Way Too Cool: Selling Out Race and Ethics
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of cool have informed the American ethos since at least the 1970s. Whether we strive for it in politics or fashion, cool is big business for those who can sell it across a range of markets and media. Yet the concept wasn't always a popular commodity. Cool began as a potent aesthetic of post-World War II black culture, embodying a very specific, highly charged method of resistance to white supremacy and the globalized exploitation of capital. Way Too Cool follows the hollowing-out of "coolness" in modern American culture and its reflection of a larger evasion of race, racism, and ethics now common in neoliberal society. It revisits such watershed events as the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, second-wave feminism, the emergence of identity politics, 1980s multiculturalism, 1990s rhetorics of diversity and colorblindness, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the contemporaneous developments of rising mass incarceration and legalized same-sex marriage. It pairs the perversion of cool with the slow erasure of racial and ethical issues from our social consciousness, which effectively quashes our desire to act ethically and resist abuses of power. The cooler we become, the more indifferent we grow to the question of values, particularly inquiry that spurs protest and conflict. This book sounds an alarm for those who care about preserving our ties to an American tradition of resistance.
Way Too Cool constitutes a significant and entirely original intervention into the literature on neoliberalism and biopolitics. The book's range, depth, and precision are breathtaking. -- Lynne Huffer, author of Are the Lips a Grave? A Queer Feminist on the Ethics of Se With keen, deliberate intellectual insight and daring, Winnubst elevates the discussion of cool to its rightful place in the pantheon of critical theory, highlighting aspects of popular culture and its impact on mainstream thought. -- bell hooks, activist and author Shannon Winnubst makes more sense of neoliberalism than any writer I have read. Mapping how neoliberalism in the United States de-racializes difference in its quest for cool, she theorizes race outside the parameters of identity politics by way of the Lacanian real. This wickedly smart and profoundly ethical book deserves a very wide readership. -- Tim Dean, author of Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking For Winnubst, the dehistoricization of cool produces an ethical crisis as it detaches coolness from efforts to imagine and produce a better social world. Way Too Cool is one of the most provocative texts that I have read on race, philosophy, and ethics in a long time. -- Roderick Ferguson, author of The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference In this intellectually vibrant text that reads economic doctrines, racialized class inequities, and the lasting residue of popular culture with equal grace, Winnubst uses the genealogy of cool to pen a riveting treatise on race, ethics, and the commodification of social difference. Winnubst's arguments are precise and persuasive, as rigorously crafted as they are creatively composed. This book is poised to shake up how we think, talk and teach about neoliberalism. -- Juana Mar a Rodr guez, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, University of California, Berkeley