Nietzsche already defined the implicit statement of the ironic pose as (paraphrase) “I am a latecomer in the world!”: Nothing for me to do; I’m neither responsible for what is, nor able to effect change, so instead will construct a reserve where criticism of culture and membership in good standing, rather than contradicting each other, confirm each other. It is an ideology appropriate to a culture in decline, learning to identify its decline as its just desert. On the way to nadir – which we fearfully sense will not be merely an experience of the sensibility, but entail real material costs – of course the ’50s aesthetic is attractive to us. It’s an aesthetic of world-historical victory and its material and emotional spoils, including self-confidence in the values taken to have been proved by that victory, and in their future, congealed in the typical styling of consumer objects, houses, hair styles, etc. To declare them completely unattractive would be to declare oneself immune to everything this world has to offer, like saying that rather than having those things and believing those beliefs, you’d rather be picking through the rubble of Hiroshima or Hamburg or hauling coffee beans through the mountains or working on an assembly line or tank crew on the other side of the Iron Curtain. ’40s styles offer a different kind of “values security,” while similar patterns of nostalgia or borrowed nostalgia for the earlier British or European order are particularly prominent in “steampunk” and other “retro-future” styles. Eventually, any earlier aesthetic or pastiche involving one will strike us “at face value” as superior to whatever dwindling cultural residue we call our own, since all will by definition imply a future that we, the latest latecomers, lack.
August 20, 2012 | Posted in Art, Culture & Entertainment, Featured, Philosophy | Tagged with: Imperialism, Nostalgia, Steampunk, Victory Boulevard |