainstream cultural movement's of the mid-century within the larger, Gramscian paradigm of "public intellectual labour." This paradigm will then be analysed as one of the major political and cultural developments (alongside the rise of totalitarianism in Europe) that inspired writers and artists in ' the US to consider alternative, less partisan approaches to their work. Chapter Five will look specifically.at the role of Pound as a threat to postwar American culture and, therefore, an object of state discipline. Captured in Italy after the fall of the fascist state. Pound was later flown to Washington D.C. to stand trial for his somewhat vituperative radio broadcasts against 7\merican involvement in World War II. What the Pound problem further emphasised for intellectuals both on the Left and in the Centre was the critical need for a philosophy that successfully transcended the political limitations of conventional ideologies. Chapter Six explores further Olson's personal repudiation of Pound's poetics and his subsequent embrace of the Black Chapter One 75 Mountain environment. Black Mountain itself will be described as an especial social formation with, strong philosophical roots in the corresponding field of ecological anthropology. The chapter will then analyse these roots, paying close attention to the specific philosophical sources Olson himself used. In general I hope that by. resituating the revisionary modernism of Olson and Black Mountain College with respect to the political and cultural contexts in which this aesthetics evolved, some of its particular qualities as a discourse of value will become clearer. Faced with the rapid erosion of all ideological opposition to hegemony and the harsh cultural policing of the cold war state, intellectuals at mid-century become increasingly sceptical of their capacity to provide ideological or direct political change in American society. Black Mountain College, though highly radical in objectives and mandate, was no • I exception to this tendency. Its somewhat aloof disdain for academic, professionalism on the one hand and political polemics on the other derived in part from a collective anxiety over the mixture of politics and cultural -production in the postwar era. However, the poetics subsequently .engendered there reflects ultimately the high, newly developed "ecocentric" optimism that a more balanced ideological and epistemological integration could evolve either within or in spite of the new cultural markets. Chapter Two 76 Chapter Two Ideology and its Discontents: the New Social Ecology One better-known writer who exemplifies ecological thinking is Gregory Bateson. Bateson began publishing in 1942 when he collaborated with his first wife, anthropologist Margaret Mead, on a study of Balinese culture entitled, Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis. What followed were several other collaborations . crossing between the disciplinary fields of psychiatry and anthropology. His most widely read effort to date remains the collection of essays that resulted from these. collaborations: an assortment of influential cross-disciplinary works culled from over twenty years of research. Part cultural theory, part psychology with a strong attachment to genuine field research. Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1971) devised a completely new series of conceptual connections and patterns across many disparate areas of.study. Bateson qualified these patterns as a distinctly "aesthetic" ordering of information, preferring analogies of poetry, art and rhetoric rather than traditional empiricist assumptions about knowledge. The object of an ecology, writes Bateson, is not so. much a fixed framework of knowledge, as a less formal sense of general relevance "shared by all mind or minds, whether ours or those of redwood Chapter Two 77 forests and sea anemones" {Mind and Nature 13) . Redwood forests, in other words, can display the attributes of intelligence (like communication) as much as human societies can; for in each interlocking aggregate of organisms messages can be exchanged. Mind, Bateson theorises, is immanent, i.e., a part of all natural systems, human or otherwise. Outlining highly fluid, indefinite concepts of both perception and information, Bateson relates a framework of knowledge comparable to Grossinger's own complex sense of discursive connections. His understanding of epistemology disputes any sense of fixed cardinal difference between phenomena, while rejecting all abstract categories of knowledge as falsely reified concepts. When he worked with Mead in Bali, he depended exclusively upon photography in an effort to preserve the integrity of his data as an ongoing process. Mere diagrams or drawings betrayed too much subjectivity and authorial input, he believed, to capture the actual intricacies of the place and phenomena being observed. Photographs, by contrast, were "noisy," i.e., filled with descriptive detail and particularity, evoking a more complete presentation of.context to study and discover. 'Similarly, Bateson's later investigations into psychiatry and the mental-health field evoked much revulsion on his part against the deliberate manipulation of patients and their environments by supposedly qualified Chapter Two 78- therapists. In what might be called a lifelong preoccupation, Bateson worked consistently to protect the autonomy of nature from all forms of abstraction in thought and reason. Whether they originated in empiricism or ideology, fixed epistemological principles did little but promote unilateral power relations within a state or society. By cohtrast, an "ecology of mind" pursued the more significant "discovery that man is- only a part of larger [social and ecological] systems" over which there could and should be little control {Steps to an Ecology of Mind 434). Positions of observation and supposition, in Bateson's work, subsequently tend to blur into one another. Perception, he reasoned, derived not from the individual organism but the "larger system" informing all mental processes. Hence, no single position or perceptual stance could be determined exclusive of the larger meta-pattern of identities constantly surrounding it. Similar to Grossinger, Bateson offers a cosmology that recognises few natural epistemic limits. The boundaries of where one object's identity ends and another's begins become almost impossible to delimit, as all individual ties or definitions are effectively subsumed within the overarching dynamic of nature itself. Knowledge, in Bateson's "whole systems" approach to the science of mind, signifies homology above all else, since the entire system can never be defined or even seen from any one particular position. To organise one's observations from a fixed Chapter Two 79 perspective is tantamount to imposing a complete moral agenda on , processes and events that may have originated far beyond the confines'of the observer's social order. However, insights into these alternate systems of thought and behaviour are not automatic, since the observer can never completely escape the biases of his or her original position. Different parts or ideas within a system can but echo other parts without ever revealing the system itself. Referencing the newest medium in his day, Bateson compared consciousness to the television set — able to display only one channel or one part of the whole broadcast system at a time. "Such a report...of the total process would require extra circuitry. But to report on the events in this extra circuitry would require a still further addition of more circuitry, and so on. Each additional step toward increased . consciousness will take the system farther from total consciousness" {Steps to an Ecology of Mind 438). Bateson criticises traditional epistemological frameworks that fail to consider this larger web of congruencies as being overly anthropomorphic, even oppressive of the natural ,patterns informing all existence. In a later study, published in 1968, he points to the interplay of religion and biology in most Western conceptions of mind and nature. Such pathologies, he notes, only confirm the fallacious assumption, within the West that it is possible to control nature, given the right tools. No doubt Chapter Two 80 Bateson's views, especially in the 1950s, appeared radical to conventional schools of anthropology and sociology. Yet Bateson was far from being alone in these opinions. Karl Polanyi, a Montreal-based economist and anthropologist working in the early postwar period, offered a' similarly holistic approach to anthropology. In fact, many of Bateson's most innovative epistemological suppositions might be drawn from Polanyi's research. Unlike Bateson, however, P.olanyi emphasises strong economic components in his work. He realises the vital importance of market exchange in defining social values within a particular community. Market systems for Polanyi can operate within a society alongside other non-economic social formations without necessarily controlling them. In fact they were quite vital within pre-capitalist societies; they were simply not as predominant. Prior to capitalism, or what we can refer to as a market-based society, economic activities were a subordinate part of the general process of social reproduction. Although there existed various economic mechanisms such as trade> money, markets, prices, and so on, these were highly regulated and circumscribed by political authority and social tradition. Pre- capitalist states were essentially political societies in which there was no separate and.autonomous economic sphere. Even with respect to mercantilism, which relied increasingly on markets to meet human needs, Polanyi notes that "the economic system was Chapter Two 81 merely an accessory feature of an institutional setting controlled and regulated more than ever by social authority" The Great Transformation 67) A proper critique of capitalism begins, not with a sweeping rejection of all market exchange, but rather with a more careful consideration of society's domination by such activity. Capitalism, Polanyi declares, produced the world's first "disembedded economies." What distinguishes market-driven from all previous societies is the emergence of a separate and autonomous economic sphere in which the economic motives of fear of hunger and desire for wealth became the primary forces of the system. Within such a society, all members, whether business owners or property-less workers, have little'choice but to conform to the forces and conditions of supply and demand. In Polanyi's words, "self-regulation implies that all production' is for sale on the market .and that all incomes derive from such sales" {The Great Transformation 69). All needs depend exclusively on the process of exchange, as each person's fate and fortune become more entwined within the dictates of the market. Bateson, too, critiqued the subordination within any state of different social contexts to a single set of motives or systematic drives; yet, he did not specifically associate such dispositions with capitalist markets. Bateson argued more generally that any paradigm of human interaction, once it makes Chapter Two ' 82 normative claims to the.correctness of its objectives or motives, has moral implications. "Just as in logic a proposition can never determine the metaproposition," writes Bateson, "so also in matters of control the smaller context can never determine the larger" {Steps to an Ecology of Mind 76) . If individuals were composed, as Bateson thought they were, of their relations with others, then they possessed only a limited command over any whole system in which they participate. Polanyi argues a similar thesis, designating industrial capitalism as a type of isolated system or "disembodied economy" that enforced its normative claims on all forms of social interaction -within the West. In general, Polanyi's discussion of economy and social relations can be said to derive from two sources: Marxism and anthropology. The two disciplines, for Polanyi, were never completely unrelated. In Marx, rather than in Darwin, Polanyi discovered the first completely secular, scientific framework of an investigation of human nature. In 1938, Polanyi notes. The starting point for Marx is anthropology in its fullest sense, i.e., a science of the nature of man. This science is the basis of Marx's method. It deals not with man as an individual, but with mankind, the genus man. Man's nature is the result of the history of human society. Since history is the progressive realization of freedom, it should be added that it is man as a number Chapter Two 83 of the community, not man as an individual, who becomes free.^ Despite Marx's own adherence to conventional Western concepts of progress and materialism, Polanyi considered Marxist critique to offer an important sociological model, one that correctly emphasised the profound communal forces of production informing individual relations. In his view, previous readings of.Marx within the West failed to recognise the full cultural import of his work because they tended to restrict their concept of exchange value solely to commodity markets. By contrast, Polanyi's use of Marx parallels Bateson's sociological theory, in that Polanyi discusses a much wider sense of social conformism than that produced by capitalism. According to both. Polanyi and Bateson, materialism in a society derives from the systematic abstraction of any one set of contingencies over all other possible positions and perspectives, not just a particular class's economic oppression of the masses. Capitalism, Polanyi argues, is one example, albeit an important one, of the larger social problem of epistemological'abstraction. Hence to amend economic injustice within the West, one needed to begin by reforming the organisation of knowledge itself. Similarly, when Bateson critiques materialism in Western culture, he is referring not only to the distribution of wealth, but any ^ Karl Polanyi, "The Essence of Fascism," The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi: a Chapter Two • 84 exchange of information or knowledge that attempted to transcend the "material" contexts in which it originated and present itself as a universal truth or principle. i Polanyi's critique, like Bateson's sociology, clearly reflected an interest in education and research over ideological concerns. Influenced by the widespread effort among ecological theorists to free economic theory from an ideology-based doctrine, Polanyi, too, developed a much more holistic, less formulaic theory of social relations, one in which patterns of social formation extend far beyond the movements of goods and resources. In this intellectual shift away from ideological critique, Polanyi exemplifies a common movement among Western sociologists who began at mid-century to search for alternate, non-economically determined theories of society. Polanyi thus examined the capitalist economy in a non- revolutionary manner compared to the more radical leftism associated with orthodox Marxism and the Communist Party. For example, Polanyi did not reject the. entire institution of wage labour, but he did repudiate its many concrete deficiencies, such as: unequal income, insecurity of income, unemployment, etc. A socially responsible society, he felt, would take care of these actual problems. In his first major study. The Great Celebration, ed. Kari Polanyi-Levitt (Montreal: New York : Black Rose Books, 1990) 57. . , Chapter Two 85 Transformation (1944), 'Polanyi further qualifies the type of economy needed to remedy the current conditions of capital as "generic," that is, one that remains "embedded" within the surrounding society {The Great Transformation 34) Generic economies operate according to principles of social equilibrium as opposed to profit and gain. Again, like Bateson, Polanyi firmly argues against any theory of society," whether based in ideology or religious faith, tr^anscending the context in which it originated. A more accurate sociology, he notes, organises itself in terms of an expanding, discontinuous hierarchy of contexts. In fact, sociology, properly practised, contains no general principles at all, but rather centres upon the exchange of messages between subjects in a plurality of contexts {The Great Transformation 36) . , Beginning with The Great Transformation (1944) and continuing with his co-edited Trade and Market in the Early Empires (1957), Polanyi investigates multiple forms of economic integration as they correspond.to different social structures. Where orthodox Marxism went on to develop ideas to. be used exclusively in a critique of capitalism, in particular the concepts of "alienation" and "surplus value," Polanyi's work seeks to describe a wider range of possible cultural • experiences. Orthodox Marxism's focus on capitalism's relations of production represented, for Polanyi, only one level of a Chapter Two 86 larger set of interacting factors and influences. 'Such relations, Polanyi categorises as "appropriational movements,"- i.e., systems of exchange that are specifically seguestered by the ruling strata of a particular culture for the purpose of regulating that culture's wealth. Given the overall social significance of .these systems, Polanyi values Marx for his theoretical insights. Nevertheless, in Polanyi's economic models, appropriational movements comprise only half the story, that is, one half of a binary social hierarchy. The other half derives from "locational" movements, processes that operate outside all institutional frameworks. In a capitalist society, locational movements remained far less socially influential than appropriational or institutional ones. Yet to ignore such relations altogether as, Polanyi charges, orthodox Marxists do, is to privilege a single ideology over all other social observations, in effect, reducing Marx's'original critique of class relations to a mere epiphenomenon of the economic base. Marx's critique, Polanyi argues, firmly distinguished economic structures in a society from all cultural ones. Hence, Polanyi credits Marx with providing an important precedence in sociology for separating locational movements from appropriational ones. By including the locational in his sociological studies, Polanyi argues, therefore, for a return to basic Marxist strategies and a shift away from orthodox'or Chapter Two 87 Communist doctrine. Such a change in positioning would help counter ideological biases in sociological theory and, in turn, supply a more accurate assessment of both the capitalist state and other pre-capitalist social orderings. Sociology, for Polanyi, needed be flexible enough to offer insights into all forms of social integration and not just those based on market exchange. Subsequently, Polanyi theorises several larger categories of social intercourse that include market activities without being completely dependent upon them. His categories are reciprocity, redistribution, market exchange, and householding, once again illustrating that the movements informing a society's development derive from a whole range of processes and activities that make up the provision of a material-means, from production to consumption {Trade and Market 250). Even in capitalist societies, Polanyi argues, social exchange consists of more, than the distribution of commodities. A complex variety of cultural and cross-cultural changes mark the- evolution of a single political economy. Activities of reciprocation, redistribution as well as market exchange continuously circumscribe different networks of social interaction. Sociology's aims, according to Polanyi, are to establish a rational model of these networks inclusive enough to adapt to all cultural movements in a variety of contexts. Chapter Two 88 Although capitalism's "disembedded" markets promoted class oppression and exploitation of the masses, the construction of a centralised- economy under the direction of the labouring classes did not guarantee, as orthodox Marxists argued, a healthier, more harmonious framework of human interaction. Even partial assimilation of the markets by the state, an important component in Keynesian models of economics, Polanyi notes, risked political suppression of personal choice and activity. Polanyi argues instead that a democratic socialist economy can retain separate spheres of economy and state as a means of preserving one's individual freedom from the overbearing influence of market exchange. A truly radical reform of capitalism, in Polanyi's view, would originate outside the market and begin by subordinating the drive for profits to broader social needs. The resulting structure or "generic economy," as Polanyi calls it, combined anthropological frameworks with economic ones to produce a wide topography of human society. In The Great Transformation, Polanyi contends that a properly organised society could both combat .the destructive, dehumanising forces of industrialisation and capitalise on the social benefits derived from such processes. Where orthodox Marxism linked the growth of human alienation to specific economic factors of social interaction, i.e., to the unequal accumulation of surplus value, Polanyi insists that these components are only one source Chapter Two 89 of civil development among many. The flow of goods, Polanyi reasons, holds considerably less influence than most Marxists believe over power relations. This is not to suggest that Polanyi ignores economic factors in his sociology. In Polanyi's view, the growth of commodity markets remains an important component in the ongoing evolution of any culture; yet Polanyi could not accept orthodox- Marxism's claim .that market exchange actually controlled that evolution. Such fixed doctrinal theories, he believed, amounted to little more than a form of economic determinism. Any study of social relations that confined itself to a pre-set, fixed framework of evaluation, Polanyi maintained, tended to reflect little beyond the expectations and subjective interests informing that framework. At the same time, Polanyi considered the structural rigour of conventional liberal economics to be equally confining, calling it a failed "interpolation of social and historical facts" {The Great Transformation 74). Polanyi furthermore agreed with Bateson's final labelling of such studies as distressingly anthropomorphic. In The Great Transformation, he condemns anti- Marxist, pro-capitalist work in this area for its "methodological individualism." Rejecting what he called the "economistic fallacy" for a larger, .more inclusive discourse encompassing politics, law, religion, kinship, ethics, etc.. Chapter Two 90 Polanyi invokes in his book "an entirely new framework of human experience" {The Great Transformation 13). As I've argued, Polanyi's view of culture can be compared to Bateson's (and, for that matter, Grossinger's) in that all three theorists sought to define a new epistemology that emphasised relations between contexts rather any one methodology or philosophical mandate. Each writer believed social relations to be naturally complex and therefore impossible to delineate according to fixed principles of cause and^effect. Anchored to a concept of innate development, Polanyi's theory, as did Bateson's and Grossinger's, emphasised epistemological relativism over any notion of permanent positioning. Polanyi also clarified his theory with reference to the term "ecology, " often substituting it for the concept of economy in an effort to distinguish further between locational movements ("changes of place") and appropriational movements ("changes of hands"). Ecology, in Polanyi's view, described exactly how modern institutional arrangements combine with various spatial relationships to bring forth cultural changes within a society. Polanyi did not deny that the relationship between spatial and institutional structures, between ecological and economic paradigms, was rife with struggle, but the .two types of movements were not completely antithetical. Within Polanyi's ecological theory of society a new sense of culture emerges,' in Chapter Two 91 which social development derives from a broader interactive weaving of material and ideal motivation. As one critic notes, "it was above all the link that Polanyi forged between the historical role of states in economic development and his conception of human freedom that distinguished his work so fundamentally from prevailing trends of thought.... Polanyi saw that the emanicipatory potential of the market was fully realisable only in tandem with the power and regulation of the state. In such a way, the bonds of human community — the freedom of the soul on which he based his philosophy — could be preserved only through the linkage of power and individual rights."2 As an ecological theorist, Polanyi anticipates many of Bateson's ideas, further demonstrating a larger shift in sociological theory. Both writers emphasise a holistic view of an individual's social behaviour, forgoing the more conventional Marxist sociological focus on labour issues, resource management and forms of capital. Compared to Bateson, Polanyi makes more use of economic theory, however, since his basic thesis holds that individuals need to maximise, regardless of their place in society, various gains while minimising risks or losses. Importantly, though, he treats these patterns not as 2 Margaret R. Somers, "Karl Polanyi's Intellectual Legacy," The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi: a Celebration, ed. Karl Polanyi-Levitt (Montreal; New York: Black Rose Books, 1990) 155-56. Chapter Two 92 institutional structures, but rather as natural tendencies endemic to all organisms., Where conventional economists, including orthodox Marxists, analysed processes of production, distribution and consumption, Polanyi discussed what he calls intrinsic organisational principles, or social relations that are a part of human nature rather than some historically distinct product, of industrialisation. Polanyi's efforts to re-embed the institutional components of society within locational processes further expounded a concept of place, i.e., a social context operating outside all economic or market systems. In this manner, Polanyi's ecological view of culture bears some resemblance to Olson's own poetics of place. As with Olson, Polanyi's precepts remain anchored in a new understanding of culture as a social process that functioned quite independently to both politics and market economies. In Polanyi's work, production processes appear no longer dependent upon the more exploitive dictates of capitalist industry, but rather as basic acts of nature. In this way, Polanyi's sense of culture emphasised primarily its status as a process rather than a product. Social relations operated, for Polanyi, as one of two types of movements: "locational, i.e., those associated with everyday life and "appropriational," those associated with social institutions — such as the market or government. According to Polanyi, locational movements depend entirely upon Chapter Two 93 their social context, in other words, the spatial and historical particulars of their respective structures. Here again, the need to differentiate locational acts from institutional ones seems pivotal. As locational movements, all acts of production and consumption, whether they pertain to art, engineering or even agriculture, emerge free of previous ideological taint. To view any form of cultural product purely in terms of its institutional affiliations revealed economic determinism. Polanyi and the ecological anthropologists who followed his thinking^ theorised specific cultural networks of exchange socially exempt from the usual dictates of surplus profit. A framework of culture as something other than economic superstructure stood revealed in these studies, refuting the traditional Marxist focus on' class conflict. For Polanyi and these other anthropologists, many activities still operated outside the institutions of capital. At least two mutually dependent processes of exchange were discernible to the ecological theorist when studying socio-cultural relations, and only one operated according to the concerns and principles of the market. As Rhoda Halperin notes, "[t]he separation of locational and appropriational movements and their respective association with production and distribution processes became the template for divorcing ecological from economic See for example, Geertz (1963), Steward and Harris (1968) among others. Chapter Two 94 anthropology. Without' anthropologists realizing it, locational and appropriational movements became solidified as two poles of an underlying dichotomy" (63). Later Marxist sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu and John Clammer, as we will see, were apprehensive of such a strict separation of spatial elements from institutional ones in ecological theory, though they, too, recognised the importance of both frameworks in, the evolution of social -relations. Before looking at their responses more closely, it seems historically necessary to investigate the important parallels between these ecological theories of culture and those offered by Olson and the aesthetics of Black Mountain College. As we saw in the last chapter, Olson's poetics shares with ecological theory a strong anti-institutional sense of culture that emphasises process over product. In Olson's theory of projective verse, an important, set of equivalencies emerges between processes of production and those of natural creation. In his essay, "Human Universe" (1951), he explains, "[I]f man is once more to possess intent in his life, and to take up the responsibility implicit in his life, he has to comprehend his own process as intact, from outside, by way of his skin, in, and by his own powers of conversion, out again" (SP 61). As we've seen, this particular view of cultural activity expresses itself both in Olson and in ecological theory as a focus on place. Chapter Two 95 For Polanyi, "place" signifies the immediate context of any act of creation or production outside most institutional frameworks. Cultural activity, he argues, invests a place with meaning, enabling the subject to "locate" him or herself within society. Such "locational movements" conveyed thus a strong moral purpose, according to which one's social role as well as value was defined. Polanyi further qualified this mode of social identity as "the authentic," and contrasted it with institutional forms — such as the market system — which objectified and alienated its subjects. The often violent class politics of the twentieth century, he believed, were wrought in the tension between the authentic (moral/locational) self and the divergent" forms of institutional structures. These two different embodiments of the individual, Polanyi believed, one genuine and one artificial, were locked in a great struggle. In Olson's poetics, a similar struggle can be glimpsed between processes of natural, authentic creation and fixed institutional forms. As he suggests in "Human Universe," the creative act originates in the skin itself,, as opposed to some fixed cultural mandate. Implied in both Polanyi's ecological theory and Olson's aesthetics is a cultural discourse of value' based exclusively in an immanent sense of meaning, originating out of the creative act, as opposed to an institutional framework. In ecology, this discourse of value focuses upon Chapter Two ^ 96 movements of production and consumption as natural transfers of energy from one location to another. In Olson's projective poetics, a similar movement occurs. The "projective" poet remains firmly connected to the process of creation, participating within, rather than abstracting from his or her surrounding environment. Here cultural structures highlight the moral individual's inner freedom to create as opposed to higher principles of order. Knowledge of place signifies for Olson a special probing of all limits and boundaries, both epistemological and natural. The fact that these boundaries are ever-shifting affirms not the impossibility of knowledge, but its dynamism. Freed from the abstractions of cultural institutions, the projective poet is able to participate fully within the complex environment of everyday life. Postwar ecological theory,. as we've seen in the work of Bateson, Polanyi and Grossinger, raises strong objections to all forms of cultural orthodoxy, regardless of whether they originate in leftist suspicions or right-wing celebrations of the market. For both Bateson and Polanyi, any orthodoxy in thinking provoked complex moral challenges to the individual to preserve an ethical society, one in which each private citizen needed to define his or her social role independent of institutional doctrines. Without this separation of "locational" and "appropriational" movements, social relations would lose all Chapter Two 97 authenticity. Ecological frameworks provided Polanyi with both an epistemology and a cultural theory that resisted easy institutional appropriation — especially by ideologues of either the Right or Left, and his resistance to doctrine is especially characteristic of the works of Bates.on and Gfossinger. Their respective writing projects in combination with their opposition to abstract epistemologies also stress the inherent difficulty of eluding institutional biases in thought. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson himself notes, epistemological premises work only up to a certain limit, and, at some stage or under certain circumstances, if you are carrying serious epistemological errors, you will find,that they do not work any more. At this point, you discover to your horror that it is exceedingly difficult to get rid of error, that it's sticky. It is as if you had touched honey. As with honey, . the falsification gets around; and each thing you try to wipe it off on gets sticky, and your hand still remains sticky. {Steps to an Ecology of Mind 4 87) . In his critique of epistemological abstraction, Olson used the same metaphor, calling Plato, as the source of misplaced universalism in Western thinking, a "honey head." The metaphor works well in literature; for Matthew Arnold charged artists and writers with the responsibility of establishing permanent aesthetic standards without any appeal to social context, describing such work as the epitome of "sweetness and light." In Olson's view, this view of literature was not only meaninglessly Chapter Two " 9 8 abstract, but also politically and culturally coercive. Likewise, epistemological error and political intimidation within traditional Western thinking had convinced ecological theorists like Bateson and Polanyi that the key to political reform originated not in power relations, but in the nature of knowing itself. Without a change, as Bateson put it, in "epistemological habit," there could be no corresponding transformation of social relations. Subsequently, theorists like Bateson and Polanyi formed an important basis in the mid-century for an alternate discourse of socio-political critique, inspiring many other writers in a variety of different disciplines to look beyond conventional notions of ideology and logic in their studies. A typical example of this type of activism appears in Christopher Stone's paper to protect parkland trees from being destroyed by corporate development. Stone, a professor of law at the University of California, argued that permanent safety for the trees could be gained by granting them a form of legal standing, which should befit all natural objects. Should Trees have . Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural- Objects, published in 1974, challenged not so much American ideology, as conventional knowledge of trees as actual objects. In the interest of providing a new complex of hotels, restaurants and play areas for potential tourists in the Sierra Nevada, Walt Disney Inc. Chapter Two 99 planned to clear-cut and redevelop vast expanses of scrub forest. Left alone, the natural landscape, Disney argued, provided few incentives for the "serious" traveller. These plans alarmed many environmentalists and nature societies, such as the Sierra Club, but their efforts to protect the parkland failed, for no actual injury to any single specific interest could be demonstrated (4). In searching for a new strategy to block Di-sney's intentions. Stone reasoned that the most logical way to preserve the original environment would be to demonstrate or to represent the exact interests of the trees and wildlife themselves, as threatened by Disney's development. "Perhaps," Stone explains, the injury to the Sierra Club was tenuous, but the injury to Mineral King — the Park itself — wasn't. If I could get the courts thinking about the park itself ais a jural "person" — the way corporations are persons — the notion of nature having rights would here make a significant operational difference.... (4) In Stone's view, therefore, a more politically responsible, environmentally sensitive social order must necessarily re-think its very concept, not just of trees, but of nature in general. Before any litigation against Disney could be pursued, it was imperative to change the concept of nature, a transformation that could only be effected by shifts in epistemology. If trees were to be granted the same legal footing, as any human agent, a Chapter Two . . • . 100 new epistemological equivalence between the two was necessary. In Stone's view, such a re-configuration of nature would constitute the primary victory in the case against Disney. In this application of ecological theory Stone called into question a basic tenet of Enlightenment epistemology. Stone's case for trees required a rejection of empiricism, with its emphasis upon abstract principles drawn from material observations. A more empathetic awareness of nature, noted Stone, denied its study as a set of mutually autonomous objects and processes. Nature functioned instead, he believed, as a complex interweaving of processes and energies, none.of which could be explained outside the context in which they originated. Bestowing rights upon trees would be a primal step towards a society built upon the dictates of co-operation for a communal good rather than according to discourses.of utility and exploitation. Stone's move to prevent further depletion of US wilderness displays on one level a strong ethical concern for the environment. On another level, his critique of epistemology delivers a profound anti-humanist message, prompting opposing views from philosophers and writers who in the 1990s continue to support Enlightenment culture. French philosopher and social critic, Luc Ferry, for example, is hesitant to dismiss many of the foundations of modern, secular society and criticises Stone Chapter Two 101 for unwittingly advocating a type of social regression in his theory. Ferry, in fact, compares Stone's call for nature's rights to legislation practices existing in pre-Revolutionary France. Up until the eighteenth century in France, he notes, it was not uncommon to legislate against various "natural" trespasses and intrusions animals might make within a given community. Thus in 1587: The inhabitants of the village of Saint- Julienne took legal action against a colony of weevils. These "creepers" having invaded the vineyards, where they caused considerable damage, the peasants- called on their municipal magistrates to compose a petition in their name addressed to the Reverend Lord Vicar-General and official of the diocese of Maurienne, whom they entreated to prescribe- the appropriate measures to appease the divine anger and to undertake, "by means of excommunication or any other appropriate censor," the lawful and definitive expulsion of the tiny beasts, •(ix) For Ferry such litigation exemplifies a particularly "pre- modern" approach to social rule. To accord both' civil rights and legal representation to the animal kingdom is indicative of what he calls a "pre-humanistic" relationship to nature in general (xvii). In contrast to the "modern," post-Enlightenment subjection of the natural world to human will, civil law before the eighteenth century evoked a comparatively equal relationship between humanity and its surrounding environment. At that time, writes Ferry, it was customary to "give legal rights to forests. Chapter Two 102 oceans, rivers and other so-called natural objects in the environment as a whole" (xvii). Drawing an analogy between legal reform, ideology and epistemology. Ferry agrees with Stone that such a significant change in civil litigation necessarily corresponds to a fundamental transition in subjectivity. When one ascribes legal representation to the non-human, natural world, several profound epistemological contentions automatically follow, including, of course, the essential equivalence between human and non-human consciousness. Such contentions do not necessarily grant plants and -animals attributes of free-will and agency; but instead question the common acceptance of these qualities as determinants of reason. A similar paradigm of integration- between natural and political structures appears in Bateson, Polanyi and, of course Grossinger. But Ferry, unlike these American critics, does not consider this cultural logic to be necessarily progressive. Given their disillusion with the modern world, he sees such ecological thinking as conservative, resurrecting currents of mediaeval thought, rather than any Utopian visions of the future. Exchanging a humanistic vision of law for one more inclusive of the natural world, ecological theory, as exemplified by Stone, puts forth a biological egalitarianism that challenges human centred-ness in economics as well as Chapter Two 103 social development. For Stone, a less anthropocentric vision of nature was morally and politically superior to those positions founded upon Western empiricism. Stone's anti-humanism matches Polanyi's revisionary anthropology, which also criticised those socio-political theories based exclusively upon the production and distribution of capital as oppressively narrow and confining. Their eco-centric position views human-kind as part of the global eco-system and subject to the laws of nature rather than to those of different human societies-. Hence, the evaluation of social behaviour — whether it be industrial, intellectual, or political in origin — required a much more inclusive consideration of the natural environment as opposed to mere human need. Without these limits, the interests of nature would continue to suffer, with little hope for social justice. The demands of an ecologically based morality constrained human action, particularly by imposing limits to economic and population growth; for the anthropomorphic view of nature had already caused much irreparable damage, not only in the widespread destruction of wilderness, but in the increased alienation felt between individuals as well. It is here that Ferry is in essential agreement: In the zoophile spirit that impregnates' our democratic culture, the ideas that a distinction between human kind and animal- kind may possess ethical significance seems intolerant, an indication of a spirit of Chapter Two. 104 segregation, of exclusion even, at a time when the right-to-be-different ideology reigns almost exclusively. Indeed, doesn't science teach us that a secret continuity exists between living creatures? In the name of science, then, it is proper to grant equal respect to all manifestations of life in. the universe. (3) Ferry realises that the ethos of such a position, of this pluralist, "right-to-be-different ideology" is usually self- evident to most progressive liberals. Indeed, they ask, how can one argue effectively against such values as tolerance, environmental protection and a respect for all democratic movements? In contrast to these beliefs, the anthropomorphism that has characterised Western thought of the last two centuries appears increasingly barbaric. The Enlightenment's domination of the natural world in the name of resources evokes a history steeped in ecological crisis. Western utilitarianism has facilitated, ecological theorists argue, economic, social and political relationships based on hierarchy, authority and control.^ Ecocentrics lack faith in modern large-scale technology and the technical and bureaucratic elites in charge of it. They advocate instead the construction of decentralised, democratic, small-scale communities that are sensitive to the needs of the environment: "act locally and think globally" is their most popular mandate. •̂  See, for example, Albury and Schwartz 1982. Chapter Two 105 At the risk of sounding unintentionally reactionary to ecocentric positions, Ferry cautions his readers to rethink some of the more problematic political and cultural implications of their critique of the Enlightenment. Certainly the tendency within Enlightenment thought over the last three centuries, to reduce the natural world, to economic resources has raised important questions concerning the long-term effect of industrial growth on the environment and the threat of permanent damage to the natural world. Ecocentrism purports to make social justice part' of a wider justice required for all life forms, not just of human society. To accomplish this objective, ecocentrics maintain, the very principles behind the modern, industrial state must be abandoned. Industrialism, they argue, was a mistake; it carries an enormous social price in the loss of essential human values and constant environmental degradation. Yet can an unquestioned abandonment of Enlightenment thought as advocated by ecocentrics fully repair these apparent deficiencies in what they call the "industrial way of life?" Ferry is sceptical, pointing out that what first appears as a rational enlightened critique of ideological coercion possesses, upon closer examination, several politically questionable "attributes as well. In repudiating the Enlightenment view of society and culture as a field of human activity incommensurable with the natural world, important principles of social and Chapter Two ' • 106 political emancipation are also placed at risk. Here,' Ferry worries that, taken to an extreme level, ecocentrism leads primarily to an anti-technological, anti-industrial romantic anarchism. If the Cartesian "mind" which once distinguished the human from the animal. Ferry argues, loses all credibility, so too does reasoned reflection, to be replaced with notions of instinctual behaviour and natural essentialisms. Western principles of freedom depend, in other words, on a strict separation of human existence from the natural world. Ferry points out. If we did not have the ability to detach ourselves from the traditional culture that is imposed upon us like a second nature, we would continue, like all animals, to be governed by natural codes. If we could not put this culture in perspective and adopt a critical viewpoint, which alone allows us to change it and inscribe it in history, our culture of origin would be akin to animal habits, and -human societies would be as devoid of history as those of ants or termites. (11) For Ferry, government by natural roles constitutes a form of cultural coercion even more totalising than that attributed by ecocentrism.to industrialisation: ecocentrism, seeking emancipation from the actual origins of emancipation, (i.e.. Enlightenment thought), has not discovered a new philosophy of freedom so much as an alternate determinism or second nature. Natural determinism, says Ferry, cannot offer Western thought Chapter Two ' 107 any valid precepts for human freedom. To argue against Enlightenment reason is to rescind that tradition's unique claims for political and intellectual autonomy for all subjects. The philosophical aims of ecocentrism, in his view, envision an entirely different relationship between the human subject and the natural environment — one that prioritises non-human nature or at least places it on par with humanity (Eckersley 17). Here there is no desire to separate human' consciousness from the , forces of nature. Rather the ecocentric orientation is towards a wider sense of behaviour and activity encompassing both human and natural will. In this manner, ecocentrism distinguishes itself from the anthropocentrism of previous political ideologies, such as socialism and capitalism. Ferry's Enlightenment-based critique -of the ecocentric position, a movement he calls the new "naturalism," does not reject all ecology movements and certainly not environmentalism per se. If environmentalism is about ideologies and practices that flow from a concern for the environment, it is no exaggeration to say that most politically aware people in the West have become to an extent environmentalists. Ferry does not dismiss the many legitimate concerns environmentalists have about industrial society and its tendency towards unrestricted commercial growth at the risk of serious environmental damage. However, he does note the wide range of ecological movements. Chapter Two 108 and many of the more extreme ecocentric positions seek to establish more than just restrictions on industrial and technological development, they envisage a radical alteration of all Western political and epistemological structures. The movements that best reflect Ferry's concerns for the intellectual autonomy of the Western subject are "Gaianism" and deep ecology. Gaianism derives from J. Lovelock's work. The Ages of Gala: a Biography of our Living Earth (1989). It combines the old Greek concept of an earth goddess with Lovelock's view of the earth as a complex "homeostatic" system, one, in other words, that is resilient enough to destroy any humans who threaten it. Lovelock's hypothesis does not attribute intelligence to Gaia. But many Gaianists do: particularly "deep ecologists" and those who follow New Age philosophies. Gaianism lends itself to the type of ecocentric ethic of which Ferry is most critical — that which calls for respect and reverence for nature's intrinsic rights and worth, regardless of human needs or wants. Such a logic threatens the principles of human emancipation Ferry considers vital to the Enlightenment tradition. Without a sense of human need. Ferry cautions, irrational mysticisms and superstition will replace the Western concept of individual will and freedom. This is why Ferry further compares Christopher Stone's promotion of tree's rights with a mediaeval view of the Chapter Two 109 world. Before the Enlightenment, humanity held nature to be a mysterious, possibly threatening source of power over human destiny. Pre-Enlightenment culture viewed nature as a force continuous with the divine mystery, participating in the system of retributive justice anchored in God's will. The threat from nature was part of a cosmic moral economy the key to which lay in scripture. Nature and human fate for pre-Enlightenment thought were bound in a single moral and spiritual order. Hence, Ferry summarises, the mediaeval world invoked a view of human subjectivity perpetually enslaved to cosmological forces (14). Rights for trees, he consequently argues, can only be acquired with the simultaneous loss of- rights for humans. In Ferry' s view, the ethical vision of ecological theory invites, at least partially, a reactionary response to the Enlightenment tradition of human emancipation. Ferry is particularly adept at isolating some of the more critical arguments behind ecocentrism, specifically with respect to its opposition to Western rationalism. Many ecocentric thinkers, especially Gaianists and deep ecologists, would likely agree with Ferry's assessment, pointing out that the "Enlightenment," conceived here as a series of social, political and intellectual movements based upon the primacy of human reason, lies in ruins. Environmental destruction, socio-political oppression and the banality of mass culture have led'ecocentric writers like Stone Chapter Two 110 and Lovelock to conclude that, politically, intellectually and ethically. Western rationalism must be rejected. While providing many advances in technology and technical knowledge. Enlightenment principles of reason carried too high an environmental price to be allowed to continue — even if reformed. Ecocentrism, by contrast, advocated only those technologies it considered environmentally benign. That is, those that could be owned, maintained and used by individuals and groups with little interest in power or profit and a strong awareness of nature's vital concerns. Neither Polanyi, Bateson, nor even Grossinger completely conform to Ferry's critical assessment of ecocentrism. Ferry is correct to point to elements of mysticism and anti-Enlightenment irrationalism informing much Deep Ecology/Gaianist theory, yet neither Polanyi nor Bateson emphasised in their respective work a reverence" for nature so profound that it completely negated principles of Enlightenment reason. Grossinger's writing, on̂  the other hand, attributes an intelligence to nature equal to that traditionally confined only to humanity. Accordingly, much of his work lends itself to mysticism and spiritual beliefs. There is very little mysticism in Polanyi's and Bateson's thought however; nor is Olson's poetry, as we will see, anti- Enlightenment. While each of these writers was critical of many properties of Enlightenment reason, their respective ecological Chapter Two , 111 arguments did not aband9n entirely traditional humanism and the many developments in Western technology it inspired. Both Polanyi and Bateson recognised the environmental problems incurred through rampant industrialism and profit-motivated corporate capitalism. They criticised the anthropomorphism of conventional Enlightenment thought. Yet, these writers also held that with careful economic and environmental management and a revisionary approach to humanist principles, society would only improve. Such radical solutions as the bestowing of.rights upon trees and other objects of nature do not appear anywhere in the writings of Bateson or Polanyi. As Polanyi insisted, the capitalist economy was, responsible for massive social inequality; yet the elimination of this economic schema did not automatically mean the subsequent exclusion of market systems in general. The social exchange of goods and services was basic to all human communities. Hence nature still functioned in Polanyi's thought, as it did in Bateson's, as a resource necessary for social and cultural growth — an idea highly abhorred by deep ecologists. How does nature appear in Olson's work? Olson, too, in his poetry professed an interest in natural processes and a corresponding apprehension of socio-economic determinism. Yet Olson also rejected the romanticist penchant for nostalgic primitivism, since it contradicted his vision of the poet as a Chapter Two , . 112 force for social change. Poetic inspiration, in Olson's view, was not solely the product of some mysterious natural energy; rather it derived from a more conscious human engagement with these forces. The romanticist, in Olson's view, minimised human agency in the creative act, attributing imagination to larger, cosmological sources. Olson's poetics envisioned, by contrast, a more conscious, wilful interaction between social forms and natural processes. This type of exchange appears as a central idea in the poem, "The Story of an Olson, and Bad Thing," written in 1952 at Black Mountain. In this poem, Olson cast his writing career in terms of a vision-quest or walkabout. After an arduous journey, the poet-protagonist re-emerges from the wilderness: When he came out...he carefully took the things he had made) despite Bad Thing, and his botherings) and instead of disposing "of them in so many ways that would occur to you, he merely set them out there where the rest of the causes of confusion are. (CP 49) The poem's protagonist did not enter into direct combat with "the causes of confusion," but simply "set out" "the.things he had made," making them available as an alternative or counterforce. This is not a mystical vision, but rather an intensely democratic one, in which the observer's reverence for place allows him to engage with it directly, and not be subordinated by it. Chapter Two 113 As a poet, Olson sought neither to control nature (as much Enlightenment-based humanism did), nor place himself completely in its service. He described his relationship to his surroundings to be synergetic, with the poem acting out or reproducing an exchange of energy between the poet and his or her context. "Composition by field" or "projective verse" meant that the poet was to treat each "utterance," each observation, ais an event in a field of force of which the poet was the centre. Such exchanges, he argued, effectively combated the dangerous instrumental sway of corporate capitalism and of abstract reason, in general. Ferry's•critique of ecocentrism does partly apply to Bateson, Polanyi, Grossinger, and, indeed, Olson, in that each writer's respective works also evoke an important departure from Enlightenment principles. Ferry's intellectual background derives from Marxist political theory. Hence all ecocentric developments in Western thinking, regardless of how extreme they may appear,' represent for him the potentially risky loss among the Left of an ideology-based criticism of capitalist economics. Ferry values Marxist theory, in this way, for its ability to - separate such progressive Enlightenment principles as universal human rights from their ideological impoverishment within the corporate capitalist state. For example, it is not coincidental that in capitalist societies "freedom" of the individual usually Chapter Two 114 translates into the freedom to own land and other' resources, to go into business with minimal planning and taxation restrictions from the state, to compete and to buy and sell what one likes if one can afford it. But it does not include freedom from material want or from unemployment, even though such ideas were common to Enlightenment thought. Marxist political theory, for Ferry, successfully addresses the many corruptions of Enlightenment reason by capitalist ideology, criticising its assumptions as evidence of the subordination of human suffrage to class interest. To turn one's back on Marxist-socialist principles is to confuse the errors of capitalism, therefore, with the objectives and ideas of Enlightenment reason in general. While the ecological theory of both Polanyi and Bateson carried little of the neo-mystical rejection of Enlightenment thought found in the deep ecology movement, it did seek to loosen the critical hold Marxism conventionally had on the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, as well as much political theory. This revisionary approach to Marxist thought has already been discussed with reference to Polanyi. In his view, Marx's investigation of Western political economies told only half the story, reductively elevating the relations of production to a metaphysical level as the source of all social meaning. Bateson offered a similar critique of Marxism. Chapter Two 115 What ecocentrism doubted most of all, as one critic notes, was the "Promethean quality of early Marxism" (Redclift 48). No longer under, the illusion that resources, especially in the West, were inexhaustible commodities, the truly, politically cons.cious critic would hardly be concerned with how best to re- distribute abundance. Rather, human survival itself now constituted sociology's primary topic, an insight that must have appeared' increasingly prescient, given the recurring crisis of African famine in the postwar period and the ongoing threat of nuclear war. The critique of Marx from an ecocentric perspective is epistemological in the sense that it interprets Marxism more as a theory of knowledge, than of production and class structure. The Marxist worldview, for Polanyi and Bateson, evoked an entire definition of reality based solely upon the processes of industrial production. When a particular economy,- they argued, becomes the premise behind all cultural relations and knowledge, one is .left with a narrow theory of social development. Yet this is precisely how ecologists tended to view Marxist thought. Polanyi and Bateson respected Marxism's critical insights into the capitalist ideology — Polanyi even credited Marx with the invention of anthropology, calling the 19̂ *̂  century writer the first scientist of the human condition. But, while Marx may have initiated this form of study, his focus on the relations of Chapter Two 116 production, Polanyi argued, functioned better as political doctrine than a theory of society — industrialised or not. With respect to epistemology, Marxism yielded the same fundamental errors compared to all previous scientisms in its emphasis upon material production and unlimited social and technological development. Paralleling the dominant values and morals behind the industrial state, Marxism offered little respite, according to ecocentrism, from the competitive hierarchies and social struggles usually associated with the Western state. In the Marxist worldview, the myth of Prometheus drew honour, while Western progress depended solely upon material advancement. Neither Marx nor later Marxists considered, other ecological thinkers argued (Deleage 1989), how- an economy like capitalism, working with exhaustible resources, might eventually use up the means of production. There can be no Marxist school of ecology, John Deleage writes, because Marx's view of history envisaged unlimited development,of productive forces under socialism.^ Early" ecological writers, for this reason, firmly situated themselves in opposition to Marxist values, rejecting what they saw as an economic, materialist focus in favour of a more ecocentric perspective based on co-operation, subjectivity, spirituality and the emotions. An important trope in this new ^ John Deleage, "Eco-Marxist Critique of Political Ecology," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 3 (1989): 19. Chapter Two 117 discourse was the concept of "wilderness," a position on nature that sought to address the conventional Western sense of this space as material resources. This trope is dominant in the work of Grossinger, while also appearing in studies by Bateson and Polanyi. Etymologically the word derived from the Anglo-Saxon "wild deor," connoting the primeval forest, i.e., a space which is untamed and uncontrolled. Enlightenment reason, ecological theory argued, traditionally viewed such an environment or space as a hostile area suitable to only one activity: development. If an antithesis to the values of the West and modern civilisation could be found, then it lay in the idea of the wilderness, Roderick Nash's study of this important symbolic structure well outlines its especial prominence in Western thought. As a concept, wilderness was instinctively understood as something alien to man — an insecure and uncomfortable environment against which civilization had waged an unceasing struggle. The Europeans knew the uninhabited forest as an important part of their folklore and mythology. Its dark, mysterious qualities made it a setting in which the prescientific imagination could place a swarm of demons and spirits. In addition, wilderness as fact and symbol permeated the Judeo-Christian tradition. Anyone with a Bible had available an extended lesson in the meaning of wild land. Subsequent Christian history added new dimensions. As a result, the first immigrants approached North America with a cluster of preconceived ideas about wilderness. (Wilderness and the American Mind 8) Chapter Two 118 As an antipode to all things civilised, wilderness illustrates well the West's traditional relationship to any unsettled landscape'. Nature as wilderness was not to be celebrated, but feared. Associated with the monstrous, with chaos and a complete lack of control, the primeval forest functioned primarily to justify any and all myths of progress. From the early Renaissance period in Europe to the settlement of the New World, the idea of the wilderness continued to presuppose humanity's need to control its surrounding environment. In wilderness. Western culture continued to glimpse a most enduring antithesis. Its very existence, Nash notes, provided a strong rationale for civilisation itself. Nash's survey of the wilderness trope in American culture offers an impressive catalogue of its consistent influence. From the moment the first European settlers set foot in North America, the especial wildness of the landscape seems to have dominated popular conceptions of this new world. "Anticipations of a second Eden," Nash notes, "quickly shattered against the reality of North America...Previous hopes intensified the disappointment. At Jamestown the colonists abandoned the search for gold and turned, shocked, to the necessity of survival in a hostile environment" [Wilderness and the American Mind 44). Moving into the eventual settlement of the new states, Nash. Chapter Two 119 finds that the hostility the pioneers felt towards their landscape remained a constant feature of the American experience. If one image captures this relationship, it is that of "mortal combat." What the Americans couldn't conquer might at least be held at bay. The very idea of social order seemed to stop at the edge of every settlement. Although dominant well into the 20*̂ ^ century, such militaristic antagonism to nature continued to inspire a strong counter-argument, and Nash makes it a central part of his project to document the rise and evolution of the ecocentric view of wilderness. The "modern" concept of nature as something other than a threat to civilisation appears earliest in Kant's work on the sublime. For Nash, Kant's theory of natural sublimity can be further situated within an even larger tradition of "eco-romanticism" beginning among specific intellectual circles in Europe as early as the 16*̂*̂  century. The "flowering" of this movement would not take place until the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when, Nash reminds us, "wild country lost much of its repulsivenes^s." Nash explains. It was not that wilderness was any less . solitary, mysterious, and chaotic, but rather in the new intellectual context these ' qualities were coveted. European romantics responded to the New World wilderness and gradually a few Americans, in urban situations and with literary interests. Chapter Two , 120 began to adopt favorable attitudes. To be sure, indifference and hostility toward wilderness remained generally dominant. Even the enthusiasts of the wild found it difficult to discount the pioneer point of view completely. Yet by mid-nineteenth century a few Americans had vigorously stated the case of appreciation. {Wilderness and the American Mind 44) . Examples of this change in attitude are plentiful. The romantic celebration of nature could be found in the works of William Gilpin, Rousseau, Chateaubriand and de Tocqueville, among others. Connecting all of them is the notion that God or a metaphysical sense of a "Creator," a "First Cause," might actually be associated with wild nature. Far from the traditional sense of Eden or Paradise as an ordered, perfectly cultivated garden of beauty, sublimity ushered in a respectful appreciation of nature's roughness as a new sign of God's power and majesty. . This spiritualised conception of wilderness, this chaotic God, further constitutes an important precedent for later ecological theories. Divested of most fear of chaos or wild nature as an abject horror, these early Romantic Primitivists, as Nash calls them, were among the first intellectuals to attempt a more harmonious co-existence with the wilderness •beyond society. Here, he notes, an important counter-argument to the Western emphasis upon social progress begins to formulate itself. The Enlightenment's Promethean regard for development Chapter Two 121 converts to the acceptance of nature as a power in its own right. Primitivism appears, in this manner, as a progressive re- visioning of the natural world rather than the fearful and irrational hatred of civilisation the movement sometimes evokes. In fact, as Nash points out, Primitivists believed that human happiness and well being actually decreased in proportion to civility. If any aspect of human existence was barbaric it was the ongoing interest within the West in destroying the original purity and natural abundance of the wilderness environment. Frangois-Rene de Chateaubriand, an early enthusiast of Romantic Primitivism, described his first exposure to the wilderness of northern New York in 1792 as "a sort of delirium." He wrote: "in vain does the imagination try to roam at large midst [Europe's] cultivated plains...but in this deserted region the soul delights to bury and. lose itself amidst boundless forests...to mix and confound...with the wild sublimities of Nature."^ For Chateaubriand, power was not the exclusive property of human invention; and neither was delight. In cataloguing this change in Western attitudes towards wilderness, Nash establishes a fairly continuous counter- tradition to Western rationalism. Most importantly, he does this from within the Enlightenment itself, historicising the Romantic ^ Quoted in Durand Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815 (New Jersey: Princeton Press, 1957) 32-33. Chapter Two 122 sensibility as an integral component of reasoned reflection and .not as some reactionary movement to the problems of progress. As Nash demonstrates, consistent within the Romantic vision and its later ecological incarnations is the critical contention that rationalism had failed in its mandate to provide a healthy, meaningful social order.. In shunning nature in all its wild splendour, human development had denied itself a truly progressive cultural framework. Ecological theory saw itself, accordingly, as restoring the West to the promise of Reason, not severing it. Wherever the Promethean attitude re-surfaced in Western•thinking, the Romantic sensibility usefully counteracted its more destructive tendencies. In shunning nature. Western rationalisation had produced powerful economic systems, driven, regardless of ideological orientation, by the development of a state's natural resources. The association of wilderness with nature rather than human development aided ecocentrism in its attempt to define a non-economic mode of social relations. Here was a notion of nature that bore no economic value, and hence operated beyond the concerns of any ideology. To consider nature as wilderness presupposed a social order based upon more than just industrial growth and resource development. Emphasising co- operation rather than expansion, mutual collaboration rather than growth, the Romantic roots of ecocentrism carried a strong anti-economic bias in almost every core idea. Chapter Two 123 This is why, Nash contends, most forms of Marxism had little intellectual purchase in America. Marxist theories of economic development, which were alleged to have proposed cast- iron historical laws of historical progress, primarily provoked scepticism among 7\merican intellectuals. This uncertainty regarding Marxist principles, as we've seen, strongly inspired both Bateson and Polanyi to define new approaches to the field of sociology and anthropology. Many more extreme ecocentric writers, especially those interested in deep ecology, were more explicit in their criticisms, viewing Marxism as an indefensible exploitation of natural resources. Even Polanyi's use of Marx in his writing inspired criticism from other ecological theorists as well as conservative, anti-Communist ideologues, especially in the US. As Halperin notes, Polanyi purposefully downplayed his economic references in his writing because of his untimely interest in Marxism: "His critique of capitalism and his attempts to develop a generic set of concepts for understanding economic processes were muddled by a combination of McCarthyism and a brand of development economics that was interested in transforming economies in precisely the ways most abhorrent to Polanyi" (44). The role of Marxism, therefore, in American political and social theory lost considerable purchase after World War II, while ecocentrism became increasingly respectable on a variety of levels. If Marxism was going to survive as a Chapter Two 124 discourse, writers like Polanyi and 'Bateson realised, it needed to address and reform its own epistemological faults and political- failures. That Marxism continued, throughout the postwar period, to view history as a progression (through socialism to communism) cannot be denied. However, many Marxist thinkers, like Ferry, in turn, refute such criticisms as reductive, confused conflations of one particularly orthodox strain of Marxist thought. Distinctions are necessary, they argue, between Orthodox Marxist theory and its later, more advanced Westernised variations.'' Ferry's position conforms to later Western Marxisms, de- emphasising, as it does, the movement's more economically,and historically deterministic components. The critical theory of the Frankfurt School, as.well as Gramsci's philosophy of Praxis, refused all notions of history as simply the progress of ideas. Social theory, in these cases, contrary to what many ecological thinkers charged, did not imply the economic or historical march towards some ideal social vision. Rather, Western Marxism attempted to re-assess Marx's material determinism by focusing on his earlier original works, i.e., his Theses on Feurbach and Grundrisse. Critical Theory, in some ways, can even be compared "̂  See, for example, Deleage (1989), Martinez-Allier (1990) and O'Connor (1991). Chapter Two 125 to ecology due to its similar apprehensions about the domination and exploitation of nature through culture. Pierre Bourdieu exemplifies well this type of response to ecocentrism, criticising it for reducing the many variations of Marxist thought to its historical materialist concerns. Bourdieu's sociology introduces many of Ferry's concerns about the lack of ideological references in much ecocentrism. In fact, for Bourdieu, the tendency within ecocentrism to dismiss enlightenment principles of reason is indicative of a strong political unconsciousness among many postwar intellectuals within.the West. Read through Bourdieu, the search by ecocentric writers for a non-economic•basis for society — far from placing it beyond the influence of ideology — exemplifies an even stronger interdependence between cultural and political structures. Bourdieu formally delineates this relationship as "symbolic power," an apparatus of ideology that distributes its influence through consensus rather than direct political force. Such structures may effect a more rationalised and sublimated institution of coercion, but a certain political hierarchy remains consistent. In Bourdieu's view, the proper study of class interests and modern relations of power must necessarily begin, not with relations of production, but with cultural discourse as an important political apparatus in its own right. Otherwise, he Chapter Two 126 notes, cultural interaction between individuals becomes falsely separated from economic structures despite the strong evidence of power relations influencing and directing both types of activity. In ignoring the economic and political components of culture as delineated in later Marxisms, ecological criticism tends to set up a false dichotomy between industrial processes and everyday life.. An organised cultural market operates much like any other industry, outlining, as he puts it, a formal "set of dispositions" which incline agents to act and react in certain ways" (12). While such structures may not appear to be market-based, they do play an impor-tant role in the management of consumer relations. Identifying the actual social component of a cultural market as a "linguistic habitus," Bourdieu writes: Every speech act and, more generally, every action, is a conjuncture, an encounter between independent casual series. On the one hand, there are socially constructed dispositions of the linguistic habitus, which imply a certain propensity to speak and to say determinant things (the expressive interest) and a certain capacity to speak which involves both the linguistic capacity to generate an infinite number of grammatically correct discourses, and the social capacity to use this competence adequately in a determinate situation. On • the other hand, there are the structures of the linguistic market, which impose themselves as a system of specific sanctions and censorships. (37) When Bourdieu investigates the evolution of culture within the modern era, it is with particular attention to the profound Chapter Two 127 effect that the "linguistic markets" tend to have on the linguistic habitus as social relations become increasingly institutionalised. Accordingly, Bourdieu makes little distinction between Polanyi's locational and appropriational movements in his subsequent analysis of modern political economies. The symbolic nature of power, especially within the postwar state, ensures that institutions remain key points of focus, even where state or economic legislation seems completely absent. Rather than dismiss institutional arrangements in his work, as Polanyi does, Bourdieu enlarges them'to encompass entire social formations, paradigms of value and interaction he calls "social totalities." Within a particular social totality,- different disciplines such as literature and anthropology may have very little actual institutional affiliation with each other, and yet still convey a strong cultural homology. The fact that disparate fields of production and analysis can appear profoundly linked through (in Polanyi's case) collective interaction or (as with Grossinger) a metaphysical wholeness demands, for Bourdieu, an entire new conception of the relationship between culture^and ideology. The construction of a "social totality," Bourdieu writes, occurs through a linguistic field, that is, through linguistic relations of power as opposed to either material forces of coercion or capitalist exchange value. Once a distinct Chapter Two • 128 linguistic authority is able to assert its dominance over the social order, patterns of cultural assimilation quickly become codified and then officially disseminated among the polity. An authorised "linguistic market" can potentially influence all forms of public expression, includi-ng educational frameworks, mass media and the arts. The complex, symbolic nature of such authority, Bourdieu continues, effectively conceals what factors of control and political force may, in fact, be functioning. Instead power is exercised in a more sublimated manner through the conservation and control of legitimate fields of cultural production. A subject's "indoctrination" within these fields similarly requires little actual duress; "[s]ince mastery of the legitimate language may be acquired through familiarization, that is, by more or less prolonged exposure to the legitimate language, or through the deliberate inculcation of explicit rules..." (51). Subsequently, locational movements, as distinguished by Polanyi from all institutional frameworks, re- emerge in Bourdieu's work as potent modes of acquisition. Bourdieu writes. In this sense, like the sociology of culture, the sociology of language is logically inseparable from a sociology of education. As a linguistic market strictly subject to the verdicts of the guardians of legitimate culture, the educational market is strictly dominated by the linguistic products of the dominant class, and tends to sanction the pre-existing differences in Chapter Two 129 capital. The combined effect of low cultural capital and the associated low propensity to increase it through educational investment condemns the least favoured classes to the negative sanctions of the scholastic market, i.e., exclusion or early self-exclusion induced by lack of success. The initial disparities, therefore, tend to be reproduced since the length of the inculcation tends to vary with its efficiency: those least inclined and least able to accept and adopt the language of the school are also those exposed for the shortest time to this language and 'to educational monitoring, correction and sanction. (62) For Bourdieu, therefore, both family and educational frameworks hardly exemplify the autonomy from the state apparatus that Polanyi granted them. Rather, within these specific social spheres, political influence can be rendered quite efficiently. To study critically the sources of class structure requires a close examination of how culture itself is used as a form of capital, to study, in other words, the symbolic transposition of power into discursive hegemonies. Not surprisingly, Bourdieu takes as his focus in this project the main qualities of culture considered by ecological thinkers to lie beyond the constraints of market pricing mechanisms, namely: concepts of morality, ethics and authenticity. Symbolic power, at least initially, would rarely express itself in conventional terms of capital. Here, value remains subject to the thematic and lexical terms of censorship Chapter Two • • 130 specific to each individual field or discipline. The exact measurement of such'qualities as ecological theory maintains, is difficult to ascertain. Yet, for Bourdieu, it is precisely the ambiguous, fluctuating nature of these positions that needs to be analysed. To comprehend the political influence of modern cultural markets requires an awareness of the intuitive, even spiritual sense of holism permeating various studies and works, keeping them intact as both a methodology and an.epistemology. While, for Bourdieu, this holism certainly has an ideological function in society, he is careful not to reduce it to mere class interest. The political potency of symbolic forms of power derives from their own highly idealised nature, a sense of value that literally transcends all elements of class identification. When Bourdieu defines what he calls "cultural capital," he is not only describing a new source of power relations, but a significant transformation in the very concept of coercion itself. "[I]t is perhaps useful," Bourdieu notes, "to remember that without turning power into a circle whose centre is everywhere and nowhere, which could be to dissolve it in yet another way, we have to be able to discover it in places where it is least visible, where it is'most completely misrecognized — and thus, in fact, recognized. For symbolic power is that invisible power which can be exercised only with the complicity of those who do not want to know that they are Chapter Two 131 subject to it or even that they themselves exercise it" (163-4). Such are the terms of this particular form of power, the sublimated quality of which conceals not only its effects, but its political objectives as well. In Bourdieu's revised-critique of capital, therefore, relations of power do not necessarily have to function as movements of political and economic domination to constitute an apparatus of coercion. In his brand of Marxism, ideas of commodity fetishism extend conceptually to include all areas of linguistics and education, as opposed to just those objects mass produced within industry. The institutional nature of language meant, for Bourdieu,' that class rule did not necessarily end at the factory gate; to think otherwise risked more political unconsciousness which, in turn, perpetuated class oppression. With respect to Ferry's criticism of ecology, evidence of this political unconsciousness occurs in those strands of ecological thought that mistakenly attribute environmental damage to "automation," leaving other less manufacturing-based industries free of criticism. In Stone's ecological defence of the rights of trees, no charge of political injustice was ever actually levied at the Disney Corporation probably because the entertainment giant's role in environmental damage is not as clear that of a chemical industry. Disney, by virtue of the same rights and needs or representation accorded to the parkland Chapter Two . 132 itself, is also allowed its particular concerns and political objectives. Ideological struggle is reduced in this scenario to mere conflict of interest. All that Stone asks of the corporation's particular agenda is distance and a greater tolerance for smaller,- less powerful cultural movements. Marxism, for theorists like Bourdieu and Ferry, was highly useful in the discipline of sociology since it provided important knowledge of processes in history. 'Contrary to the views of orthodox Marxism, the point of this knowledge was not to produce an objective scheme of history's unfolding, but to be critical about the form of society emerging and to act on it to facilitate the construction of more democratic, socially responsible state.'An expanded, more complex view of class interest appears also' in Gramsci's theory of modern hegemony and what he calls the "economic corporate phase" of state power. For Gramsci, class interests within the industrialised state operate as a "rationality" for that class's intellectuals, influencing their actual consciousnesses. Revolutionary struggle, he argued, depended upon the active creative role of human intellect, not just labour conditions or supposedly objective laws of history and economic determinism. Like Bourdieu, thus, the type of power that most interests Gramsci in his critique of ideology operates on a cultural or superstructural level. Gramsci writes, since: • Chapter Two , 133 ...the impetus of progress is not tightly linked to a vast local economic development which is artificially limited and repressed but is instead the reflection, but is instead the reflection of international developments which transmit their ideological currents to the periphery — currents born on the basis of the productive development of the more advanced countries — then the group which is the bearer of the new ideas is not the economic group but the intellectual stratum, and the conception of the state advocated by them changes aspect; it is conceived of as something in itself, as a rational absolute. The problem can be formulated as follows: since the state is the concrete form of a productive world and since the intellectuals are the social element from which the governing personnel is drawn, the intellectual who is not firmly anchored to a strong economic group will tend to present the state as an absolute; in this way, the function of the intellectuals is itself conceived of as absolute and pre- eminent and their historical existence and dignity are abstractly rationalised. (116-7) Class interests, according to Gramsci, desire not just control of the means of production, but control of the ideological superstructure — for hegemony over mass consciousness. Such influence, he writes, is a decisive factor in the domination of society, for it means control over how society sees itself — the conventional wisdom or sensibility, the system of myths, images and sense of morality that people identify with publicly and privately. More important than the relations of production, the ruling class of the 20̂ "̂  century "owned" the general ethos of the Chapter Two 134 national community that provides the churches, schools and the family, as well as the mass media. Gramsci's exemplary figure of this brand of intellectual influence is the Italian philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce. For Gramsci, the definitive aspect of Croce's socio- historical writings on Italy is their consistent failure to address explicit occurrences of political violence, i.e., those moments in a nation's social development "in which the conflicting forces are formed, are assembled and take up their positions..." (163). This "passive" quality of his work, Gramsci reasons, derives from the philosopher's particular ideological aim to preserve hegemony as it pertained to his own class interests. Croce began his work within a period of massive political reform not unlike that which occurred in France in 1831 and 1848 — the years of Jacobinism. The reactionary forces during Croce's time, however, were not movements of moderate and conservative liberalism, but of fascism. Still Gramsci maintains that the ideological prerogatives exhibited by intellectual progressives during both periods were basically similar. Revolution was to be avoided at all costs and reform initiated through a process of gradual legislative intervention of the state as opposed to the populist agendas of fringe groups. Only under the direction of the traditional ruling classes, in competition with other more Chapter Two 135 advanced foreign industrial monopolies, could the productive forces of Italian industry be developed. While such a stance may on one level seem primarily academic in its repudiation of extreme political action, Gramsci effectively re-situates Croce's work as an important ideological apparatus in a "war of position." Positioning, Gramsci theorises, describes a distinct., political process within the evolution of the modern state, usually following the more extrinsic social violence of actual revolution or what he terms a "war of movement." The war of position Croce represents evolved directly from Italy's own revolutionary movement, designated by Gramsci as falling between March 1917 and March 1921. The political outcome, of course, was fascism a positioning far more extreme than that encountered by either French intellectuals in 1848 or, for that matter, American ecologists in the early postwar period. Nevertheless, following Gramsci's theory of hegemony, maintains, all three of these subsequent cultural struggles seem comparable. Gramsci's division of the revolutionary process into an active and passive phase, that is,- a war of movement and position, highlights the critical need to analyse power as a symbolic as well as an ideological apparatus in the modern state. Both Bourdieu and Gramsci continue to emphasise, in this way, the more symbolic or cultural elements of industrialised Chapter Two 136 political economies, revealing them to be powerful sources of ideological influence, despite there being little evidence of explicit social violence. For Gramsci the symbolic phases of state transformation tend to be expressed as self-contained rationalities which are then re-negotiated by the state according to pre-established cultural, values and the terms of censorship germane to available communication frameworks. In his study of Croce, Gramsci defines an intellectual hegemony based specifically in Croce's philosophical concept of "absolute spirit."^ Where Croce sought,to distinguish levels of social engagement as deriving from a type of transcendent level of human awareness he^called the "spirit," Gramsci saw only, ideological superstructures. It is not Gramsci's intention to re-introduce the orthodox Marxist, sense of "superstructure" as mere appearance or phenomena, yet, at the same time, Croce's metaphysical sense of the different relations of "class," "work" and "technique" within society must somehow reflect class interests. Polemically speaking, notes Gramsci, Croce represents such structures as belying a "hidden god," a "noumenon" in contrast_to the appearances of the superstructure (128). Defining his work as a philosophy of praxis, however, it is here that Gramsci reflects upon the more symbolic, "pre-rationalised" ^ See for example Benedetto Croce, Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913); and Logic as the Science of the Pure Concept {London, Macmillan and co., 1917), both texts that Gramsci worked from in his Chapter Two 137 forms of' political activity. For Gramsci, Croce's work well represents the transformation of ideology into abstract cultural value that succeeds the immediate impulse to political action. In the symbolic war of position, what might begin as historical movements to consolidate economic assets quickly acquire transcendental qualities and, before long, begin to involve a wide play for emotional and psychological influence. Within the context of Italian fascism after 1921 — that is, the symbolic implementation of fascist reform — it is sufficiently dramatic to witness the gradual failure of a once Leftist thinker like Croce even to address, much less confront, the political conditions developing around him. Croce did not play a direct or active part in fascist cultural policy, withdrawing from public life in 1926. But he did support the regime at the outset, and the increasingly abstract character of his later studies continued to inspire a conformist and de- politicised intellectual response to the social crises of this period. It is this latter tendency in Croce's work that Gramsci attacks most emphatically in order to show how the political potency of hegemony lay less in explicit doctrines than in the sublimated repression of all opposition. In fact, Croce's specific brand of idealism represented for Gramsci one of the most significant cultural barriers to establishing a permanent own analyses. Chapter Two 138 social-democratic alternative to the forces of the Right. Crocean idealism efficiently neutralised all revolutionary vision regardless of what class in which it might originate. It dissuaded both the working and bourgeois strata of Italian society from seeking social emancipation more successfully in some ways than Roman Catholicism could claim to have done. In this point Gramsci appears to vilify the Crocean intellectual even more than the fascist ideology itself: "fascism has given back to the bourgeoisie a class consciousness and class organisation," he writes in 1925, a view prompted by the fascist intensification of its own dictatorial agenda and powers. By contrast, the idealist's avoidance of class conflict signals a more serious erasure of consciousness by burying the very will towards 'emancipation beneath a larger, more abstract rationale of metaphysical holism. "This is why," Gramsci notes, "the mode of being of the new intellectual can no longer consist in eloquence which is an exterior an documentary mover of feelings and passions, but in active participation in, practical life as constructor, organiser, 'permanent persuader' and not just a simple orator (but superior at the some time to the abstract mathematical spirit); from technique-as-work one proceeds to technique-as-science and to the humanistic conception of history, without which, one remains 'specialised' and does not become 'directive' (specialised and political)" (10). By the Chapter Two 139 somewhat elliptical "directive," Gramsci hopes to emphasise more than the strong moral imperatives informing much "specialised" intellectual work. Modern intellectual discourse, far from offering any element of critical distance from any ideological framework, maintains close theoretical relationships with what political agendas might currently be in operation. An especial awareness of these relationships was absolutely vital, Gramsci maintained, in order for any subsequent critique to develop some form of political objectivity. Only when consciously detached from the influence of ruling class institutions (including all private markets), could an intellectual discourse become directive, i.e., counter-hegemonic. Gramsci's work is useful for my purpose in that it critically isolates Crocean idealism as a form of hegemonic power in the West. Although the philosopher was ultimately interested in the social and political problems of economic displacement within the modern state, his brand of Marxism was sophisticated enough to consider cultural forms of coercion as well as issues of class and the unequal distribution of wealth. Similar to ecological critiques of Marxist doctrine, Gramsci also realised that the social problems created by capitalist industry were caused not only by the physical ramifications of manufacturing and over-development on the environment, but also by the very logic of these processes. For Gramsci, the Chapter Two 140 industrialised political economy exercised its power almost entirely in the form of what he called "hegemonic culture," an apparatus of coercion based upon the subject's wilful submission to a higher communal "good." Gramsci's theory of hegemony explicitly identifies the attendant cultural prerogatives ; driving the 20̂ "̂  century capitalism. Material ' development, whether in the form of factory expansion or a war of movement, could accomplish only so much; the essential positivist vision or belief system informing such movements provided the continuity and order within society long after any physical effects were forgotten. What Gramsci's philosophy of praxis shares with ecology, therefore, is the firm conviction that capitalism is inherently environmentally unfriendly, although how much this shows at a given time will fluctuate: profitable operations can afford greater environmental consciousness than can unprofitable ones. Contrary to various ecological critiques of Marxist theory, both movements reveal a similar intellectual disenfranchisement from many of the original doctrines of Marx. It is to this particular division among American writers and critics in the postwar period that we now turn. Chapter Three 141 Chapter Three The Un-American Typewriter: Hegemony and The New Left Ecological thinking is symptomatic of the alienation' from conventional socialist theory shared by many postwar intellectuals. Evidence within orthodox Marxist thought of both an economic and technological determinism became increasingly apparent to the American Left, especially after World War II and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a nuclear superpower. Hence, not only did ecological critics declare Marx's view of social history as overly deterministic, but as we will see, many revisionary socialists did as well. The economic "production and reproduction of real life," as Engels put it, may be an important determinant of history, but it was not the only one. Other forces or energies, many postwar leftists believed, also affected social structure, not all of them deriving from class alienation. A more inclusive study of social disenfranchisement, much of the postwar American Left believed, should consider the potent effects of spiritual or emotional dissatisfaction as well as economic despair. Theories of ideology and cultural hegemony, such as those offered by neo-Marxists like Gramsci and Bourdieu, stressed the symbolically sophisticated, highly psychologised nature of state' Chapter Three ' ,142 power within the 20̂ "̂  century. Seeking to avoid the tendency in orthodox in Marxism to reduce complex cultural networks of varying determinations to economy, later leftists like Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Murray Bqokchin and Herbert Marcuse constructed a more differentiated model of social formation, composed of many competing modes of production rather than one dominant level. Earlier orthodox analyses, which stressed a more elementary struggle between the working and ruling' classes, gave over to views that no longer saw the proletariat as the sole agent of liberation. Herbert Marcuse, for example, identified sources of social change in a plethora of groups and political strata, including the "unemployed, unemployable,, poor and victims of discrimination." Political struggle, he argued, occurred on a variety of social and cultural levels, deriving from "various kinds of communes for production and distribution, residential communes, clubs, study circles, work groups, information centres, journals, health centres, legal aid centres, free alternative schools and 'universities' [etc., and it]...has its own alternative norms which anticipate those of the socialist society" (43). What this advanced Marxism conveys is the important role cultural narratives and other "symbolic" activities continue to play in the formation of power relations within capitalism. The "New Left" approach to political theory, as demonstrated in the Chapter Three 143 thought of Macdonald, Marcuse and Book'chin, among others, refuted materialist or economic determinist models of society. Marcuse argued that consciousness could transcend the material social conditions which alienated, to liberate itself (45). For this advance to happen, a conscious engagement with culture was necessary. The problem, for the New Left, with Marx's emphasis on class-consciousness was that it did not admit the possibility that each individual also possessed potential for radical dissent. Likewise, for Gramsci, the politics of cultural production was central to any investigation into ideology and state power. Ideological control' in the 20*̂ *̂  century, he argued, meant more than mere military coercion. It meant control over how society sees itself — the conventional wisdom, the system of myths, images and morality that people identify with publicly and privately (453). Like Gramsci, the New Left had obviously learned how difficult it was to shake this form of "total", control or "hegemony" within the existing relations of production. Certainly this shift.in neo-Marxist criticism seems partially attributable to the growth of European totalitarianism during and after World War II — specifically, the rise of Stalinism and the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. As the political relationship between the US and the Soviet Union deteriorated during the 1950s, Marxist criticism came under increasing Chapter Three 144 American government scrutiny. The political and cultural policing implemented through McCarthyism had a strong disciplinary effect on American intellectuals inside and outside the academic institutions. As Richard Ohmann writes of his own academic experiences at this time, We could freely teach and do research within reasonably broad limits, but activism was risky, and membership in at least one political organization — perhaps, then, others — was suicidal. By extension, to be a professional was to be non-partisan, to abstain from historical agency. Practitioners of literary studies, like those in all fields, should stay within their own areas of expertise. (83) Evidence of the often harsh, regulatory influence of American cold war politics on culture also appears in both the "high" and popular art of the time. The general impression of crisis and social instability permeating much early postwar American thinking can be seen in Republican anti-Communist propaganda as well as in the grassroots movements of "folk" and "country" then taking root in rural areas. Perhaps no cultural work manages to convey the psychological climate of the time as well as Thomas Pynchon's enigmatic novel V. (1961). Highly evocative of the more paranoiac and fearful qualities of American mainstream culture at this time, V. emphasises this culture's particularly volatile, highly unsteady sense of itself. Even the mysterious title character is distinct in her capacity to dominate the Chapter Three 145 story from its beginning without ever actually materialising within it. Pynchon emphasises the allusive, symbolic nature of this figure early in the tale: As spread thighs are to the libertine, . flights of migratory birds to the ornithologist, the working part of his tool bit to the production machinist, so was the letter V to young Stencil. He would dream perhaps once a week that it had all been a dream, and that now he'd awakened to discover the pursuit of V. was merely a scholarly quest after all, an adventure of the mind, in the tradition of The Golden Bough or The White Goddess. (50) Much more than the identity of a single woman, the letter "V" in Pynchon's hands seems to evoke an entire cultural order. Given such symbolic potency, it is not surprising that Stencil, the agent of this epic search, becomes frequently sceptical that' any one object might eventually be rescued from within this complex mythological matrix. In the symbolic landscape of Pynchon's text, even the most literal of material quests threatens to dissipate into wider typologies at any given moment. Bereft of any actual objects Pynchon's novel presents, accordingly, an effervescent image of the American postwar state. Although symbolically integrated, its culture encourages a corresponding subjectivity that is completely transient at best, unable to offer any definitive interpretation of its surroundings. As Stencil himself admits, in Pynchon's modernity, there is neither a proper nor a false way to read "V." More than Chapter Three . ., 146 a single figure, "V." hosts a wide variety of equally arbitrary disguises, including Victory in Europe, the mythological land of "Vheissu" and even Queen Victoria. As an initial symbol of the postwar era, "V." reigns supreme. Yet, even her ubiquitous presence at this time does not fully account for the intensely political nature of her role in the 1949 espionage trial of Alger Hiss. This time, "V" appears in one of her more culturally authoritarian disguises: the little steel "V" in mechanical typewriters that guides individual letters to the ribbon before making an imprint. In certain models, there was an unfortunate tendency for this "V" to bend under repeated use, thereby causing it to mis-channel and disfigure the approaching letters. In the case of Alger Hiss, it was exactly this type of flawed mechanism which misaligned the capital letters of his wife's old Woodstock, thus incriminating the machine as the one typewriter that copied sensitive government letters for Soviet agents during the Second World War. Given this evidence, between twenty-five and thirty FBI agents diligently combed Washington, D.C. for the un-American typewriter. As with Stencil's search in Pynchon's narrative, however, this manifestation, too, of the enigmatic "V." was to remain elusive — though not before causing much public anxiety. For a moment, a disfigured symbol revealed itself from inside Chapter Three 147 the wider spectacle. A gap appeared within the cultural order, one serious enough to require the corrective energies of the government. As newspaper accounts of the trial emphasised, even though the typewriter was never found,, the disruptive and sporadic manner in which Hiss's capital letters escaped the lines of type contributed more publicly to his image as traitor than any actual material evidence. Hiss's typographic offences, in other words, conveyed symbolically what his prosecutors had long suspected: that in the new postwar culture produced by the bi-polar politics of the cold war, any typewriter could be mistaken for an enemy agent. The symbolic threat which Hiss's supposed activities in espionage invoked reflects well upon the_important role information networks increasingly played in American politics, as well as the intimate and inclusive nature of the mechanics of power these networks implied. The primary reason behind the attack hinged upon Hisses important position as an actual government employee. Even though the US was not officially at war with the Soviet Union, the instability of their relationship at this time inspired within each superpower less tolerance for any ideological opposition inside its own borders. To maintain the enhanced form of cultural control-and influence that Gramsci attributed to ruling classes in the 20̂ "̂  century, sometimes an Chapter Three 148 explicit ideological censure of its discursive structures was necessary. The American government's censure of Alger Hiss's typescript showed intellectuals how quickly culture can be politicised, given the right ideological conditions. Artists and writers, especially those working from a position outside mainstream culture, could not help but ascertain the potential ideological components of their work. Olson, as we've seen, never doubted the important social role the artist or writer played in society. Not surprisingly, almost contemporary with the Hiss case, the typewriter re-emerges in Olson's hands as an important source of linguistic experimentation. The especial potential of this machine to generate modern cultural dissent derives, for the poet, from its unique ability to provide a more direct connection between the individual and his/her community. "It is the advantage of the typewriter," Olson declares in "Projective Verse," "that due, to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends" (SW 22). It would appear, thus, in Olson's work that through the typewriter, the writer gains an unprecedented degree of access to his/her entire culture. At the touch of a single finger, profound symbolic exchanges are almost instantly put into circulation. Exactly Chapter Three 149 "how far," Olson admits in this essay, "a new poet can stretch the very conventions on which communication by language rests, is too big for these notes...;" nevertheless, the means for wide- scale social revision never seemed quite so apparent. As the Hiss trial demonstrated, given its ability to reproduce sensitive government documents for quick and easy- anonymous distribution, the typewriter wielded profound political and social influence. Similarly, convinced of its inherent authority, Olson attributes to this tool a much more active role in the construction of a cultural discourse than was previously accorded most devices of reproduction. In the Hiss case, as in Olson's poetics, the typewriter continues to constitute a rather complex symbolic paradigm in itself. One mere glance at Hiss's offending typescript and an individual series of spatial moments, as particular and definitive as those defining Maximus's Gloucester, appears before one's very eyes: Hiss standing over his wife, dictating the federal document as she diligently types to the rhythm of his speech. For the purposes of Hiss's federal prosecutors, and, in fact, consistent with all. evidence in any criminal trial, "form" here really did need to derive directly from content. A very similar sense of form as evidence appears in Olson's prose when he attributes much of the peculiar stylistics of "Projective Verse" to the machine on which it was produced. It Chapter Three 150 is Olson's intention, thus, to re-conceptualise the typewriter as an important, if not primary component in the actual process of production.•Enframing his purposefully nebulous thesis or law of lawlessness within an equally fluent typography, Olson challenges his readers with a methodology that erases as well as repudiates traditional prose forms. Suddenly typewritten script in general becomes evocative of an entirely new aesthetics. Where Olson's prose leaves off, a variety of other typographies might,faithfully continue with little loss in theoretical content, encouraging the poet to view his writing as a part of larger, more "essential" cultural development. "Projective Verse" advertises its many technical innovations, thus, in a very explicit manner. The poet, for example, habitually leaves most parenthetical phrases only half-bracketed, suggesting the perpetual openness of the idea(s). In fact, Olson's sentences in general seem to resist coming to any type of close; much of his phrasing is packed with modifiers and descriptive clauses, effecting a type of verbal stutter. Ideas appear to bombard the reader from all directions in quick succession. Olson's poetics exemplifies how cold war politics and its subsequent influence on culture encouraged writers, activists and artists alike to discover alternate political agendas as well as new forms of cultural theory and criticism. As Gregory D. Sumner notes in his history of the intellectual milieu Chapter Three -̂ 151 associated with Dwight Macdonald and his journal Politics, the experience of World War II and the ensuing friction between the US and USSR had an almost paralysing effect on leftist thought in America. For Macdonald, especially, the technological efficiency with which the modern West was able, both during and after the war, to eradicate whole populations and centuries old cultural monuments completely re-framed the writer's understanding of the industrialised state. The Nazi genocide of the Jews, Hiroshima, the bombing of Dresden and the later stockpiling of nuclear weapons convinced Macdonald o-f the need not merely to improve political diplomacy between countries, but to alter the West's entire way of thinking. World War II, Sumner writes, and in' particular the Nazi holocaust was "something new" for writers like Macdonald, "a signal of nothing less than the bankruptcy of the western faith in the inevitability of progress. The dead end of the Enlightenment project of freedom through mastery. Hitler's network of death factories was a stunning triumph of rationalized technique dedicated to irrational and barbarous ends" (50). A profound cynicism regarding the essential structure and function of ideology began to spread throughout many intellectual spheres. Disenfranchised from the allied rhetoric that had spurred the West on to immoral atomic horrors, Macdonald came to the conclusion that in the present era, "It is not the lawbreaker we must fear...so much as Chapter Three 152 he who obeys the law."i Robert Duncan evokes similar sentiments appear over a decade later in his essay "Ideas of the Meaning of Form"(1961): "As long as the'battle is for real, where so much depends upon control of self or of environment, there is pathos and even terror in the reasonable man, for there is so much in man's nature and experiences that would never be within his authority" (SP 27). Through the development of this more sceptical intellectual position, Macdonald and his group remained heavily influenced by such German ex-patriate writers as Hannah Arendt and certain members of the Frankfurt School of Social Research, particularly Eric Fromm and Leo Lowenthal, who settled in the United States after the war.^ For members of Macdonald's group, Arendt represented a perceptive, yet balanced intellectual response to the ideological and cultural tragedy that had befallen her country. Her sense of the German political shift towards totalitarianism in the 1930s and the 1940s continuously emphasised its larger, western contexts, drawing important parallels between Nazi atrocities and the erosion of individual conscience that seemed general to all western societies. Macdonald couldn't have agreed more with these parallels. In the ^ Dwight Macdonald, "Notes on the Psychology of Killing," Politics 1 {September 1944): 239. 2 Arendt, Fromm and Lowenthal left Germany in 1940 along with various other members of the Frankfurt School of Social Research, including Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. Horkheimer and Adorno returned to Germany in the 1950s, Chapter Three 153 August 1945 issue of Politics he spared all subtlety in his response to the atomic annihilation of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, labelling it the "final blow" to his wavering Marxist faith. Within the post-Hiroshima age, he declared the very "CONCEPTS 'WAR' AND 'PROGRESS' ARE NOW OBSOLETE...WE MUST 'GET' THE MODERN NATIONAL STATE BEFORE IT 'GETS' US" (the upper case is his){Memoirs of a Revolutionist 169) . Betrayed by the ideological utopianism of the extreme Left, and horrified by the totalitarian excesses of the Right, , Macdonald and his circle adopted an increasingly non-ideology- based, less orthodox approach to politics. His journal Politics explicitly conceived itself to be answering a need for a fresh approach to radical activism. Yet, this intellectual interest in political pluralism did not imply a corresponding repudiation of all political action. While the New Left of Politics argued for a less "doctrinal" mode of activism, neither Macdonald nor his fellow editors considered themselves to have forsaken their original causes. The need for organised resistance to the destructive dominant forces responsible for both the recent war and the atom bomb remained just as potent as ever. Importantly, though, the individual and political strategies behind such causes had changed. The true political enemy, these writers now while Arendt, Fromm, Marcuse and •Lowenthal stayed in America. Chapter Three 154 began to feel, was not a specific counter-ideology to the socialist principles they themselves advocated, but the more general leviathan they called "statism." Here, government bureaucracy in general, along with the ever-looming spectre of national chauvinism, constituted the new intellectual targets of critique for the 7\merican Left. Gone from their political vocabularies were most visions of deliberate ideological resistance. Instead Macdonald and his circle located their struggle in larger cultural issues — for example, those based upon ideas of human emancipation and the liberty of the individual. Although the writers at Politics refrained from defining their political objectives any more specifically than a type of moral pursuit of humanist values (i.e., human dignity, social tolerance and emancipation), they exemplify the profound scepticism the New Left had in general regarding most forms of bureaucratic organisation and ideological beliefs. A progressive and enlightened movement of emancipation, they believed, operated much more openly, that is without any ideological prejudices. In contrast to pre-war Marxist inspired social resistances and political activism, the new antithesis to all apparatuses of authority offered few specific political solutions to the problems, but rather a commitment to communal values and general social welfare. While such vague gestures Chapter Three 155 towards notions of social harmony may not have valorised class struggle within the capitalist state, they seemed to .provide the only starting point for discussions of how to extricate western culture from the 'blind alley" it had somehow reached by the 1940s. Macdonald wrote as early as 1939, "There are no more general ideas" — what' better describes the intellectual atmosphere today? Most political thinking has abandoned not only the old optimism of progress. But also the very notion of any consistent attempt to direct the evolution of society in a desirable direction. Submission to brute force of events, choice between evils rather than between positive programs, a scepticism about basic values and ultimate ends, a refusal to look too far ahead — this is the mood.3 Comparable in many ways to Olson and other disillusioned writers at Black Mountain as well as the new ecocentric sociologists working in the academy, Macdonald exemplified a strongly inward- looking gaze. Reflection and not attack was his mode of critique. A more culturally informed activism, Macdonald believed, sought.not the doctrinal elitism of past decades, but a new relationship between the individual and society that went beyond class and economic structures. Macdonald qualified this relationship in a manner that recalls Olson's own description of the poet's ideal connection to his social context, i.e., as a -̂  Macdonald, "War and .the Intellectuals, Act -Two, " Partisan Review 6 (Spring 1939) 8. Chapter Three 156 more emotionally, culturally dynamic exchange between the individual and his or her environment. Given this new emphasis on culture, it is hardly surprising that much of the Left within the US at this time initiated less formal ideological opposition to the political mainstream than orthodox Marxists had done only a decade earlier. This de- radicalisation of the New York group should also be viewed in relation to the American government's ongoing suspicion and condemnation of oppositional ideologies within the US. Yet, as I've suggested at the beginning of the chapter, what might have begun as strict ideological censure of communist or anti- capitalist doctrine quickly evolved into a much more general pursuit of cultural conformity. Not satisfied with the banning of individual membership within the Communist Party of 7\merica, various school and ladies' committees also prohibited works like John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath for being too critical of American society during the Depression (Goldman 122). In a. similar move, "textbook boards," as Eric Goldman points out, "setting out to protect the schools from communism shielded the young from any praise of minimum wage laws along the way" (122) . Goldman writes, •-• The heart of the emotional drive behind this whole conspiracy theory lay precisely in the fact that it was a theory of conspiracy. The hated developments could all have been prevented; they were all the work of a. few Chapter Three 157 wicked men, operating behind a cloak of hypocrisy. The American who was so annoyed at the fact that a Negro sat down beside him in a bus rarely saw that the social upsurge in the United States as an ineluctable part of the democratic process. The Negro was there because New Dealers had plotted to put him there. The rise of Communism around the world did not result from long-running historical forces; the Red advances came from the Alger Hisses, who.had contrived to bring them about.... The danger had been and was within the United States, not from the outer world. (123) To sustain what, following Goldman's descriptions, seems to be the paranoiac repudiation of all explicit social commentary requires more than just political propaganda, it demands intense psychological and emotional control. The cultural objectives of much of the postwar American government tend to reveal, thus, a highly xenophobic sense of social and moral vision. Its positions remained reactionary in many of its policies, effecting a radically paranoiac, defensive orientation towards its entire polity. Policing strategies, along with most corresponding discourses of punishment, became increasingly severe. Potent political and personal threats, it seemed, lurked within every corner and crevice of the postwar state. To support American social policies at this time required an especial awareness bordering on suspicion of much cultural activity in general. As Ohmann notes. By the 1950s, too, secrecy seemed an inevitable condition of world politics, of Chapter Three ' 158 "intelligence," of special knowledges in science and beyond. Others were in charge of those matters; we lacked not only their expertise but also the right to know how they were deploying it and the right to voice encouragement or criticism, except for an occasional scandal such as the U-2 incident that lifted the veil of secrecy. Real history was someone else's business. Literary studies went along on history's margin, with little cold war money and excluded from policy circles. (76) Fear "of a new ideological-menace to the American "way of life" clearly inspired, despite the US's relative prosperity and social stability, much political hostility and reactionary doctrine. As the political suspicion between the Soviet Union and the US intensified after 1945, strategies of social as well as psychological repression became readily rationalised as measures necessary to ensure moral order. In his analysis of the early years of the cold war, Guy Oakes also emphasises the especial prominence of an overwhelming fear and dread throughout American culture, linking it to several specific military and political developments of that time. The policy of deterrence, he argues, required a public willingness to act coherently and with conformity should the unthinkable — i.e., a communist invasion or nuclear attack — actually occur. Thus, although an essential feature of the modern political economy in general, the ideological drive within American conservatism for increased socio-cultural Chapter Three 159 conformism significantly increased as the cold war evolved. Effective social stability, in the opinion of both the Federal Administration and the National Security Council, now had to counter the continuous threat of complete annihilation, and for this to be possible, the natural propensity to be in terror of atomic warfare had to be somehow neutralised. What Oakes's revisionist study of this period shows is the strong moral imperatives inspired by America's sense of its own ideological vulnerability. Once again, Gramsci's analysis of 20̂ "̂ century ruling structures with their.more inclusive, culturally focused vision of power seems highly relevant. As Gramsci originally noted during his own imprisonment by the fascists in the 1920s, a critical understanding of cultural production necessarily grasped its political function in organising consensus within the bourgeois state. Within modern industrialised (or what he called the "post-Fordist") state, preserving order shifts as a civic responsibility from the military.to institutions of culture, such as the media. Consequently, even temporary gaps in hegemonic influence, such those induced by subaltern cultural practises, possessed the potential to dislocate social morality. Here, the dominant media and public intellectual networks of the 20th century appear as important "gatekeepers" for hegemonic culture. Marking out and defending the limits of acceptable political conflicts, these Chapter Three 160 networks developed their own strategies of exposing, condemning, or excluding from the public agenda, those elements which violated or challenged the political consensus. For planners of national security at mid-century, such as John Foster Dulles (perhaps one of the most authoritative voices on foreign policy in the Republican Party,) , the question as to whether the United States could win or even survive the next world war depended not upon their country's military readiness, but rather upon the moral resources of the 7\merican people. During the 1948 presidential campaign, Dulles was New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey's principal foreign policy advisor. Dulles's views first gained notoriety in 1946 in a two-part Life magazine article in which he castigated American culture for being morally bankrupt, irreligious and, worst of all, completely materia:listic. He elaborated further on these criticisms four years later in a long essay published in book form called War or Peace (1950). The essay ostensibly outlined how the'us at mid-century might still avoid conflict with Soviet Communism if it were prepared to undertake serious cultural renewal. For the first time in its history, Dulles wrote, the US was being surpassed in all areas of social and cultural development. The primary reason for this crisis lay in the gradual erosion within the country of its moral and spiritual foundations. An unhealthy and runaway dependence upon material Chapter Three 161 goods had led to a more or less complete corrosion of the very basis for American individualism and its ethic of self-control. Contemporary Americans, he maintained, had lost the virtues that made America great: the "commitment to hard work, [as both a] duty [and] a source of self-satisfaction and inner discipline" (5) . Dulles wasn't alone in his opinion on the moral decline of American society. George F. Kennan, a prominent State Department foreign policy strategist, held a similarly pessimistic view of American will, although based on a different premise. Rather than attribute the current weakness of American character to a loss of theological grounding, Kennan expressed a nostalgic lament for an obsolete class of pre-industrial producers, including independent family farmers, merchants, and craftspeople. Kennan was convinced of the superior virtues of this class and their importance in maintaining the characteristic traditions and institutions of American life. In his book, Sketches from a Life (1989), a collection of diary excerpts written over the course of his professional life, the following personal reflection dated 26 August 1956 summarises his views: I am living in the world my father despaired of, and rightly so. Why should I take it too seriously, hurry and worry and bustle around in it. It is, after all, later afternoon; the main happenings of the day are over; not Chapter Three 162 much more is going to happen today. In this way I may acquire something of that same peace that [my father's grave has] recognizing, too, without complaint, that my day is past, that I am as much of an anachronism as the house, that I, too, have been passed by and do not really mind too much — because the present is too uninteresting. We of the past have a secret; and we need never worry about its being betrayed — for no one now is curious about it. No one would understand it even if he tried. {Sketches from a Life 172-3) In many ways, both Dulles's and Kehnan's cultural positioning can be compared to a fairly traditional Republican stance on the modern state and its complex relationship to •industrial progress. Dulles's lament for the loss of spiritual grounding within postwar America derives ideologically from the conservative mistrust of rampant, hasty trends in modernisation. The spiritual and moral qualities of Dulles's viewpoint might also' be traced to the strong religious foundation of the American right. It is worth recalling here that Gramsci also analysed American ideology with reference to the Protestant, puritan roots of capital development in general. In his study of Fordism, Gramsci emphasises what he calls the "puritanical initiative of American industrialists like Ford" where an idealist concept of work and physical efficiency seems evident .above all. Despite the mechanised .and de-humanised quality of Fordist labour, Gramsci notes, a strong moral fervour tends to Chapter Three 163 dominate its development (at least in theory) as a paradigm of successful social management. Hence Dulles's retreat to spiritual perspectives retraces a conventional line of thought within the political and theoretical parameters of conservative thinking. Like Ford, Dulles was obviously not against technological progress; yet he believed in retaining strong social limits on its directions and rate of growth. At its simplest level, Dulles's critique expresses a fearful nostalgia for a purer, less differentiated economy, one in which relations of power were more explicitly visible and therefore directly enforceable. As well, Kennan's pessimism can be interpreted as a lament for a more stable discourse of industrial and social development. In both perspectives, the key to a revitalised 7\merican order lay in past moral disciplines. These strategists' consistent veneration of an older, "golden" era of American culture not only corroborates Gramsci's linking of bourgeois and Protestant ethics, but his observations of conservative reactions to political and economic instability as well. As Gramsci notes, the moral imperatives initiated within Protestantism always precipitated serious social and political crises. When consensus seems to be in danger of rupturing due to either domestic or foreign threats, formal apparatuses of coercion and persuasion frequently become Chapter Three 164 necessary to repair stability. Under republican Puritanism, the 7\merican government hoped to re-introduce its polity to a renewed paradigm of virtue and moralism, establishing, in turn, a re-vitalised contract of state liability. The unique political crisis in the US - USSR cold war, with its attendant spectre of nuclear destruction, elicited from . ideologues like Dulles and Kennan a new call for moral policing. Without an inclusive re-imagining of strong, ethical principles in the American everyday, the entire country, they imagined, was ripe for invasion. Kennan's description of postwar urban America emphasised primarily the corrupted and degraded character of his milieu. Heeding his warnings, the State and Defence Departments sent Kennan on a journey by train .from Washington to Mexico in order to configure a more exact vision of the American cultural ethos. Kennan was not optimistic in his portraits. St. Louis, for example, appears to Kennan as a series of dilapidated storefronts, sooty old buildings and "grotesque decay surrounded by lots strewn with indecent skeletons of blight, debris and bef oulment. ""̂  In contrast, to the original rural and townscape of emotional strength and communal responsibility, the current ethos inspired little beyond despair and depression. Kennan published his melancholy views of 7\merican morality in a series of political articles and memoranda beginning almost Chapter Three 165 immediately after the war. Importantly, each critique was framed not only in contrast to an idealised historic fantasy of Republican virtue, but as a military and political failure to meet the growing Soviet threat. In a, famous "Long Telegram" from Moscow dated February 1946, Kennan explicitly connected his concerns about the moral resilience of postwar America with a larger fear regarding the growth in Soviet armaments and military capability. Kennan wasted little time and words in noting that a successful response to the Soviet danger depended directly upon "the health and vigor" of America itself. Every effort to build the "self-confidence, discipline, moral and community spirit of our own people," Kennan argued, "is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiques" {Memoirs, 1925-1950 559). Kennan exemplifies in his criticism the new Puritanism that began to permeate much of American culture. His appeal to tradition in the face of what he saw as a profound crisis in American virtue reflected the sensibility of the New England pilgrim more than that of the postwar American. Anxious to preserve American postwar hegemony, Kennan reformulated a set of explicit moral imperatives for both the country's domestic policies and domestic movements in culture. As one historian notes, anti-Communist hysteria "drew on a wide range of •̂ George Kennan, Sketches from a Life 131-2. Chapter Three 166 traditions [including] hatred of the ^eastern establishment' that dominated the state department, and congressional concern at presidential activism...distaste for European entanglements, and the Chinese intervention in Korea" (Dunbabin 41). Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land (1950) re-introduced past mythologies of the "West" as frontier and a site of 7\merican ingenuity, beginning an academic "backlash" to Leftist histories that had in the 1920s and 1930s critiqued such thought as a "rationalisation" and, hence, oppressive. Smith's book won a quick academic following and.was" praised for its scholarship. It. was labelled "a major achievement in both history and criticism" in the New York Herald Tribune Book Reviews.'=' A.B. Guthrie of the New York Times qualified Smith's work as "a study that is sure to stand as a lasting contribution to the field opened familiarly by Frederick Jackson Turner and his 'The Significance of the Frontier in American History'."^ Fearful that it could not ' rehabilitate its citizens when they happened to succumb to foreign ideological "infections," the American State apparatus now turned its energies to harsher punishments and policing methods. In describing the political and military aims of the US during the cold war era, Christopher Simpson emphasises the 5 Bernard DeVoto, rev. of Virgin Land by Henry Nash Smith, New York Herald Tribune Book Reviews 9 (April 1950): 4. Chapter Three 167 totalising vision the state initiated when defending itself against Soviet ideology. Simpson defines American domestic policies in the cold war era as "psychological warfare," noting how postwar America deployed a new paradigm of national defence based upon practices of domestic control and civic organisation. The clearest indication of this new military thinking and sense of warfare lies, Simpson comments, in the profound interest the state showed in contemporary communication research and theories of social management. "Government psychological warfare programs," he writes, "helped shaped mass communication research into a distinct scholarly field, strongly influencing the choice of leaders and determining which of the country's scientific paradigms of communication would be funded, elaborated, and encouraged to prosper. The state usually did not directly determine what scientists could or could not say, but it did significantly influence the selection of who would do the 'authoritative' talking in the field" (13). The new prominence of communication theory in political military development corresponded, in essence, to the moral imperatives apparent in the thinking of strategists like Dulles and Kennan. in these parallel concerns, a similar focus on the individual American psyche and state of mind seems to dominate all preparations for ^ A.B. Guthrie, rev. of Virgin Land by Henry Nash Smith New York Times 2 April 1950: 7. , • Chapter Three 168 military conflict. A secure state in the postwar era derived as much from proper management of its human resources as it did any traditional refortification of its external borders and physical defences. Dangers to the state, these conservatives argued, lay in any possible breakdown in its postwar network of resources and consumption. Threats to conventional values and cultural visions, whether they derived from foreign military sources or domestic economic decline, demanded a particularly organised response centred upon its internal components and social infrastructure. Once again, practices and agendas of rehabilitation took precedent over those of military violence and political attack. The preservation of consensus against all modern threats demanded, in other words, an inward-looking, self-reflexive positioning of defence. The key to survival was in re-generating both liability and self-dedication on the part of every citizen. Most defence advisors in the US at this time considered the newer political emphases upon persuasion and propaganda as a relatively rational, more humane alternative to the extraordinary brutality and expense of conventional war. Furthermore, persuasive mass communication not only lessened military casualties, it encouraged domestic conformity and solidified political will in general. The primary goal of.the Chapter Three 169 cold war remained ideological containment both within and exterior to US boundaries. As a figure of cultural transgression Alger Hiss is valuable for making explicit the underlying political — not to mention penal — components informing much of the official rhetoric of moral persuasion and cultural responsibility. As I've suggested, the threat Hiss posed was primarily symbolic, undercutting the cultural fabric of the American everyday through his unlawful use of technology (the typewriter) and appropriation of political information. Although research in the KGB archives has ultimately shown that Hiss was an actual Soviet mole, this fact detracts little from the type of investigation pursued against him in the early postwar period. More than the mere threat of exposing important military secrets to the enemy. Hiss signified to the government the significant potential for sabotage newly manifest in the most banal contexts of the everyday. One did not need to be an ex-patriot poet utilising foreign texts and publishing facilities to spread anti-American , sentiment. In the postwar world of bi-polar political super- apparatuses, the ideological demarcation between friend and foe was no longer dependent upon national boundaries. Cultural transgression could be occurring in the homes next door to yours with American-made typewriters, utilising American information networks. US propaganda films such as made in the early 1950s Chapter Three 170 continued to stress the practically limitless number of sources within the country from which anti-American activity could conceivably originate. Journalists, writes Goldman, "caught the national mood" in its fuller nuances: Cold fear is gripping people hereabouts...It' s not fear of Communism in this country. Few think there are enough Commies here to put it over. It's not fear of the atom bomb. For • most think we still possess a monopoly. But it does seem to be a reluctant conviction that these three relentless forces are prowling the earth and that somehow They are bound to mean trouble for us. (78-9) The ambiguity of the threat in tandem with its remove from conventional politics or military targets only seemed to increase its potency. Even its broad categorisation as "anti- American," as opposed to communist or fascist, reveals how individual ideological threats had evolved by this time into wider decisions about lifestyle and cultural beliefs. The Soviet ideology was not interpreted here as a rival labour or class structure, so much as a blatant and purposeful attempt to destroy the "American" way of life. The preservation of hegemony in the 1950s meant for the conservatives psychological rehabilitation and an intensified control of the media and cultural production. The cold war would be fought on two fronts: militarily, it would depend upon nuclear intimidation while Chapter Three 171 domestic stability would derive from one's command of information. When the US began to re-develop its ruling structures in preparation for a more totalising psychological mode of warfare, it realised the importance of general communications and cultural research in pursuit of its military aims. Federal agencies such as the Department of Defence, the US information agency and the CIA provided the substantial majority of funds for many large-scale communication research projects by US scholars between 1945 and 1960 (Simpson 9). According to one source, the federal government in the 1950s spent as much as $1 billion annually on such activities.'^ In addition, certain major foundations such as the Carnegie Corporation and Ford usually operated in close co-ordination with government propaganda and intelligence programmes in the allocation of money for mass communication studies. Nelson Rockefeller, in his capacity as both a major source of cultural patronage and president between 1946 and 1962 of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), remained an important advisor in American foreign policy. Few Secretaries of State after 1945 were not in some way influenced or at least engaged with the various foundations and agencies directly controlled by the Rockefellers. Very little of this '̂  Steven Chaffee and John Hochheimer, "The Beginnings of Political j Communications Research in the United States: Origins of the 'Limited Effects' Model," Michael Gurevitch and Mark Levy eds., Hass Communications Chapter Three 172 relationship was ever purposely kept from the public. In June 1941, a Central Wire story described the MOMA as "the latest and strangest recruit in Uncle Sam's defence line-up." The story quotes the Chairman of, the museum's board of trustees, John Hay Whitney, on how the museum could serve as a weapon for national defence to "educate, inspire, and strengthen the hearts and wills of free men in defence of their own freedom." Whitney • himself spent the war years working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS — the predecessor of the CIA; in 1967, his charity Trust was exposed as a CIA conduit).^ Throughout the early 1940s, MOMA engaged in a number of war-related programmes, operating as a minor war contractor for propaganda and information services. Such policies established a clear precedent for the important political role museums and cultural institutions would play .in the postwar era and contributed, in general, to the ethos of fear and mistrust that subsequently involved. The general importance of communication and "cultural" research in US campaigns of psychological warfare invokes a side of government not usually analysed in conventional political critiques or histories: namely, the government's role in determining what it considers to be legitimate or illegitimate forms of culture. Such duties during the cold war involved more Yearbook, Vol. 5 (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985) 77. ^ "Whitney admits CIA Connection," New York Times, 25 February 1967. Chapter Three 173 than mere censorship; government agencies such as the OSS and, during the war, the Office of War Information (OWI) worked to propagate its own information networks. In its role as "educator," the postwar government sought to repair all potential fissures in the dominant culture before serious social • disorder sets in. Threatened politically and militarily by the rapidly industrialising USSR during the 1950s, the United States saw an increasing need to re-assess its own structures of discipline and symbolic coercion, its own "intelligence." It may seem odd to historians now that the US intelligence services at the beginning of the Cold War could not assess at that time how limited Soviet industrialisation in fact was. Immediately after World War II, the USSR suffered from major structural weakness. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, huge swatches of former Soviet.territory were revealed to be undeveloped and more or less at third world levels. While it may seem implausible that the CIA knew little of this during the years they were building up the Soviets as a threat, few studies have gone so far as to accuse them of having deliberately misled Americans about the possible Soviet menace. To speculate on the very possibility of such a cover-up invites theories of conspiracy. Hence, it seems more historically accurate to suggest a genuine confusion among American Intelligence regarding the USSR's exact military intentions. Chapter Three . 1 7 4 Following World War I, the US government had little to fear^ from foreign influences and so shut down its propaganda and •espionage agencies within months after signing the Treaty of Versailles. After World War II, by contrast, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations institutionalised these agencies and encouraged them to acquire sweeping powers (Simpson 31). In a sense, as far as subsequent administrations were concerned, the allied" victories in central Europe and the Pacific did not signify an actual end of war. The postwar West acquired instead an altogether new sensibility concerning its political relations and the development of foreign policy in the years to come. American society would remain, even after 1945 clearly on the defensive, though no specific battle had been or would be declared. No functioning field of activity or disciplinary structure would, if at all possible, escape continuous re- assessment, and when necessary, complete reconstruction. In this manner, a strong revision of America's social semiology was undertaken almost immediately after the war's end. Given the military's aim of cultural rehabilitation throughout the modern social body, it is not too surprising how the official rhetoric of the time resorted most often to metaphors of illness and viral infection when expressing immediate political goals. Comparing Marxism to a serious "confusion of mind," the chief of , intelligence of the US Army Ground Forces asked, "Where is the Chapter Three 175 mental penicillin that can be applied to our loose thinking to ensure the wholesome thought that is so urgently needed in our country today....Our troubles of the day — labor, demobilization, the discontented soldier — these are the sores on which the vultures of communism will feed and fatten."^ American authorities had declared a virtual state of emergency, which in turn paved the way for an increase in the degree of state manipulation needed to re-stabilise hegemony. Consistent with their Republican roots, such attempts to immunise the viruses of sabotage expressed themselves politically as either populist celebrations of the rural and suburban landscapes or moral-based laments for the loss of the Puritan work ethic. Both positions readily supplied important source material for the production and distribution of right-wing propaganda and where necessary the cultural screen behind which more pernicious acts of subterfuge, such as black-listing, attacks on unions, etc., continued. What such activity shows, aside from some insights into the nature and structure of political coercion in the 20th century, is that in an age of supposedly self-regulating cultural markets, extreme measures of state manipulation were far from obsolete in the US at mid-century. 9 Maj. Gen. W.G. Wyman, letter to Asst. Chief of Staff G-2, War Department General Staff, quoted in Simpson 35. Chapter Three 176 Given the often strict measures the state used to maintain ideological conformity, it is, perhaps, not surprising to witness the abandonment by intellectuals of past oppositional ideologies. In fact, as we will see in the next chapter, many academics were even open to participation in certain propaganda and counter-information services. Some intellectual journals like Encounter (1953-9.0) were specifically CIA supported. The strongest network of collaboration likely centred on the journal. Public Opinion Quarterly, a periodical, begun at Princeton in 1937, ostensibly centred on US foreign policy. As Simpson points out, much of the editorial board at POQ was explicitly connected to or had worked for the US government's psychological warfare effort whether through the Department of State, the CIA, or even the Armed Forces (Simpson 44). Here sociologists, anthropologists, and other such researchers analysed diligently how the socio-psychological and behavioural characteristics of a given population could be used within a political framework. Much research, for example, was done with polling results in an attempt to determine what a polity's specific ideological orientation might be in different areas of the world (especially within the "new" West) circa 1945-1950. Despite the clear political biases of this work, such studies operated, for the most part, under the pretence of scientific neutrality or objectivity and relatively few protests over the Chapter Three 177 nature of the work ever materialised (Simpson 48). In general, the military value of this research dramatically increased the overall socio-cultural status of the social sciences within the academy, encouraging intellectuals from a variety of disciplines to adopt the supposedly ideologically neutral stance of scientific objectivity. Even poets and artists,'such as .Charles Olson and Archibald MacLeish, among others, found service for their government in the guise of "strategists" for the Office of War Information. The Office of War Information (OWI) replaced the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF) in 1942, by executive order, once America formally entered the war. At the OFF, MacLeish and his staff had worked to supply 7\mericans with information about the developing war. Insisting that "a full knowledge of what we are fighting for" was the best way to ensure "national unity," they emphasised the ideals of increased democracy and social equality at home and abroad (Winkler 8). When the OFF changed hands and became the OWI, MacLeish became assistant director in charge of ] the Policy Development branch, thinking that he would continue to shape OWI output according to his own vision. However his idealism soon ran afoul of administrators with a different, more propagandistic vision of the OWI's function. 1° The government. °̂ Sydney Weinberg, "What to Tell America: The Writers' Quarrel in the Office of War Information," Journal of American History 55 (1,968): 75. Chapter Three 178 both MacLeish and Olson realised, was looking for a specific type of intellectual who would help establish and maintain fixed American values, while censuring any information or culture that did not meet them. Not surprisingly, Olson, MacLeish and many other like-minded staff writers found the entire office to be completely antithetical to their own aesthetic sensibilities and political beliefs. For many social scientists, the new political threats and military challenges of the postwar era encouraged the reactionary vision of Social Darwinism with its distinct survivalist orientation. Social Darwinism, as with "development theories" in general, tended to equate social advancement simply with modernisation — a perspective shared by the American military. Modernisation theory holds that the more structurally specialised and differentiated a society is, the more modern it is. Modernisation involves technological sophistication, urbanisation, the spread of markets, social and economic mobility and the weakening of traditional elites, collectives and kinships. Individualism and self-advancement attitudes prevail, guiding a wider notion of overall social progress. In response to both these Darwinists and the rise of Stalinist orthodoxy throughout the international communist movement, much progressive intellectual work, especially in the field of sociology, became less interested in ideology. Leftist writers Chapter Three 179 felt they could no longer offer a critique of civil norms in the context of their bourgeois deformation. As exemplified among the editors and writers of such New Left mid-century journals as Politics and Partisan Review, alternate, less partisan oppositional strategies emerged that were interested not so much in ideological critique as in locating a position that transcended all ideology. Such extreme scepticism came to define arid inform the more progressive liberalisms of this era, as can be seen in Macdonald's writings as well as in those of many of his colleagues. Disenfranchised with the continued Soviet distortion of communist principles while simultaneously threatened by the narrow-minded provincialism of the reactionary Right, the postwar intelligentsia retreated increasingly inward towards a position of supposed neutrality and political autonomy, a position, so to speak, of non-positioning. The most concrete practise or project to emerge from these writers was likely the formation of "Europe-America Groups" in the late 1940s. Attempting to organise and, hence, expand many of the ongoing dialogues between European and American writers at this time, Macdonald and his colleagues set up a formal network of critical exchange. The impetus behind such efforts seemed to follow a more•or less universalist approach to cultural politics, expressing itself as a distinct Chapter Three , 180 cosmopolitanism or international pluralism..With its commitment to relative solutions and provisional, consensus-based truths, what remains emphasised above all in this movement is the repudiation of the very concept of ideology. True progressivism, these writers maintained, sought larger principles of integration. If a lasting basis for human relationships were to be found, then it would be "outside" politics, drawn from some imagined sphere of innate justice and value. In comparing these later, de-radicalised visions of reform with some of the more reactionary, paranoiac agendas of the moral Right-, important contrasts quickly emerge. Both viewpoints remained highly suspicious of overt government interference in day-to-day social interactions. Conservative positions, however, offered strict moral alternatives to excessive government, while the more progressive stances advocated an open tolerance for multiple perspectives and movements. No one ideology or vision, the New Left reasoned, should be allowed dominance if the democratic social order were to be truly reformed. Each- side of the ideological spectrum, accordingly, claimed access to a vision beyond the structures of politics; the primary difference between the two, it appears, was more a question of how severe the actual threat to American civil society might be perceived, how strongly, in other words, did moral measures need to be enforced. Chapter Three 181 Progressive, neo-Marxist reformisms rarely offered explicit ideological critique; yet they also refused to indulge in the moral platitudes and populist slogans their conservative counterparts stressed. Instead, a comparatively subtle will to communicate, to cohere, informed their public vision, producing phrases and catchwords of a much more psychological nature.,The political message of reform now focused on the sanctity of the individual and its ability to transcend ideological coercion. Unlike the Old Left, which had based its critique on the design of an alternate political economy, postwar progressive thought harboured few pretensions that it could ever supply the final prescription for a social Utopia. At most, such intellectuals merely required a more or less neutral space of activity and reflection in which a healthier, artistic and more individually expressive cultural order might.grow. As Max Eastman writes in Reflections on the Failure of Socialism (1955): ...I don't see how there can be an answer, to their assertion that mankind is confronted with a choice between two and only two business systems -- a choice which involves the fate of democratic civilization. We can choose a system in which the amount and kind of goods produced is determined by the impersonal mechanism of the market, issuing its decrees in the form of fluctuating prices. Or we can choose a system in which this is determined by commands issuing from a personal authority backed by armed force. You cannot dodge this issue by talking about a "mixed economy." The economy is inevitably mixed; nobody in his right mind proposes a Chapter Three 182 total abandonment of government enterprise.... That is the difference between collectivism and the market economy. That is the alternative with which mankind is confronted. You can not dodge it, or pray it away, or hide it from yourself with smokescreens of ideas. It is a fact, not an idea. We have to choose.' And the choice is between freedom and tyranny. (31) At a fundamental level, therefore, both the conservative and more progressive positions within American intelligence appear .remarkably similar in their relation to ideology. No longer aligned politically against the promises and structures of consumer capitalism, the New Left focused instead on a rejuvenated appeal for what they felt to be the ideologically free values of liberty and political.equality. Reluctant to define any political alternative to the self-regulating markets of the liberal state, this new generation of intellectuals fell back increasingly to a more traditional sense of democratic idealism based upon concepts of cultural holism, civic liability, personal expression and other similar values. That such values continued'to constitute the core precepts of mainstream aesthetic disciplines and culture industries is not surprising; yet by the end of World War II, many marginal, less hegemonic movements-had begun to embrace them as well. Writers and critics of all ideological persuasions found themselves amidst a new cultural rationale, according to 'which most elements of socio-political struggle and conflict could be Chapter Three 183 effectively sublimated. While one must be wary of reducing to a single mode of thought or ideology, what was in reality a wide variety of disparate cultural movements and political positio^ns, it is important to emphasise the ultimate lack of- ideological ends newly evident in almost all areas of postwar literary production. In contrast to the intellectual opposition of the early interwar period, ideological positioning, both during the war and immediately afterwards, remains much less galvanised in both its work and immediate objectives. Most histories of American intellectual activity and.art in this period solely connect this shift in ideological positioning to the rise of Stalinism and the totalitarian state in Europe.^^ As influential as these ideological developments in the Eastern Bloc were, they do not completely explain the psychological and cultural re-evaluation of America's po