The Democratic Surround: Multimedia And American Liberalism From World War Ii To The Psychedelic…

Paperback | September 18, 2015

byFred Turner

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We commonly think of the psychedelic sixties as an explosion of creative energy and freedom that arose in direct revolt against the social restraint and authoritarian hierarchy of the early Cold War years. Yet, as Fred Turner reveals in The Democratic Surround, the decades that brought us the Korean War and communist witch hunts also witnessed an extraordinary turn toward explicitly democratic, open, and inclusive ideas of communication and with them new, flexible models of social order. Surprisingly, he shows that it was this turn that brought us the revolutionary multimedia and wild-eyed individualism of the 1960s counterculture.

In this prequel to his celebrated book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Turner rewrites the history of postwar America, showing how in the 1940s and ’50s American liberalism offered a far more radical social vision than we now remember. Turner tracks the influential mid-century entwining of Bauhaus aesthetics with American social science and psychology. From the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the New Bauhaus in Chicago and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Turner shows how some of the most well-known artists and intellectuals of the forties developed new models of media, new theories of interpersonal and international collaboration, and new visions of an open, tolerant, and democratic self in direct contrast to the repression and conformity associated with the fascist and communist movements. He then shows how their work shaped some of the most significant media events of the Cold War, including Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition, the multimedia performances of John Cage, and, ultimately, the psychedelic Be-Ins of the sixties. Turner demonstrates that by the end of the 1950s this vision of the democratic self and the media built to promote it would actually become part of the mainstream, even shaping American propaganda efforts in Europe.

Overturning common misconceptions of these transformational years, The Democratic Surround shows just how much the artistic and social radicalism of the sixties owed to the liberal ideals of Cold War America, a democratic vision that still underlies our hopes for digital media today.

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We commonly think of the psychedelic sixties as an explosion of creative energy and freedom that arose in direct revolt against the social restraint and authoritarian hierarchy of the early Cold War years. Yet, as Fred Turner reveals in The Democratic Surround, the decades that brought us the Korean War and communist witch hunts also w...

Fred Turner is associate professor of communication at Stanford University. He is the author of Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory and From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Californ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:September 18, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022632589X

ISBN - 13:9780226325897

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction
 
PART ONE

World War II and the Making of the Democratic Surround
 
1          Where Did All the Fascists Come From?
 
2          World War II and the Question of National Character         
 
3          The New Language of Vision
 
4          The New Landscape of Sound
 
 
PART TWO

The Democratic Surround in the Cold War
 
5          The Cold War and the Democratic Personality
 
6          The Museum of Modern Art Makes the World a Family      
 
7          Therapeutic Nationalism
 
8          The Coming of the Counterculture
 
 
Acknowledgments
 
Notes
 
Bibliography
 
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Democratic Surround is the book Alexis de Tocqueville would have written if, instead of spending his time with the respectable menfolk of New England in the 1830s, he had been lucky enough to hang out with the psychedelic pioneers of the California of the 1960s. Once he got over the initial shock (and it should not have taken him long: Tocqueville had seen his share of radical enthusiasts), he would have realized that in a prosperous and populous America at the peak of its Cold War glory, the experience of participation in a democratic polity was increasingly dependent on the immersion of its citizens in all—enveloping media environments, tightly composed communicative architectures where they could receive a vivid impression of life in a diverse and egalitarian society. . . .The achievement of Turner’s book is to reveal the technical and aesthetic mediations—a heady combination of social-scientific ideas, multi-media formats, and new styles of artistic installation and performance—that enabled this phenomenological recalibration of the American democratic experience.”