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Dwight Macdonald would not approve of your Forever 21-bought Diane von Furstenberg knockoff, your unlicensed reproduction Eames shell chair, or your artisanal ketchup. His most popular essay, “Masscult and Midcult,” was published in 1960 and appears in an eponymous collection of criticisms; it argues that mass culture rips off both high and lowbrow tastes in order to satiate markets with the goods they covet. Thus, the masscult renders us complacent, materialistic, consumerist drones—and Macdonald’s writing battled it on ideological, aesthetic, and political grounds. Tonight, John Summers, editor of the most recent edition of Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, and Weekly Standard editor Andrew Ferguson will moderate a discussion of Macdonald’s ideas, exploring in particular whether they’ve held up since his death in 1982. I’ll bet you my stretched-canvas Gustav Klimt—I picked it up at Ikea—that they’ve only been galvanized since then.
The discussion begins at 6 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.