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George W S Trow

It's a bit creepy. The Wikipedia page for writer George W S Trow has registered his death, a couple days ago, of "natural causes." Why am I having such a hard time believing the cause of death?

There was a time when Trow was the coolest writer going, no question. "Within the Context of No-Context" came as  a bombshell.

In the New History, nothing was judged - only counted. The power of judging was then subtracted from what it was necessary for a man to learn to do. In the New History, the preferences of a child carried as much weight as the preferences of an adult, so the refining of preferences was subtracted from what it was necessary for a man to learn to do. In the New History, the ideal became agreement rather than well-judged action, so men learned to be competent only in those modes which embraced the possibility of agreement. The world of power changed. What was powerful grew more powerful in ways that could be measured, grew less powerful in every way that could not be measured. 

The piece appeared in the November 17, 1980 issue of The New Yorker, and I didn't really understand it. I had no idea that something called "popular culture" was going to occupy center stage in the coming decades. I thought that the Sixties were over. I didn't know that the Sixties were about to come back, in Living Dead format.

Looking at the essay today, I'm inclined to say that the old History is still vital in certain parts of the world, and that anti-Americanism is its hallmark. People still make momentous judgments there. Americans, in contrast, living in the New History, are almost ridiculous - and Trow was the first to show why. He sailed past the known poles of right and left, capitalist and marxist, to discover an awful new world, one in which the serious is relentlessly menaced by the inconsequential.


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