The Devil's Pleasure Palace: Critical Theory

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Puritanboard Clerk
Walsh, Michael. The Devil's Pleasure Palace: Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West.

What is the Christian Response to Cultural marxism? While everyone is morally obligated to fight a war to the death against the Frankfurt School, that doesn’t mean every effort is equally good. Most, in fact, are not. Walsh’s book is a mixed bag. He is a professional music critic and when he sticks to that topic, his analyses are always erudite and occasionally insightful. When he gets into biblical and philosophical issues, he is in trouble. I will say it another way: he has no clue what he is talking about.

Thesis: the West faces a war against the morality of the epic of Genesis vs. the neo-Marxist cult of critical theory.

Throughout the narrative Walsh will interweave Genesis (which he doesn’t necessarily think is real; he might, but his language is ambiguous), Goethe’s Faust, and Milton to illustrate the satanic seduction. I guess there is a way that can work, but the reader often loses sight of the thesis in the minute discussions of Faust. Further, Goethe’s own private embodied the very sexual dissolution that Walsh rejects.

Movement of the Argument

Post-WWII West erected a modern Devil’s Pleasure Palace “built on the promises of social justice and equality for all” (14-15). In short, the Left tried to create Heaven, thus a Pleasure Palace. The chief target of the Left is the family (32).

This is a sound argument. The Frankfurt School realized that economic Marxism was a dead-end, but if they played the long game, ala Gramsci,

Overly Strong claims:

“Art is the gift from God, the sole true medium of truth” (12). God’s only medium of truth? Really?

Simply Erroneous Claims

~“And yet, paradoxically, it is her transgression...that makes her, and us, fully human” (19). I thought it was because God created us human. Further, Jesus didn’t have any transgressions, yet he is fully (though not merely) human. Even more, we won’t have transgressions in heaven, yet presumably we will be human.

~Misreads Hegel as a simple thesis/antithesis/synthesis (23, 25). If you haven’t read Hegel, do not ever speak of the Hegelian dialectic. It’s not what you think it is.

~”There is no predestination, only free will” (162). But even Arminians know the word is in the Bible, so there is at least one form of predestination.

~Says Bush failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin. I think this is factually false, as the US engineered the anti-Putin elections in Ukraine in 2004, which resulted in the ousting of Yanukovych. Further, Bush recognized the heroin/Mafia-state of Kosovo to allow the pipelining of cocaine, heroin, and prostitutes into the West. I think Bush opposed Putin quite often.


Occasionally neat observations, like where Parcival observes “time become space.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds interesting. He has a decent analysis of The Eternal Feminine in Faust--none of which actually adds to his argument.

*Good section on Wilhem Reich and the sexual revolution.

* He anticipates meme warfare by noting the Left cannot tolerate being scorned.


The style is just….bad. And that’s strange given the plethora of literary references. It reads like a “good ole boy conservative blog” without any of the Southern charm. Imagine National Review’s substance, such as it is, without any of the veneer of substance.

If this book were a focus on the musical decadence of the Frankfurt School, it would have been a welcome contribution. It should have been 100 pages shorter. As it is, the disconnected analyses on biblical literature, philosophy, and music detract from the scope of the book.

The book also was heavy on loaded language. True, Critical Theory and Cultural Marxism are demonic and satanic. True, Herbert Marcuse was a demon in human flesh, but using the epithet “satanic” in every paragraph burdens the reader.
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