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132 the minnesota review The dialectic of unity and difference can be detected in the historical process, but it is too abstract to chart that process. What this dialectic charts fundamentally is not production and its historicaUy diverse modes but the production of meaning. It serves McKeon weU as he maps the discursive field of his historical period, showing how intertextual antagonists produce one another on a common battlefield. Further, since one can start anywhere in the discursive field and generate the other positions, this mode of production is cyclical. That is its distinguishing mark. McKeon initiaUy presents his dialectics as sequences, but the examples he cites of the positions they chart indicate that these positions emerge contemporaneously . Further, the dialectics begin to become historicaUy moribund not when the third term in each Uves itself out, but when the oppositions among the terms begin to lose "their inteUectual and social significance" (418). Though flawed, Origins is nonetheless a substantial achievement. Its dialectics successfully map extensive ranges of discursive territory. Further, the uncovering ofthe cycUcal patterns in this territory indicates not only how rigorously McKeon applied his method but also how in doing so he uncovered, in the cultural field he maps, a level of relative autonomy. It's easy enough to see which positions in his dialectics would be favored by which classes. Further , Origins gives insight into the socioeconomic circumstances occasioning the emergence of his dialectics. His analysis suggests that these discursive positions are not expressions of pre-existent class positions but parts of a field that intertextually generate one another and enable different classes to define themselves and to articulate their differences. Read along these Unes, Origins substantiaUy illuminates the process Marx points to in the Preface, when he insists that one distinguish between the material transformation of production and the ideological forms "in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out." ROBERT WESS Corruptions ofEmpire by Alexander Cockburn. New York: Verso, 1987. pp. xi + 540. $13.95 (paper). Corruptions ofEmpire, a coUection of essays and journalistic pieces dealing largely with poUtics and with the massive disinformation campaign carried out by the mainstream press, begins with an account of the author's chUdhood in Ireland and his early education at Heatherdown , an English prep school. This personal note, kept up throughout the book, gives it a strong thematic unity by pointing constantly to the roots of political insights and sympathies in individual experience. At Heatherdown, Cockburn remembers, the edited selections from Tacitus in his Latin primer justified Roman imperialism and were silent on the subject of slavery in the ancient world. Other essays in the first half of the book explore such topics as food fads, best-selling authors (Ian Fleming, Gay Tálese), movies and TV shows (Top Gun, Wheel of Fortune). They show a keen eye for the political culture implicit in these products, which Cockburn draws out with relish and the occasional glibness of the professional unmasker: Food preparation in fact becomes a solipâstic ritual, almost infinitely protracted. The ritual accords with certain well-known trends in American Ufe: to wit, gradual decomposition of the home, exist of the wife to work, dwindling number of tiny mouths agape to receive the junk contents of the local supermarket. Gradually the domestic kitchen of the postwar period is cleared of female/child oriented appurtenances and becomes instead the temple of the modern gastronome, male and at peace with himself and his Cuisinait. A benevolent irony pervades these pieces. The author may be able to see through the foUies and hokum of Late Capitalism (as they were calling it only yesterday, alas), but he is neither superior nor immuneto them: he eatsthe gourmet foods, exhibits detailed knowledge of Fleming's plots, has only kind things to say about Vanna White. This mildness, however, Reviews 133 vanishes entirely as soon as Cockburn turns to his particular betes noires. He does so in a subsection entitled "Terms ofthe Trade," where he dissects the performances of past and present political journalists (CL. Sulzberger, MacNeil-Lehrer, Walter Lippman) with the far more destructive tools of caricature and quotation. Cockburn himself, however, embraces a disenchanted definition ofjournalism which should...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 132-135
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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