The Politicization of Everyday Life

How did everything get politicized – every choice of a favorite beer, every style decision, every nook and cranny of everyday life?

Bruce Schulman blames it on Rolling Stone magazine.

As he writes, “/the magazine embraced the countercultural ideal of authenticity — living life to the fullest, right now, within a community of like-minded, liberated persons. Why bother with protest, columnist Ralph Gleason asked, when the ‘new music has established a Stranger in a Strange Land head community, vibes in concert, thoughts and ideas and concepts changing together.'”

Unlike counter-cultural leaders, Rolling Stone didn’t attack capitalism or consumerism. Instead, it attempted to infuse counter-cultural values into the marketplace: “’Change the way the moneychangers change money,’ one 1968 column declared, ‘and you change the society.'”

Its focus on music was a matter of cultural politics: “rock and roll remained its central concern” because music could change the world. “The magazine and its readers saw music as having revolutionary, transcendent possibilities. It embodied a set of principles, a critique of the dominant culture, a way of life. . . . the magazine insisted that lifestyle, especially rock music and the culture that surrounded it, offered the recipe for radical change.”

Schulman thinks that the magazine undermined its own efforts; its very success was its weakness: “Ironically, lifestyle became a marker of partisan identity, rather than an alternative to it.”

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