Sunday, November 27, 2005

Resources for the week of 11/21/05:
I bought the wrong book from the bookstore, so instead of The Weight of the World, I am analyzing Inventing Popular Culture by John Storey. There was not much information in regards to our topic on War, Militarism, and Pacifism, but it is a fascinating look into the history of popular culture. What follows is a synthesis of what I learned.

Chapter one is dedicated to Folk Culture as Popular Culture. Storey sees popular culture originating in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, specifically in Europe. I was concerned as to how he came up with that as the inception of popular culture. It seems as though a common tradition within any given culture has existed since the beginning of human history. I think maybe there is a confusion of terms here. I wish he would have defined popular culture in a clearer manner before diving into the history of it. However, the chapter was interesting in that it showed how folk culture started with the peasants and then when the middle and upper classes found an interest in it, they distrusted the peasants with it and took control of maintaining the tradition. It is interesting that Storey defines folk culture as popular culture, because it seems to be the antithesis of popular culture- a rebellion from it.

Chapter two focuses more on Mass Culture as Popular Culture. However, this label is misleading. Storey is not talking about the general practices held in common by a culture, but rather the culture invented by and for the middle and upper class. All that was left for everyone else to do was to “recognize our cultural difference and acknowledge cultural deference” (pg. 18). Many were extremely skeptical of the general populace, believing that if they gained control, there would be no culture left, just a massive combination of factors that makes everything “a single shade of gray”, which they called “hyperdemocracy” (pg. 25).

Chapter three moves to describe Popular Culture as the “Other” of High Culture. This chapter focuses on America, where an elite class had to be created, because it was not handed down, as in Europe. The chapter uses the example of the city of Boston where a High Class was created primarily through an appreciation of the arts- the orchestra, museums, Shakespearean plays, and opera to name a few. Instead of belonging to the public as a whole, these art forms were moved to what Storey calls “temples of art” (pg. 40).

Chapter four takes on Hegemony as Popular Culture. In this chapter, popular culture is defined as a consensus within a society that is regulated by the upper class, those with the power. Whether discussing Marxism or colonies of larger states, hegemony was the means by which popular culture was created and maintained. There was an idea of what culture should look like and that was forced upon all members of society. In a more subtle example, this can also be the case of capitalist cultures. Even though the consumer determines much of culture, consumers are still left at the mercy of what the producers are supplying. In turn, they decide much of what the consumer and therefore popular culture values and practices.

Chapter five switches to look at Postmodern Culture as Popular Culture. A major change occurred somewhere in the 60’s when there was a “generational refusal of the categorical certainties of high modernism” (pg. 64). Class systems were no longer the determining factor of culture. This chapter points to such phenomenon as the Beatles that transcended social stratification and class barriers. There was a new appreciation, one that was available to all. However, this has led some to believe that there is no creative power within this Postmodern Culture. It is but a compilation of past traditions, or what the book terms “a culture of quotations” (pg. 66). Is this was chapter 2 was fearing with its culture as becoming the “single shade of gray” (pg. 25)?

Chapter six deals with Popular Culture in terms of being the “Roots and “Routes” of Cultural Identity. This chapter is concerned with how our identities are formed in this postmodern culture. We are consumerists- that defines us. Therefore, in determining who we are, what part of culture we belong to, it has less to do with our creative thought, what we are thinking and creating, and more with what we read, what music we listen to, what television we watch. That creates a category for us, a group with which we belong. Not only that, but we also have a strong sense of the past. We want a history to connect with. Our stories and narratives are what count in this culture. They tell us where we came from and where we are going.

Chapter seven describes Popular Culture as Popular or Mass Art. This chapter is closely related to chapter four on hegemony. It deals with the persuasion and propaganda techniques employed by those with power over the media and production to determine our sense of aesthetics. It is not a trivial matter what we determine to be beautiful or desirable. According to this chapter, those things are fed to us by a larger Mass Art that implants ideas of popular culture into us through the means of creating our aesthetic experiences.

Finally chapter eight speaks on Global Culture as Popular Culture. In a world that is becoming increasingly consumed by Globalization, there is a sense in which there is a global culture. By means of technology: the internet, television, and other media sources, the world is becoming more and more single-minded in its focus and values. Again, much of this has to do with capitalism. Who you are as a collective nation has to do with what you are able to provide the global economy. Therefore, those with the economic power are also the ones who determine what a global culture is; hence the Westernization of other nations.

In conclusion, this book didn’t have much to do with our topic, but it was intriguing. It is an interesting look at where popular culture has come from and where it is headed. I find it important to be aware of the structures that have an enormous impact on defining our identities and values. It raises important questions for Christ-followers as we learn how to live distinctively within popular culture.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Week of 11/14:
This week, our assigned texts were chapter 5 of Global Transformations and Globalization and Culture by Jan Nederveen Pieterse. I read Global Transformations and analyzed it for a previous week’s discussion. To view that analysis, please see the blog entry from 10/17.

Chapter 5 of Global Transformations took up the task of discussing Multi-National Corporations and the enormous impact they have had on the process of globalization. As far as our topic is concerned, there is not any direct information on War, Militarism, or Terrorism. However, there is always a correlation between the stratification of power and our topic. The chapter does not discuss much of the negative impact that MNC’s have played in the atmosphere of developing nations. There was virtually no conversation on the low wages offered to people in developing countries. In fact, the authors concluded the chapter with an altruistic version of MNC’s, saying that they are not about finding the cheapest place for production. I have a hard time swallowing that. I think this could have an enormous impact on our topic, in that there is a struggle to create treaties, and for developing countries to make a place for themselves in the world market. Pushing people out of the global economy seems to be a new kind of warfare.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Resources for week of 11/7:

This week, my resources originate from chapters 3 and 4 of the assigned text for class Global Transformations: Politics, Economies and Culture by David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Godblatt, and Jonathan Perraton. The topic of these chapters is global economics and trade. While they do not directly relate to the subject of war/militarism/terrorism, I believe they offer important insight to our topic. Unlike the name suggests, global trade and economy does not apply to all nations and regions of the world. Developing countries are at an extreme disadvantage because of the lack of chips in their pocket. They are often left to fend for themselves. What these chapters do not disclose is what happens in developing societies when their governments decide to join in the global trade game. Where their efforts had previously been on producing food and resources to sustain life within the country, the work-force often changes to the production of manufactured goods. Even if they continue in their agricultural work, these products are shipped to the larger nations who can pay the higher price for the goods, while the people in the native country are left without sustenance. What kind of an atmosphere does this promote? One where people feel powerless and helpless. We need to be about the business of asking what connections this might foster for terrorism, if any. How does this produce civil strife and war? The poor remain poor and rich get richer. Is this our way of embodying the Kingdom of God? With that analysis, here are some insights that these chapters offer:

“this competition can take various forms such that global markets may often reflect oligopolistic rather than perfectly competitive conditions, with a few major producers dominating a trading sector.” Pg. 150.

“an industrialized economy with the same trade-GDP ratio as a developing country may find it easier to absorb fluctuations in trade levels: thus there is a difference between sensitivity and vulnerability to external factors.” Pg. 151.

“Extensive as they are, trade networks still appear to be concentrated within certain geographical areas, crudely Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, three trade blocs with some economic coherence and including most of the industrialized economies. To many skeptics such developments have been interpreted as evidence that trade is becoming regionalized rather than globalized.” Pg. 167.

“for much of the postwar period, world trade has been concentrated among the developed economies.” Pg. 172.

Eras of trade are marked by wars in these chapters- Interwar Period, Postwar Period.

Note the effects of war on trade- i.e.) Civil War disrupts U.S. world trade. Pg. 159.

Note the impact of the Cold War- Soviets put their money in Western European banks instead of U.S. banks. Pg. 201.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Week of 10/31/05

This week, I found some extremely helpful information in our assigned reading Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture by David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton. I read the first two chapters. The first chapter was insightful into the history of how powers have transformed from Empires to the Nation-States of today. There were sporadic references to the effects that war and militarism had played in the process that were helpful. However, chapter 2 took a much longer, in-depth look at the implications that war and military expenditures have on a global society. The book discussed the history of war and the role of military power and also described rather thoroughly where we are now and how we are impacted by such things as global arms trade, the gap between industrialized and non-industrialized nations, creating codes for war, etc. It was an extremely insightful perspective for our topic!

Every step of the process from Empires to Modern Nation-States has been characterized by a use of military power. In every section of 1.1, the authors note how military force was used for the powers to maintain, gain, or defend their territory. Military power was also crucial for the transformations from one stage to the next (pg. 31-49)

Currently in the Modern Nation-State set-up, we are bound to the state for military protection and rely upon their decisions for war. The book states: “the claim to hold a monopoly on the force and means of coercion (sustained by a standing army and the police) became possible only with the ‘pacification’ of peoples, the breaking down of powers and rivals within the nation-state.” (pg. 45).

One of the main functions of international regimes is to attempt to maintain codes of war and relations, to relegate the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and to provide security and defense of its members (i.e., nuclear non-proliferation regime, sea regime, etc). (pg. 51)

Telecommunications has changed the shape of war. We can now view what is happening in one place from virtually anywhere in the world (pg. 59). We have a new sense of connection in global politics; maybe even especially when it comes to war and revolution.

In the wake of the World Wars, it became increasingly evident that international law was necessary in this new kind of world that we live in. We cannot rely on powers to maintain themselves in a humane way. One of the main elements of this new system was to determine that international law is between the state parties themselves, not warring factions within the states (pg. 62). Therefore, it is the state’s responsibility to govern the various groups within its borders.

It is important to recognize that in the process of globalization that the gap between industrialized nations and non-industrialized nations is expanding, specifically in regards to military expenditures (see tiers mentioned on pg. 88). I was shocked once again by seeing the statistics on how much the US pours into the military compared with the rest of the world (pg. 97-98).

In a similar vein, the trade of weapons is extremely happens as an “uneven” process, as the book describes. However, it is such a common occurrence that this points to a global military order in which the world powers are all participating (pg. 114).

In the world community, there have been attempts throughout history to regulate war, including the “conduct of war; the prevention of war; and the abolition of war” (pg. 130), the final option never succeeding. Most recently, there have been attempts at disarmament (pg. 133).