Could this trend point toward something deeper? In Awkwardness Adam Kotsko answers that question with a resounding yes. Drawing on key insights of cultural . Adam Kotsko: As the likes of Mad Men and Peep Show demonstrate, nothing brings people together quite like the breaking of social norms. Argues that the awkwardness of our age is a key to understanding human experience.
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If boredom is connected to our inevitable anxiety of death, as Heidegger claims, then the equally existential condition of togetherness would have its own awkwarfness, one able to transcend even the deepest social divisions. To find the origin of so many awkward tv shows and movies, Kotsko traces the flowering of contemporary awkwardness to the breakdown of pres Fordist social norms:.
The African-American civil rights movement and feminist movement both achieved considerable gains, but more radical changes proved elusive as the forces awkwardmess cultural conservatism turned out to retain considerable power. It is here, I claim, that we find the ultimate origin of contemporary awkwardness: Stuck with the proliferation of identities, the false universals torn asunder, Americans struggle akwwardness find something solid to cling to.
Awkwardness by Adam Kotsko
This naming of the void is one of his most deft theoretical moves. What we all have in common, he asserts, is our inability to deal with the absence of assured social scripts; we are all left bumbling diagonally toward our lives. Kotsko spends the bulk of the book examining how kitsko symptoms of this basic awkwardness awkwaddness themselves in two settings where traditional roles have broken down: For instances of awkwardness in the workplace, the U.
Version focusing on structural relationships assigned responsibility to broader cultural practices, while the U.
Version focusing on interpersonal relationships is content to blame inherently awkward individuals. But between the two is an inescapable dialectic: Hollywood obscures the boring toil of actual work in favor of its entertaining interruptions for obvious and structural reasons.
Watch too much tv and one begins to think no office produces anything beyond awowardness.
Post-Fordist labor, which emphasizes communication and relies on permanent precarity among workers, is awkward partly because how value is produced is obscured. Awkwardness keeps the peace while, as Kotsko jokes, the CEO pursues his singular goal: This is a despairing response to the failure of the s revolution to produce a new positive vision for coming of age and living in community, resulting in a pervasive sense that despite the fact that we can never fully embrace the traditional norms, we are somehow hardwired to head in that direction and will do so immediately once our attempts to do something else fail.
Arrested development becomes not an impediment to adulthood, but a necessary compounding of its endemic awkwardness.
Somewhere in this young millennium, between Napoleon Dynamite and the U. Now frat-house homophobes celebrate their bromances and bro-dates without fear: Radical awkwardness, Kotsko argues, does not attempt resolution or offer the shelter of given awkwardnfss, but instead dwells in the difference and conflict of everyday interaction: But what other choice do we have?
She quotes a definition she likes in her characteristically stark prose: Protest is when I adamm I refuse to go along with this anymore.
Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too. Rather than protest, Milton Waddman resists awkwardness. In a sad example of post-Fordist precarity par excellence, he has been laid off without his knowledge but is still paid due to a computer error. Thus Milton is always already fired.
The Unbearable Awkwardness of Being
Yet he is still forced to endure the awkward indignities of the workplace: He mumbles in objection but never loudly enough awowardness force management to acknowledge his pleas.
Milton embodies both the poles of the awkwardness dialectic: But Milton eventually proves his quiet threats are not idle talk and steals money from his employers and burns the office building to the ground.
In his final scene, he sits on a tropical beach sipping margaritas. The viewer could not imagine a less awkward state. If awkwardness seems part of human nature, it is because that nature is contingent and determined, the product of structures that predate us.
What Milton and Meinhof suggest is that the way through a structural problem is destructural: Office labor and marriage are not necessary for human beings, and neither are the feelings they engender. To find the origin of so many awkward tv shows and movies, Kotsko traces the flowering of contemporary awkwardness to the breakdown of pres Fordist social norms: Arise, then, comrades, you have nothing to lose but your awkwardness!
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