Friday Factory Tune: 20th Century Man

Ray Davies performing from the Kinks songbook, “20th Century Man.”

We post this in passive pop resistance to the leviathan and to give a plug to a post by John J. Miller of The National Review. Miller included “20th Century Man” in his “50 Great Conservative Rock Songs” article that garnered much attention. John recently found his musings the subject of analysis in the latest issue of the Journal of Popular Culture, published by Michigan State University. The piece is “Rockin’ the Right-Wing Blogosphere: John J. Miller’s Conservative Song Lists and Popular Culture after 9/11,” by Michael T. Spencer. After poking fun at the bosh, Miller builds on the thoughts of Professor Mark Bauerlein of Emory University about the excesses of academic writing and the harm it does to young academics:

In a quest to say something new amid so much scholarly babbling, they’ve burrowed into to niche topics and proposed outlandish theories. Their need for original content is so desperate that one of them now has resorted to my list of conservative rock songs — a subject more suited to boozy dorm-room discussions than serious academic consideration.

Dude, we’re talking about the lyrics of Metallica songs.

Students pay a price for this. It may be fun to debate rock songs, but the boom in academic publishing also correlates with boredom in the lecture halls. As Bauerlein shows, college students are increasingly disconnected from the intellectual lives of their professors. They spend less time on homework, less time with their professors outside the classroom, and so on. These are the sad consequences of an academic class that values jargon, hyperspecialization, and the phony cerebralization of pop culture.

With a little work, some of these journal authors could learn a useful trade. Forget Metallica, try metal forming!

John is also soliciting additions to his list here.

P.S. Yes, “20th Century Man” is a protest against modern industrial society — “This is the age of machinery, a mechanical nightmare” — Davies in his full-blown Village Green mode. But it’s such a good song, and besides, who picks their favorite rock songs for polemical reasons? Gang of Four was a great band, even with sentiments like those in “I love a man in a uniform.”

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