Mark Greif

Mark Greif is a founding editor of n+1 and an assistant professor of literary studies at the New School.

Recent Articles

A Pretty Business

The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness By Virginia Postrel, HarperCollins, 237 pages, $24.95 Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style joins David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise in a new kind of conservative cultural criticism. The recipe is simple: Charmingly describe a new cluster of minor phenomena in American life, defend tastes that other critics might disapprove of and present yourself as the people's champion. It's a takeover of the style of famous popular critics of the 1950s and '60s, such as Vance Packard ( The Hidden Persuaders and The Status Seekers ) and William H. Whyte ( The Organization Man ). Those writers performed pop sociology from a progressive standpoint, upholding the rights of citizens and consumers and questioning commercial practices. The new cultural critics celebrate consumption and the free market as the truest ways to establish democratic self-expression. Postrel, a libertarian, is an economics...

End of the Line

Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market By Pierre Bourdieu, Translated by Loïc Wacquant, New Press, 112 PAGES, $14.95 At the time of Pierre Bourdieu's death in January 2002, he stood as the dominant intellectual in France, if not in Europe. Only Jürgen Habermas in Germany, now age 74, is of the same stature, but Bourdieu's last years had turned him into far more of an activist as a visible opponent of the neoliberal dismantling of social protections. Just as Puritan divines once preached an annual election sermon, every dominant French intellectual since Émile Zola has made a public pronouncement on the duties of intellectuals. Bourdieu's declaration could be expected to be different. He defined himself as a sociologist, not a philosopher. His most famous work anatomizes how thinkers, artists and educators establish superiority as dominant "cadres" even without appeal to money. His best-known book in this country, Distinction , could have been called Pretension . He was out to...

Bonfire of the Verities

Cosmopolis By Don DeLillo, Scribner, 224 pages, $25.00 Either Don DeLillo has written his worst book or he's done something so sneaky I can't see it yet. Cosmopolis ' tale of a new-economy billionaire who reduces the world's currency markets to rubble while crossing Manhattan to get a haircut relies on a premise no weaker than those found in some of DeLillo's 13 other novels. His triumphs have often had a seat-of-the-pants quality. This book, however, doesn't quite scrape through. Wittingly or unwittingly, DeLillo has written a novel of the 1980s. Published in 2003, Cosmopolis opens with a warning that the story takes place "IN THE YEAR 2000: A Day in April." Tear this marker out, though, and you're left with a repetition of the major motifs of '80s popular culture and novels, without any assimilation of the truths of the recent fin de siècle: what was new about the new economy, how New York differed in 2000 from its earlier incarnations and what globalization has wrought. New York...

The Banality of Irving

The libel suit historian David Irving waged against professor Deborah Lipstadt turned on the question of whether it was correct to call him a "Holocaust denier." The Holocaust occurred, Irving says; it just wasn't what everybody says it was. For example, it didn't include gas chambers, especially not at Auschwitz, and it involved no custom-built death camps. The majority of the Jews of Europe were not murdered by the Nazis, Irving insists, though their exact whereabouts are unknown. It's true that many were killed, often by shooting, and that was no good thing. But it was unsystematic, incidental, caused by maverick SS commanders in the East without the consent of Adolf Hitler--as if the German war machine, poised to battle the Allied nations, had tripped and fallen on the Jews. It was, in fact, an "unexplained tragedy," Irving is very happy to say, as so many of the deaths of innocents in war are unexplained and tragic. This was the story he was eager to tell again, this time in the...

Between Hard Rock and a Place

No doubt there are sun worshippers in Jutland, vegetarian barbecue chefs, male readers of Women's Day . But Josh Scandlen--of Phoenix, Arizona, and Charles Schwab and Company --is a libertarian advocate of hard-core punk rock, possibly the most entirely leftist subgenre of youth popular music outside of folk, and that puts him in a funny position. It's hard to be a politically minded fan when there are almost no actual libertarian-conservative hard-core bands presently in existence. Scandlen hopes to do something about that, as the founder (with his brother) of Moosestyle Records , probably the country's only libertarian hard-core label, and the writer of its pro-capitalist Death to All Tyrants e-zine, featuring polls with headings like "Do You Invest in the Stock Market?", jeremiads on the un-Americanness of soccer, and links to conservative newspapers and the Dow Jones . All of this has proven enough to drive ordinary hard-core aficionados, who tend to be vegan,...

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