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The entertainment state

The dramatic conventions of popular culture now pervade public and private life in the US. Is that a problem? If so, what should be done about it?

By Nicholas Lemann   July 1999

Marx and schumpeter both seem to have been wrong,” writes Neal Gabler. “It is not any ‘ism’ but entertainment that is… the most pervasive and ineluctable force of our time-a force so overwhelming that it has finally metastasised into life.”

According to Gabler, the means by which we now organise experience is the creation of “life movies,” or “lifies,” about public figures and ourselves. These have a structure borrowed from popular entertainment, from movies in particular. There must be a strong central character, a plot line and a play on the emotions. We are more absorbed by lifies than the…

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