The intellectual and the popular: Irving Howe and John Waters, Susan Sontag and Ethel Rosenberg, Dwight MacDonald and Bill Cosby, Amiri Baraka and Mick Jagger, Andrea Dworkin and Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and Lenny Bruce. All feature in Andrew Ross's lively history and critique of modern American culture. Andrew Ross examines how and why the cultural authority of modern intellectuals is bound up with the changing face of popular taste in America. He argues that the making of "taste" is hardly an aesthetic activity, but rather an exercise in cultural power, policing and carefully redefining social relations between classes.
This examines the effect of the intellectual community on popular culture and is freqently incomprehensible. Ross, author of The Failure of Modernism (Columbia Univ. Pr., 1986), says it best himself: ``Insofar as that antagonism can be thought of, for the sake of shorthand, as an abstractly objective relation between `intellectuals' and `ordinary people,' it is fractionated, in reality, into countless arrangements of minute differences of taste and consumption, each governed by the authority of cultural competence, whether inherited or else explained by reference to an occupational hierarchy based on education and training.'' This scholarly but jargon-filled discussion of hip and camp, music, television, film, pornography, and the Cold War is not for Ross's ``ordinary people.''-- Jo Cates, Poynter Inst. for Media Studies Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.