Don’t forget to upload your Critical Analysis of Culture Essays to Canvas before 11:00 pm.
Barker & Jane Ch. 5: A New World Disorder
I believe the chapter title is a play on George H. W. Bush’s often-repeated phrase from the early 1990s that referred to the future of a post-Soviet world: “A new world order.” Although others have used the phrase, its contemporary usage implies a world governance system. As we read in the chapter, much conspiracy theory is devoted to such governance (p. 201-202). Their title supports an argument that world politics is chaotic and difficult to follow. Can we buy our way out of it, though?
Question: Discuss a show you watch in a critical way. If you can’t, identify aspects of the text that makes it postmodern.
The American Economy
- p. 164: Fordism is the system Henry Ford’s assembly line embodies. The assembly line was the efficient system for reducing labor costs and increasing production.
- Frederick W. Taylor is said to be the inspiration for Ford’s system.
- More on Fordism/Taylorism
- Goal of full employment “keep[s] spending power at levels that [meet] the capacity for production.
- mass production requires mass consumption…which first?
- p. 167: “Just-In-Time (JIT) stock management….aimed to ensure that supplies were delivered only when required.
- What American value does JIT embody, reflect, reproduce?
- p. 168: Rise in the number of unskilled workers.
- p. 170: American and Western economies have “a terminal decline in the manual working class, a rise in service and white-collar work, and an increase in part-time and ‘flexible’ labour.”
- p. 173: In a post-industrial society, “information exchange and cultural production are seen to displace heavy industry at the heart of the economy.”
- p. 174-175: economic changes (including benefits) don’t spread evenly to all sectors.
- p. 175: “Technological determinism” means that “changes are explained by prioritizing technology as the motor of change without considering that the development and deployment of technology must be understood within a cultural, social and economic context.”
- p. 175: “technical rationality” and the “glorification of science”
- Both ideologies maintain that technologies and sciences must be pursued and used to maintain a properly functioning society.
- p. 176: “The change in the role of the state is an aspect of the general decline in the salience and class character of politics and political parties.
- pp. 176-177: “workers’ identifications and identities shift from the location in the sphere of production to that of consumption.”
Postmodernization–here’s a discussion of postmodernism
- p. 177: As Baudrillard tells us “objects in consumer societies are no longer purchased for their use value….what is sought after are commodity-signs in the context of society marked by increased commodification.”
- p. 177: “Style is not constrained by formal canons or the mores of social strata but operates within a self-referential world of commodities.”
- What examples can you provide for “the culture of consumption”?
- p. 179: Affluenza is the “‘painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more'” (John de Graaf et. al., 2001: 2)
- p. 179: “Australians were spending $10.5 billion a year on goods and services they never or hardly ever used–an amount which exceeded spending by Australian governments on universities and roads” (Hamilton et. al., 2005: 6)
- p. 180: Wants vs. Needs…
“A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!”
- For the record, I never read Dr. Seuss to my kids!
- p. 182: Not all dot.coms went bust
- p. 184: supplementary work and always being on call
- What technologies contribute to our ability to always be able to work?
- p. 186: “the institutions of modernity…consist of capitalism, industrialism, surveillance, the nation state and military power.”
- p. 187: “Globalization is…constituted by planetary-scale economic activity that is creating an interconnected, if uneven, world economy.”
- p. 188: “all locales are now subject to the influences of distant places”
- p. 191: In South Africa, “English provides the most common shared point of translation.”
- p. 194: “the modern world provides more material goods to us, without offering us significant cultural values….we seem to value quantity over quality.”
Climate change shows up at the end of the chapter, and, as with every topic, depending on our disciplinary framework, we have lots of ways to discuss climate change. Instead of going line by line in the Chapter, I want to ask these questions:
- What are the technologies you associate with climate change?
- What is (are) the rhetoric(s) you associate with climate change?
- Who’s responsible for global warming, anthropogenic climate change?
Feminism is the political and social philosophy based on principles of equality for all peoples and specifically promotes ideas of gender equality. But what are connotations of feminism?
If you want another perspective, read over this introduction of a webpage from a previous class.
Is it 7:20 yet? If so, Let’s take our break and return at 7:45. Please watch these three videos (there’ll be ads to skip…sweet irony, huh?):
- Steadicam Shot in Goodfellas (1990)–2:27 mins
- That scene from Reservoir Dogs (1992)–2 mins
- Playing cards and Steadicam shot in Swingers (1996)–2 mins
This clip has the card-playing scene then the “long tracking” scene through the kitchen…look familiar?
Pastiche or homage? If you haven’t seen these films, you’re missing out. Swingers even glorifies hipsters, yet I still love it! Check out the longer scene on Hollywood going out: bar navigation, card playing, modeling agency party…(4 mins)
Barker & Jane Ch. 6: Enter Postmodernism
Obviously, the topic of postmodernism could be an entire semester in and of itself. Even though Barker & Jane are giving an overview, they do provide a really thorough overview. It’s impressive to be able to explain the key aspects of postmodernism, starting with a brief look at modernism, and provide background on the conflicts and debates surrounding the time period, condition, project, etc.
That being said, I don’t think Fredric Jameson gets enough attention, but this page from a previous semester will help fix that. We’ll start with Modernism, and I have a couple quotations to help us:
- What is called Western or modern civilization by way of contrast with the civilization of the Orient or medieval times is at bottom a civilization that rests upon machinery and science as distinguished from one founded on agricultural or handicraft commerce. It is in reality a technological civilization….If the records of patent offices, the statistics of
production, and the reports of laboratories furnish evidence worthy of credence, technological civilization, instead of showing signs of contraction, threatens to overcome and transform the whole globe. (Beard 1928/1999, p. 97)
- The great nineteenth-century positivists…imagined that the statements of science were going to replace opinions and beliefs about all things….Our century has been the graveyard of positivist ideas of progress. (Alain Badiou 2005, p. 84)
Modernity, Modernism, Modernist
- p. 223: “Enlightenment thought is marked by its belief that Reason can demystify and illuminate the world over and against religion, myth and superstition.”
- p. 214: “Modernity is a historical period following the Middle Ages.”
- p. 215: “There was a shift from domestic production for immediate use to mass consumer goods production for exchange.”
- “The workshop and factory were utilized as a means of exerting discipline and the creation of new work habits.”
- From Giddens: “‘who says modernity says not just organizations, but organization–the regularized control of social relations across indefinite time-space distances’ (1990: 91).”
- “Capitalism is restless in its search for new markets, new raw materials, new sources of profit and capital accumulation. It is inherently globalizing” (italics mine).
- p. 216: “the development of money and professional knowledge allows social relations to be stretched (or distantiated) across time and space.
- “reflexivity refers to the constant revision of social activity in the light of new knowledge.”
- “Nations are not just political formations. They are also systems of cultural representation by which national identity is continually reproduced through discursive action. National identity is a form of imaginative identification with the nation-state.”
- National identity solidarity…
- pp. 216-217: “industrialism, capitalism, surveillance, and the nation-state….’Modernism’ refers to the human cultural forms bound up with this modernization.”
- p. 216: Modernists have typically displayed an optimistic faith in the power of science, rationality and industry to transform our world for the better….the perpetual revision of knowledge.”
- From Giddens: “All knowledge is formed as a hypothesis that is open to revision.”
- See quotations from Beard and Badiou above.
- Why are these statements important for a class on the Cultural Studies?
- p. 219: “Simmel (1978) argued that, while, on the one hand, individual liberty increased, people have also been obliged to submit to a rigorous discipline and urban anonymity.”
- “rational decision-making procedures….[are] based on calculability, rules, and expert knowledge.”
- “modernism as a ‘structure of feeling’ involves pace, change, ambiguity, risk, doubt and the chronic revision of knowledge.” (and Giddens on p. 225)
- The above could be considered the modernist condition.
- Voltaire’s: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
- p. 220: “Modernism rejects the idea that it is possible to represent the ‘real’ in any straightforward manner.”
- However, “modernist literature…[attempts] to capture the ‘deep reality’ of the world.”
- “Modernism accepts the meaningfulness of a reality that lies beneath or beyond appearance.”
- p. 223: “Whatever the differences between Lukacs, Adorno, Brecht, Godard, Joyce and Sergei Eisenstein, they do share the modern conception that the world is knowable and that true knowledge of it is possible.”
- But they might not agree that true knowledge is probable…
- pp. 223-224: Taylorism (more discussion here)
- p. 225: “The confidence of modern science allows it to hail itself as ‘progress’ symbolized by medicine, despite threats such as nuclear annihilation.”
- “The very impulse to control nature through science and rationality is…an impulse to control and dominate human beings.”
But no discussion of modernism is complete (if it ever could be…how about generalized well enough) without a discussion of (at least one) historical avant-garde. Let’s go back to the Futurists because it has much to offer discussions on the Rhetoric of Technology.
Postmodernity, Postmodernism, Postmodernist
- p. 226: “reason and truth are ‘nothing more that the expediency of a certain race and species–their utility alone is their truth’ (Nietzsche, 1967: $515).”
- p. 226: Foucault tells us “Different historical eras are marked by different epistemes, or configurations of knowledge, that shape the social practices and social order of particular historical periods.”
- p. 228: Foucault believes “Knowledge is not metaphysical, transcendental or universal. Rather, it is specific to particular times and spaces.”
- p. 229: “[Foucault] rejects any notion of telos or the inevitable direction of human history.”
- p. 229: “Lyotard argues that truth and meaning are constituted by their place in specific local language games and cannot be universal in character.”
- “For Lyotard, modern knowledge rests on it appeals to metanarratives, that is, grand historical stories which claim universal validity.
- What are the appeals made to metanarratives of technology?
- More on Lyotard
- p. 230: From Rorty we learn “The notion of truth refers at best to a degree of social agreement within a particular tradition.”
- “Kenneth Gergen (1994) agrees that no epistemological position is able to give universal grounding for its own truth claims.”
- p. 231: Rorty claims “we are always positioned within acculturalized knowledge, so that the true and the good are what we believe….Such judgements can only be made by reference to our values and not to a transcendental truth.”
- Past discussion on irony (3/02)–end of Ch. 3 discussion.
- p. 232: Giddens–“relativity, uncertainty, doubt and risk are core characteristics of late of high modernity.”
- pp. 233-234: Habermas and the public sphere.
- pp. 234-235: being reflexive, “someone whose mind watches itself” (Camus)
- p. 235: “postmodern culture invites the ‘other’ of modernity, those voices that had been suppressed by the modern drive to extinguish difference, to find ways to speak.”
- p. 236: Postmodern culture is marked by the blurring and collapse of the traditional boundaries between culture and art, high and low culture, commerce and art, culture and commerce.
- If something is mass produced, is it art?
- The prosumer…remixes, mashups, and cut & paste.
- p. 237: “Postmodern culture is marked by a self-conscious intertextuality, that is, the citation of one text within another.”
- What’s the difference between remix and homage?
- p. 238: “Identity projects and the aestheticization of daily life are linked together within consumer culture through the creation of lifestyles centered on the consumption of aesthetic objects and signs.”
- How do we construct identities? What are markers of ‘hipster’ identity (aka the faux avant-garde)?
- p. 239: The Sopranos
- p. 241: “Culture jams seek to resist consumerism by refiguring logos, fashion statements and product images in order to raise concerns about consumption, environmental damage, and inequitable social practices.”
- Is it possible to subvert the power of multinational corporations through culture jamming?
- p. 243: Depthless culture and “the consumption of signs.”
Are we too critical of those who consume? After all, being immersed in a culture of consumption, including the economic push to consume, appears normal and a marker of success. Can we blame people for not recognizing the bigger picture of cultural critique?
- p. 243: Baudrillard on hyperreality–more real than real.
- Jean Baudrillard is a major contemporary philosopher (although he died in 2007). His theories would fall under a postmodernist classification. Although he has capitalist critiques, his later work focused on media and culture more broadly. In “Simulacra and Simulations,” Marshall McLuhan’s ideas of mass communications is in the background. Baudrillard argues that forms of communication mediate social relations (on a broad societal plane).
- p. 244: From Jameson–“postmodernism is the expressive of a world system of multinational or late capitalism. It represents the cultural style of late capitalism operating in a new global space.”
- p. 246: In contrast to Jameson, “Chambers (1987, 1990) argues that rather than being the core of a ‘depthless culture,’ commodity-signs are the raw material by which active and meaning-oriented consumers construct multiple identities.”
- So has postmodernism ushered in a new form of democracy?
I’ll be up front with my position on the attempt to name the next thing. I find such attempts to be the height of hipsterism, trying to be first to establish a neologism. I think postmodernism provides us questions to ask about culture that we still can ask. We still need to critique the political situations that convince us to be consumers rather than citizens. We still ought to critique our socially constructed, predominantly Western perspectives. In fact, I think there’s a good debate to be had whether or not modernism is over (read as no longer able to provide useful questions to ask about culture). Maybe modernism and postmodernism are able to exist together? Maybe we need to revise the assumed dates for modernity and postmodernity?
We’ll be forging ahead on Baker & Jane and reading Ch. 7 & 8 for next week (3/16). Of course, you’ll also have presents for me! Turn your Critical Analysis of Culture Essays in on Canvas before 11:00 pm.
Badiou, A. (2005). Metapolitics. London: Verso-New Left Books.
Beard, C. A. (1999). The inevitability of the machine. In R. Rhodes (Ed.), Visions of technology: A century of vital debate about machines, systems and the human world (p. 97). New York: Touchstone. (Original work published in 1928).