Book Review: 'American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the 20th Century'
Someday someone is going to write a history of one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century — the conquest of the world by American popular culture. American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the 20th Century touches on every aspect of that culture: vaudeville, movies, radio, TV, comic strips, advertising, sports, McDonald’s. But it’s really just a history of the debate that American culture has set off among intellectuals, a debate as hairsplitting as a convocation of medieval theologians and even more ferocious. Highbrow, middlebrow, or lowbrow? Pop culture or mass culture? Good, bad, or the end of civilization as we know it? Kammen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Cornell historian, has interesting things to say about these questions, though you have to get past a lot of portentous academic throat clearing.