Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler
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Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  380 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In the "old" Gilded Age, the barons of business accumulated vast wealth and influence from their railroads, steel mills, and banks. But today it is culture that stands at the heart of the American enterprise, mass entertainment the economic dynamo that brings the public into the consuming fold and consolidates the power of business over the American mind. For a decade The...more
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Published July 18th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1997)
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I love the combative tone of this collection of Baffler essays. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a strongly worded, and very entertaining attack on, the all-too-common doctrine of market populism: that the market always arrives at optimal wealth distributions and that the market is the only true source of democracy. If the book, and this style of "salvo," has a flaw, it is the repressive lack of a positive program. Unlike the muckrakers who these writers emulate, these...more
An interesting collection of essays. I loved how Mr. Frank and crew deconstructed the rampant faux-philosophy at the heart of modern business thinking. I'll now look at vapid business books about "destruction" and "revolution" with a better trained eye.

The world Mr. Frank pitches to us is a bleak one. It's one where corporatism runs rampant and threatens to consume our very way of life. It's one where people struggle to find real communities and real ways of expressing themselves. It's one where...more
Apr 10, 2008 AndreaZ rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aging hipsters
While furthering my tendency toward being a curmudgeon, this book also contains some razor-sharp writing and wit about all sorts of topics I thought I'd never be interested in. The cheezy graphics heighten the irony.

During the 90s Thomas Frank's THE BAFFLER was one of few publications to question the onrush of computer technology and the corporate co-optation of cultural rebellion. This book is a selection of some of the best BAFFLER essays, including a withering analysis of the hype surrounding the young novelist Donna Tartt's career, Steve Albini's scathing dissection of the rock-music industry, Gary Groth's well-reasoned attack on Quentin Tarantino, and Kim Phillips' empathetic look at inner-city residen...more
Very enjoyable and useful, though flawed. The essays in Commodify Your Dissent cover a lot of ground, but their central claim is that chaotic individual self-expression, far from challenging authority as its champions pretend, is in fact enslaving the American individual to corporate authority. The pursuit of endless sensations and fashions has placed unquestioned power in the hands of oligarchs, who no longer have to respond to criticism in the public sphere; actually, the corporations now own...more
Jan 01, 2008 Hamad rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: economists, sociologists, counter-culturalists
A selection of self-proclaimed 'salvos' from the Baffler, a literary and cultural review from Chicago, 'Commodify Your Dissent' is designed to unravel the packaging of culture into reproducible products as well as explore the cause and effects of such commodification on history, geography and culture.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part (The Rebel Consumer) expounds on the co-optation of counter-culture by an industry looking to profit from the very people that did not fit the mo...more
Oct 23, 2007 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rock sociologists, Believer subscribers, recent history fans, aesthetic commandos
I almost went to work at the bike center at the Experimental Station in Chicago where The Baffler lives or lived. I have hazy notions of a lucid-severe midwestern past maybe ten years back. All Skin Graft Records, Shellac, and The Baffler. This book provides a window to knowing what I'm talking about. The writers even drop band names as references to all things pure and worthwhile--a weakness but also a pleasure.

The article on the lottery was the most enlightening. The extended Tarantino hating...more
Grumpus McGrouchy
Brilliant. Love the deconstruction of Garfield Rollins. Infinitely quotable. If you like this book, feel free to subscribe to the magazine. It recently started up again. America needs more 'salvos' like these.
Having absorbed most of the arguments within during my zine-reading days in the '90s (Steve Albini doesn't think bands should sign with major labels? REALLY?), CYD was hardly revelatory, but it was a fun dose of nostalgia for an era when selling out was an unforgivable crime. Also included is the infamous, completely fabricated grunge slang glossary provided to the New York Times by a Caroline Records employee. If you're a fellow sentimental lamestain who finds yourself bound and hagged, this is...more
Mike Goren
Despite the obvious timeless truth of the basic thesis, this book comes off surprisingly dated. Its failure to address the many (positive and negative) changes wrought by the Internet feels like a glaring omission, albeit an understandable one given that the book was published in '97. The chapters that do address the Internet are, in retrospect, hilariously overly simplistic - and far too technological determinist for my liking. Likewise, this book plays up the role of big media and franchise re...more
Skut L
I read this back in college. 10/10 would read again.

I've always loved The Baffler and this compilation is some of the best. One thing that fascinates me is that when I read this book in public it always provokes questions from strangers and usually leads to interesting discussions. I often read books in public and no other book has this effect on innocent passerby.

Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?
You can never go wrong with the lovely Thomas Frank or anything written for the Baffler, the alternative randomly-published journal out of Chicago. Actually I'm not sure it's being published any longer. Frank has gone on to write famous books and has a column in the Wall Street Journal. This book is subtitled "The Business of Culture in the New Gilded Age."
Well written, with some eloquent anti-capitalist froth at the mouth spleen venting, but it loses track and focus many times. Made me appreciate formal non-fiction journalism more once they aimed the focus of their tirade at Henry Rollins, simply for being in a Gap ad. That was one of the few villains they seemed to come up with. Too much misdirected anger.
Bob Sanders
very academic but very insightful into how so much of what is created at grassroots level is co-opted into commercial value giving the consumer a perception that they are straying or resisting from the mainstream when really the consumer is has been folded farther into the mainstream and thus continuously dis-empowered.
I recently picked up this book at a store and thought it looked like it could be good book to buy...then realized I read it a decade ago. It was a strong collection, and the politics are akin to mine, so overall it was a pretty enjoyable read.
Ray Charbonneau
The fact that I agree with what they have to say does not make the shrill, annoying tone of their writing easier to digest. They have little to add to the discussion other than carping, certainly not a book's worth of material.
Michael Walker
What a great book. It describes how capitalism absorbs and co-opts rebelliousness. Lefty groups selling Che Guevara t-shirts ain't going to bring on the revolution - if anything, they're making it less likely.
Reading this for the second time, recalling how it blew my mind in 1999 or whenever it was. It's certainly dated now, but spirit of "blunting the cutting edge" feels as generally relevant as it ever was.
Donna Kirk
About packaging your dissent and selling it to the culture your "dissenting" against -- because being famous and making money is the desired result of your actions.
Strongly-brewed witty satire that connects to a real philosophical push to debunk the manufacturing of cool within our US society. Material to ruminate on
A scathing Gen-X critique of advertising as counterculture. Reading two decades later, these essays are at times both relevant and hopelessly outdated.
Loved this when I read it many years ago.
I imagine it might be a little out-dated now, but it was full of interesting, well argued ideas.
Timothy Faust
perfect? nah. but it's a wonderful and much-needed aggregation of New Left polemic from the early and mid 1990s.
Jul 03, 2007 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: college students, high school students, avril lavign and anyone else who's ever shopped at hot topic
Shelves: shelved
good. but yes, i get it. will probably pick up periodically. bedside reading for my (politically) angsty moments.
I really understand the pointlessness and lameness of the pursuit of the next "hip" thing having read this.
Beth Barnett
Witty essays pulled from the Baffler literary journal of cultural criticism, on a variety of topics.
Pretty good explanation of the Boomers scorched Earth policies.
Comfortable ideas to anyone who's read critical theory before.
So of this is very funny... so if this is just crude.
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Thomas Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? and One Market Under God. The founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper’s, he is also a Wall Street Journal weekly columnist. He has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for The New York Times. Frank lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Thomas Frank...
What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

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