Counter-demagogic popular art
Towards a selective tradition
in Critical theory and demagogic populism
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Chapter 7 presents a counter-demagogic ‘selective tradition’ in popular art, including a contestation of ‘left-demagogy’. The inclusion of left-demagogy is quite deliberate as another charge against the Institute’s work, first enunciated by Shils, was that it neglected this phenomenon. Moreover, my critique of Laclau’s work emphasizes the blindness to this risk in recent ‘left populist’ strategies. The chapter opens with a consideration of the Institute’s planned film, Beneath the Surface, and its relationship with Adorno’s planned ‘vaccine against authoritarianism’. The 1957 Kazan/Schulberg film A Face in the Crowd, is situated as the paradigmatic case which even enacts many elements of the Institute’s work. Abbie Hoffman is presented as a left-demagogue who embraces culture industry logics only to meet his nemesis in the popular artist from The Who, Pete Townshend. Finally, the legacy of Ed Murrow’s conflict with Joseph McCarthy is examined firstly in its own journalistic terms as successful ‘liberal exposure’ of a demagogue. It is then located as a major trope within subsequent counter-demagogic popular art.

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