Latest Issue

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…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect