In episode six of (Pop) Cultural Marxism, Isi and Ajay consider the cultural imperative du jour, “Let People Enjoy Things”—and offer an alternative: not letting people enjoy things. What underlies the collective impulse to not criticize? What is the purpose of criticism? And how does the injunction to not criticize misunderstand the relationship between the self and representation? Are critics cheerless? Why are we anxious for our art (are blockbuster movies so fragile)? Why, in this moment, are we seemingly so driven to seek out cultural experiences that console? Isn’t critical engagement in itself a pleasure? As Isi and Ajay explore the anti-critical impulse (with a detour into the present and future of the Oscars), they take up objects ranging from Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once (and the—rather ardent—discourse surrounding it) to Florian Sigl’s The Magic Flute, Kate Wagner’s Baffler essay “Don’t Let People Enjoy Things,” Franz Kafka’s office writings, the video game Like a Dragon: Ishin!, A.O. Scott’s New York Times exit interview, aesthetic debates reaching back to Adorno, Benjamin, and Lukács, and much else besides.
(Pop) Cultural Marxism is a monthly series of the Podcast for Social Research, produced by Elliot Yokum. If you like what you’ve heard, consider subscribing to Brooklyn Institute’s Patreon page, where you can enjoy access to all past and future episodes of the podcast.