Introduction: Literature and Creative Destruction

Alan Liu

in The Laws of Cool

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780226486987
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226487007 | DOI:
Introduction: Literature and Creative Destruction

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Cultural criticism has been brutally effective in demonstrating that the churning of literary capital has always been a part of the world of literature. A distinctive form of that churning in relation to the general economic and social churning is what Joseph A. Schumpeter, in his classic phrase about capitalism, called “creative destruction.” This book is a study of the cultural life of information or, more broadly, of contemporary “knowledge work.” It explores the role of literature in that cultural life and the future of the literary when the true aestheticism unbound of knowledge work—as seen on innumerable web pages—is “cool.” Cool is the techno-informatic vanishing point of contemporary aesthetics, psychology, morality, politics, spirituality, and everything. The book offers a historical sketch of knowledge work and a theoretical frame for investigating its culture of cool. It then follows up with an argument about the role of humanities education and the arts in the world of cool. This latter argument turns on the general character of historical and aesthetic knowledge in the information age.

Keywords: literature; creative destruction; knowledge work; cool; cultural life; information age; politics; humanities; arts; education

Chapter.  4099 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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