What is culture? C/c: civilization, society

Download 56.51 Kb.
Size56.51 Kb.

  1. C/c: civilization, society

  1. Elements: geography—history—values——ideology—technology—institutions—creative expression

  1. Definitions (form and/or origins):

  • Plato (5th-4th century BCE): The removal from the IdealNaturalCivic

  • Matthew Arnold (1869, Culture and Anarchy): “a study of perfection,” “the best that is known and thought in the world,” “sweetness & light”

  • Edward B. Tylor (anthropology,1871): “taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

  • Sigmund Freud (early 20th c.): the origin of neurosis, based on 3 taboos

  • Raymond Williams (1958, Culture and Society, Marxism and Literature, 1977): “a whole way of living of a people”

  • Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropology, 1970ies): a structuralist system of binary polarities (The Raw and the Cooked)

  • Stuart Hall: “patterns of organization,” “cultures” (“subjective science”)

  • Stephen Greenblatt : ritualized/fossilized adaptations of struggle VS nature

  • Dick Hebdige: the semiotic element of all human activities

  • Michel Foucault: inclusive web of oppressive associations; “truth”power

  • Antonio Gramsci: “the manufacture of consent”

  • Jacques Derrida: blindness to the absence of metaphysical grounding, violent hierarchies, inherent tensions

  1. Prescriptive VS descriptive cultural theories

  1. Cultural relativism (1980s)

  1. Cultural dynamics:

  • identity VS velocity

  • local VS global (glocal, “ethnic”)

  • cultural homogeneity VS cultural blends

  • primal/past/extinct VS living

  • mainstream VS alternative

  • high VS mass, pop, cult, camp

  • western VS “Other” (post-/colonial, Eastern, marginalized, indigenous)

  1. Who makes culture?

  1. How does it manifest itself?

  1. How do we learn it?

  1. Why should we study it? Why study others?



Novelist (A Room with a View (1908), A Passage to India (1924), Howards End (1954), Maurice (1971)), essayist, humanist:

-“Only connect”

-“Forsterian”= liberal, skeptical, unconventional

“Does Culture Matter?” (1940)

-Elitist definition of culture VS problem in elitist numbers

-State of culture today

-Change in measures of “success”

-Importance of tradition:

  1. unites past-present

  2. unites work-play (T.S. Eliot)

  3. helps decipher culture

  4. trained imagination

-Choices for the future

-The “Cultural Gospel”


Marxist New Left  U.K. Cultural Materialism

Culture and Society (1958): culture as “a whole way of living of a people”
“Dominant, Residual, Emergent” (from Marxism and Literature, 1977)

-culture as complex: manifestations and dynamic interactions

-problem with “epochal” categorizations of culture: static, simplistic, dominant

-3 levels of culture (+ archaic)

-clash, co-option, substitution among them


Frankfurt Institute for Social Research (“Frankfurt School”)

Marxist cultural criticism

Art/aesthetics as potentially semi-autonomous from politics, though great art is “political”

The cultural critic as an implicated, non-objective scientist:

Complicity with hegemony VS Antonio Gramsci’s organic intellectual

The critic as naysayer: “negative dialectics”

Dialectical view of culture (which contains contradictions)

Not HOW things are, but WHY

The self-destruction of logos

“The Culture Industry”

-title paradox

-interwoven entertainment systems of mass & constant consumption

-techno- prediction (of “safe”, fake “dreams”), production, MANIPULATION of consumption

-manufacture of consent by authority for authority

 mind control, impoverishment, homogenization, loss of individuality/freedom of choice
“Entertainment politics”:

-amusement as more work, mindless, boring, expensive

-dissatisfaction, so more consumption of (false) fillers of needs

cruel laughter, not happiness;

punishment of difference, not acceptance;

titillation, not profundity;

remote “star system” models, not beauty or inspiration

chance plots, not effort

 loss of tragedy and identity: “the individual is an illusion”


Stephen Greenblatt

U.S. Cultural Studies, Foucaultian New Historicism

Cultural imperatives as “Invisible Bullets”


-3 definitions: a. anthropological (too wide)

b. refined (too narrow)

c. dynamic (“constraint and mobility”)

-Role of literature: displayer/agent of both tendencies

 cultural analysis: link/reciprocity of text and context (text as time-capsule)

-Art as powerful purveyor and re-shaper of culture (condenses cult. elements, shows hidden relations)

 exchange between culture and art

-great authors master the art of exchange, economy of signs

Roland Barthes

French semiotics, from structuralism to post-structuralism

Culture as “text” (dynamic, alive, can be dissected)

Reading the “signs” (symbols, connotations) of cult. images

 3 levels of a symbol (denotation; cultural connotation; textual/field connotation)


-why this title?

“Soap powders VS cleaning fluids”

-modern housewife VS “washerwoman”

-“deep” cleansing; “gentle”


“The Brain of Einstein”

-why “a mythical object”?

-genius as something measurable, material, fleshly, mechanistic

-human being as isolated “brain” (always working, no totality of experience)

-knowledge/science as “magic” (HarryPoterization of science)

-Einstein as “liminal hero”: a. mad/eccentric scientist

b. died before verifying his theory

“Photography and Electoral Appeal”

-appeal of photos VS text:

  1. more personal link

  2. exemplifies/embodies political agenda (blind imitation)

  3. a “perfected” mirror for identification AND separation (awe)

  4. blackmail, censure (not VS human, but VS virtues shown)

-positioning of photos (frontal, ¾); why not profile?

-example: the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon first tv debate

showbiz personas as politicians and vice-versa

-C/c Horkheimer and Adorno


Student of R. Wiliams, New Left UK Cultural Studies

Colonial subjectorganic intellectual
“Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies” (1992)

-Culture as synergy of transient power struggles (“articulation” of “conjectures”) VS static “hegemony”

-Cultural Studies as “a discursive formation”, “a whole set of formations”, many sciences, “self-deconstructive”

(C/c Mikhail Bakhtin’s polyglossia, heteroglossia,

carnivalesque, dialogic)

“positionalities” unified by a political agenda

“worldliness” of C.S. (VS Marxist materialism) to

face “tension” of inadequacy of theories

-“C.S. critic always “displaced” (inadequate; inside the

object of study)

organic intellectual best for C.S. work:

  1. works within historical conjecture

  2. engaged to enlighten others (“make a difference”) not just theorize

4 creative interruptions:

    1. class (Marxism)

    2. gender (feminism)

    3. race (postcolonialism)

    4. textuality (semiotics, deconstruction)


The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) introduces “talking cure” (psychoanalysis), modernity

The Structure of the Mind

Oedipus and Electra complexes
“Civilization and the Individual”

Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
-Culture evolves, has a “mentality” like a human being

  1. formed by (the ritual death) of our cultural “forefathers”

  2. high culture=community superego

  3. culture sets up impossible ideal conscience demands (public morals)

  4. ethics clash with the aggression of the id, environmental hostility

 neurotic, unhappy ego, defenseless against violence

 culture as a struggle between Eros and Thanatos

-How can we diagnose cultural neuroses, if culture defines the “normal”?

-Who has the authority to treat cultural neuroses?


The Communist Manifesto (1848)

The Capital (c.1867publ. 1894)

Critique of 18th-19th industrialized capitalism from an “organic” intellectual

Not nation-state, but class lines cutting across boundaries (“The International”)

Culture not only “high/elitist” art or ideas, but material basis too (base/superstructure)

Class struggles as power behind history
“The Fetishism of Commodities” (1867)

-3 kinds of values:

use value

true (labor) value (hours x difficulty of work)

exchange value commodity (VS object)
-commodity has:

a. metaphysical value (different labor appreciation)

b. social (symbolic) value (humans work for one another)

 commodity as a synecdoche for worker value/status

-shown only in the act of exchange:

  1. I “meet” person through product

  2. worker feels worthless, non-communal if product is not bought)

-exchange value reason for making products

-symbolic, therefore can be twisted, exploited


“academic” sociologist and capitalism critic

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)

-Status groups (“subcultures”) inside a larger culture

-the “iron cage”: when efficiency, technology and bureaucracy trap individual

  1. Logos not enough to overcome modern culture’s contradictions

  2. Franklinean ethic (rich or poor is your choice)

  3. More goods and money less humanity

  4. We become the cage (manufacture of consent)

“What Is Politics?” (1918)

-Df. (p.111): “a kind of independent leadership [manipulation of power] in action” inside a “state” (i.e., something capable of claiming “monopoly of legitimate use of force” within its territory) or among states

-Why do people obey the state? Pure legitimation:

  1. tradition (semi-personal)

  2. charisma/grace (personal)

  3. legality, rationale (impersonal)

The Types of Legitimate Domination” (1920)

-Df. of domination:

  1. orders obeyed for: i. obedience’s sake, ii. our own interest too

  2. involves a staff (apparatchiks), loyal for material, affectual, or ideal (legitimation) reasons, which shares in diffusion of power

  3. not only one/linear kind operant in social relations


-Founder of Italian Communist Party, political theorist

-Wrote The Prison Notebooks (c. 1930; publ. 1950) while imprisoned by Fascist government

-“professional” vs “organic” intellectual (everyman)

- “organic quality” (proximity to production level); intellectual bias acc. to economic class

-relation to “hegemony” (=“direct domination” + ideological supremacy in “civil society” + “political society”/State)

-“historic bloc”: synergy of social, institutional, intellectual and physical forces that maintain dominant status quo in the mind of subjects

 workers decide against their interests

 without people’s cultural hegemony, no socialist revolution can happen


2nd wave feminist activist, co-founder of NOW, National Women’s Political Caucus

-“The Problem That Has No Name” from The Feminine Mystique (1963)

Written after a college graduate reunion survey (1957)

-why nameless?

-sexist cultural brainwashing:

  1. prescribed housewife/baby-maker role as only option

  2. discouraged from “unfeminine” science or public sector jobs

  3. immature sexualization

  4. contradictory negative semantics (“man-trap”)

  5. suburban conformity

  6. techno-material advancement as “golden cage”

-what more do women want?

-Organic intellectual (poverty, disability, black rights), author, critic

-The 1960s Civil Rights movement: nonviolent resistance but double victimization

-importance of herstory

“In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” (1974)

-Slavery before and after 1863’s Emancipation Proclamation

-C/c Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s sister”

-effects of repressed spirituality

-hypocrisy of phallogocentrism:

  1. saintliness as double slavery

  2. womanhood as curse

  3. talent as burden

-the case of Phyllis Wheatley (Uncle Tomism VS thwarted genius)

-outlets/safehouses for black female artistry: recipes, gardens, songs, homemaking (quilts etc).

-results of “mothers’” efforts


Professor of American Studies in the UK

Author of 50 Facts… series

“The American Difference”

-Df. of American exceptionalism

-Why this belief?

  1. first new bourgeois nation

  2. in a land unusually rich and wild

  3. not real, but IMAGINED quality by Europeans and settlers

  4. based on a transformative, elective process of becoming American

  5. based on “the collective singular”, et pluribus unum of individuals

constitutions only as crisis planners

  1. being cut off from Europe bred isolationism, “purity” w/o contagion

  2. immigrant despriptions (new, bountiful, old sins erased)

  3. Puritans as “different” religiously and politically

  4. American Dream of a classless, meritocratic society

  5. Portable faith, faith in the portable

  6. Mass mobility as evolution:

: initiation, transformation, reformation

: terror of captivity narratives

: “redeems” old wrongs (slavery, genocide)

: from “Go West, young man” to Pax Americana, global policeman


Philosopher, sociologist, cultural theorist

America (1986)

-USA as nation of “the astral and the primitive” (Sacvan Bercovitch’s “the cowboy and the skyscraper”)

-“Lights Out”: light as symbol of:

  1. first civilization (fire)

  2. brightness and gloryvirtuality

  3. techno-dependence

  4. machinization of humans (alone, work 24/7, velocity, amorality)

  5. excess breeds fear of future crash: dystopia/apocalypse

-From colonialism to (20th century) postcolonialism

-Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

-Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)

-Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1988)


-Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, 1939

-Taught Fanon in Martinique—Caribbean as hotbed of revolutionary ideas (Haiti, Cuba, Patrick Chamoiseau, Edouard Glissand, Raphael Confiant, Maryse Condé)

-Négritude (1930s) inspired by French poètes maudits (Rimbaud’s style), Harlem Renaissance, activist anthropology-sociology VS bourgeois colonizer Europe
Between Colonizer and Colonized” from Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

-Why “between” position?

  1. No contact, only “thingification”

  2. Price for technology and structures too high (lives, raw wealth, eco-disaster)

  3. Creation of a caste of servant-functionaries: corrupt, hypocritical, power-hungry

  4. Impossible to return to an idealized “past”

  5. Too weak to compete in a global free market with former colonizer

  6. Crimes of colonization a “historical accident”—must be overcome

-Proposed solutions today (C/c V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott)


Commodity culture and the geography of consumption
“Routes/Roots” (1999)

-Today’s mix replaces “national culture”

-even “empirical” georgraphy is affected: no “pure” race

-combination of “native” traits and new dynamic influences


Novelist, playwright, popular BBC broadcaster

“Wrong Ism” (1966)

-3 –isms:




-Which one should matter? Why other two negative?

-How can we reconcile true “world culture” with different regionalisms?

Open-mindedness, communication, respect

-Do you think global egalitarianism is possible? If yes, is it all good?


-Pros and cons

-The role of the superpowers: From George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society (1993) to Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld (1955) to…”The China Syndrome”?


Harvard Professor on global political science
“The Clash of Globalizations” (2002)

-4 incomplete models of globalization:

  1. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992), neoconservatist manifesto

  2. Samuel P. Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” (1992)

  3. Henry Kissinger’s “realpolitik”

  4. Raymond Aron’s “germ of universal consciousness” (e.g., Seattle)

 Thomas Friedman’s “triumphant globalization” of infotechnology and commerce

-Problems with global theatre today:

  1. nationalist, intra-nationalist (ethnic) and religious clashes now more alive, more dangerous (WMDs, nuclear weapons)

  2. national protectivism of self-interests and introvertedness no “world citizens” yet

  3. unpredictable domestic politics factors (neocons, new fascism, fundamentalism)—simplistic or too-optimistic theories do damage

  4. intervention of global organizations a factor, but NGOs too weak

  5. terrorism: must intervene in other sovereign nations to stop it

  6. global/ “transnational” violence and crime (greed and envy)

-3 globalizations:

-economic (fear of injustices, control, exclusion of the poor)

-cultural (fear of Americanization/ worse alternative?)

-political (international network of (US-led) institutions, NGOS)

-C/c Immanuel Wallerstein’s 3 “geo-political cleavages”:

a. Triad (US, EU, Japan)

b. North/South

c Davos/Porto Alegre
-Is globalization really the only/necessary way?

Democracy, justice, material sufficiency is enough [isn’t that a Western model?]


Harvard theoretician of postcolonialist/literature studies

“Re-Inventing Britain: A Manifesto” (1995)

-Traditional uses of culture:

  1. “attribution of identity”

  2. “conferral of authenticity”

-New needed uses of culture:

  1. articulation of meaningful demands/judgments

  2. translatability

-judicious incorporation

-no perfect translation

-no distance of critic necessary (C/c Derrida’s “insidedness”, Foucault’s “specific philosopher”)

-it’s not so much ID norms/needs that have changed, but the wider context of culture

-intellectual secularism as an example of new thinking


Palestinian academic and activist

Orientalism (1978), Culture and Imperialism (1993), Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004)
“Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals” from Representation of the Intellectual (1994)

-why is the intellectual an exile?

  1. brain drain

  2. “displacement” of cultural critic

  3. marginalization of intellectuals in society (difficult “non Bell-curvers” and/or troublesome)

  4. exile makes one an organic intellectual of sorts:

-how to think ID in double exile (Armenians, Egyptian Greeks)?

-“global village” even harder (tantalizingly close, one cannot decide to settle “for good”)

-What are the benefits of exile?

  1. naysayer as philosopher (Adorno’s negative dialectics)

  2. extra sensitivity, original p.o.v.

  3. perpetual unsettled position untainted by mass cultural brainwashing

  4. creative labor out of pain of exile

  5. morality of not being “at home”—ecstasis of feeling “Otherness”

-The double-edged sword of envisioning the future:

  1. self-fulfilling prophecy

  2. unpredictability

-yet one cannot stay unprepared, esp. today (stakes too high):

  1. biotechnology

  2. nanotechnology

  3. cybernetics, informatics, virtuality

  4. global dominion of interests

  5. the space race?

  6. danger of ecological disaster/ nuclear annihilation


“Simulacra and Simulations: Disneyland” (1983)

-from double (representation) to simulation (hyperreal):

“models of a real without origin or reality”

end of Plato’s ideal world

end of metaphor: we ARE the signifier

end of anagogy (only egotistic duplication of “image”, murder of real referent of art)

-historical simulators: hysterics, icons (=death of “real” God)

-4 stages of simulacra:

  1. reflection of the real (representation)—good

  2. perversion of the real (lie, false icon)—evil

  3. mask of absence of the real (hoax)—play at being

  4. pure simulacrum—its own self/ethic

 “myths” of reality proliferate in agony as evanescent
-The example of Disneyland (C/c Louis Marin “Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia”)

-not allegory of a real adult America, but masks the childishness and unreality (Disneyfication) of “real” America outside ”fictions of the real”

-repetitions of false sign (gadgets, jingles, various “lands”) validate it.


Canadian theoretician of politics-technology-culture

-relation of human to machine:

cyberculture and cyberpunk

-Can we “fight the future”?

SPASM: Virtual Reality, Android Music, and Electric Flesh (1993)

-Death of human citizen—how?

  1. “floating” reality/politics/ethics/bodies

  2. VR as sterilely-experiencing “organs without bodies” (following Slavoj Zizek’s reversal of Gilles Deleuze’s positive “bodies without organs”)

  3. “technology takes possession of us” “virtual recline”, inertia

  4. digitalization of the real  virtual (in)experience, “zero degree politics”

  5. no creation, but kitsch rerun loop (Deleuze’s “cancerous” body w/o organs)

  6. becoming cyborg with the aid of biotechnology

-Biotechnology as power: fixes reality to customer’s choice, but controls them

-U.S. is no more an image culture, but bioapparatus (technofaux)

-“Virtual USA is the uncertainty principle par excellence”:

  1. omnipresent reality shifts, can’t escape (we are all cyborgs; any conspiracy theory potentially true; apathetic “citizen”)

  2. Puritan+capitalist origin means frontier+biblical drive, doesn’t question “progress”


Feminist, biologist, philosopher

“A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985)

-Positive view of the cyborg, because:

  1. no “original sin” of traditional cultural hierarchies/categories or dominion of a primal “ideal”

  2. can resist/bypass “informatics of domination” (“a massive intensification of insecurity and cultural impoverishment, with common failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable”) by using its own tools against it [myth of the Hacker Hero]

  3. can use the language of pure simulacra (computer codes) to bypass patriarchal and other obstacles

effective “wired” communication, unification

  1. we are all cyborgs anyway, need new concepts to rethink our world, new stories to make borg familiar

  2. we cannot go back to “pure” essential identities (instead of the victim, be the monster!)

  3. next step after animal-human barrier broke down

  4. not uniform identity, but “affinity”

Download 56.51 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©ininet.org 2024
send message

    Main page