Monday, 20 December 2010

Philosophy and Popular Culture

The last post made me think about the relationship between philosophy and popular political culture today.

Clearly, most western societies are societies implicitly goverened by what might be termed 'market populism'. This is a populism based around the values of consumption and the habits associated with 'materialist acquisition'.

To date, philosophical discourse has been rather bad at challenging the hegemony of these values and habits. The question for me here is twofold. Firstly, should philosophy adapt to this cultural reality or should it attempt to challenge it? Given the outcome of this choice, how should philosophy achieve its ends?




  1. I think that here philosophy finds itself in a peculiar middle ground. The areas of philosophy that have been appropriated by western capitalism, (ie philosophy as life style) has little to do with academic philosophy, except in the cases where the later examines the former.

    The role academic philosophy plays in these societies is as an introspective one that both fuels and legitimates the reformative nature of western capitalism, which is vital to it's survival as we are seeing currently.

    So where philosophy challenges the standards and scruples of society it reinforces it at it's core. Not challenging society would be intrinsically unphilosophical. So rather than challenging society directly, philosophy receives the challenge from society of 'be acquired or perish!'

    This turns philosophy in to so much feckless, jawboning.

    How do we avoid this?

  2. Yes, I agree. This is a real danger - that philosophy becomes appropriated as liberalism; that is, as 'endless conversation that seems to come to no meaningful conclusion'.

    I guess the only way to avoid this is for philosophy to argue against the version of liberalism that views all forms communication is essentially and equally good (as long as we are still talking, it is still ok, etc..)..

    This, in turn, means challenging A common sense idea that dominates western life today - what might be termed 'neo-liberal populism' - that takes a pragmatic view of language linked to acquisition and entertainment.

    Overall, we need to make better philosophical sense of a very populist term

    - bull****!!