Primitive America

Primitive America

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One of the most confounding aspects of American societya€”the one that perhaps most frequently perplexes observers both domestic and foreigna€”is the vast contradiction between what anthropologists might term the a€œhota€ and a€œcolda€ elements in the culture. The hot encompasses the dynamic and progressive aspects of a society dedicated to growth and productivity, marked by mobility, innovation, and optimism. In contrast, the cold embodies rigid social forms and archaic beliefs, fundamentalisms of all kinds, racism and xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, cultural atavism, and ignorancea€”in short, the primitive. For cultural critic Paul Smith, the tension between progressive and primitive is a constitutive condition of American history and culture. In Primitive America, Smith contemplates this primary contradiction as it has played out in the years since 9/11. Indeed, he writes, much of what has happened sincea€”events that have seemed to many to be novel and egregiousa€”can be explained by this foundational dialectic. More radically still, Primitive America attests that this underlying stress is driven by America's unquestioned devotion to the elemental propositions and processes of capitalism. This devotion, Smith argues, has become America's quintessential characteristic, and he begins this book by elaborating on the idea of the primitive in Americaa€”its specific history of capital accumulation, commodity fetishism, and cultural narcissism. Smith goes on to track the symptoms of the primitive that have arisen in the aftermath of 9/11 and the commencement of the a€œLong Wara€ against a€œviolent extremistsa€: the nature of American imperialism, the status of the U.S. Constitution, the militarization of America's economy and culture, and the Bush administration's disregard for human rights. An urgent and important engagement with current American policies and practices, Primitive America is, at the same time, an incisive critique of the ideology that fuels the ethos of America's capitalist culture. Paul Smith is professor of cultural studies at George Mason University and the author of numerous books, including Clint Eastwood: A Cultural Production (Minnesota, 1993).political processes are indeterminate and many civic and cultural issues are logjammed in some way (everything from ... indeed, rabble-rousing book, Men in Blacka€” How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America (2004), in which Levin complains of a aquot;de ... own radio contributions will be familiar with the upshot of these clarion calls a€” the expressed desire to remove activist judges, by force if necessary.

Title:Primitive America
Author: Paul Smith
Publisher:U of Minnesota Press - 2007

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