Friday, 15 January 2010

The New Left Revisited

Edited by John McMillian & Paul Buhle

Equally critical to Los Angeles's uniqueness was the omnipresence of the mass cultural production system, which critics held responsible for the fakery and shallowness of mainstream culture. To those trying to create a new, radicalized culture characterized by openness to experimentation, freedom from market dictates, and tolerance, the film, television, and music industries seemed omnipresent, injecting the debilitating tedium of the constant hustle into the "underground" zones of L.A. To many observers, the culture industries colored the character of the rest of the region as well, making it a strangely disorienting and inhuman place, without grounding in "real" life. And the area's seemingly endless, centerless suburban sprawl only enhanced the sense of weightlessness. In 1964 Theodore Roszak wrote in the Free Press, "There is perhaps no modern city where the sense of community is so dissipated as in Los Angeles. . . . It lacks even the physical integrity of a metropolis. . . . In reality, Los Angeles . . . is a case study in social disorganization . . . where the bonds of community life have grown hopelessly slack." Cribbing from Nathaneal West, Phil Ochs offered an even more damning indictment in 1967: "Los Angeles is Death City. . . . It is the land of the Philistines. Los Angeles is the ultimate in the materialistic exaggeration of America. It's almost like the barbarians throwing themselves into the materialistic fires." (Open City, 9 June 1967, 3, 11, 14).

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