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One of the most confounding aspects of American society the one that perhaps most frequently perplexes observers both domestic and foreign is the vast contradiction between what anthropologists might term the hot and cold 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 ignorance 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 since events that have seemed to many to be novel and egregious 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 America 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 Long War against violent extremists: 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)."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780816628278
ISBN-10: 0816628270
Format: Paperback
(216mm x 137mm x 10mm)
Pages: 176
Imprint: University of Minnesota Press
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publish Date: 23-Apr-2007
Country of Publication: United States


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