The end of the old year and the beginning of the new one – yes, it’s the season of those tiresome, compulsory Best of! and Top Ten! lists, including, alas, ‘literary’ lists. These bullet-point bonanzas are the expression of a marketing sensibility, which means that book-lists bear the same relationship to literature as a Hallmark Valentine does to love. Yet participation in this annual ritual serves to reinforce certain ideological practices that are crucial to the reproduction of the current culture. Here – for your post-holiday pleasure – are the top five ideological practices these lists reinforce:
the fashion-system (obsession with small differences in the context of a large but unregarded sameness; the importance of being “up-to-date,” of knowing what the “trends” tell us about our irresistibly fascinating selves, etc.)
the star-system (which items are common to most lists? which item will “win”?)
the construction of a social and personal identity as the sum of market choices
manifest populism (anyone can do it – it’s fun! What’s your list?)
latent elitism (the last word goes to the cultural arbiters)
Dude needs to lighten up.