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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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Introduction: Literature and Creative Destruction

Introduction: Literature and Creative Destruction

(p.1) Introduction: Literature and Creative Destruction
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

Cultural criticism has been brutally effective in demonstrating that the churning of literary capital has always been a part of the world of literature. A distinctive form of that churning in relation to the general economic and social churning is what Joseph A. Schumpeter, in his classic phrase about capitalism, called “creative destruction.” This book is a study of the cultural life of information or, more broadly, of contemporary “knowledge work.” It explores the role of literature in that cultural life and the future of the literary when the true aestheticism unbound of knowledge work—as seen on innumerable web pages—is “cool.” Cool is the techno-informatic vanishing point of contemporary aesthetics, psychology, morality, politics, spirituality, and everything. The book offers a historical sketch of knowledge work and a theoretical frame for investigating its culture of cool. It then follows up with an argument about the role of humanities education and the arts in the world of cool. This latter argument turns on the general character of historical and aesthetic knowledge in the information age.

Keywords:   literature, creative destruction, knowledge work, cool, cultural life, information age, politics, humanities, arts, education

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