Deconstructing Post-Industrial American Ethos: Decline of Civility and Agony of Artists in Bellow’s Later Novels

  •  Ramzi B. Mohamed Marrouchi    
  •  Mohd Nazri Latiff Azmi    


This paper sheds light on the way Saul Bellow’s (1915–2005) intellectual protagonists deconstruct post-industrial American ethos which are dominated by the hegemony of capitalism and the values of democracy. These heroes are deeply immersed in European liberal education, the ‘Western Canon’ to recall Harold Bloom; however, they are marginalized, alienated, degraded and eventually rejected by the masses, junk culture, the dictatorship of the commonplace, and the unqualified individual. Bellow’s heroes predict that American culture will be overwhelmed by mass culture after the 1950s characterized by liberal democracy, [ultra capitalism], scientific experimentation, and industrialization, inspite of the high rate of higher education. Deploring a Derridean method of deconstructionism and a Foucauldian epistemic design, they archeologically question the roots of American cultural backdrop, that is, the massive industrialization in the late age of capitalism. They centralize art, humanities, classical books, morality, and religion; and marginalize science, commodity, consumerism, technology, and psychiatry. They deconstruct all makers of culture industry based on analysis, systemization, standardization, and not imagination and creativity. To achieve human and noble norms, they admit a noble life away from the vulgarity and barbarism of the age to cite Zygmunt Bauman. Special focus is on Herzog (1964), Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970), Humboldt’s Gift (1975) and The Dean’s December (1982) for their common concern with this issue.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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