Paradoxically, for my generation, one that came of age in the revolutionary spirit of the affluent 1960s, liberation from institutions and their systems of meanings was not a relationship with a specific oppressive condition but a general, eternal, and absolute value in and of itself. In challenging the rhetoric of Western Civilization, the generation that mocked the bourgeois liberal pieties of its fathers and mother rather smugly took for granted a niave and simpleminded faith in revolt against all forms of authority and enduring value. And, as always seems to be the case in the world of fashion, the French led the way. Roland Barthes announced "The Death of the Author" and tore down this idol of literate civilization; Michel Foucault exposed the "episteme" that bound institutions and forms of knowing into the "discourse" that was itself the system of domination; and Derrida made certain, with an ultimate Deconstruction, that no text would ever rise up again with a pretense to ultimate meaning, or high-minded and high-handed final authority. For an affluent and expanding bureaucracy of academic literary critics and behavioral scientists, this demolishing of the mystique of the solitary romantic artist who could pretend to cosmic knowledge without the necessary university credentials was indeed welcome news, and without much regret the culture of Author-hood and Authority was shouldered aside. "Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes futile... We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author."
With the replacement of bookstores by supermarket chains, the only books that are now available are books by movie stars and TV celebrities. In a differance, the text is a sign of being famous, and the famous are simply those who are famous for being famous. An appearance on a TV show is itself an achievement, an epiphany of the culture. A text in this world is not to be read: it is simply another form of currency and a means of exchange. In the consequent breakup of culture into subcultures, intellectual respectability must come from its unavailability and its resistance to communication and exchange, much like the heavy gold stored under the Paradeplatz in Zurich, and so incomprehensibility becomes their essential value. Here, the Europeans come back into their own, and no American professors can hope to compete with the likes of Derrida and Habermas.
--William Irwin Thompson
Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth and Science