"In America and Europe, mass culture has overrun the autonomy of rural and intellectual audiences alike."
"At that time (Cuba, Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement), I affiliated with the official Left as an ongoing and expanding tendency, and sought to produce songs “in the spirit of the movement.” But, referring to that aspiration, no type of song is less convincing esthetically than the slogan lyric, especially if it is set (as it usually is) to child’s music. I never wrote slogan-songs. The most convincing way to express a political thought in a song is to capture the listener’s attention with a specific, or personal, action or experience which has intense symbolic value. Indeed, when a political thought is being voiced spontaneously by people who have lived it, they express it by way of symbolic experiences. The listener is engaged by being invited to supply the generality that is being suggested."
"By century’s end, however, it was time to connect what I had long known as an economist with the verdict of history. “Actually existing socialism” had been a monumental, vicious bluff. Its leaders pretended to possess theory and know-how which they not only did not have, but could not have comprehended if it had been handed them on a sliver platter. They did not have even a definition of socialism which could pass muster intellectually. The sort of utopian leap made by the French Revolution was not in the cards in the twentieth century. Thus, there are no millennarian answers today for those in lower classes or castes. Politics today remains entirely in the era of bourgeois-democratic reforms (such as land reform where that has meaning). I don’t want to repudiate my “revolution” lyrics, but I take them today as fantasy."
"Commercial-mechanistic-impersonal civilization is progressively crushing people’s spirit. What emerged [in the late Sixties] is a culture devoted to fads and synthetic identities, a culture of smirking self-disgust and degradation. Mass culture is a facet of the horrible symbiosis which exists between the manipulators and the underlings."
"There are no successful musicians today whose example inspires me to play and to play better. And there is no existing, coherent audience which already encourages the beauty to which I aspire. The situation is unfortunate for me, because the entertainmental, kinesthetic, and political dimensions of my music demand interactions with a supportive audience to be fulfilled."
"But I have to believe that the audiences which support the deluge of crass, gross music experience a far greater misfortune than I. Again, if ethnic music is being drowned out, it is because people’s spirit is being crushed by contemporary civilization."
"Under the circumstances, the horrible symbiosis represented by mass culture cannot be upstaged by one iconoclast. People do not want to be disturbed by the call of ennoblement when they lack the inner resources or the life-circumstances to respond to it. The Cobains, Hoons, Staleys, and Osbournes will pander, will earn, and will earn more if they overdose."