cover image Roll Over Beethoven: The Return of Cultural Strife

Roll Over Beethoven: The Return of Cultural Strife

Stanley Aronowitz. Wesleyan University Press, $39.95 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-5255-6

In this ``interpretive genealogy of cultural studies,'' sociologist Aronowitz ( The Politics of Identity ) offers a history of this field with an eye toward examining how the nature of intellectual knowledge is defined. Though the book meanders from present-day politics to the historical debate over ``high'' and ``low'' culture to the role of the New Left in popular culture, Aronowitz's style is fairly accessible. Some arguments are undeveloped, as when he urges the Left to vigorously support the First Amendment but then suggests that ``any community has a right to set limits on what it considers acceptable speech.'' In a chapter on the cultural politics of the Popular Front, Aronowitz offers an engaging memoir of his Bronx boyhood, recalling his rich encounters with classical and popular music and his study of political economy at a Communist Party school; he then analyzes novels and plays of the era, defending them against charges of populist oversimplification. After addressing current debates over the idea of an academic ``canon,'' he notes that ``virtually any significant educational innovation already has a history somewhere in the annals of the American academic system.'' (Apr.)