Sunday, June 23, 2019

Grant McCracken is a research affiliate with the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT who has consulted widely in the corporate world, including the Coca-Cola Company, IKEA, Ford, Kraft, Kodak, and Kimberly Clark. He is a Futures of Entertainment Fellow and a member of the IBM Social Networking Advisory Board. 

He is author of the forthcoming book Culturematicfrom Harvard Business Review Press. Previously, he authored the 2009 book Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation, the 2008 book Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture,the 2006 book Flock and Flow: Predicting and Managing Change in a Dynamic Marketplace, the 2005 book Culture and Consumption II: Markets, Meaning, and Brand Management, the 1997 book Plenitude: Culture by Commotion, the 1996 book Big Hair: A Journey into the Transformation of Self, the 1990 book Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Activities, and the 1988 book The Long Interview. For the Convergence Culture Consortium, he wrote "Assumption Hunters: A New Corporation in the Throes of Structural Change". 

Grant has been the director of the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School, a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, and an adjunct professor at McGill University. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago.
The central thing to understand about all of this is that once again art as craft has been separated from meaning, while the statements of academics are granted the authority of truths. But this time the false dichotomy of aestheticized politics and politicized aesthetics, central to Modernism since Benjamin –a distinction would have made Baudelaire  howl– has become a unified positivist theory of capitalism.  If the study of communication is akin to botany, or since this is MIT, akin to physics, it makes sense this is where Chomsky's rationalist formalism reaches its nadir, in the same place where 'theory' is now the theory of advertising as taught in business schools. An outsider might notice that MIT linguistics is akin to Chicago economics, but technocracy knows no subtexts.
This is the crude positivism that allows the crossover from Marxism to marketing. The shallowness is the same, and the pedantry, as mode or form, becomes more  important than the subject matter. It's easy to say that Analytical Marxism has the same relation to Marx as the debates of scholastic theologians had to the teachings of Jesus, but both exist at the end of a tradition, and traditions can be full or empty, thick or thin, can function as part of a debate in the wider world, or decay into arguments among specialists and pedants. This is something else: a scholastic philosophy of market practice, a high theory of the practice of the low, the theology of confidence tricksterism, not as trade school in comic theater but within the scholastic tradition of the search for truth. In the logic of modern philosophy, and theory, Episteme undermines and supplants Techne and then replaces it with an enlightened Praxis. That's been bad enough. In America, following Tocqueville's description of the focus on the practical, every craft must have its own theology, so even Cornell University now offers degrees in "Hospitality Science", while not yet at least going beyond offering an MFA in creative writing. Some programs now offer PhDs.

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I've linked to it recently, but my history with McCracken begins here. I should probably reuse some of the writing from 2006.

I've been coy about it if that's the best word but all the footnoted posts recently, different fonts etc., have been cut and pasted from my continuing disaster. [also here] It's spinning out of control but I'm enjoying the ride.

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