Posted 15 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, science, Music, politics / 0 Comments
450 events, 6 stages, 180 speakers, 10 days, 150 bands.
HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest philosophy festival, returns this May with a packed programme of debates, solo talks and live music geared around this year’s theme: Errors, Lies and Adventure.
The festival has put paid to the idea that the public want dumbed down culture. With an unashamedly highbrow programme tackling the latest theories in everything from philosophy and art to science and politics- all set against a backdrop of live music and DJ sets from some of the UK’s most exciting emerging talent- visitor numbers have been growing at a breakneck pace – tripling each year. Last year’s event attracted over 35,000 visitors to the site.
In addition to debates with leading figures including Stephen Frears, Ian Blair, Will Hutton, Shirley Williams,
AS Byatt, Jim Crace and Terry Pratchett amongst over 150 others, this year’s music programme includes the likes of Man Like Me, Jeffrey Lewis, Electro Swing Circus, Sam Lee, Emily Barker, Get Cape. Wear Cape.Fly, Serafina Steer, Phildel, Stealing Sheep, Young Husband, The Hut people, Andrew Weatherall,
Deepgroove, Jamie Anderson, James Welsh, Utah Saints, The Boxettes, Nerina Pallot, King Charles, Nick Mulvey and Richard Walters.
The debates this year include
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Cory Doctorow, Will Hutton, Shirley Williams. Katie Derham chairs.
The economic and political dominance of the US is under threat from the rise of the East. Are we seeing the end of an empire that led the world throughout the 20th century? Can post-imperial America remain a vital force in world affairs, or will it couple waning economic influence with cultural decay?
Columnist and former Observer editor Will Hutton, SDP founder Baroness Shirley Williams, and novelist and activist Cory Doctorow imagine a changed world.
The Prejudice of Intellectuals
Jim Crace, Hannah Dawson, Catherine Hakim. Julian Baggini chairs.
We openly discriminate in favour of intelligence - at school and at work - while we often seek to deny or limit the role of physical beauty. Might this be a mistake? Should we accept the many different qualities of individuals and prize them equally, or would this undermine our society and lead to ruin?
LSE Sociologist and Erotic Capital theorist Catherine Hakim, historian of ideas Hannah Dawson and acclaimed novelist Jim Crace debate the values of the mind and the body.
The Art of Life
Stephen Frears, Hermione Lee, Ray Monk. Katie Derham chairs.
From Thomas Cromwell to Abraham Lincoln, the legacies of historical icons are controlled by the writers and historians who shape their reputations. Yet since Foucault declared that history itself was a fiction, the very notion of historical truth has been in doubt. Is it an error to believe that authentic accounts of human lives are possible, and if so, what responsibilities are left to those who speak for the dead?
BAFTA-winning director of High Fidelity and The Queen Stephen Frears and biographers Hermione Lee and Ray Monk contemplate the limits of life writing.
Death of the Hero
Ian Blair, Angie Hobbs, Susan Neiman. Rana Mitter chairs.
Heroes are out of fashion, along with traditional masculine values of grit, perseverance and honour. Will this lead to a more benign culture or is it a fundamental mistake? Do we need new forms of heroism to inspire the modern world? Or should we guard against all heroes and all icons as sources of collective stupidity?
Philosopher and Director of the Einstein Forum, Susan Neiman, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Lord Ian Blair, and classical philosopher and broadcaster Angie Hobbs seek out new heroes.
Mind, Madness and Power
Oliver James, Frank Furedi, Richard Bentall.
Psychiatrists and their critics alike claim their opponents' theories are flawed, their institutions corrupt, and their practices dangerous. Does anti-psychiatry echo the terminology, power structures and paradigms of the psychiatric profession? Do we need new ways of helping the mentally ill beyond the confines of the therapist-patient relationship?
Psychologist, author and broadcaster Oliver James, outspoken sociologist and author of Cultures of Fear,
Frank Furedi, and clinical psychologist Richard Bentall debate the limits of psychotherapy.
At the World's Edge
Terry Pratchett, AS Byatt, Terry Eagleton. Mary Ann Sieghart chairs.
Fantasy tales are often seen as a peripheral part of culture, with little to contribute to our lives other than throw-away entertainment. Is this an error? Might fantasies be central to how we perceive the world, and even gesture towards the limits of our understanding? ııMary Ann Sieghart asks philosopher Terry Eagleton and eminent novelists AS Byatt and Terry Pratchett to explore reality’s edge.
Why has the festival proved such a remarkable success? Philosopher and founder of the festival, Hilary
Lawson says: “There are many names you will recognise in this year’s programme but we are not about celebrity. The festival creates a space where real human interaction can take place. It sounds easy. But it’s rare. Our venues are intimate. Our speakers mix with our audience and go to the same parties. We talk, dance, play and bring life to the world of ideas and maybe just a little meaning to our lives in a world that is so often rather emptier than we would like.”
This year’s full programme is available here: http://www.howthelightgetsin.org
For media accreditation, images and interview requests, contact Bianca Brigitte Bonomi or Anna Southby at
E: firstname.lastname@example.org / M: 07878194220
Posted 29 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: China, media, culture, creative, art, design, entertainment / 0 Comments
Creative Industries in China is drawn from my research over the past decade on how Chinese policy makers, artists, designers and media practitioners are attempting to change a widespread perception that China is an uncreative nation. The ‘world factory’ portrayal is an uncomfortable reminder for many of economic dominance which is yet to be translated into the cultural sphere.
For this reason ‘industrialisation of culture’ has captured a great deal of policy attention since 2003. While the term ‘cultural industries’ is the politically correct usage for university research centres that solicit the support of the central government in Beijing, the term ‘creative industries’ has captured the imagination of liberal minded thinkers, small businesses and grassroots organisations.
In this book I describe three clusters of activity: art, design and media. In doing so, I have attempted to produce a book that will reach beyond the scholarly community. I assemble a diversity of sources, some from government reports, some from industry, but most from academia. The clusters are heterogeneous, crossing disciplinary boundaries.
I look at a broad range of creative sectors: painting, performance, industrial design, urban design, fashion, television, film and online video. I examine the political and institutional environments that enable and constrain innovation, for instance political factions, media regulation, censorship, copyright as well as regional variations in urban planning and cultural governance. Throughout the book I evaluate China’s attempts to renovate its national soft power, that is, China’s cultural attractiveness within the international community.
In writing this book I was presented with a methodological dilemma. Creativity obviously varies in different societies at different periods. So what kind of criteria should one use to measure it? In recognising a strong tendency to attribute Western origins to creativity and to the creative industries, my concern is to show how applicable this ‘gold standard’ is in the People’s Republic of China, a nation that is itself endeavouring to transform in to an ‘innovative nation’ by 2020.
How can we understand non-standard varieties? How many of the outputs listed in government reports in China are examples of originality or novelty? By the same token, the standard definition (of creative industries), incubated by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the late 1990s, has undergone significant mutation in its travels throughout Asia. I show why this has occurred and reveal the consequences of such transformation for regional governance in China.
In my recent work, and throughout this book, I have opted for a functional definition of creativity. I seek to downplay the emphasis on novelty that pervades innovation literature, which idealises heroic risk-taking creative entrepreneurs. In this book creativity is the ‘fitting of new ideas and alternative visions to existing norms, values and patterns’. Accordingly, the industries that governments like to promote as cultural and creative are frequently typified by mundane practices.
To be sure, they represent aggregations of so-called creative classes—artists, writers, filmmakers, designers and developers - but much of what is produced (and counted in reports) is the result of pragmatic variations of existing models and templates.
The term ‘creativity’ has a certain promiscuity, which allows it to be applied in many contexts. In many cases in China it is effectively harmonized, stripped of its critical elements. To understand its uptake in China I consider its dissemination within a society where freedom of expression has been devalued as a means of social organisation.
This is not to deny the inventiveness, ingenuity and imagination of Chinese artists and craftsmen - or the desire for openness. As I argue in chapter 2, cultural exchange has had a long history in traditional China, but innovators have had to contend with extended periods of Confucian (and neo-Confucian) orthodoxy. In modern China conformity to political dictates has rendered creativity a zone of uncertainty.
The upside of promiscuity is that the uses of creativity cut across different disciplines and fields of endeavour, psychology, business, aesthetics, science and education such that there are many views and many ‘experts’. To take the example of visual art, anyone can become a connoisseur by following art trends, joining art circles and reading art history.
However, as the Canadian conceptual art group the N.E. Thing Goes company showed, anything can be art; art only has to be thought by someone as art for it to be so. The question of value is another consideration. As the sociologist Richard Sennett points out, the lament ‘You do not understand me’ is ‘a not entirely enticing selling point’.
The book examines many of the selling points of Chinese culture. But more than this it looks at the sustainability of an indigenous model of creativity based on expedient adaptation. Is this the model that China should retain and risk being typecast as a follower nation rather than becoming an innovative nation?
I show how China is seeking to exploit creativity to climb the global value chain but I also demonstrate the limits imposed on creativity by a politically induced focus on quantity over quality, harmony over risk-taking, and economic development over human rights. While the government’s call for extending China’s soft power has increased productivity of its cultural sectors this has yet to impact on the most important indicator, China’s international cultural attractiveness.
Michael Keane is professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. He is the author of China’s New Creative Clusters: Governance, Human Capital and Investment (2011) and Created in China: the Great New Leap Forward (2007).
Posted 39 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media, mass media, media ethics / 0 Comments
This article was originally published on Think Africa Press, authored by James Wan.
Think Africa Press spoke to theorist Lilie Chouliaraki about how solidarity has become a consumerist choice rather than a conviction, and more about ourselves than others.
‘Doing good’ has never been easier. As clever charity adverts and glamorous celebrity activists insist, all you have to do is send a text to donate a dollar, click a button to share an appeal, wear a wristband to show your support, or sponsor a friend to run a mile.
But this isn’t the revolution everyone wants. Critics call this kind of effortless engagement ‘slacktivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ and denounce its narcissistic, celebrity-saturated, easy-come-easy-go nature. Meanwhile, proponents insist it does the job and say that engagement is only an inch deep if it stops there; who’s to say today’s uninformed clicktivist won’t go on to become tomorrow’s expert activist?
For the most part, the debate stops there – critics armed with scorn, defenders with balance sheets. One of the few exceptions to this polarised debate, however, is media and communications theorist Lilie Chouliaraki.
In her incisive, thoroughly engaging and accessibly-written new book, The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism, Chouliaraki critically examines new forms of humanitarian engagement and communication. In looking at charity appeals, celebrity activism, rock concerts, and news reporting, Chouliaraki outlines a recent shift towards consumerist marketing strategies, and attempts to work out what they tells us about contemporary Western understandings of solidarity and morality.
She spoke to Think Africa Press about her findings:
What overarching questions were you trying to answer in The Ironic Spectator?
There are two main questions. The first was a general question about how we communicate the suffering and vulnerability of others, something the field of development has struggled over for decades. The debate has been there forever – and it is a moral and political rather than just an aesthetic debate – but I thought we weren’t getting very satisfactory responses. I felt we needed to revisit those questions, approaching the topic in a different way or with a fresh perspective.
The second question – and the main trigger for the book – was a recent trend in charity campaigns. New forms of campaigning have emerged, which are very advanced in the way they market international humanitarian brands, but in doing so employ a new logic to previous forms of humanitarian communication. I was intrigued by these new campaigns’ clean aesthetic, their sanitisation of the message, their total focus on the consumer, and their suppression of the sufferer in their messages. I theorise this new logic as ‘post-humanitarian’ and wanted to understand what these new manifestations tell us about where we are today in terms of representing vulnerability.
Could you elaborate on what do you mean by ‘post-humanitarian’?
Post-humanitarian campaigns rely on a set of aesthetic choices that move away from traditional portrayals of suffering others, both negative and positive.
Negative portrayals – which emerged after colonialism but are still seen today – show sufferers in pure destitution, as passive and as lacking agency; sick children lying down, helpless and emaciated for example (see below). They try to illicit feelings of guilt in viewers to push them to donate.
Positive portrayals emerged out of a new consciousness in the mid-1980s around the time of Live Aid and in response to a growing critique over how we depict Africa. This new ‘positive’ imagery reversed the negative stereotype, but remained a stereotype in that it was all too positive (see below). Campaigners were well-intentioned in wanting to foster more empathy and identification with victims, but the result was that you almost couldn’t see the need to donate as there seemed to be nothing different between the supposed sufferers and viewers.
The post-humanitarian aesthetic is a response to those two problematic forms of representation. Charities asked ‘if neither negative nor positive imagery works, what can we do?’ The answer I think they came up with was simply to do away with sufferers altogether and focus appeals on those who give, treating citizens as consumers in the same way any market brand does. ActionAid’s Find Your Feeling appeal, Oxfam’s Be Humankind or the very successful Kony2012 campaign are examples of this new aesthetic style.
What are the consequences of this shift?
There are two main consequences: firstly, it takes those who suffer outside the field of representation. They are not there most of the time and if they are, they are there in a metaphorical way where we can’t really see them and can’t really connect with them. Secondly, post-humanitarian appeals take away the reason we should be acting. It is as if justification does not matter any more. This is perhaps because charities figure that we already know why we give, that we already associate with a brand, or that we are sick and tired of listening to reasons.
These changes, in turn, crucially alter the nature of the solidarity these messages are ‘selling’ to us. Our solidarity towards vulnerable others, they seem to say, no longer has to rely on conviction and on the values of care and social justice as before, but is more a matter of individual choice – for instance the choice to click donate, buy a Christmas present, do an online quiz, follow a favourite celebrity and so on. Solidarity here becomes a lifestyle choice – one of the many we have in our consumer culture to make us ‘feel good’. The term ‘post-humanitarian’ thus signals that we are moving away from the moral values of care for the other and social justice that motivated humanitarian communication in the past.
Many in the development sector say that given the celebrity-driven, consumerist culture we live in, these branded marketing strategies are the only way to get people to have any engagement.
Yes, that’s right and I understand why campaigners are using post-humanitarian strategies. It is exactly this celebrity, showbiz environment which so much contributes to enabling and legitimising these approaches.
In the book, I make some recommendations as to how to move on from here and I refer to examples of existing practices that can combine marketing with an adherence to social values. But for now, let me just point out that if you always play the game under terms that are already set for you by the market, then you are always going to have to adopt logics that are foreign to you and that somehow contaminate or distort your message to the extent you don’t have control over it any more.
But why does this matter? After all, levels of donations have been rising.
Yes, donations have been rising in the UK in recent years, which is very good. But at the same time, relevant studies suggest that we have seen a fall in the quality of public engagement (for instance, Henson and Lindstrom 2010 or Darnton and Martin 2011). People are giving but don’t seem to care.
Now we cannot know everything about everything, and we cannot care with the same intensity about everything. But between that and the opposite end of the continuum – a consumer with a standing order every month because it makes him or her feel good – there is a whole range of moral and political positions we might want to explore and seek to adopt.
Why should we do that? I think that comes down to the fundamental question of values. We live in a world that extends beyond us and we need to ask ourselves whether we have a responsibility to care about what is going on in this world. If the answer is yes, which I hope it is for most of us, then there is hope. But without that fundamental sense of care, the world is not going to be a good place for anyone – including ourselves, but particularly for those who are in need. Money isn’t enough. We need some degree of emotional connection and a sense of understanding that doesn’t have to be a deep, complicated sense of expertise about things, but a sense of ‘I know what’s going on, I know the reasons I’m giving, and I can do more if needed’.
Humanitarian communication plays a paramount role in this process of ‘moral education’. This is why it should not only be about marketing but also about cultivating this sense of latent alertness – what one might call ‘monitorial cosmopolitan citizenship’. You’re there, you watch, you know. You don’t have to act, but you’re certainly not just engulfed in your own concerns and narcissistic view of the world.
Humanitarian organisations justify corporate-style marketing strategies by saying they are the initial step in cultivating greater engagement. Glitzy adverts or celebrities draw in lots of people in the hope some of them will go on to learn more – it’s not one or the other.
I think that is exactly the logic behind it, and it might work for some people – I’m sure it does work for some people – but I wonder if this is enough. And, as I mentioned earlier, overall, people’s self-reported concern about world poverty and humanitarian issues is falling.
We must ask ourselves: Do we want to see humanitarian engagement as a marketplace in which organisations fish for customers who might then come closer and become faithful to a particular product? Do we want charities to be more like corporations which adopt market strategies and vie for customers using all sorts of promotional devices, which may end up educating some, but only some rather than all? Or do we want, in a consistent manner, to keep an important civic conversation going about who these people are and why we should care about them?
How then could the development sector go about cultivating a more genuine sense of solidarity?
In my book, I make two broad suggestions:
Firstly, bring those who suffer – the whole point of why humanitarianism exists – back in. Let them speak so we can hear their voices, because that has happened at no point in the past and it is not happening now either. Create some form of communication and some form of interaction. It can be minimal and imaginative but let them talk and let us listen and, even, interact with them so we can start engaging with them in different ways.
Secondly, bring justification back in. Remind us, subtly but constantly, as to why this is important. There’s a concern for social justice that we tend to forget, particularly in this celebrity showbiz culture. We must keep focussing on how to create the conditions so that these types of suffering don’t exist anymore and on how we can struggle for a society in which the value of social justice is there in our vision constantly.
Opening up that space where we aren’t just seduced and don’t just donate, tweet or click is incredibly important. It may be hard but we need to try to keep alive the idea and ideal of a society of cosmopolitan citizens, rather than self-satisfied consumers.
More broadly speaking, the development sector has to become more sceptical about the basis of its business, which has become completely number-driven. At the moment, it is driven by concerns for efficiency and getting more donations. Similarly, nowadays those working in development studies (academics and policy-makers) have, for the most part, little interest in understanding relations of power and histories and cultures. The field has simply become concerned with how to manage to the micro-finances of nations so they can manage their debts.
Those in the development sector and development studies need more scepticism, a more critical attitude, and a return to the more fundamental questions of humanity and solidarity that go beyond the market and beyond numbers.
The photographs above are by Cate Turton/DfID (negative image), Adam Cohn (positive image) and Ryohei Noda (post-humanitarian image).
Lilie Chouliaraki is professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics.
Posted 62 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: critical PR studies, promotions, political communication, consumer culture / 0 Comments
In the twenty-first century, promotion is everywhere and everything has become promotable: goods, services, people, organisations, ideas, nations, cultures, pasts and futures. But where is this promotional ubiquity in modern times taking us and how are we to assess the changes it is bringing?
Over the course of a century, ad hoc promotional practices became 'professionalised' and systemised on a wider scale. Individuals, organisations and public institutions, in turn, have come to internalise these promotional practices and discourses.
Techniques developed to sell all manner of everyday goods to consumers are now reproduced in many areas of society beyond commodities markets.
Popular culture, news and information, politics, government, finance, economies, charities and interest groups, markets and businesses, have all been reshaped in the cause of promotion. Individuals, in both their personal and working lives, have become more self-promotional.
Such developments have wider implications for society, culture, market economies and democracies. Promotional Cultures documents many of these changes, offers a range of perspectives with which to evaluate them, and explores where their wider implications.
Aeron Davis is professor of political communication at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Posted 74 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: city, urbanization, rural China, migration, planning, urban governance, urban culture, poverty, urban sociology, urban geography / 0 Comments
China was historically an agrarian society with the majority of its population engaged in farming and living in rural areas, and this configuration continued until the last quarter of the twentieth century. But the country has aggressively urbanized since, adding more than 400 new cities and hundreds of millions of urban residents over the last three decades.
The shifting demographic trends are certainly striking, but the urgency to study Chinese urbanization comes from a different source, that is, the deeper transformation of Chinese society, as manifested in the changing governing institutions, the redistribution of wealth, and the remaking of citizen rights. Urban China sets out to understand how China has urbanized over a short period of time and what an urbanized China means for its citizens and for the rest of the world.
A critical analysis of China’s urban transition can also bring insights to a number of broader issues, such as the Chinese economy, globalization, and urban theory. First of all, studying China’s cities can help us better understand the origin of the Chinese economic miracle. China’s economic ascent and its urbanization are closely intertwined, and to understand the economic miracle, one needs to recognize the critical role played by its cities in these processes.
China’s urban transition also offers a vantage point for understanding the interconnectivity of the global economy. China’s urbanization did not happen in a vacuum, but was accompanied by close interaction with the larger world economy. From the sleek skyscrapers in Shanghai to the state-of-the-art Olympics facilities in Beijing and iPhone factories in Shenzhen and Zhengzhou, Chinese cities are remade by transnational flows of capital, information, and expertise. The transformation of the urban economy, communities, and landscape tells a larger story of globalization.
The unprecedented urban growth in China also presents an intriguing case with which to reflect on urban theory developed in the context of Western urbanization. Different from London, New York, Chicago, and Detroit, Chinese cities, and also many other cities in the global South, did not experience high Fordism and the post-Fordist transition, which constitute the basis for major theorizations on urban governance in the West.
Although contemporary Chinese cities exhibit similar tendencies of entrepreneurialism and neoliberalization, the causes often have to be sought in developments other than deindustrialization and urban decay, which are not happening or at least have not happened yet in China. A thorough understanding of China’s urban transition can open exciting paths for developing new urban theory and vocabularies.
Drawing upon both the secondary literature and some of my own work, this book examines the past trajectories, present conditions, and future prospects of Chinese cities by investigating five interrelated topics – governance, landscape, migration, inequality, and the cultural economy.
Part of the book was written when I was a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC in 2011-2012, while simultaneously working on another book project comparing urban governance and citizen rights in China and India. Reading about Indian cities has certainly given me many new perspectives on the Chinese urban condition.
One major observation I want to share with the readers of this book is that India, and probably other developing countries as well, have learned many wrong lessons from China, such as setting up Special Economic Zones, advocating massive investments in infrastructure, hosting mega-events, and pushing urban renewal by displacing the poor. Indian cities face many problems and challenges, to be sure, such as housing shortages, poor infrastructure, and high levels of poverty. But following the Chinese model cannot solve these problems.
As the Chinese experience shows, massive investment in infrastructure has put local governments in deep debt, and the shining new infrastructure projects often become profit-making machines for private–public partnerships. Hosting mega-events such as the Beijing Olympics has not brought many benefits to the people living in post-event cities, and the Shanghai style of urban renewal has displaced millions of the poor and turned inner-city neighborhoods into exclusive colonies for transnational elites.
One of my goals in writing this book is to demonstrate the consequences of Chinese-style urban development and provide a cautionary tale for other cities aspiring to remake themselves into Shanghai. Contrary to the notion of “fast policy transfers,” the urban development strategies used in China, as this book shows, have to be unlearned.
Xuefei Ren is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. She is author of Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (2011, University of Chicago Press).
Posted 81 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: introductory sociology, introduction, sociology, society, social studies, Social science / 0 Comments
Question: how do you summarise and present the emergence, development and contemporary shape of a diverse discipline like sociology in a single textbook? Answer: with great difficulty, a ruthless selection process and 1130 pages.
The bare facts are that the latest edition of Polity’s Sociologyhas 23 chapters covering the established subjects of theories and methods, families, crime and deviance, religion and health as well as more recent inclusions such as the environment, war, terrorism, the life course, globalization and sexuality.
The book aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the discipline for all new students, striking a productive balance between the classical traditions and contemporary sociology.
However, textbooks today need to do more than simply describe how sociologists make sense of our constantly changing social world. They also have to actively engage with readers, and the seventh edition goes much further in this direction than the previous six.
The end-of-chapter review sections and exercises are designed to stretch students’ knowledge and develop their research skills, encouraging them to seek out original journal articles, book chapters, online materials, films, novels, paintings and other artworks. The book tries to convince readers not only that is sociology still relevant, but also that in a globalizing age it is becoming more significant than ever before.
This seventh edition marks 24 years since Tony Giddens’s original idea bore fruit in 1989. Since then, both sociology and the world it seeks to analyse, understand and explain have changed in so many ways.
In the 1989 edition, a raft of major social issues that appear as ‘normal’ elements of sociology today were just not widely studied or taught. The fact that the seventh edition extensively covers environmental issues, global warming, terrorism, globalization, gender and sexuality shows that sociology’s central problems have shifted over the last quarter century.
Sociological theorizing has moved on apace too with new theories of globalization, ecological modernization, risk, postfeminism, cosmopolitanism and postcolonialism being developed to help us understand the changing societies we live in. Clearly any textbook worth its salt (or cash) has to find ways of combining the best sociology of the past (rooted in the ‘classical traditions’) with that of the present and this has been a major task for the new edition, which we hope works well.
Uniting the seven editions over 24 years is the conviction that encouraging readers to develop a ‘sociological imagination’ is the fundamental job of any introductory textbook in the discipline. We view encouraging and facilitating the development of a sociological way of seeing and interpreting social life as an end in itself that enriches both individual lives and the wider society, though its value is also evident in any number of contemporary issues.
For example, the recent discovery of horsemeat and horsemeat DNA in a variety of processed foods labelled as ‘beef’ is discussed by politicians and food industry leaders as a problem of fraud and criminality, of mis-labelling and a failure of regulation.
But for sociologists the episode illustrates wider social processes. It alerted people to the existence of some of the basic systems underpinning modern life, in this case the food production and supply chain which stretches across the boundaries of nation states.
Tracing some of the horsemeat from its origin in a Romanian slaughterhouse to a food trader in the Netherlands, on to a trader in Cyprus, then to food processing firms in France before it arrives in British supermarkets demonstrates something of what the rather woolly, abstract concept of globalization really means in practice.
It is unlikely that sociologists will simply ask ‘who is to blame’ in cases such as this. We are much more interested in trying to understand how this ‘scandal’ occurred and what it can tell us about the world we all help to make and inhabit.
Setting aside the initial urge to apportion blame and instead trying to gain a level of relative detachment from our personal prejudices and political values is a prerequisite for acquiring that sociological imagination which enables us to approach the world ‘with sober senses’. This commitment remains the leitmotif of the seventh edition of Sociology.
Phil Sutton is an independent researcher, formerly of the University of Leeds and Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and co-author of Sociology, with Anthony Giddens.
Posted 82 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: journalism, news, objectivity, reporting / 0 Comments
Early in the first season of HBO’s The Newsroom, a series set around a prime-time cable newscast, ‘News Night’, a dramatic declaration initiates a major ‘arc’ of the program.
The executive producer, MacKenzie McHale, outlines a new editorial concept for the program: ‘News Night 2.0’:
‘This is a new show and there are new rules’, she explains.
‘One, “is this information we need in the voting booth?”
Two, “is this the best possible form of the argument?”
And three, “is the story in historical context?” …
Finally, “Are there really two sides to this story?”’
Objectivity isn’t mentioned in this episode. Scholars of the area will recognize, however, that the show is preoccupied with issues central to the problematic of objectivity: issues such as the status of facts, the provision of context through interpretation, the impact of commercialism and the influence of personal viewpoint.
Testament to the idea that all that is old is new again, many of these concepts can be found in Walter Lippmann’s 1920 essay, ‘Liberty and the News’ (a title that forms a nice description of the television series). Both the essay and the series respond to a strong sense (articulated by Lippmann) ‘that the present crisis of western democracy is a crisis in journalism’.
Lippmann felt that ‘Everywhere to-day men are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand.’ He promoted the view that ‘The cardinal fact always is the loss of contact with objective information. Public as well as private reason depends upon it.’
In passages worthy of Aaron Sorkin, Lippmann spells out his view that ‘No one can manage anything on pap’:
‘Public opinion is blockaded. For when a people can no longer confidently repair “to the best fountains for their information”, then anyone's guess and anyone’s rumor, each man’s hope and each man’s whim becomes the basis of government. All that the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true, if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster, must come to any people which is denied an assured access to the facts.’
There are good reasons why one should be cautious around a concept like objectivity in journalism, with its scientific and positivistic baggage, and a significant history of debunking and criticism. It rarely appears in journalism codes of ethics these days. But this should not mean we should stop actively debating the concept.
Jeremy Iggers’ memorable line ‘Objectivity may be dead, but it isn’t dead enough’ captures a prevailing view. Surprisingly however, prior to this book, no study had attempted an overview of the scholarship in the area. Reviewing the literature, one would expect a consensus view that objectivity is universally criticised. Indeed, for communications scholar James W. Carey, the conventions of objective reporting were developed to ‘report another culture and another society’. One can find more colourful turns of phrase in the blogosphere.
Surveying the field the critique is not universal in approach or content. One finds counter-arguments to the most common criticisms, and a renewed interest in issues of interpretation, procedure, judgement and standpoint, from both scholars and practitioners. In this context, we should resist the idea that it is naïve, out-dated, or unacceptable to speak of and about objectivity. What we need is a historically informed and critical dialogue about the concept and the issues it represents, which goes beyond the newsroom to include professionals, academics and readers. Objectivity in Journalism hopefully serves as a crucial resource for this discussion.
Steven Maras is senior lecturer in media and communications at the University of Sydney.
Posted 86 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Rome, disasters, ancient history / 0 Comments
We all know that the Roman empire was one of the most successful and important civilizations the world has ever known. But we also know that it suffered some colossal disasters.
Huge military defeats, such as the battle of Cannae when as many men fell as on the first day of the Somme, natural disasters like the eruption of Vesuvius, and the first appearance in Europe of the bubonic plague were just some of the calamities they suffered.
And that's not to mention the many earthquakes, fires, floods and famines that regularly afflicted them.
These disasters stress-tested Roman society in a way that the good times never did. The result is that the Roman responses can tell us a great deal about how their society was ordered and what were its strengths and weaknesses.
Roman Disasters illustrates how the resilience of the Roman political and cultural system allowed the Romans to survive the impact of these life-threatening events. It also shows that, once the empire had become Christian, narratives of these disasters began to play an important role in Christian thought and rhetoric.
Jerry Toner is the director of studies in classics at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.
Posted 86 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: immigration, transnationality, transnationalization, transnationalism, transborder, globalization, remittances, hybridity / 0 Comments
Increasing interconnections between nation-states across borders have made the transnational perspective a key tool for understanding our world.
Transnational Migration provides an accessible yet rigorous overview of cross-border migration from a transnational perspective, as experienced by family and kinship groups, networks of entrepreneurs, diasporas, and immigrant associations – and as regulated by states.
We define the core concepts of transnationalization, transnational social spaces and transnationality, In particular, transnationality connotes the social practices of agents – individuals, groups, communities and organizations – across the borders of nation-states. The term denotes a spectrum of cross-border ties in various spheres of social life – familial, socio-cultural, economic and political – ranging from travel, through sending financial remittances, to exchanging ideas.
Seen in this way, agents’ transnational ties constitute a marker of heterogeneity, akin to other heterogeneities, such as age, gender, citizenship, sexual orientation, cultural preferences and language use.
In short, transnational ties can be understood as occupying a continuum from low to high – that is, from very few and short-lived ties to those that are multiple and dense and continuous over time.
For example, migrants may remit varying sums of money or none at all. This is also to say that, for our purposes, migrants and non-migrants should not be considered simply as transnational or not, but as being transnational to different degrees.
Transnationality is characterized by transactions of varying degrees of intensity and at various stages of the life course; it is not restricted to geographical mobility. For example, non-mobile family members of migrants may engage in transnational practices.
Based on this typology of the transnational, we describe everyday transnational life, explore the implications for immigrant incorporation, and take a fresh look at issues of membership and citizenship. By examining the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of transnational migration, we seek to capture the distinctive features of the new immigrant communities that have reshaped the ethno-cultural mix of receiving nations, including the US and Western Europe.
We give equal importance to examining the effects of transnationality on regions of migrants’ origin, viewing migrants as agents of political and economic development.
In doing so, we aim to balance theoretical discussion with relevant examples and cases, making it an ideal book for upper-level students working on immigration and transnational relations, in sociology, political science, and globalization courses.
Thomas Faist is professor of transnational, development and migration studies at the Bielefeld University, Germany.
Margit Fauser is a researcher in the department of sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany.
Eveline Reisenauer is a researcher in the department of sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany.
Posted 116 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: SNA, social network analysis, social networks, urban sociology, urban studies, community studies / 0 Comments
We have lived in communities as long as we have been human, but do we really understand how communities work and what they do? Technological changes, especially the growth of the internet, have led researchers to reevaluate many of our assumptions about the nature of community and communal life – even to ask again foundational questions such as, “What makes a community?”
Social network analysis is a rapidly developing new way of apprehending the social world. Communities and Networkstakes a closer look at communities and communal life through the lens of social network analysis in order to better understand questions about how communities operate in our lives and how our lives operate in communities.
Some of the questions I address:
What is a community and where does it come from?
What do communities do for us?
How do they shape identity and foster conformity?
What happens when they become fractured?
How do communities mobilize for collective action?
How do they foster innovation?
How are new communities in the age of the internet different from traditional communities?
Each of these questions can be addressed in new and insightful ways by looking from the perspective of social network analysis. The goal of this book is to make social network analysis understandable and useful by tying it to real world examples and by providing clearly written and easy to understand discussions of network analysis techniques and operations.
Much of the writing about social network analysis is quite technical and can often be difficult for students to understand on first introduction. But the concepts used in social network analysis allow us to penetrate more deeply into the complexities of urban and communal life and to fruitfully rethink some of our basic assumptions about communal processes and issues.
Communities and Networks attempts to explain network analytical concepts clearly and concisely so that we can begin to use social network analysis to conquer some of these intriguing questions about communities.
Each chapter of Communities and Networks explores one central question of communal life by looking at specific examples through the lens of social network analysis. Each chapter also has a special section devoted to explaining exactly how to employ the techniques of social network analysis with real world data.
These special sections are tied to substantive issues so that students are able to understand why and in what circumstances different network analytical techniques are useful and can give us new (and sometimes startling) insights into the issues at hand. But perhaps more importantly than merely learning the techniques, this book helps to explore and explain the theoretical perspective of social network analysis, which is a specific way of looking at the social world, concentrating on the relations among social actors (whether they are individuals or groups) rather than on the individual characteristics of those actors.
For example, in Chapter 7 we examine the emergence of Apple computers in the 1970’s in Silicon Valley using the concepts of small world structures and structural holes in order to see how the particular structure of the social relations in that place at that time played a critical role in fostering the innovations that led to the personal computer revolution.
Using histories of the era, we can look through the perspective of social network analysis at the importance of employee movement among firms (like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel) and among sectors (such as engineering and venture capital) as a method for forming weak ties that bridge structural holes.
We can take into account the importance of personal tie formation at specific sites like the Homebrew Computer Club meetings to see how individuals like Steve Wozniak were tied into the larger network structure. We can further use network analysis to explain how the culture that spurred innovative collaboration coalesced.
Other examples look at a diverse range of questions: How can understanding network centrality and marginality help us understand the Nazi takeover of German cities leading up to World War II? How can multi-dimensional scaling help us understand the effects of the internet on new community structures? How can we better understand immigrant assimilation in host communities by looking at balance theory and structural balance?
Communities and Networks uses the techniques and perspective of social network analysis to give students the tools to re-examine community and urban studies and provide a fuller, richer understanding of how our lives are shaped by the communities we make.
Katherine Giuffre is associate professor of sociology at Colorado College.
Posted 117 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Internet, digital media, sociology / 0 Comments
Over the last two decades, our general view of mass communication in modern society has been extensively reconfigured by the ‘new media’ applications stemming from the rollout of digital technologies. In so many different ways, digital media have come to be seen as the definitive technology of our times. The powerful combination of mechanical calculation, electronics, binary code and human language systems touches us in almost every aspect of life. Quite literally, the digital media have become the ‘operating system’ of almost everything else.
As a consequence, the ‘new media’ are no longer encountered as the technology of tomorrow. They have already become interlaced with the here and now. In everyday life, our interpersonal relationships are conducted in a large part through digital communications. The institutions of work and governance are finely regulated by the inexorable logics that lie at the heart of information technology. Our ready access to the vast stores of human knowledge, to cultural expression, and to significant events unfolding in societies across the world is overwhelmingly mediated through various forms of digital ‘content’.
Digital technologies, then, take us close to the rhythm of social life across the broad scale of human affairs. To understand these phenomena fully we must seek to discover how a ‘whole way of life’, in all its complexity, becomes infused with the presence of digital systems. We must reflect upon how we got here, and what our present trajectory indicates about how we will live in the coming decades. As such, the multi-faceted relationship between digital media and human actions poses one of the most compelling questions facing contemporary sociology, and one that impacts upon almost every academic discipline in one aspect or another.
In this introduction to the field, I have chosen to approach the digital media with close reference to a range of key sociological traditions. This allows us to encounter many of the classic subjects of sociological inquiry in their digital manifestation: the competing forces of structure and agency, the predominance of conflict or consensus, the relationship between action and meaning and the interface of individual and collective experience. All of these framings have something to offer to a reader willing to make their own assessment of the various claims being made about the digital age, where social networking sites, internet auctions, online dating, mobile devices, workstations and cloud computing all provide fascinating examples of contemporary social experience.
‘Digital society’, the guiding term for this book, is not presently in common use. I use it precisely because the other available terms are all in some sense partial or overlapping with the terrain to be explored. Each of them favours the structure, usage or content of digital communication in different ways. Taking the broader notion of a digital society allows us to consider their significance in more relative terms. The term ‘digital society’ is therefore deployed on a qualified basis, claiming only that the presence of these technologies is sufficiently expansive to warrant this wide ranging discussion of how ‘we shape our tools and our tools shape us’.
Adrian Athique is senior lecturer at the University of Waikato and author of Digital Media: An Introduction.
Posted 171 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: nation building, Irish republicans, Zionist movement, fundraising / 0 Comments
What has moneymaking to do with nationalism? We typically think of nation-building as a process of cultural representation. We realize that, at a practical level, national movements need money but we typically assume that people give money when they identify with the nation. From this perspective monetary transfers are secondary and dependent on prior identification.
But, as Viviana Zelizer points out, monetary transfers are also a medium through which social ties are negotiated, stitched together or dismantled (1994). Seen from this angle, fundraising mechanisms are not simply ways of maximizing resources, but also organizational tools that, when successful, bind and even create groups.
In Sinews of the Nation, I follow this lead and examine how the Irish and Zionist national movements used various monetary transactions to both raise resources and regulate their relationships with Irish Americans and Jewish Americans during the first half of the twentieth century.
The Irish and Zionist movements relied heavily on contributions of Irish and Jews in the US. Securing these funds, however, was hardly a straightforward task. First, while Irish Americans and Jewish Americans were willing to give them money, the sums they gave were insufficient.
Worse, in return for collecting charitable donations, diaspora organizations demanded a share of the money and a say in how the funds would be used in the homeland. Seeing the diaspora organizations as no more than a conduit for pumping funds into the homeland, the leadership in Ireland and Israel resisted these impositions.
To overcome this impasse, in 1920 and 1951, the Irish and Zionist leaders issued national bonds and sold them to the supporters. In purely financial terms, these bonds were unattractive, but by combining patriotic and pecuniary motivations, the Irish and Zionist leaders hoped to increase the flow of funds to the homeland and eliminate the political difficulties that were associated with conventional philanthropy.
In financial terms alone, both bonds were fairly successful. The Irish mission in the US sold more than $5 million worth of bonds to more than 300,000 subscribers in less than a year. Israel sold more than $145 million worth of bonds to almost 700,000 subscribers during the first three years of the drive. But here the similarity between the projects ends.
In the Irish case, the issue of the bonds only intensified tensions between leading Irish American organizations and the Irish mission in the US. Irish Americans leaders treated the bonds as a gift and continued to demand voice on matters of national importance.
The Irish leaders, in contrast, insisted that the Irish bond money was sovereign money and denied the Irish American leaders’ demands. As a result of these tensions, the attempt to issue a second Irish bond in the US in 1921, less than a year after the termination of the first drive, was a complete failure raising less than $700,000 of the planned $20 million.
In contrast, the Israeli bond issue successfully mediated between American and Israeli Jews. Like in the Irish case, Israeli and American Jews harbored different interpretations of the transaction.
For American Jews, on the one hand, the bond was mostly a gift. After all, if they were looking to maximize profits they could have invested in less risky and more lucrative ventures. In contrast, Israeli leaders, treated the bonds mostly as an investment and enjoyed an increase stream of dollars from the US, free from the humiliations and restrictions associated with philanthropy.
By sustaining some kind of willful misunderstanding regarding the relationships between them, the Israeli bond helped American and Israeli groups to cooperate and secured an increased flow of funds to the national project. Following the first drive, others followed, and the sale of Israel Bonds continues even today. Over the years, the Israel Bonds provided Israel with more than $31 billion - roughly a third of Israel’s external debt (Rehavi and Weingarten, 2004).
Over and above finance, the contrasting outcomes of the projects affected the development of Irish-American and Jewish-American ties to Ireland and Israel respectively. In the Irish case, the conflicts surrounding the bond project contributed to the disintegration of major Irish-American organizations, and as a result, Irish Americans were left with fewer ways to engage with Ireland.
Furthermore, these conflicts contributed to a crystallization of the differences between Irish and Irish-American communities and to a sense that the interests and preferences of these groups were not always compatible. Of course, Irish American identification with Ireland did not die off completely and during the 1960s and 1970s there was a surge in Irish American diasporic activism but nevertheless, in comparison with the pre-1920 era, the post 1920 activism pales.
In contrast, in the Jewish case, the bond provided American and Israeli Jews with an additional, important venue by which to engage each other and was instrumental in smoothing over differences between them.
Following a purchase of Israel Bonds, subscribers are invited to join a special tour of Israel and witness with their own eyes how their money works. More than a one-time purchase decision, the purchase of Israel Bond provides subscribers with an opportunity to engage Israel in an ongoing basis.
Through the Israel bonds, American Jews became not only financially invested in Israel’s future, but emotionally invested as well. The case of the bonds illustrates how fundraising mechanisms and monetary transactions can sometimes be used to embed various groups in social relations and create national attachment.
The Irish case clarifies how delicate and brittle these mechanisms are. Failure to regulate the expectations and rights that follow from various kinds of transactions can exacerbate tensions and alienate groups from the national project.
Money is obviously just one of the resources national movements secure. But by closely examining how national movements go about securing this resource, we can learn something fundamental about nation building more generally.
To succeed, national movements must reach out to other groups and enroll them and their resources. Without accomplishing this task, the nation would remain a fantasy of only a few. The process of reaching to other groups implicates various groups in complex social relationships. The challenge for nation builders is to construct institutional mechanisms that regulate these relationships.
From this perspective, nation building is not just a matter of discursively construing the nation as a cultural whole, a la Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1991), but also a matter of constructing mechanisms that allow members of heterogeneous groups, the various “fragments” of the nation in Partha Chatterjee’s terms (1993), to cooperate in the process of nation building.
Dan Lainer-Vos is assistant professor of sociology and the Ruth Ziegler Early CareerChair in Jewish Studies at the University of Southern California.
Posted 215 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, terrorism, Israel / Palestine, wars, Consequentialism / 0 Comments
Since the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 and those that came in their aftermath in London, Madrid, Bali, and elsewhere, terrorism has been in the focus of a worldwide public debate. The debate has involved a wide array of participants, from political scientists and historians to politicians and common citizens.
Yet there is little agreement on any of the main questions raised by terrorism, whether conceptual, moral, or political. The debate has often been hampered by lack of clarity about what its subject is: Who is a terrorist? What is terrorism?
It has often been affected, and indeed informed, by all manner of emotions, passions, and interests. It has been plagued by double standards and moral relativism. Unsurprisingly, it has often led to talking at cross purposes.
In such cases, philosophy can be of help at two levels of debate: conceptual and moral. It can display the confusions and double standards. It can help overcome the relativism captured by the cliché “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” and offer a definition of terrorism that does not beg the moral and political questions. It can bring some order into the wide array of moral arguments for and against terrorism, and help us decide which of the positions on offer best accords with our moral values and basic political commitments.
This is what I seek to do in Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation. I argue that, if we are to define terrorism in a way helpful in the moral and political debate, we should put aside both the identity of those resorting to it and their ultimate aims.
We should rather understand terrorism in terms of just what is done and what the proximate aims of doing it are. Such a definition should be morally and politically neutral, and thus enable, rather than pre-empt, a well-focused moral debate.
Since it is agent-neutral, such a definition wouldn’t rule out state terrorism - a phenomenon well known in modern history, yet curiously ignored, and often defined out of existence, in contemporary public debate. One of the central aims of the book is to redress this and highlight the fact that the state is, historically, the greatest terrorist - and for this and other reasons also the worst.
In the central chapters of the book, I examine the main positions on the morality of terrorism. One is consequentialism, which tells us that terrorism, like everything else, must be judged solely by its consequences. When its rationally expected consequences are good on balance, it will be morally justified. As Trotsky famously said, given a paramount end, the question of the means becomes one of expediency rather than principle.
Yet, surely it can’t be right that life and limb of ordinary citizens should be fair game whenever it is expedient that it should be so. Here, as elsewhere, consequentialism proves much too permissive with regard to questionable and even downright repugnant means. Terrorism can’t be judged solely by its consequences; first and foremost, it is wrong intrinsically, because of what it is.
Among those who reject consequentialism, many find absolute prohibition of intentional killing and maiming of some ordinary citizens in order to terrorize others intuitively compelling – as obvious a moral truth as any. However, it proves difficult to support this intuition by convincing argument, for the benefit of those who don’t share the intuition.
Moreover, it becomes ever more difficult to uphold the absolutist position, as the critic constructs ever more catastrophic scenarios that can be averted only by resort to terrorism. Surely we shouldn’t insist on rights and justice even if the heavens fall?
Should we, then, try for a middle-of-the-road view? Terrorism is wrong in itself, because it violates some of our most important rights and constitutes a grave injustice. But recourse to it may yet be morally permissible, if a people, or a political community, finds itself in extremis, and terrorism is the only way out.
But then, just when is a people or a polity in extremis? An influential version of this view, Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, introduces the notion of “supreme emergency”: a situation where deliberate attacks on innocent civilians or ordinary citizens are the only way of staving off an imminent threat to the survival and freedom of a political community.
I argue that this is vague and overly permissive, and go on to construct a position that is structurally similar, but much more restrictive. Terrorism is almost absolutely wrong, and resort to it may be considered only in the face of a “moral disaster,” understood in a special, highly restrictive sense.
In addition to presenting an original position on both the question of definition and that of moral justification of terrorism, the book also adverts to the oft-neglected question whether terrorism is morally special: not necessarily more evil than mass murder, torture, or ethnic cleansing, but evil in a different, and indeed unique way.
In particular, is it significantly morally different from killing and maiming innocent civilians without intent, but with foresight, as “collateral damage” caused by attacks on legitimate targets? A civilian killed incidentally, without intent, is just as dead as a civilian killed intentionally. The right to life of the former is just as violated as the right to life of the latter.
What, then, is the moral difference? And if there is no such difference, what does that tell us about terrorism and war?
The discussion of terrorism in general, which makes the bulk of the book, is complemented with two case studies of systematic, large-scale use of terrorism: the terror-bombing of German cities in WWII, and the use of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The specific conclusions reached in both studies will perhaps be found controversial by some readers. The more general lesson to be drawn from both, though, is just how extremely difficult it is to provide a convincing moral justification of an actual act or campaign of terrorism. For terrorism is, after all, almost absolutely wrong.
Igor Primoratz is emeritus professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and professorial fellow at Charles Sturt University, Canberra.
Posted 215 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media, culture, theory / 0 Comments
The mobile phone changes the way we arrange to meet somebody. The social web produces new ways of doing politics. Television and cinema have turned our cultures into visual cultures.
Every day we are confronted with statements like these. However, they are both right and wrong. They are right as they reflect that the various kinds of media matter. Media are deeply related to the way we live our everyday lives. They are wrong as they draw a very simplifying picture of what's going on.
It is assumed that all media have the same impact, more or less automatically and independent of the context and way they are used. In addition, statements like these are all formulated from the perspective of one single medium.
To grasp what is going on with the present media changes, we have to develop a different kind of perspective. We must understand that the various kinds of different media result altogether in a "mediatization" of our cultures. It is not just one medium that makes the difference. The core point is that our present worlds rely fundamentally on the way we relate them to different kinds of media: Our present family worlds, the worlds of business, of the stock exchange or of politics, all of them are deeply related to different forms of media communication. In this sense we are living in "mediatized worlds".
But how can we reflect this critically? First of all we have to realize that the mediatization of culture is not altogether new - but rather it is a long-term process. The modern nation-state would have been impossible without the emerging mass media - first print, then radio, cinema and television. And, the different digital media are fundamental to our late modern societies.
Secondly, we have to bear in mind that media as means of communication "mould" the way we communicate - but not as a direct effect, rather more as a structuring possibility. Therefore, we have to focus on the question as to how the various media altogether change the way in which we "construct" or "articulate" our social reality.
And thirdly, we must begin to focus more deeply on how our living together, how our communities change with mediatization - that is, the way in which mediatization and communitization are interwoven with each other.
The idea of my book "Cultures of Mediatization" is to outline a starting point for such a critical undertaking.
Andreas Hepp is professor of media and communication studies at the Centre of Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), University of Bremen, and author of Cultures of Mediatization.
Posted 218 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Katyn, World War II, Second World War, massacre, 1940, Soviet, Russia, Poland, Ukraine / 0 Comments
Last month the National Archives of the United States released to the public a massive corpus of newly declassified documents related to Katyn, the massacre of nearly 22,000 unarmed Polish prisoners by Stalin’s secret police in 1940. Obscured by one of the longest and most extensive cover-ups in history, Katyn has been for decades a sodden field of unanswered questions. Among them: did the Allies know during the Second World War that the Soviet Union, not Nazi Germany, was responsible for the crime?
Many of the documents made public on 10 September 2012 shed light on this question. They offer evidence that the Roosevelt Administration likely knew of Stalin’s guilt as early as 1943, when the Katyn site was first discovered, and subsequently suppressed that knowledge in order to maintain a fragile wartime alliance with the Kremlin.
For historians, these archival disclosures offer no new bombshell revelations. They merely confirm long-held suspicions about what the Allies knew and when they knew it.
For many others outside the discipline, however, the newly declassified documents are reinvigorating and reshaping public memory of Stalin’s emblematic mass murder. News reports from Warsaw to Moscow have cast the White House alongside the Kremlin as an enemy of the truth, reshuffling the conventional dramatis personae of the Katyn tragedy. Appeals have been made for an official apology from the US government.
The release of these Katyn documents constitutes what my co-authors and I call a ‘memory event’ – a revisiting of the past that creates a rupture with its accepted representation – in our new book, Remembering Katyn.
In contrast to Pierre Nora’s ‘sites of memory’ (lieux de mémoire), which ‘stop time’ by simulating eternity in space, memory events ‘start time’ by endowing the past with new life in the future. They are deterritorialized and temporal phenomena, moments of agitation and transformation in the public sphere that spring from a diverse array of genres and contexts to change the way we commemorate the past.
Our book explores a series of memory events – including the 2010 plane crash that claimed the lives of Poland’s leaders en route to Katyn – which have kept the massacres a highly fluid, dynamic and contested subject of memory politics in Eastern Europe and beyond.
To understand why Katyn is a central front in a European ‘memory war’, we map its legacy through the interconnected cultures of seven countries: Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States. Mobilising our collective disciplinary and linguistic competencies, we pursue connections between Soviet and Russian political identities, Ukrainian and Belarusian cultural processes, Polish and Estonian historical narratives, and much more. This transnational methodological approach is critical to an understanding of the full reach and scope of Katyn, which literally and figuratively touched the entire region.
In fact, we now know that the majority of its victims perished far from the forest in western Russia that gives the tragedy its name. They were shot outside of Kalinin (today’s Tver) in northwestern Russia, near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, and in secret prisons in cities such as Minsk, the Belarusian capital. Today the remains of these victims - the pride and promise of the Polish people - are buried in mass graves throughout Russia, Ukraine and, most likely, Belarus. They lie alongside Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian artists and civic figures; Jews, Catholics and Orthodox; men and women known and unknown. All of them were murdered by the Stalinist regime.
What we offer the reader in Remembering Katyn is a journey through the contested past and volatile present of a region that we define as Europe’s future. We hope that our uniquely transnational study of cultural memory will open up new vistas for students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences.
Rory Finnin is Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies and Chair of the Cambridge Committee for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Cambridge. He co-authored Remembering Katyn with Alexander Etkind, Uilleam Blacker, Julie Fedor, Simon Lewis, Maria Mälksoo and Matilda Mroz.
Posted 257 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: civilizing process, Civilization, murder, personal violence, social control, History, criminology, historical criminology, crime / 0 Comments
Yes we are. This is true when present-day Western society is compared with its recent past. But modern punitiveness is not simply a backlash; it is accompanied by a concern for crime victims that is more intense than ever before. When viewed over some six centuries, moreover, the standards of punishment have undergone important transformations. This is no less true for violence.
These questions refer to key themes of my new book, Violence and Punishment. Along the way, the book explores specific and general questions: Why did fights between Jews and Christians often take place on the Blue Bridge in Amsterdam? How did a yellow bulldog betray a killer who had hoped to remain undetected? What happened to a thief whom the citizens stopped by splitting his skull with an axe? Why did executioners activate the guillotine by cutting the rope that holds up the blade with a sword? What does the punishment of Adam and Eve reveal about the work and fears of our ancestors?
As the reader familiar with my work will expect, I am writing within the tradition established by Norbert Elias. The human stories of this book are firmly embedded in a theoretical framework that derives from Elias but also creatively expands on his effort. I am using the concept of civilizing processes of course, but also the theory of diminishing power differences between social groups and that of changes from one figuration to another. I expand on this theoretical framework by giving the theme of honor a central place in it. Finally, I am also commenting on the work of theorists such as Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim.
The chapters of this book have been published before, but they have all been thoroughly revised and updated. More important, most of the essays were published originally in languages other than English or in an unofficial series. For Anglo-Saxon readers especially, they are in fact new. The reader will note the extraordinarily wide scope. One essay discusses murder and honor in Asia, concluding that long-term trajectories of violence offer a more promising base for intercontinental comparison than imaginary and static “civilizations.” Two essays trace their subject back to the beginnings of agrarian society, while ending squarely in the present.
Readers, I hope and expect, will enjoy the style and original ideas.
Pieter Spierenburg is professor of historical criminology at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
Posted 263 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: politics, media, democracy, privacy / 0 Comments
Is media coverage of politics becoming more focused on the private lives of politicians across democracies?
It is often remarked that the personal lives of politicians, like those of sports, film and television stars and host of other celebrities, have become a familiar part of the public's daily media consumption.
The public, it might be said, know more detail about politicians’ personal lives than their policy stance or voting records. Like celebrities in other fields they have willingly surrendered their privacy, or have been unable to defend it from a celebrity-obsessed media.
There have been a number of studies conducted in a range of democracies that have pointed to similar developments. Take France for example, research has documented the ‘peopolisation’ or celebritization of French politics in the 2000s, a key aspect of which has been personalized self-disclosure.
Leading French politicians regularly make carefully choreographed appearances on television talk-shows and in glossy celebrity magazines. In the run-up to the 2007 presidential election, Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal appeared in her bikini in Voici, Closer and VSD.
Nicolas Sarkozy, exploited his private life for political purposes, openly using his family to bolster his presidential ambitions. His courtship and marriage to supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, was conducted very much in the media spotlight.
In the UK, Tony Blair frequently disclosed aspects of his private life to the public. For example, in an interview with Tony and Cherie in the Sun during the 2005 general election campaign, Tony confessed he was ‘up for it’ at least five times a night, a point corroborated by Cherie, who when asked if he was ‘up to it’, said he always was.
In Italy, numerous authors have remarked on the personalized nature of political communication since 1994 and the formation of the Second Republic. Silvio Berlusconi used his private life to promote himself to the Italian people.
Research also points at the increased proclivity of certain media to intrude into the private lives of politicians. Bill Clinton’s presidency was dogged by a series of allegations and revelations concerning his fidelity.
The media digging for and publishing dirt on politicians is now a permanent feature of US politics at all levels, not just the presidency. Further, in democracies where the private lives of politicians have been very much legally protected, certain media outlets seem increasingly eager to publish gossip about public figures.
In France, Germany and Spain, celebrity magazines have not shied away from publishing paparazzi pictures of leading politicians in their swim suits, something that would have been unheard of before.
There may be those who say ‘so what?’, but I would argue that these different nationally focused examples cannot be ignored. They point to a potentially significant development in democratic political communications, namely the growing focus on the personal lives of politicians. They suggest that across a range of advanced industrial democracies the personal lives of politicians are no longer a purely private matter but are instead an increasingly ubiquitous feature of the mediated public sphere.
The zone of privacy which once surrounded politicians and those in public life seems to be slowly disappearing with and without politicians’ consent. These documented incursions of the personal into the public sphere are an indication for some of a public realm that ‘no longer has anything to do with civic commitment’ but one that is increasingly colonized by the trivial and inane.
However, while the above examples provide a tantalizing glimpse of recent developments, they are far from conclusive; it is hard to determine whether there is a trend across advanced industrial democracies and difficult to identify the consequences of such developments, in short, more evidence is needed.
Intimate Politics provides that evidence for the first time. Looking comparatively at seven democracies (Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US) it assesses the extent to which the personal lives of politicians have become a prominent feature of political communications and explains why this might be.
What are the findings? In nutshell, based on a range of measures, political communication is not equally personalized in every democracy examined. What emerges are two main clusters of countries.
Political communication is highly personalized in the US and the UK and a lot less personalized in the other countries. In the US and UK, media coverage of national leaders seems to focus on aspects of their personal lives to a greater extent than in the others and there are a larger number of instances of publicized infidelity. Further, the research also shows that there has been an increase of personal coverage over time.
Of course there are national exceptions - leaders such Nicolas Sarkozy received more personal coverage than his predecessors - but generally significant differences remain between these two clusters of countries.
What factors are driving these developments? There is no single causal factor, such as new communication technologies, or tabloidization. Indeed, the book makes the case that the search for a causal silver bullet is problematic. Rather, the outcome is the result of a complex interplay of necessary and sufficient factors operating in conjunction.
Using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis the book identifies a number of so called causal recipes that explain why political communication is more focused on the private lives of politicians in the US and UK. These recipes include personal factors including the age of the politician, media conditions, such as the size of the tabloid press and presence and absence of privacy protection for public figures, and political factors, such as the nature of the political system.
What are the consequences? Scholars, most notably Hannah Arendt and Richard Sennett, have tended to lament the incursion of the personal into the public realm seeing this as leading to a de-politicization of civil society. However, the little empirical research that has been conducted paints a less straightforward picture.
The book argues that the impact can be most clearly seen in those countries where personalized politics is most developed, such as the US and the UK. Looking at the US and the UK, the book suggests the major consequences of intimization are two-fold: first, a politicization of the personal lives of politicians, especially high-profile leading politicians, not a de-politicization, as suggested by others, and, second, the emergence of regular controversies and scandals around privacy intrusion and protection.
In other words, the very act of exposure and what is revealed can be the site of intense struggle. These are by no means the only developments but they are significant in democracies where mediated political communication is increasingly dominated by the personal lives of politicians.
James Stanyer is senior lecturer in media and communication studies at Loughborough University.
Posted 271 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Water, freshwater, geopolitics, sustainability, environmental security, environmental justice / 1 Comments
Drought, floods, contaminated streams and depleted groundwater supplies ... daily headlines draw our attention to these and other water problems. Are they isolated incidents or symptoms of a global crisis? I contend that they are inter-connected threats to our livelihoods and welfare.
What links them is the concept of sustainability: ensuring that the various ways we manage freshwater for growing food and fiber, producing energy, making and transporting goods, and meeting household needs do not impair the welfare of other living things, or of future generations.
Sustainability also means promoting development, protecting the environment, and advancing justice. Yet the way freshwater is managed often does just the opposite.
Moreover, when we abuse other resources that interact with water we create unsustainable conditions for freshwater management in two ways.
The aim of my book is to convey the magnitude of these underlying threats to freshwater sustainability, and to suggest how they might be prevented. I examine “big” threats such as the plight of refugees and the building of huge dams, as well as less dramatic but no less serious ones, such as pollution and the loss of biodiversity.
I also examine who controls freshwater, whether growing private control of water supplies is good or bad, and if what we pay for freshwater is fair. I further discuss alternative ways of providing freshwater, including desalination and wastewater recycling, and whether they can equitably slake our planet’s thirst.
Finally, I reflect on whether access to freshwater can be thought of as a basic human right: there is certainly no debate that it is a fundamental human need.
I argue that the world’s freshwater is unevenly distributed and unequally used. Growing demands and factors such as climate change will likely worsen this unevenness and inequality.
Further, threats to freshwater quality continue to diminish its usability and endanger public health. Moreover, competition over freshwater is growing because it is a resource increasingly subject to trans-boundary dispute, and increasingly an object of global trade.
Finally, when demands for water exceed availability in a given locale, stress and conflict arise, including over proposed methods to make additional water available.
David L. Feldman is professor and chair of planning, policy, and design at the University of California, Irvine and the author of Water.
Posted 281 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Global media, Media representation, Media and society / 0 Comments
We tend to think of imagination as something private, a personal creative faculty of the mind that is unique to us.
But our capacity to imagine isn't produced as some kind of spontaneous generation. Imagination must be nourished, as Luc Boltanski says.
Who feeds our imagination in the modern age? We might not always like to admit it, but the media are one of the central 'feeders' of our imagination: how we imagine ourselves and others, how we think and feel about the world we live in, and about the lives we could have, or could have had.
So I feel it is important that we look closely at the media diet that is feeding our imagination - which is what my book is about.
This diet is comprised of the images, stories, accounts and voices that we encounter daily, on television and the internet, in advertisements, and in newspapers. These media representations invite us to travel to distant contexts, to 'meet' strangers and become their friends, their intimates. They produce what David Harvey calls 'cartographic knowledges' - particular maps of the world, certain understandings of what the world is. The images and stories in the media invite us also to explore our selves, to shape our life narratives, and to contemplate possible other lives than our own.
I look at these issues by exploring five central sites of imagination that the media feed - although not always with the most varied and nutritious diet!
Imagining others - looks at how media representations call us on to relate to distant others. I use the example of depictions of victims of natural disasters, and reflect on some of the transformations that have taken place since the 18th century in the way images of distant suffering call on viewers to relate to far-away sufferers.
Imagining ourselves - focuses on the nation as a symbolic construct that remains central and important for how we are invited to think about our belongings in a global world. I use examples of representations of national conflicts to tease out this site of imagining and to discuss its tensions, between identification with our national community and distancing and even estrangement from it.
Imagining possible lives - looks at how the daily appearances of migrants on our television and computer (internet) screens fall into binary opposition of 'dreams' (the fantasy of pursuing life in another country) and 'nightmares' (the horror the host country and/or the migrants face). But alongside these crude 'scripts' about the possible lives global migration produces, there are some other kinds of stories and images that refuse clear conclusion or classification; they provide an incomplete and more ambivalent interpretation of the experience and consequences of pursuing other lives in this global age.
Imagining the world - examines how the world itself is a social imaginary that media images and narratives construct. I focus on New Year celebrations - a media event that is broadcast repeatedly (every year) on the main international and national news channels. The world is presented as a homogenous space of sameness, but also as a competitive space marked by sharp distinctions. Against the formulaic broadcast news reports I look at some alternative cartographic imaginations of the world: an amateur YouTube clip of New Year celebrations in a village in West Africa, the Chinese CCTV broadcast of its national New Year, and a blog written by an activist in Gaza published by Al Jazeera.
Imagining the self - examines how the self has become the principal prism through which the other, the nation, possible lives, and the world are explained and imagined. The story of the individual, often in psychological language, provides a rich and productive form to imagine things outside the self. At the same time, it is dangerous and counterproductive to knowing and understanding: rather than opening up to the other and to the world outside us, and to contemplating alternative lives to the ones we lead, the focus in the media on the individual self fosters an inward, self-centred view.
Media Representation and the Global Imagination speaks to the media and to us, their consumers: let’s be more imaginative about how and what we would like to feed our imagination with.
Shani Orgad is senior lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Posted 330 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: anthropology, consumption, climate change / 0 Comments
When a book is published that may be regarded as topical, making concrete recommendations with regard to key issues of the day, one of the questions one is likely to be asked is whether your opinions have changed since you wrote the text. To be honest, I half expected to find this book already dated, overtaken by events, or for my own views to have changed.
I wasn’t particularly concerned with the bulk of the work, which is based on many years research on the practice and explanation of everyday consumption and I am confident about that evidence. I was more worried about the last chapter which focuses on the issue of what we might do about climate change.
One reason is that this chapter is not at all what I wanted to write, simply because I found the evidence and arguments refused to confirm my expectations and opinions. But nothing I have seen since then would have changed the conclusion that climate change is just too immediate a problem to be dependent upon the whims of consumer lifestyle.
Even if we did all turn green overnight the proportion of the problem that comes from consumer choices is just too small. This is why I look at several other possible interventions and solutions.
But then perhaps it’s a pity that we have come to assume that contemporary social scientists only write the views they would wish for and the evidence that supports their opinions. I was brought up with a different notion of academic integrity, that you followed the evidence and the arguments wherever they lead you. In that sense this is a very old fashioned book.
It is one of the reasons I couched the material in the form of an internal argument between three characters. But in the end finding plausible and feasible solutions to climate change is simply too important and I honestly believe that the issues that comprise that chapter are the debates we need to be having right now.
Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at University College London and the author of Consumption and its Consequences.
Posted 331 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: China, environmental politics, comparative politics, sustainable development / 0 Comments
China’s huge environmental challenges affect not only the health and well-being of China but the very future of the planet. I wrote China’s Environmental Challenges to provide students, teachers, and the general public with a way of organizing a topic of utmost importance and great complexity.
I hope that the book will encourage teachers to shine a spotlight on the ways in which China is interconnected with the rest of the world and help students appreciate that China’s environmental problems cannot be divorced from their own consumption patterns.
I lectured on the book in China this past June. Many Chinese policy makers treat environmental problems as technical problems to be solved by engineers and scientists – while the book argues that they are essentially political and social problems.
I was in China at a time of political tightening and government insecurity, even crisis, in the lead-up to the 18th Party Congress. Yet the message of this book was strongly welcomed, not only by policy-makers at the Ministry of Environmental Protection who are questioning whether China should continue to foul its own nest on behalf of the rest of the world, but also by young environmental scientists who, after reading excerpts from the book, told me they wished to broaden their horizons from their wastewater treatment laboratories and start to support green public citizens’ groups.
I was newly impressed by the courage and innovation of groups like Greenpeace, which is conducting clandestine tests of effluents in preparation for launching public campaigns to “shame and blame” key corporations, and the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs which has developed an analytical tool to attempt to “green” production supply chains and press for information transparency.
I was struck by how quickly Chinese people mentioned high levels of air and water pollution and poor food safety, even without my prompting, and how unhappy they were about this situation.
Yet I was also chilled by how blithely one Qingdao resident accepted the displacement of environmental harm to politically weak populations, one of the book’s main concerns: “Oh,” he said, when I asked about his seaside city’s comparative lack of air pollution. “It’s all been moved out.”
In this statement we see our core blind spot and greatest challenge: In a world of increasing limits on resources, is it possible to create a system in which people enjoy equal access to resources and protection from extraction without harming the vulnerable or stealing from future generations?
The book focuses on five themes: broad trends such as population increase and globalization of manufacturing; the challenges of governance in a country where state authority is weak and official corruption at the top of people’s concerns; contested national identity in which concern for “face” influences development choices; the dramatic evolution of environmental green groups and civil society; and problems of environmental justice and displacement of environmental harm, which threaten to delay our planet’s confrontation with the limits of its resources.
China’s struggle to achieve sustainable development is occurring against a backdrop of acute rural poverty and soaring middle class consumption. Surely, the Chinese people have the right to the higher living standards enjoyed in the developed world.
But the Chinese government faces difficult, contradictory tasks: it must meet the material needs of the millions who have been left behind in the breakneck quest for growth, in part by continuing to assume the burden of the pollution that is a byproduct of manufacturing the world’s consumer items; at the same time it must confront public dissatisfaction with high pollution burdens that may shake the government's stability, legitimacy and control.
Whether China can “leapfrog” prior models of industrialization and show the world a new development path is still, I believe, a possibility worth fighting for.
Posted 331 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: health studies, public health, health promotion, determinants of health / 0 Comments
As a course leader of an undergraduate degree in health studies, I was often asked by students if I could recommend a really good book that would cover the key things that they needed to know when they were starting their 3 year degree programme. I wasn’t able to make such a recommendation at that time. Yes there are some books that touch upon relevant material, but many did not entirely cover the curriculum that I was delivering, and many were written in styles that I found unenticing hence my reluctance to provide a single recommendation.
Yes, light bulb moment: there was a need for a new book in this area! This book is an attempt to create a resource that is useful but it is also about more. In writing Contemporary Health Studies, my colleagues and I felt able to demonstrate the interesting aspects of the field and to write in a way that was thought-provoking and engaging for our student readers. We have also tried to create a book that enables readers to begin to understand the complexities of health and the many factors which influence it, in a critical way.
The book is a detailed introduction to health studies, a large, multidisciplinary field. It is about health and health determinants, which feature constantly in media reports and are regularly scrutinised by governments, academics and students alike. However, this mass of attention is not always increasing our understanding of what determines health, either good or bad.
In developing our ideas about the book through many enjoyable conversations, we envisaged three parts that would help us to structure the large amount of material that informs the field of health studies.
We begin by exploring understandings of health in part 1. We absolutely had to begin with a chapter about defining health; to study health one has to understand how it is conceptualised and understood in many different ways.
Then we move onto the contemporary threats to health; there are many challenges to health that exist today and these have also evolved and changed in tandem with societal developments. Have you ever considered how these threats are conceptualised and defined? Chapter 2 examines such processes. Given too that health is affected by many determinants, we also included threats to health in this chapter that perhaps are less obvious, such as crime.
This broad thinking about health is a key aim of the book and this should be evident to readers throughout the chapters. The final chapter in this section is about how we investigate health, exploring research methods and thinking particularly about developing a research project for final year undergraduates.
Feedback from students who I teach research methods to about this chapter has been positive; they found it simple and easy to understand which is how we wanted it to be – so much research methods writing is difficult to engage with and, as this chapter shows, it doesn't need to be.
The next part of the book looks at how different disciplines contribute to our understanding of health. It is not a panacea – these are simply the disciplines that we feel contribute the most to our understanding, and that we feel are useful to draw upon. So, we wrote about sociology (chapter 4), anthropology (chapter 5), psychology (chapter 6) and health promotion (chapter 7). Each of these chapters gives an insight into the discipline and how it helps us in understanding health.
Taken together in this second part of the book, these chapters again show that health is influenced by many aspects of the social world such as society, culture, our own psychology and how health is promoted.
The final part of the book uses the Dahlgren and Whitehead determinants rainbow model to provide a framework for the analysis of health influences.
Have you thought about how your own characteristics influence your health? If not then read chapter 8.
How about the community that you live in and the social networks that you are connected to? These also act as health determinants in a number of ways. Chapter 9 explores these in depth.
Chapter 10 then moves on to look at how the physical environment affects our health; things that perhaps we take for granted in many high-income countries such as sanitation, water, housing and education. Health as a basic human right needs all of these environmental influences to be present to an adequate standard. This can be influenced by social policy, which affects all aspects of the social world in which we live including our health.
Chapter 11 explores the policy environment and its relationship with health.
Chapter 12 deviates somewhat from the Dahlgren and Whitehead model because it examines the global context in which health is influenced and located; an area not included in the model. However, it is an area that warrants attention as global forces are important in shaping health outcomes and the impact of globalization is still much debated.
We end the book in chapter 13 with critical evaluation of the Dahlgren and Whitehead model and more importantly 3 case studies that examine the determinants of health, differential analyses of the problem from a variety of schools of thought, and strategies for action. This is an important chapter because many books are good at highlighting health problems but then fail to analyse strategies for action and are thus not useful for practitioners.
Throughout the writing process we spend much time discussing the social model of health, which underpins much of what we have written here. We also consider how we can add to understandings of health and hope that this book will engage readers from a range of areas in helping us to address this task.
Louise Warwick-Booth is course leader of health studies at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Posted 362 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Disarmament, militias, security studies, peacekeeping, politics, DDR / 0 Comments
Demobilizing Irregular Forces came about nearly by accident. I had been considering a book on postconflict reconciliation practices when the opportunity to write specifically about the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process arose. Since I work primarily with military officers, the thought of working on the area of stability operations that they are most likely to confront was an intriguing challenge. My thinking on the subject has been shaped significantly by the conversations with many of my colleagues and students with tremendous first-hand experience.
The greatest insights of the book are arguably not so much lessons learned as ones rediscovered. Questions over the sequencing of DDR phases, how well the phases should be integrated, and the scope and priorities of DDR are questions easy to identify, but very difficult to address. Recognizing how dependent DDR success is on the context wherein it is applied is a near universal insight. However, this insight does not stop an almost pathological desire to find “templates” from one case to another. The search for “best practices” is an understandable desire, but practices considered outside of historical and cultural contexts are frequently not “best”.
Secondly, the real success of DDR is found in psychological shifts in combatants and the wider community and not in more quantifiable measures such as weapons collected. Finding ways to measure these shifts is the challenge, but agencies must measure what matters, not what they can see and count. This also leads to the implication that agencies must consider what the individual phases of DDR mean within the context (and timing) of their application. In some cases, removing weapons from an environment will build trust, but in others, it fosters insecurity. It is the context that influences the value of the DDR program, not objective measures of performance.
Finally, the book argues for recognizing “acceptable levels of failure”. Too often, politicians, combatants and communities expect too much from DDR. DDR is not a cure for all conflict, and will not make all forms of violence go away. It is impossible to fix everything, and promising to do so will only lead to greater disappointment. Managing the expectations of both those implementing the DDR program and (perhaps most importantly) the affected community is one of the more valuable reminders from the work.
Eric Shibuya is associate professor of strategic studies at the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College.
Posted 366 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Virilio, speed, dromology, media / 0 Comments
Virilio Now is a collection of essays and interviews by some of the world’s foremost cultural experts which focuses on the key concepts of the French cultural theorist Paul Virilio.
The book, authored and edited by Professor John Armitage, Associate Dean & Head of Department of Media in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, examines Virilio’s considerable body of cultural theory which includes several focal issues which have gone on to reliably predict and influence how we live today.
He developed concepts such as 'dromology' - the science of speed; 'military space' - wherein he suggests that in a culture dominated by war, the military-industrial complex is significant regarding the creation of the city and the spatial organisation of cultural life; and the ‘cyberwar’ where he claims the aim of the US military is to seek what its chiefs term ‘global information dominance’.
Virilio Now offers a preeminent single-volume book on Virilio's work and world and includes interviews with Virilio conducted by Armitage as well as essays from eminent contemporary theorist including Arthur Kroker, Nigel Thrift and Sean Cubitt.
Professor Armitage explained: ‘Paul Virilio is one of the most significant cultural theorists writing today. His thought remains much misunderstood by many postmodern cultural theorists. For many, his writings exist beyond the terms of postmodernism and should be conceived of as a contribution to the emerging debate over “hypermodernism”.
‘In writing and collating the material for this book, it has been very interesting and beneficial to consider the work of Virilio from the viewpoint of other contemporary theorists and to see Virilio’s musings and predictions become reality, cementing his acute acumen and absolute cultural validity.’
Virilio and the Media was conceived and written to render Virilio’s media texts and theories such as ‘polar inertia’, ‘the accident to the landscape of events’, ‘cities of panic’ and ‘the instrumental image loop of television’ accessible, priming his readers to create individual critical evaluations of Virilio’s writings.
Speaking about the book, Professor Armitage explained: ‘In books such as The Aesthetics of Disappearance, War and Cinema, The Lost Dimension, and The Vision Machine, Paul Virilio has fundamentally changed how we think about contemporary media culture.
‘Virilio’s examinations of the connections between perception, logistics, the city, and new media technologies comprise some of the most powerful texts within his hypermodern philosophy.
‘Virilio’s texts on the media are vital for everyone concerned with contemporary media culture.’
Posted 379 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Global public health, global governance, international organizations, International Relations, security studies / 0 Comments
When there is an international disease outbreak, who should respond? Who should coordinate disease surveillance operations? Answering these questions is less straightforward than commonly thought.
The World Health Organization is charged with being the lead agency to respond to transnational infectious disease epidemics, but it is hardly the only interested party.
Governments play a role. New hybrid organizations like UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have emerged in recent years. Private actors like the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have assumed a place of prominence.
The International Health Regulations have undergone a wholesale transformation in the past decade, fundamentally altering the responsibilities of both states and individuals.
Global Health Governance sorts out the jumble of history, actors, and issues facing global health today. It begins by examining early efforts at creating some measure of coherence in international health efforts.
The second section focuses on the key actors involved in global health in the contemporary world: the World Health Organization, World Bank, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, private foundations, and civil society organizations.
The final section turns its attention to some of the key issues facing global health governance today, like the role of disease surveillance, efforts to frame global health as a security issue, and access to pharmaceuticals.
Global health has achieved an unprecedented level of prominence in recent years, and global health governance has moved in fits and starts to respond to this heightened visibility. Global Health Governance helps the reader understand how we got to the place we currently are and anticipate where we might be going.
Jeremy Youde is assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Posted 390 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: War and conflict, civil war, civil unrest, peacebuilding / 0 Comments
Enormous media coverage has been generated by the case of Trayvon Martin. The unarmed black teenager was shot dead on his way back from the shops to the home of his father’s fiancée with whom he was staying.
This occurred on 26 February 2012 in Florida. The initial controversy arose as a result of the failure of the police to charge George Zimmerman, the person who had killed Trayvon Martin, with any offence.
A contributory factor to their decision appears to have been Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, under which the claim of self-defence against a perceived threat to the person can establish the basis for immunity against prosecution. The existence of such statutes in a number of states, most particularly in the Deep South, reflects populist exploitation of the fear of crime, and the consequent pressure for legislation that provides additional protection for law-abiding citizens against muggers and thieves.
Whether such legislation is in any way required is open to question, given that self-defence is a widely recognised and accepted justification for the use of lethal force in circumstances of the reasonable perception of a threat to life.
In this case, how reasonable or unreasonable George Zimmerman’s actions were is now set to be determined by the courts, thanks to the overturning of the original decision to release him without charge, following nation-wide protests. However, it remains to be seen what impact legal proceedings will have on the racially polarised reaction there has been to the case, most obviously reflected in the actions of the Black Panthers and white supremacist groups, but also in the coverage of such media outlets as Fox News.
What the case has underlined is the continuing importance of racial divisions in the southern states of the US and the impact these divisions continue to have on the operation of the justice system and how it is regarded by members from different communities.
The problem of justice in such societies is an issue discussed in depth in my book, Politics in Deeply Divided Societies. By way of illustration it focuses on the shooting of a black infant in South Africa in 1998 and the racially polarised reaction to that case in post-apartheid South Africa, which demonstrated the persistence of racial division even after the country’s political transformation.
The book considers how in deeply divided societies, justice tends to be affected by whether the victim and perpetrator come from the same or different communities. Thus, it is argued that in societies with clearly defined dominant and subordinate communities, there is a blatant tendency for the authorities to show leniency to perpetrators from the dominant community when the victims are from the subordinate community and, by contrast, severity when the roles are reversed.
Adrian Guelke is professor of comparative politics at Queen's University of Belfast.
Posted 397 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social policy, welfare state, inequality, health, family, education / 0 Comments
As an academic subject, social policy is something of an undiscovered treasure trove. When I first accepted an invitation to write Social Policy for Polity's Short Introductions series my aim was to proselytise on behalf of a subject which, though it thrives at postgraduate level in the UK and as a field of research, tends to be poorly understood among the uninitiated. That the book has warranted the production of a second edition augurs well, perhaps, for the subject's future development.
In a book short enough to be read almost at a sitting, social policy is presented as the ultimate multi-disciplinary subject area, that raids an entire gamut of social science disciplines - sociology, economics, politics, human geography, social development and much else besides - in order critically to understand the social relations necessary for human wellbeing and the systems by which human wellbeing may be promoted or impaired. As a discrete area of study, social policy (or social administration as it was originally called) emerged in the UK a century ago. It was often associated with social work and/or with public sector management, but in the past 30 or 40 years it has branched out, taking on comparative and international perspectives and engaging with competing critiques of modern welfare state provision. In the twenty-first century, as commitment to the idea of the welfare state unravels and an era of fiscal austerity unfolds in the global north, while interest in social development and new modes of social provision begins uncertainly to burgeon in the global south, social policy is poised at the epicentre of global debates.
Social policy is concerned with the mending of social ills, but in a more fundamental sense with just how in human societies we care for and about each other. Even in the poorest countries a major slice of national income and a great deal of political effort is likely to be devoted to supporting the sustainability of people's livelihoods (though labour market policy, social security and pension provision) and the provision of human services (including health and social care, education and housing). Just as importantly, policy makers may involve themselves in attempting to supervise or govern the part that families, civil society organisations and market providers play in people's everyday lives.
Social policy therefore bears on pretty much every aspect of human existence and is a subject with few boundaries. It engages with practical as much as theoretical issues. It brings rigorous analysis to bear upon major controversies to do with who gets what in society, who controls this and by what criteria the outcomes may be considered just. What's not to get excited about?
Hartley Dean is professor of social policy at the London School of Economics and author of Social Policy (which has just appeared in a second, updated edition).
Posted 396 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: none / 0 Comments
What explains the peculiar intensity and evident intractability of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Of all the "hot spots" in the world today, the apparently endless clash between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East seems unique in its longevity and resistance to resolution. Is this conflict really different from other ethnic and nationalist confrontations, and if so, in what way?
I demystify the conflict by putting it in broad historical perspective, identifying its roots, and tracing its evolution up to the current impasse. My account offers a clear analytic framework for understanding transformations over time - and in doing so, punctures the myths of an "age-old" conflict with an unbridgeable gap between the two sides. Rather than simply reciting historical detail, Israel/Palestine presents a clear overview that serves as a road map through the thicket of conflicting claims.
In this account the opposed perspectives of the two sides are presented in full, leaving readers to make their own evaluations of the issues. Israel/Palestine thus expresses fairly and objectively the concerns, hopes, fears, and passions of both sides, making it clear why this conflict is waged with such vehemence - and why, for all that, there are some grounds for optimism. The third edition has been thoroughly updated, with special attention to strategic issues of nuclear weapons and Iran; the international and regional context of the Arab-Israel conflict, and the position of the Arab citizens of Israel, have also been expanded.
Alan Dowty is professor of political science emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.
Posted 417 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Social science, relationships, connections, interactions / 0 Comments
Land of Strangers offers a diagnosis of attitudes towards the stranger in the West since 9/11, when some visible minorities have been increasingly targeted as the focal point of subcutaneous fear, aversion and envy about all manner of things, and the object of punitive measures of surveillance, control and exclusion. It explains the current situation as the play between a new biopolitics of catastrophism making its way into state cultures of security, and enduring vernacular anxieties over difference and diversity that simmer but remain largely non-violent.
In particular, the book dissents with the language of cooperation, contact and togetherness that progressives have invented as a counter-measure to the disciplinary society. Taking the West as constitutively hybrid and impersonal, the book argues for a politics of ‘civility’ of indifference towards difference, as a way forward, so that the convivialities of multiculture in everyday life that Paul Gilroy speaks of can be reinforced, naturalised, given affective surge in the public imaginary as the matrix of community and collective agency towards an uncertain future.
The book traces a series of sites for such a politics, including, for example, a return to the social state, a narrative of community as a plural and agonistic public sphere, commonalities born out of joint work and plural uses of public space, a renewed social democratic critique of ‘catastrophism’, and public and political clamour against discrimination, exclusion and vilification of minorities and subalterns.
Thus, for example, the city is offered up as both a space of closure and possibility: historically a space of many boltholes and possibility for minorities and dissidents, especially in spaces of incomplete surveillance or exclusion by disciplining public authorities, states and colonising elites.
Its shared public spaces are often the ground of convivial indifference or agonistic compromises. But the provisions and deprivations of public policy and public culture are crucial arbiters, of both the vernacular of ties between majorities and strangers, and the material openings available for strangers and subalterns. This is why the balance between the culture of catastrophism and the culture of provisioning is judged to be so crucial in this book.
Ash Amin is the 1931 Chair of Geography at the University of Cambridge.
Posted 463 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: development, International Relations, global inequality, poverty, population growth, sustainability, conflict, security, foreign aid, world trade, globalization / 0 Comments
The primary motivation for writing Understanding Development was to take stock of where development is today. It seemed to me that this was an issue that had received insufficient attention and needed to be addressed, especially in the context of globalisation and environmental decline. Indeed, many works that have been written on development seem to play down or simply neglect the importance of context.
Exploring the condition of development required examining many of the key areas that have come to define the subject, including foreign aid, debt, gender, education, health, participation, and trade.
In particular, the book addresses many of the challenges facing development, notably climate change, increasingly complex patterns of global poverty and inequality, a global economic crisis, escalating world population growth, the growth in the number of fragile states, and the rise of new centres of global power. In the case of the latter, for example, the rapid economic growth of some countries in the developing world is encouraging their call for greater influence within international development institutions.
At the same time development continues to attract criticism, ranging from post-development writers dismissing it as a Western project through to politicians questioning the effectiveness and necessity of aid. Furthermore, many of the UN Millennium Development Goals look unlikely to be achieved by 2015.
Based on this investigation I do not seek to claim that development is in crisis, nevertheless it is arguably at a historic juncture. For instance, the planet’s eco-systems will simply not be able to sustain the model of development hitherto pursued in the West, especially its level of consumption.
In addition, there is a lack of consensus amongst those working within development about how to achieve it and what it should entail, evident in competing development theories and strategies. Moreover, some commentators are detecting what has been termed ‘aid fatigue’, but also a sense that development may be running out of steam in the light of the disappointments and controversies that continue to surround it.
All of this does not mean that we should give up on development. In spite of the criticism, and the power politics that continues to envelop it, development retains a moral purpose in the sense of trying to improve people’s lives. Development is also an evolving and reflexive discourse, something that is reflected in new areas becoming more prominent in the recent period, such as sustainability, conflict and security, and information and communication technologies.
In undertaking this investigation, the book highlights the contested and plural nature of development. It shows how it has evolved, the extent to which the different aspects of development are interdependent, and why studying it requires an interdisciplinary approach as well as taking into account contemporary globalizing processes.
Paul Hopper is Senior Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Brighton.
Posted 472 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: political science, Africa, international affairs / 0 Comments
Africa is re-emerging as a strategic piece on the global chessboard.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is approaching the 1 billion mark, and by 2050 is expected to reach 1.8 billion inhabitants. This demographic dynamic is imposing a dizzying pace on the continent’s economic, social and political transformations. In view of the speed and amplitude of the metamorphosis underway, it is worth scouting out the road ahead.
Yet public debates continue to portray the space south of the Sahara as a blighted and marginalized land, untouched by globalization. This view of Africa has to a large degree overlooked the changes deeply affecting African societies, changes which few have fully grasped. Now, in the early 21st century, while the world’s emerging actors observe African developments attentively and actively reconsider their relationships with the continent, the transatlantic community seems to be hesitating.
Four decades ago, a renowned economist wrote on the “Asian drama”, predicting that underdevelopment would remain the main feature of Asia, in part due to the burden of a rapidly expanding population. China, the sleeping giant, has now risen to become the world’s second largest economy in 2010.
Africa is the sleeping giant of the early 21st century. The purpose of Africa's Moment is not to predict whether it will thrive or stumble, nor to determine who might then be held accountable or take credit for progress made. What matters is that policies are reshaped to be in step with the present and foreseeable opportunities and risks that stem from its demographic trends and what we perceive as the strategic re-emergence of Africa.
An Africa of 1.8 billion inhabitants will rapidly gain a stake in the globalization game. If transatlantic partners do not sufficiently commit to cohesive and forward-looking policies toward Africa, we risk facing the domestic consequences of its great transformation. Africa’s re-emergence calls for urgent changes in conventional thinking and public policy.
Olivier Ray currently works at the French Development Agency. Previously, he worked for the United Nation's Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Security Council Report, on questions of development, conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery.
Posted 475 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Spielberg, Tintin, media studies, film studies / 0 Comments
Tintin and War Horse are two Spielberg films that have been released in America, within two days of each other. Neither has taken top honors in the box office but the earnings are respectable enough to show that Spielberg still plays to the massive audiences that he helped create forty years ago.
The geographical center of the audience has shifted to somewhere over the Atlantic and he has given Tintin to the Europeans a month before he release it domestically; while he delayed the foreign release of War Horse. Prioritizing the foreign release suggests a willingness to strategize the foreign audience more than us Americans.
I ask myself what these films imply for a book entitled Steven Spielberg’s America. They confirm the end of a Bush era cycle that began with Minority Report (2002) (or perhaps even further back with Saving Private Ryan (1998)) and culminated in Munich (2005). Spielberg portrayed American (and Israeli) anxiety over democratic openness, responsibilities and security in most of the seven films he directed through this cycle.
But the book argues that the director often pulls his punches in his treatment of history. Currently the king of the blockbuster is still willing to take the historical turn.
Both films are set in the first half of the previous century. Tintin is a character created in 1929 by the Belgian cartoonist Herge. War Horse is the story of an English horse conscripted for World War One service and captured by the Germans. But neither refers to a specific historical-political problem.
Yet there is something of the political moment in them if only in the way that an American filmmaker still wants to work with European stories. Is it that the Atlantic cultural divide has evaporated?
However, this is the moment Europe has become the exotic “other” in rightwing American politics, the example of the hell that waits, if we abandon the free market. Therefore in selecting such settings we can suspect Spielberg of being the liberal in the domestic culture wars.
Spielberg always presents himself as an entertaining storyteller, not an engaged liberal. The films’ market plans assume the universal cultural appeal of the wish fulfillment genre. It is this assumption of universalism that triggers the Barthesian analysis of ideology.
The cartoon images and photo-realisms of the two films are determined by the same impulse. Even the central positions of a horse and an ageless teenaged boy respectively in the two stories work against specific identities.
The European settings let the American Spielberg off the hook. He can ignore the Belgian colonialism of the original Tintin and pick the Tintin stories that take him the furthest away from Herge’s own compromised politics. He was once naïve about the colonial ideology of classic Hollywood that he unwittingly quoted in the first two Indiana Jones movies. Now he knows enough to avoid it if not what to offer as an alternative.
There is an analogous ambivalence in Tintin’s style. It may be pioneering a new level of capture motion animation, but it uses animation to improve photo-realism by degrees, not to break with it. For example the code of realism in Tintin lengthens the actor’s ability to suspend gravity, as Tintin tumbles from one hammock to another, but it does not defy natural law. Overall the movie plays as a prequel to the next installment that Peter Jackson will direct.
The director’s heart was more in War Horse. The English writer who created the story, Michael Morpurgo, shares Spielberg’s sentimentalism whereas Herge only shares his visual approach to adventure.
Again the American can ignore the specifics of the Great War in order to tell a universal anti-war story. This is in contrast to Saving Private Ryan where Spielberg’s great concern was to insist that Americans embrace the actual reality of their parents fighting the war.
In that picture he used subjective sound, shaky hand held camera, chaotic framing and de-saturation of color to drive home the point that this “really happened.” In War Horse the images of trench fighting are well known and the filmmaker does little to make them strange or to shock us, except for the central conceit of placing the horse as the primary agent.
Spielberg does not go as far as to tell the story in the horse’s voice (Morpurgo did). But he uses cinematic techniques to restore the central perspective to the horse in contrast to the stage production of War Horse.
Of course, a horse’s perspective transcends politics. It is a continuation of Spielberg’s approach to sentiment that has formed the “auterist” spine of his entire career. I argue that it is indicative of the present state of American realism that discourages storytellers from assigning moral responsibility.
Perhaps the most revealing contrast is not between War Horse and Saving Private Ryan but with Paths of Glory (1957) made by Stanley Kubrick (later to become Spielberg’s friend) that lets nobody off the hook (least of all the viewer) for the great bloody mindedness of the last century.
We await Spielberg’s Lincoln picture to see if he can abandon his universalism and engage his liberalism long enough to teach the hard lesson that Americans have to learn in the current political impasse.
Frederick Wasser is an associate professor at the Department of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College-CUNY.
Posted 499 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cultural sociology, economic sociology, consumption, consumerism, consumer society / 0 Comments
It was only $2. And those who enrolled in auto-pay wouldn’t be charged. Verizon’s convenience fee for making one-time bill payments got the math right but the meanings wrong. A public controversy ensued as consumers expressed righteous outrage over the new wireless phone fee, and the company backed down.
Had monthly phone or data rates inched up on all plans by less than a dollar, who would have noticed? It was not the amount but the culturally inappropriate manner in which it was levied that stirred the flames. If you ask consumers whether Verizon should charge more for specific categories of service, the answer depends on the service you’re talking about. Sometimes consumers will appear to be penny wise but pound foolish as they quibble about a dollar here or there, but these consumers are acting appropriately given their understandings of what’s right and what’s wrong for a specified category of expenditure.
The Culture of Markets builds on arguments by economic sociologists like Viviana Zelizer who show just how fraught spending categories can be. Money earned by a child who delivers newspapers or who mows the neighbors’ lawns gets its own nickname (category): paper money, lawn mowing money. The child may be encouraged to use those funds for school related expenses or to buy toys, but those earnings are unlikely to be applied to the rent or the car note. Money that comes from a lottery win gets spent differently from money that comes from an adult’s salary. And what the right price is also depends on negotiation and group understandings. In other words, what we think we should do with our money depends on where it came from, who earned it, and the purpose to which it will be put. Paying more to pay a bill just feels wrong. It stirs up a collective memory of exploitation and usury. And these collective understandings of what the charges mean compel consumers to act to restore their sense of justice.
Markets are not amoral places; they are moral communities with situation-specific norms and principles that are keenly felt when breached. As Verizon comes to understand the morality of markets, they will find that they can charge more, but first they have to get their categories right.
The Culture of Markets makes sense of market mishaps such as this one and provides other examples of how companies inadvertently stir up firestorms: why consumers “inexplicably” fail to respond to market stimuli (e.g. incentive pay, some types of tax cuts), and why “more efficient” options are sometimes foregone.
People do lots of different things in markets, and their understandings about what they are doing depend on more than mathematical calculations. As their intentions and the stories that they share with others come into focus, we can better perceive what money means, how demand rises and falls, why producers partner with specific types of suppliers and distributors, and why well calculated schemes go awry. (See my blog: cultureofmarkets.com)
Frederick F. Wherry is associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.
Posted 501 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sovereignty, statehood, recognition, global politics, Peace, Conflict Resolution, International Relations / 0 Comments
The recent Palestinian bid for international recognition has failed to secure the backing that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was hoping for, and it looks like the United States will not have to use its veto at the United Nations Security Council.
Even so, the Palestinian leadership has until now rejected the less ambitious option of becoming a “non-member state” of the UN - which could be achieved through a vote in the General Assembly - and remains set on full recognition. This speaks to the continued appeal of international recognition. So what does the failure to gain UN recognition mean for the future of Palestinian statehood?
When David Cameron was asked why Britain did not support the Palestinian bid, he replied “I don’t believe you create a state by making declarations” and proceeded to argue that “you create a state by bringing together the two relevant parties ... and hammering out an agreement” (the Guardian, 26 November 2011).
But the peace process has so far failed to create an independent Palestinian state, and has now ground to a halt, and although UN recognition would not in itself have created the empirical realities of statehood on the ground, it would have put Israel in a very difficult position. Even if - as was always more likely - recognition had been blocked (solely) by a US veto, such a moral victory would have strengthened the Palestinian position.
As it is, Palestine will continue to exist as an anomaly in the international system of sovereign states: it is recognised by a large number of states, enjoys observer status at the UN, and became a member of UNESCO in October 2011, but it has not gained full international recognition and the empirical realities on the ground do not reflect independent statehood.
Palestine is not the only anomalous entity in the international system of sovereign states. Entities such as Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, Taiwan and Transnistria have all failed to gain international recognition, or are only recognised by a few states, yet they function by and large like independent states.
They enjoy all the trappings of statehood such as an army, a government, courts, hospitals, schools and other public services, and some of these entities may even be better functioning than their de jure parent state. Lack of recognition, and an anomalous international position, therefore clearly does not preclude survival, but does that mean that recognition - or the lack thereof - does not matter?
These entities survive despite their lack of recognition and their survival depends on the support of transnational networks, including patron states, diasporas, international aid organisations and trade (legal and illegal).
Now, recognised states also rely on external support for their survival, for example in the form of military alliances and trade agreements, but for unrecognised states such support is always problematic. Their lack of recognition means that important doors remain closed to them.
Even a case such as Taiwan is unable to become a member of the IMF and the World Bank and its membership of the World Trade Organization is dependent on it accepting the name Chinese Taipei. For other unrecognised entities the reality is one of international isolation and their access to international finance and trade is almost non-existent.
As a consequence, most of these entities depend for their survival on the military and financial support of an external patron; such as Russia in the case of Abkhazia and Armenia in the case of Nagorno Karabakh. This has led some observers to denounce unrecognised states as little more than the puppets of external actors.
While survival without recognition is clearly possible - and some of these entities even thrive - the lack of recognition therefore comes at a price and this affects the kind of entities that result: external backing is paramount and internal cohesion crucial for their continued survival.
Unrecognised states frequently introduce political reforms - partly in a bid to improve their chance of international recognition - but such democratising efforts tend to be undermined by an emphasis on the need for unity in the face external dangers. These entities are, moreover, highly militarised and although the image of puppets is often over-played, unrecognised states do find it hard to escape their external dependence.
International recognition consequently matters; even in a time of globalisation and even in cases that have for decades been outside the control of their de jure parent state. Declarations do not create states, but their absence affects the kind of entities that results: their internal developments and their reliance on external actors.
The example of Kosovo, moreover, shows that widespread international recognition is far from an empty gesture. The above-mentioned entities, in any case, already enjoy the territorial control to which Palestine aspires. Despite the existence of the Palestinian National Authority, which was established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel maintains a degree of control over both territory and internal security that prevents Palestine from enjoying de facto independence.
This makes international recognition all the more important; it would help create a reality of statehood that is presently missing, whereas in the other cases, it would recognise a reality that already exists.
Recognition is not the be-all and end-all of state creation, but it does matter, and it affects not only the lives of the people living in these entities, but also the prospect of finding peaceful solutions to protracted conflicts.
Nina Caspersen is the author of Unrecognized States: the Struggle For Sovereignty in the International System, which analyses how unrecognised entities survive and develop, and the effect this has on attempts to reach compromise solutions.
Posted 501 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social history, encyclopaedia, knowledge, wikipedia / 0 Comments
The origins of this book were in personal curiosity, in an attempt to answer the question, by what paths did we reach our present state of collective knowledge? Hence I start in the middle of the 18th century, where volume one ended, and continue the story until the present. The book focuses on academic knowledge, but discusses its relation to other forms of knowhow. It concentrates on the West, but notes the exchange of knowledge with other parts of the world, especially with China and Japan. In order to compensate for both national and disciplinary biases, this study adopts a comparative approach. In a field dominated by specialized studies, the book attempts an overview.
A Social History of Knowledge is inevitably concerned with long-term processes, among them reform, quantification, secularization, professionalization, specialization, democratization and globalization. However, I also emphasize the importance of the coexistence and interaction of trends in opposite directions, a kind of equilibrium of antagonisms. Thus the nationalization of knowledge coexists with its internationalization, secularization with counter-secularization, specialization with attempts at interdisciplinarity and democratization with attempts to counter or restrict it. Even the accumulation of knowledge is offset to some degree by what is lost (destroyed, discarded or simply mislaid).
Peter Burke is Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.
Posted 502 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: art, Philosophy, analytic aesthetics, cultural value, authenticity, taste, perception, expression, representation, art theory, art criticism / 0 Comments
When people ask me what I do, and I say that I work on philosophy of art, a great many otherwise educated people draw a blank. They can’t imagine what happens when philosophers discuss art.
The answer, of course, depends on your conception of philosophy: the sole origin of philosophy is a sense of wonder or amazement. Or at least that is the position that Plato ascribes to Socrates in the Theaetetus. Throughout Plato’s writings, Socrates’ method is to select a concept that everyone else seems to find unproblematic. He asks them to explain it, or he begins by reporting how someone else has explained it. He then unravels the assumptions of the explanation until it becomes apparent that the topic is far more complex than it seemed.
For those who possess the requisite sense of wonder, this process is stimulating. For many of Socrates’ discussion companions, it is frustrating and annoying, and some of the dialogues break off with the ancient equivalent of “Gosh, look at the time. I must be off to keep that appointment to trim my beard.”
For thirty years now, I have been professionally amazed by our assumptions about the arts. Above all, I have been puzzled by assumption that there is cohesion to the raggle taggle cultural activities that we group together with those words, “the arts.” And the longer I spend with the topic, the more amazed I am that almost everyone believes that there is a clear boundary between the arts and the many cultural activities that fall beyond that boundary.
I do not mean to suggest that the collapse of the boundary is something recent or particularly postmodern. It was no clearer a hundred years ago, nor two hundred. Three hundred years ago, the category was “the fine arts” (actually, it was sometimes an even more slippery construction: “the finer arts”), and it was used to distinguish between the books that were appropriate for the leisure time of a cultured reader and those that were not.
Today, bookstores routinely segregate the stuff called “literature” from the romance novels and vampire stories (and vampire romance stories) and self-help books that actually appeal to the majority of readers.
With minimal adaptation, virtually the same words could be used concerning the intersecting category of the aesthetic.
In the spirit of Socrates, I have found that teaching philosophy of art is first of all a matter of generating that motivating sense of wonder in my students. There are many challenges to doing so. There are the obvious ones that make any college instruction a challenge.
However, philosophy of art must deal with the additional challenge that almost every student who enters the classroom is quite certain that they can distinguish artworks from non-artworks. And yet, once we move beyond a few familiar names — the Mona Lisa, that “song” by Beethoven that starts da da da daaa — no two of them agree on which music or movies or books are artworks and which are not.
Another challenge is that almost none of them voluntarily spend time attending to the things that they push to the “art” side of the conceptual boundary. Never mind where you locate that boundary: today’s college students simply don’t have much exposure to art. I kept all of these challenges in mind when I designed this introduction to my philosophical field of specialization.
The Philosophy of Art differs from other recent introductions to the field by devoting four of its nine chapters to the topics of creativity, art forgery, authenticity and cultural appropriation, and the boundary line between fine art and popular culture.
Because they interest me, most of my previous writing has centered on the latter pair of these four. But they also happen to be philosophically rich topics that resonate with people who can’t work up much initial excitement about the more traditional issue of how to define art.
As I point out, that tradition is a recent one: Plato and Aristotle engaged in debates that remain central to philosophy of art, yet they were not culturally positioned to worry about the definition of art. Thus, philosophizing about art does not have to start with the issue of the proper definition of art. And therefore I reserve that topic for a later chapter, after showing that there are many other conceptual puzzles about art that can engage our sense of wonder. (But have no fear: if the definition of art is the topic that makes you pick up the book, the chapters can be read as self-sufficient discussions of their nine topics. Yet there’s also abundant cross-referencing that points out where a point made in one chapter intersects with a related topic elsewhere in the book.)
I want to be very clear that the cultural ignorance that seems an obstacle to teaching philosophy of art is also liberating. Philosophers like to discuss Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman. But few students who are being introduced to philosophy of art know those names. Those who teach philosophy of art must also serve as art history teachers.
What I find liberating about this situation is the freedom it offers us in selecting examples. From the neophyte’s perspective, Warhol and Emily Dickinson and Yoko Ono are all equally fresh and therefore equally subversive.
However, it’s then a very small step to a more inclusive approach. To someone who’s paid no attention to poetry, seventeenth-century haiku is no more culturally remote than Emily Dickinson or T. S. Eliot. Or, to put it the other way around, a European “classic” like the ballet Swan Lake is as culturally remote as Japanese kabuki theater.
To the extent that philosophy of art explores human activities and values that are alleged to be human universals, we ought to be discussing both Swan Lake and kabuki, Rembrandt and Katsushika Hokusai, Mickey Mouse and anime. Therefore I do.
And once I got over the idea that there’s an organized canon of examples that we all know about, I finally accepted that most art is unfamiliar to most of us. At that point, the freedom to be more inclusive dovetailed with the responsibility to do so, and the result has been that students are relieved that their ignorance about the “big names” in art won’t be an obstacle to their philosophizing about art. And then they become a bit more liberated in their thinking. They feel that they have permission to wonder about the full diversity of the art world. Its borders start to look very strange.
Another technique to induce wonder - on a small scale, admittedly - is the regular placement of short thought experiments. More than 60 of them are sprinkled through the book. They are clearly delineated invitations to stop reading in order to think about the implications of adopting an idea or thesis.
In some cases, the exercise is a simple reminder that the reader should now consider their own example of an artwork, rather than rely solely on the examples that others have chosen for them to consider. In other cases, I hope to create resonances between different parts of the book.
For example, early in the book, I call attention to Amie Thomasson’s point that some positions on the nature of art are simply too revisionist to succeed. Much later, I try to remind readers of this point by asking them to reflect on Leonardo da Vinci’s written descriptions of his goals in producing visual representations, and then ask whether it is plausible to accept a definition of art that implies that da Vinci completely misunderstood what he was accomplishing.
These many attempts to get the reader to think on the go are then supplemented by the traditional practice of ending the chapters with sets of review questions and with suggestions for further reading and, usually, of films that will provide additional grist for thought.
Theodore Gracyk is department chair and professor of philosophy at Minnesota State University.
Posted 513 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: wood, cultural history, timber / 0 Comments
Wood is a material fundamental to world history, which is important to examine, and of which everybody has their own discoveries and experiences. ‘Ötzi’ the ice-man needed it when he was climbing his Alpine glacier; so did medieval cathedral-builders; so does today’s growing green economy.
From time immemorial, the skill of the human hand has developed by working on wood, so much that we might say that the handling of wood is a part of human nature: a basic element in the history of the human body. ‘Wood is one of the greatest and most necessary things in the world’, Martin Luther said in a talk on 30 August 1532, ‘I marvel how our god has given so many uses to wood for all men in the whole wide world.’
Four hundred years later, Lewis Mumford, a grandfather of American environmentalism said ‘Take away wood and one takes away literally the props of modern technics.’
Since Werner Sombart, the pre-industrial era has been called a ‘Wooden Age’. Wood, however, is not only a typical pre-modern material, but a requirement for industrial development, whether in North America, in Central Europe or in Japan. We often forget that role.
The worry of a future wood famine caused a panic in the 18th century, which marked the roots of modern environmentalism; this fear has returned in recent times. ‘Sustainable development’, set as the goal for the whole world economy at the 1992 environmental Rio summit, was first applied – though it seems to have been forgotten in Rio – to the forest, and especially the montane and saline forests of Central Europe.
My own debut in the matter was in 1981, at an international conference in Essen on ‘Energy in History’, where I questioned the thesis of a catastrophic shortage of wood in the 18th century. This triggered a controversy that rumbles on even today, thirty years later, more lasting than most other controversies among German historians. For it has been the sacred myth of the proud German forestry culture that, ever since Germany began to revive after 1800, it has protected its homeland more than any other countries from the threat of a supply disaster.
But the Wooden Age did not end because of a shortage of wood, any more than the Stone Age ended because a shortage of stone. A broad overview demonstrates this fact more clearly than a plethora of special studies could ever do. Growing scarcity of wood was not the time bomb of the Wooden Age, as Sombart believed it to be, but rather the emergency brake of an economy which was not fit for permanent growth.
In pre-modern time, the ‘limits to growth’ were self-evidently natural and no title for a bestseller. Today, these limits have been rediscovered. Now, wood could become the epitome of sustainability. If the old Age of Wood did not collapse because of a wood shortage, a new Age of Wood may be possible, to at least some degree.
The histoire totale of wood and woodlands, which goes beyond the traditional boundaries of forest history, demonstrates what many discussions, even at an international level, have continued to ignore until now: that the solution of many wood supply problems will not be found in the forests alone. Forest history is intimately connected with the great mainstreams of history. The sustainable use of forests is not solely a question of forestry.
Wood traces the environmental, cultural and technological history of wood. It demonstrates that wood offers a secret key for a better understanding of world history, of certain peculiarities and of varieties of cultures, moreover of the rise and fall of great powers. It also reveals a co-evolution of nature and culture which offers hope for our future.
If we look only at the mass of complaints about forest destruction and wood shortage that reached a peak in the late 18th century, one is tempted to argue – as many have done before – that the rise of the West based on coal and steel was a response to the growing scarcity of wood. But that seems to be wrong (though the discussion continues).
In most regions, industrialization proceeded on the basis of wood along with animal and water power. A global comparison clearly shows that, in the 18th century, Europe was still relatively rich in timber with no exceptional shortages.
Wood is a key to historical microcosms, but at the same time to questions of big theories on world history. In the ‘modern world system’ described by Immanuel Wallerstein, does the timber trade further widen the gulf between core and periphery – Wallerstein’s central concept – or do the forests on the contrary give the periphery a special opportunity?
Is Garrett Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ decisively confirmed by the history of the forest, or are on the contrary forest communities the best example for the rehabilitation of local commons, as Elinor Ostrom suggested in the work that won her the 2009 Nobel Prize for economics?
‘America’s Wooden Age was a wonderful era, specifically because of the nature of the prevailing technology which depended so heavily upon wood’; so begins the anthology America’s Wooden Age, published in 1975 by the National Museum of History and Technology.
So, we might ask, if the Wooden Age was so wonderful, why didn’t America stick with wood until today? If one writes a history of wood filled with enthusiasm for the material, one finds oneself asking why it no longer rules the world, but often has been driven out by other materials.
A critical approach is needed in order to avoid succumbing to illusion. If wood is to win back some ground, an explanation is needed as to how it lost that ground in the first place. Many advantages of wood have become evident only in retrospect. And the narrow horizons of the timber industry have prevented many an opportunity from being seized. The trio of forestry, the timber industry and environmental movement are still filled with deep tensions. We are a long way from a grand Green Trinity which could become pioneering for a future Age of Ecology. Wood’s history is an unfinished story.
Joachim Radkau is professor of modern history at Bielefeld University.
Posted 584 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Cultural theory, continental philosophy, media studies, literary theory, postmodernism, Philosophy / 0 Comments
What’s the fuss about Sloterdijk? – more talked about than read; praised, condemned and until recently ignored in English-language scholarship.
This book offers an introduction to, critical appraisal of and engagement with this mercurial thinker. It is the first book devoted to Sloterdijk in English, and its contributors are an international and interdisciplinary dream-team – Babette Babich, Sjoerd van Tuinen, Eduardo Mendieta, Marie-Eve Morin, Efraín Kristal, Wieland Hoban, Nigel Thrift, Jean-Pierre Couture, and Sloterdijk himself.
Ranging across his extensive works, the contributions focus on key themes and crucial questions. You’ll find discussions of his politics, his ways of engaging in debate, his understandings of space, humanity, art, anger, literature and language.
No one interested in philosophy and social theory in the twenty-first century can fail to have an opinion on Sloterdijk. Sloterdijk Now provides plenty of ammunition for the debates to come.
Stuart Elden is Professor of Geography at Durham University.
Posted 585 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sovereignty, statehood, recognition, global politics, Peace, Conflict Resolution, International Relations, politics, security studies / 0 Comments
Unrecognized states are places that do not exist in international politics; they are state-like entities that have achieved de facto independence, but have failed to gain widespread international recognition. Territories such as Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh, Somaliland, Taiwan and Transnistria frequently enjoy all the trappings of statehood: an army, a government, courts, hospitals, schools and other public services. They may therefore look like states and act like states, but they are not recognised as such in the modern international system.
Unrecognized states hold a fascination for the intrepid traveller with a fondness for the paradoxical, but their involvement in conflicts over contested territories also makes them of wider interest. Some of these conflicts – in places as diverse as the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the South Pacific – have elicited major international crises and intervention, while others could be the site of future warfare. Even so, there has been a lack of academic analysis of these curious anomalies and they remain subject to myths and simplifications.
Unrecognized states join a list of other anomalies in the international system, such as associated territories, internationally administered territories and mini-states, but unlike such entities unrecognized states are not afforded a place in the international system of sovereign states. Their lack of recognition comes at a significant cost, yet a number of unrecognized states have survived for decades and some of them even thrive. This raises important – yet hitherto largely unanswered – questions about the conditions that enable these anomalies to survive in a system of sovereign states and about the kind of entities that can emerge from non-recognition. In answering these questions we find out something important, not just about unrecognised states, but also about sovereignty and statehood.
Building on extensive fieldwork, my new book Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System examines the origins of unrecognized states, the factors that enable their survival and explores their likely future trajectories: is reintegration, status quo or recognition on the cards for these entities and how can peaceful solutions best be promoted? I hope that this book will prove a valuable resource for students, scholars and practitioners with an interest in contested territories, sovereignty, state-building and conflict resolution.
Nina Caspersen is lecturer in peace and conflict studies at Lancaster University.
Posted 586 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: climate change, social systems, sociology, environmental studies / 0 Comments
In Climate Change and Society the ‘social’ is positioned at the heart of the analysis of why climates are changing and of assessing and developing alternative futures. This book especially demonstrates the importance of social practices that over time are organised into powerful ‘socio-technical’ systems. In the fateful twentieth century, various high carbon social practices, increased income, wealth and movement, engendered huge population growth, increased greenhouse gas emissions and used up maybe half of the world’s oil that had made this world go round. Especially important in stabilising these high carbon systems was the ‘carbon military-industrial complex’, the most powerful of set of interests operating worldwide.
In this new century it is such systems that have to change, to move from growing high carbon systems to a cluster of those that are low carbon. It is clear that such a transition has to happen fast so as to create positive feedbacks of each low carbon system upon each other. How can we change such systems and practices, and how can they be changed in time? The urbanist Mike Davis concludes that such a Plan B is unlikely to have been realised by 2030 and the convergent effects of climate change, peak oil, peak water, and an additional 1.5 billion people will produce negative synergies beyond our current imagination.
John Urry is professor of sociology at the University of Lancaster.
Posted 612 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Organizations, communication, emotions / 0 Comments
I wrote Communicating Emotions at Workafter spending several decades collecting emotional narratives from clerks, probation officers, teachers, firefighters, managers, factory workers, and many others. From this research I learned several important truths.
First, although work is often mundane, emotional encounters make it more meaningful, memorable, humane and (sometimes) stressful.
Second, the success of organizations and individual workers very much depends on their capacity to communicate and regulate human feeling.
Third, emotional communication is often a positive force in organizational life. It is often through expressions of feeling that we forge bonds with coworkers, mark and resist unethical practices, and create cohesive responses to complicated tasks.
Fourth, emotional communication is too often abused or neglected, often with profoundly negative consequences for people and organizations.
Emotion certainly has its biological, cognitive, and affective dimensions, but this book is very much about communication. I want students to think deeply and concretely about how emotion arises from interactions, language practices, collective performances and messages produced by organizations for various audiences.
The book is also firmly rooted in the practice of work. Students will see that emotion is shaped by organizational rules, rituals, processes, and power relations - that emotion flows across teams, networks, technologies, occupational cultures, and work/home boundaries.
In writing Communicating Emotions at Work I made every effort to engage the student reader. At the same time, I hope the book spurs more organizational researchers to think about emotion as a rich communicative phenomenon, one essential to the process of organizing.
Vincent R. Waldron is professor of communication studies at Arizona State University.
Posted 635 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gender, inequality, globalization, marginalization, social theory, education / 0 Comments
A world out of control? A world of ruthless elites, environmental disaster, reborn patriarchy, and growing gaps between rich and poor? A world where the alternatives are riot, terrorism, or futile protest? Our world, right?
If that is NOT to be our world - if we want real democracy in rich countries as well as poor - we need new strategies of social change, and knowledge to base them on. Confronting Equality shows how social science provides knowledge and ideas vital for democratic politics. Its chapters discuss men’s role in achieving gender equality, the social impact of neoliberalism, the new politics of teaching, key theorists of global society, and more.
Social science matters. Reliable knowledge matters. Much social research is presented in conservative, dependent, or depressing ways. But social science can be a site of excitement and insight, and a way of opening new perspectives on the world.
Raewyn Connell is university professor at the University of Sydney and the author of numerous books, including Confronting Equality, Gender, and Southern Theory.
Posted 620 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gender, sociology of gender, women's studies, gender studies / 0 Comments
Our academic and activist experiences and influences represent a generational and gender divide. Martha got her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1977 and Mike from New York University in 2006. Martha became an active member of the women’s liberation movement in 1970 at Kent State University and has continued her activism throughout her academic career. As a graduate student, Mike was involved in organizing a graduate student union and challenging sexism in the academy. As a faculty member, he has continued his feminist campus activism in anti-militarism, anti-violence, and other issues. Despite our differences, we recognized early on that we shared an understanding of gender and a commitment to social justice.
Our process of writing this textbook together has not only involved the task of writing, but also of pushing each other to recognize our intellectual and social justice priorities and to work together to articulate those into common themes. At the same time, by thinking of our past and current students, we asked ourselves the question, “what distinguishes students who ‘get’ feminist sociology from those who do not?” We quickly realized that what students who “get” feminist sociology have in common is the ability to mobilize their feminist sociological imaginations to conduct analyses of their own.
This realization set us on the path of designing a textbook to inspire students to ask questions and seek answers about gender and to provide them with tools to investigate gender from a feminist perspective. A jumping off point for us was to organize the textbook around the central ideas we distilled from our own engagement with feminist theories and activism, encouraging students to infuse their analyses with attention to gender inequality, gender’s intersections with other systems of inequality, a relational global perspective, and social change. As feminist scholars and activists deeply committed to social justice, it was also important to us that we help students develop strategies for engaging in their personal and political lives in socially just ways.
Martha E. Thompson is professor emeritus of sociology and women's studies at Northeastern Illinois University. Michael Armato is associate professor of sociology and women's studies at Northeastern Illlinois University. They are the authors of Investigating Gender, out in December 2011.
Posted 633 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Colonization, Russian empire, culture, literature, History / 0 Comments
Studying imperial Russia, scholars have produced two stories. One concerns a great country that competes successfully, though unevenly, with other European powers, produces brilliant literature, and stages unprecedented social experiments. The other story is one of economic backwardness, unbridled violence, misery, illiteracy, despair, and collapse. I subscribe to both of these at once.
But scholarship is not a dual carriageway; we need to find a way to coordinate the different stories that we believe in. My solution is a kind of Eisensteinian montage interwoven with an overarching principle, which in this book is internal colonization. I propose this concept as a metaphor or mechanism that makes the Russian Empire comparable to other colonial empires of the past. So, in this book, the two Russian stories combine into one: the story of internal colonization, in which the state colonized its people.
Before and during and after the imperial period, the Russian state was engaged in the colonization of foreign territories and it was also concerned with colonizing the heartlands. Peoples of the empire, including the Russians, developed anti-imperial, nationalist ideas in response. These directions of Russia’s colonization, internal and external, sometimes competed and sometimes were indistinguishable. Dialectic in standstill, as Walter Benjamin put it, but also an explosive mix that invites oxymoronic concepts such as internal colonization.
Incorporating different disciplines, voices, and periods is a risky task for a cultural historian. I take courage in the idea that high literature and culture in Russia played significant roles in the political process. Due to its paradoxical mechanism, internal colonization made culture politically relevant and power culturally productive. For an empire such as Russia’s, its culture was both an instrument of rule and a weapon of revolution. Culture was also a screen on which the endangered society saw itself – a unique organ of self-awareness, critical feedback, mourning, and warning.
Human grammar distinguishes between subject and object, while human history does not necessarily do so. Self-imposed tasks – self-discipline, internal control, colonization of one’s own kind – are inherently paradoxical. Languages, including scholarly ones, get into trouble when they confront these self-referential constructions. In the twenty-first century, scholars of globalization meet the same logical difficulties as the scholars of Russian imperial history met in the nineteenth century. Of course, I hope that the world of the future will be no more similar to imperial Russia than it will be to British India. But the experience and experiments of the Russian Empire can still teach us some lessons.
Alexander Etkind is director of Russian studies at King's College, Cambridge, and the author of Internal Colonization, out on 23 September.
Posted 646 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: security studies, intelligence, democracy / 0 Comments
National security intelligence is a vast, complicated, and important topic, with both technical and humanistic dimensions - all made doubly hard to study and understand because of the thick veils of secrecy that surround every nation’s spy apparatus. Fortunately, from the point of view of democratic openness as well as the canons of scholarly inquiry, several of these veils have fallen in the past three-and-a-half decades. The disclosures have been a result of public government inquiries into intelligence failures and wrongdoing (especially those in 1975 that looked into charges of illegal domestic spying in the United States), accompanied by a more determined effort by academic researchers to probe the dark side of government.
The Cold War was, in large part, a struggle between espionage organizations in the democracies and in the Communist bloc, illustrating the importance of a nation’s secret agencies. Sometimes spy services have been the source of great embarrassment to the democracies, as with America’s Bay of Pigs disaster, along with the questionable assassination attempts against foreign leaders carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), acting under ambiguous authority from the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Harmful to the reputation of America’s democracy, too, were the domestic espionage scandals of the mid-1970s, the Iran-contra scandal a decade later, and, most recently, revelations about torture and other forms of prisoner abuse employed by the CIA and military intelligence agencies in the struggle against global terrorism. Intelligence mistakes of analysis can have enormous consequences, as well, such as when the United Kingdom and the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 based in part on a faulty assessment that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, was developing weapons of mass destruction that could soon strike London and Washington. Further, intelligence organizations and operations are a costly burden on taxpayers - costing some $75 billion a year in the United States, according to America’s Director of National Intelligence in 2010. For all of these reasons, national security intelligence deserves the attention of the public, closer study by the scholarly community, and improved accountability inside democratic regimes.
National security intelligence is a rich and exciting field of study, for researchers, policymakers, government reformers, intelligence professionals, students, and attentive citizens in every democratic regime. My volume offers an introductory look at this subject, with hopes of encouraging further study by scholars of all ages and a renewed dedication to intelligence reform by government officials and citizen activists.
Loch K. Johnson is Regents Professor of International Affairs at the University of Georgia and the author of National Security Intelligence.
Posted 684 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cultural criminology, positivism, antipositivism, social theory / 0 Comments
The sociological imagination can be engendered by social marginality. It flourishes at times of rapid change and in environments of diversity; it can be obscured by academic isolation far from the maelstrom of late modern life; it can be forcefully suppressed by government intervention; it can be rung out of the budding scholar by a tedious apprenticeship within the discipline – a so-called professionalization – which prioritizes quantitative methods and digital distancing over human contact, verstehen and patient ethnography. For Mills a key indice of loss of such imagination was the rise of abstracted empiricism where reality was lost in method and measurement, where the tools of the trade become magically more important than reality itself, where to put it metaphorically, the telescope becomes of greater importance than the sky.
I have traced in this book how abstracted empiricism has expanded on a level which would have surely astonished Mills himself. How in much of the social sciences reality has been lost in a sea of statistical symbols and dubious analysis. I have, in part, focused on developments in criminology because it is here where abstracted empiricism and positivism has flourished to the greatest extent, producing a new genre of research and a novel breed of journal which has all but forgotten a great legacy of scholarship, where theory has been banished to the passing nod and the perfunctory and critical work significantly marginalized. But such a process has, as we shall see, spread to mainstream sociology and has clear resonances throughout the social sciences.
Even if a science of society were possible, positivism is poor in its measurement and tawdry in its theory. Such a conceptual inadequacy is manifestly multiplied by its refusal to recognize that cultural nature of human beings: their ability to turn factors and circumstances into narratives of their own making. As it is, the new ‘scientific’ criminology has been unable to explain the drop in the crime rate in the recent period just as it failed to explain the rise in crime in the sixties through to the eighties. Countless anomalies in research findings occur, their supposed veracity merely bolstered by their repetition rather than any approximation to the truth. Often the researchers sense that they are skating on thin ice but the hubris of science and a great deal of physics envy helps them navigate the pond. Such toxic data corrupts any policy recommendations and raises questions of the direction and extent of funding.
This book calls for a fundamental reassessment of the direction in which criminology is heading. If it can create a moment of hesitation and contribute somewhat to the growing scepticism with regards to the widespread desire to quantify every aspect of the human condition it will have succeeded in its aims.
Jock Young is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justiceat The Graduate Center, CUNY, Professor of Sociology at theUniversity of Kent, and the author of The Criminological Imagination.
Posted 684 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: applied communication, communication studies, public health / 0 Comments
In what ways does communication in health organizations matter to patients, consumers, and health professionals? How do health organizations function communicatively? Why do the people who work in health professions interact as they do? Communication in Health Organizations provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary review of the research literature to help readers answer these questions and reflect on their own involvement in the health system.
Spanning communication, medicine, nursing, allied health, and public health, this book considers the complexities and contingencies that constitute the organization of health care. Using systems theory, an approach that enhances reader understanding of health organizing, readers will gain familiarity with the communication processes and behaviors that comprise a wide range of health settings. Understanding and applying the concepts discussed in this book can improve communication in health organizations, which ultimately benefits health care delivery.
Each chapter in the book includes “Communication in Practice” and “Ripped from the Headlines” features that provide opportunities for reader engagement. Readers can put communication principles into actual practice in health organization contexts and apply chapter topics to health system current events.
Julie Apker is an associate professor in the School of Communication at Western Michigan University. She is the author of Communication in Health Organizations.
Posted 716 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Hayden White, historiography, metahistory / 0 Comments
Hayden White counts as the most influential contemporary philosopher of history. He is often praised and criticized for his “narrativist” approach to the study of history. Among historians and literary scholars in particular, the name of White is almost synonymous with a “linguistic” or “narrative” turn in historical studies. Few readers, though, have asked why White is interested in narrative discourse, how this interest relates to his moral concerns, and why most of White’s publications, including his ground-breaking Metahistory, focus on moral agency, human self-determination, ideology, and myth, rather than on narrative discourse.
My book tries to answer these questions. Starting with White’s doctoral studies in medieval church history, I try to show how White developed a highly “undisciplinary” philosophy of history, inspired more by existentialist–humanist preoccupations with human freedom and moral self-determination than by the academic historical discipline in its twentieth-century state. I argue that a desire “to get out of history”, or to exchange historical thought in its academic incarnation for more existential modes of historical representation, is a leitmotiv in White’s entire philosophy of history.
One of the surprising conclusions I reach is that White’s frequently quoted Metahistory is often misunderstood. In spite of what many readers assume, it is not a study of historical discourse, but a passionate plea to reunite historical thought with myth and moral imagination. I also argue that White’s “tropes”, as famously presented in Metahistory, are no linguistic templates for historical thought, but metaphoric labels for ideal-typical views on how “history” relates to myth, dream, and imagination.
So, in a sense, this book offers a re-interpretation of White, thereby correcting the sort of Wikipedia wisdom so often associated with his name.
Herman Paul is lecturer in historical theory at Leiden University, and the author of Hayden White.
Posted 717 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Facebook, social network, anthropology / 0 Comments
The text below is an edited transcript of a longer interview, which you can see on its full glory on YouTube.
When we met recently it was to discuss Danny's new book, Tales from Facebook, which looks at the consequences of being a Facebook user on people's lives. How is it changing our behaviour and modes of interaction, especially between men and women? What is it doing to our sense of ourselves and of time? Is it ultimately a disruptive or a conservative force?
Some of these questions we tackle in this interview. All of them you will find treated in more depth in the book itself.
For this study, you chose not to focus on Facebook users in London or New York or Sydney or wherever; you chose Trinidad. Tell me why.
The main point of this kind of ethnographic research is to insist that there is no such thing as ‘Facebook’. Facebook is what users do with it. So there is no alternative than to take a given population, and study how they use it.
One of the points about taking somewhere like Trinidad is nobody expects Trinidad to be the exemplification of what Facebook ‘really’ is. That allows people to recognize that the idea that US college kids showed us ‘the true Facebook’ doesn’t hold water, when Facebook is actually now seeing its main increases in places like Indonesia and Turkey.
It might be interesting to talk a little bit in more detail about some of the pen portraits in the book. Dr Karamath is an interesting example; he’s an older man in a particular phase of his life. So how’s he using Facebook?
Dr Karamath has effectively become disabled, so he’s to return to Trinidad, and really he’s just stuck in his house. He used to be a very cosmopolitan international player, a human rights lawyer, and this could have been the end of everything that was worthwhile in his life.
What’s fascinating is the way that he sees the potential for Facebook to give him his life back; he can go online for the whole of the day and find a particular role. Everybody is swamped by information these days, and so he aggregates information from, say, the human rights or environmental sector, he pares it down and he brings it to the attention of others. So he feels that merely the fact that he’s got time to spend on Facebook gives him a new useful role. He also develops a completely new social circuit with some diaspora Indians in New York, and London, which works very well for both him and for them.
Although we associate Facebook with university students and the young, because that’s where it came from, there’s every reason to feel that in the long term, the most important impacts of Facebook will probably be on the elderly. The people who need it most will be those who suffer from restrictions, who find it harder to get out, yet want to retain their links with their family and wider social networks. I think therefore Dr Karamath is a very important portrait, because he demonstrates one of the key futures of Facebook: the elderly and the disabled.
You were very honest in the book in saying that you thought that the Facebook game Farmville was a vain pursuit before you looked into it further. Then after your encounter with a boy called Arvind, you rather revised that. Tell me about his case.
Yes, it wasn’t just that it was a vain pursuit. I just disliked Farmville. The cartoon characters, the way it kind of operates; I found it very hard to warm to Farmville, until I met Arvind. But Arvind was a very quiet, very gentle, and generally not very successful young man. He’d tried at various things, but none of them went right for him, and things were looking rather hopeless. He got on a course to work as a carer, and most carers in Trinidad tend to be women - and of course Arvind is very shy with women.
But it was those women that persuaded him to go onto Farmville in the first place, and he really got hooked and became an inveterate Farmville player and very good at it. Because Farmville is a social game, you progress by helping each other. That brought him into interaction with his fellow students, and on that he could build a wider friendship group, so that now when he goes into college, he kind of can chat to all these women, and he feels much more confident. In this case, Farmville has been hugely enabling to somebody who was otherwise almost pathological in the difficulties he had in ordinary social relations.
So you start to see that Farmville, which to be honest I tended to see as a waste of time - and also aesthetically I couldn’t stand the thing - you start to understand that people using Farmville have adapted it and found ways to make it actually a rather positive instrument. So you do have to have some respect for this thing.
You suggest that Facebook may ultimately be a conservative moral force, because it makes it much more difficult for people to have an illicit liaison, since who knows when they’ll pop up in the background of a picture?
I think that’s true. I tend to veer away from simple technological determinism, but I had previously studied mobile phones. That was in Jamaica, and it was clear that mobile phones led to an increase in illicit sexual relations. It was just so easy to arrange to see somebody behind people’s backs.
It’s curious that you have this one technology that leads to a change in sexual behaviour, and Facebook, which in some ways does precisely the opposite. People are starting to realize that before they were known on Facebook, they were relatively discreet. They’d be in another town, say, when they were with what we’d call their mistress (in Trinidad, it’s “the deputy”, or “the outside woman”). But now so many people can take photos from mobile phones, upload them onto Facebook, they get tagged, and suddenly everyone’s aware that you were with this person when you said you’d be somewhere else.
There’s an interesting opposition here between the impact of mobile phones and of Facebook. And yes, I think I would go on the line and say that Facebook is actually going to lead to a decrease in adulterous relationships.
Do you see other conservative aspects to Facebook, in terms of community and cohesion and it drawing people together?
It’s better to regard Facebook as an essentially conservative media, rather than some vanguard of the new. There have been many changes in modern life that have led to separation, led to people being say more transnational, led to a certain individualism, and to the decline of the more intensive forms of social relations. My overall argument is that people recognize these changes and actually regret that loss of community, but have found through Facebook a way to bring back many of the kinds of social relations that were becoming attenuated.
The internet previously had tended to lead us to have separate interest groups. People called them communities, but they weren’t. They were just different bodies of interest groups that formed their own network on the internet.
But the whole point of Facebook is that it’s much more like an actual digital community, because it brings all these different social networks back into the same place. So kinship is there, friendship is there, work colleagues are there, and they’re all in view of each other.
That, I think, is very different from the previous impact of the internet; almost the reverse. That’s why it’s best understood as conservative – people are looking back to the way social relations used to be, or the way they imagine social relations used to be, and using Facebook to resurrect them.
Daniel Miller is professor of anthropology at University College London, and the author of Tales from Facebook. His other books include The Comfort of Things, Au Pair and Stuff.
Posted 717 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: financial crisis, NHS reform, neoliberalism / 0 Comments
News that the UK government has been spending 56 million a day sub-contracting its own activities to private corporations makes interesting reading. There have been repeated government claims that, under the Big Society programme, it is concerned to ensure that a wide range of different kinds of organization would win such contracts and not just firms.
To see how the government contracting business is stacked in favour of the big corporations one can look at the plans for sub-contracting the delivery of much of the National Health Service that are at the heart of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. Here in particular, privatization to corporations is explicitly presented as only one of a number of outcomes of the competition regime proposed.
But look at the realities of the situation. NHS medical practitioners and hospitals are (unsurprisingly) primarily health-care professionals. They are not expert in marketing or in contract-winning. They do not have the competence, resources or time to lobby and sweet-talk contract commissioners and put a shiny advertising gloss on their work. Much the same is true of the voluntary organisations which are invited to bid for some contracts.
The private health-care firms, mainly giant US corporations with extensive experience of running health care in that country’s private system, do have the appropriate experience and knowledge. They also have very strong incentives to pour money into contract bidding. Given their large resources, it makes considerable sense for them to risk loss-making bids for UK health contracts in the first instance.
Non-commercial competitors will be unable to match them in this exercise and will be driven from the market. These will therefore not be there to compete the next time round, when prices can then be raised. Public-service contracting rules are unable to counter loss-leader tactics of this kind and will, as so often in the past, be naïve counterparts to very wily and strategic corporate bargainers. There is therefore no level playing-field in competition between corporations on the one hand and existing public providers and the voluntary sector on the other.
Further, it must be noted what competition is about here. It is competition for the winning of contracts, not for the provision of health care. The ultimate consumers of the health service are merely users; they are not part of the market relationship, which is between commissioners and contractors. Competition over how best to win a contract from a public service commissioner is not the same as competition over how to provide the best health care to a public. This is especially the case when, as is necessary, contracts last for several years.
In this country and elsewhere there have been many examples in recent years of privatization contracts of this type, across a wide range of public-service activities. A notable feature has been the emergence of a small number of corporations, with origins in traditional areas of government contracting like armaments and road-building, who have spread their activities to areas very new to them, from back-office local government services to nursery schools. The most striking recent case was the award of a contract for running parts of the UK 2011 Census to Lockheed Martin, the US armaments contractor.
The core business and expertise of these firms is in political lobbying and public contract-winning, not in providing the actual services they are claiming to be competent at providing. This is logical; their market relationship with a customer occurs at the point of gaining the contract, not providing the service.
The Health and Social Care Bill will lead, within a few years, to the privatization of these services to a small number of large corporations. Many of these will have their headquarters abroad. It is impossible that the proposers of the Bill do not know this, and it must be assumed that they want it. There is therefore a clear dishonesty in the official claim that these changes are part of a localization agenda.
Decision points, and the appropriate addresses for complaints and queries by users, will be removed to levels far more remote than a UK primary care trust. So powerful have corporate lobbies become that politicians are willing to play such games with the NHS.
From health to banks
The aftermath of the financial crisis presents a similar story. In the UK this has been redefined as a crisis caused by excessive public spending. It was not; it was caused by extraordinarily irresponsible behaviour by bankers, who made, retain, and indeed continue to reap enormous rewards for their pains.
In the USA, President Obama’s fairly tough financial regulation bill is being drastically watered down by a Congress highly responsive to the millions of dollars brandished by the financial sector’s corporate lobbyists – just as his health service bill was watered down following lobbying by that sector’s corporations.
In the UK government refuses to call the bluff of banks who make unlikely claims that they will leave the country if regulation is increased, while hobbling any attempts at the international action that can meet those claims head on.
In the 2010 general election British voters had a choice between a party that crumbled before corporate interests and one that is in large part constituted by those interests. It is not so different for voters in Greece, Portugal and Spain. Democracy enables us to choose between those who do not dare confront corporate power and those who represent it.
In some fields professional institutions that stand outside the political system – such as the medical profession – offer some defence against this impenetrable wall. In the case of the financial sector the only professions are those of the sector itself.
Not surprisingly therefore bankers see no reason to change their investment strategies, to accept tighter regulation, or to moderate their earnings – earnings that in principle are the rewards of risk-taking but which are today guaranteed by taxpayers.
Colin Crouch is professor of governance and public management at the University of Warwick Business School. His book The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism is published this month by Polity.
Posted 718 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: governance, politics, Regulation, globalization / 0 Comments
From climate change to organized crime to financial regulation through to global pandemics, many of the gravest problems society faces today cannot be resolved by any country acting alone. Globalization has created a world of “complex interdependence” in which cooperation across borders is required to provide the security, prosperity, and wellbeing on which we all depend.
Traditionally, transborder cooperation has been negotiated between nation-states. In the aftermath of the Second World War, states created a range of intergovernmental institutions—the international financial institutions, the trade regime, and above all the United Nations—that have become the core of our current multilateral order.
Fascinatingly, however, these traditional institutions are being joined by an increasing range of new forms of global governance. For example, transgovernmental networks link ostensibly domestic government officials into flexible platforms for coordination and information exchange. Private regulatory schemes hold corporations responsible for environmental and social standards. Diverse coalitions of actors—states, corporations, NGOs, and others—form multistakeholder initiatives for topics as diverse as disease prevention and the management of the Internet. We live in a period of remarkable innovation in global governance.
Scholars and practitioners have recognized these changes, which pervade nearly every area of global politics, but have yet to fully describe or explain them. We need to know what has changed, why it has changed, and what implications the changes hold for the political issues that affect our societies. A first step toward answering these crucial questions—until now missing from the literature—would be a comprehensive mapping of the new institutions. This is what the Handbook of Transnational Governance hopes to contribute. In it, we have gathered over 50 expert summaries of innovative forms of global governance which, together, provide the most complete picture of the new forms of governance that yet exists. We hope this resource will help students, scholars, and practitioners to better understand the changing institutional landscape that increasingly shapes every aspect of political life.
Thomas Hale is a PhD candidate at Princeton University. David Held is Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Their new book, Handbook of Transnational Governance, is out now.
Posted 724 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: economics, Business, institutions, sociology / 0 Comments
Institutions and the Economy examines how institutions – understood as the formal and informal rules and practices that surround us as we go about our daily lives – enable and shape economic life. Institutions impact consumer preferences, the actions and processes of firms, wealth and poverty in countries, the growth of international trade, and much more. Indeed, none of the preconditions for economic activity – such as the existence of buyers and sellers, recognizable goods and services, and the information we need to make choices – would be in place without institutions.
These insights challenge some of the most basic postulates on modern economic theory, which either minimizes the role of institutions in the economy or views them as factors that help primarily by promoting efficiency. Synthesizing and refining the central concepts developed by economic sociologists during the last twenty years, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how economic life unfolds from the individual to the transnational levels.
Francesco Duina is professor of sociology at Bates College, visiting professor in the Department of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School, and the author of Institutions and the Economy.
Posted 745 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media studies, globalization, European studies / 0 Comments
This book offers a comprehensive overview of the contemporary media field in Europe. It examines the current structure of the various sectors that make up the European media market (broadcasting, the press, the internet), and identifies and assesses the major players and issues. It covers a broad spread of media markets, highlighting the new sectors that are emerging and outlining the factors driving the media business into the 21st century.
One of the key arguments of European Media is that Europe continues to offer the best place for examining global media processes. In doing so, the book
a) describes the issues, dynamics and the realities of the European media sector by synthesizing the most up-to-date information on developments;
b) asks whether we are seeing the emergence of European media or simply the continuation of separate national media in a European context;
c) explores debates about the role of the media in the formation of a European public sphere and a European identity.
The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with the structure of the European media, the second with the Europeanization of the media, and the third with the political and cultural dimensions of Europe and the EU.
Each of these sections provides material that will be of interest and value to both students and researchers seeking to explore the nature of the media in Europe.
Ralph M. Negrine is professor of political communication at the University of Sheffield, and co-author of European Media.
Posted 747 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: coltan, columbite-tantalite, Democratic Republic of Congo / 0 Comments
When first asked by Polity to write ColtanI was thrilled. Tantalum, or ‘coltan’ as it is known in the Congo, was the most topical of natural resources. Allegations were swirling on activist blogs, in academia, and at the United Nations about coltan’s relationship to ongoing violence in the Congo: that it was generating profits for armed groups that were waging war and abusing civilians, and that Western consumers were fuelling the conflict through their demand for electronic products such as mobile phones and laptops containing coltan.
I began by reading everything about coltan that I could lay my hands on and quickly started writing. However, after three months the work slowed. I discovered that much of what had been published on coltan repeated the same arguments, relied on the same incomplete data and failed to ask or answer the big questions about coltan. What I was writing repeated initially these same established views.
For six weeks I stopped work completely. I scratched my head wondering what angle Icould take that was new and different, and that would bring a fresh perspective. Suddenly it struck me that what was most interesting about coltan wasn’t about what was happening on the ground in the DRC, which is where all the journalists and scholars were looking for their story. Rather, it was why an obscure mineral that was little known outside geological and scientific circles a decade ago was suddenly all over the internet and in the media.
Activism about coltan was the story that needed to be told. It was activists and NGOs – with the help of some UN and government reports – that had made coltan topical. I suddenly had a focus and, instead of worrying about whether I was missing something by not doing fieldwork in Congo myself, I started to research coltan initiatives and the activism around them.
There are lessons from my initial writer’s block and subsequent epiphany about the political story about coltan that needed to be told.
First, in this era of globalised information when new information is constantly being produced, good data can quickly be overlooked or forgotten. For example, in 2000 the Gorilla Organization and the Pole Institute did a series of interviews with coltan miners and their families. The interviews were all available online, yet other authors had overlooked them, possibly thinking that the findings were no longer relevant. As it turns out, these interviews were a treasure trove of under-analysed qualitative data that remains pertinent today.
The second lesson is that notwithstanding the scope for further research on coltan mining in Congo, such as anthropological or micro-economic work, geographical proximity to a mining site neither produces all the answers nor generates the most important political questions about natural resources. In fact, being close to the mining ‘action’ can hinder analysis. Reflection from afar, on the other hand, can sometimes generate the best questions and the clearest answers.
Michael Nest is an independent scholar and the author of Coltan.
Posted 774 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cosmopolitanism, realism, International Relations, political philosophy / 0 Comments
This book opens up a needed space between cosmopolitan moral and political thought and the way in which international relations are theoretically framed.
Since the end of the Cold War, the cosmopolitan moral principle has informed, to a greater or lesser extent, the terms through which both states and peoples argue about basic human needs and basic forms of human solidarity in the face of global issues. As soon as one speaks, for example, about human rights, about the ‘conscience of humanity’, about global solidarity and cooperation, about a universal aspiration towards freedom (however then defined), about a minimal universal culture, one is necessarily postulating norms that transcend the empirical borders of the world. Although there is much disagreement about the breadth and depth of these cosmopolitan norms, they are, since 1945, historically embedded in a globalized world, underpinned by material interdependence. The question that the book addresses is accordingly, what are the most interesting ways of articulating the relationship between these norms and our understandings of the force-field of international relations?
I take as my way in the three schools of international relations theory that are constitutively the most resistant to universalism in this field: realism, Marxism and its avatars, and postmodern IR thought. Through a series of ‘debates’ between the basic assumptions of these schools, and their consequent critiques of contemporary cosmopolitanisms, on the one hand, and a cosmopolitan response to these assumptions and critiques, on the other, I advance a sophisticated cosmopolitan position that assumes contemporary dilemmas among morality, legality and politics. In doing so, the book shows both the importance and difficulty of relating the present theoretical and practical interest in cosmopolitan thought to international political dynamics.
From out of these three debates I draw several conclusions. These conclusions are both particular responses to the assumptions of each school and more general. With regard to the realist critique of cosmopolitanism, I argue for a cosmopolitan realism of the lesser violence: that is, the need for states to assume, in their own interest, minimal cosmopolitan commitments and to work for a global public realm in which practices of domination and violence are reduced as much as possible. With regard to the Marxist critique of cosmopolitanism, I argue that endogenous development strategies can only be properly articulated through global governance structures given the global reach of the capitalist system. With regard to postmodern criticisms of cosmopolitan universalism (particularly in the context of the human rights regime) I argue that legal cosmopolitan norms form the basis for protection from violence, but that international legal proceduralism must be supplemented by political argument and justification (the most recent example of this need is the intervention in Libya). These three arguments criss-cross and dovetail each other, allowing me to expound a general theoretical position that foregrounds, between norm and experience, the importance of cosmopolitan political judgment.
With the ongoing pluralization of power centers in the world, some theorists of IR argue that cosmopolitan liberal norms are in decline (and that, given the necessary complicity between universalism and imperialism, this is a good thing). On the basis of my understandings of a politics of the lesser violence and cosmopolitan political judgment, I argue, rather, that the ideological future is open and uncertain, and that a sophisticated cosmopolitan liberalism could help to orient the world and its plural power structures to less domination and violence during this century. The book constitutes, consequently, an engaged argument in political ethics. By confronting political theory with the specificities of international relations and, inversely, it seeks simultaneously to channel cosmopolitan theory towards the requirements of political agency and to re-orient political agency towards global vision and global leadership.
Richard Beardsworth is Professor of Political Philosophy at the American University of Paris and the author of Cosmopolitanism and International Relations Theory.
Posted 774 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Africa, development, resources / 0 Comments
Foreign direct investment in Africa has risen six-fold since 2000 on an annualised basis, according to the publication African Business. African trade is also booming and these interlinked processes are indicative of the “new scramble for Africa” which is currently underway. While in the 1990s Africa was primarily conceived of in the capitals of the great powers as a security threat or problem, the growing scarcity of critical natural resources globally, particularly in the context of rapid Asian growth means that the continent is once again central to the interests of great and emerging powers in both economic and political terms.
My book examines the drivers of renewed economic interest in Africa, the strategies different actors from the Chinese state to small foreign-owned companies employ, and what the impacts of these engagements are on African poverty, politics, labour and its environment. What is currently happening on the continent will shape its development prospects in the coming decades. I hope you enjoy the book and would be happy to discuss it with you on the Polity blog.
Pádraig Carmody is senior lecturer in geography at Trinity College Dublin and the author of The New Scramble for Africa.
Posted 774 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cosmopolitanism, realism, International Relations, political philosophy / 0 Comments
After I finished making my case for an alternative interpretation of the “realist” school of international theory during a panel at the recent International Studies Association meeting in Montreal, an audience member posed an important question: who cares?
Why bother challenging the dominant interpretation of realism as an institutionally complacent and conservative theory of international politics? What do we gain by underlining international realism’s original reformist and politically progressive impulses?
I responded by offering two answers. Both are deeply political.
In the US (and elsewhere), dominant foreign policy elites have effectively monopolized the category of “realism” and thereby married it at the hip to many troublesome foreign policies.
Condoleeza Rice, for example, has frequently described herself as a disciple of Hans Morgenthau. Innumerable neoconservative pundits (e.g. Charles Krauthammer) like to describe themselves as realists as well. The result is that the concept of “realism” now conveniently serves as an intellectual cover for much of what passes for right-wing foreign policy.
Realism represents too rich and multifaceted a tradition to be left in the hands of the political right or, for that matter, even the centrist US foreign policy establishment (as exemplified by journals like Foreign Affairs). Reclaiming that tradition represents an important political task.
We need to show that the Emperor has no clothes: the right-leaning defenders of deeply problematic foreign policies who wrap themselves in the realist tradition do so only by distorting what that tradition is all about. So we need to make it clear that realism is a deeply contested category whose core attributes can and should be mobilized by progressives who seek far-reaching global change and ultimately, global democracy.
The second political target of my reinterpretation of realism is located on the left. Many of them have become enamored of cosmopolitan international theory; I sympathize with their efforts. But the fact of the matter is that cosmopolitans have simply not done justice to some theoretical matters about which politically progressive realists (e.g., Carr, Herz, Morgenthau, and Niebuhr) thought long and hard – most importantly perhaps, the question of power.
In particular, the realist view of robust statehood as ultimately essential to successful global governance remains intellectually vital. Too often, cosmopolitans have subscribed to anemic ideas of “global governance without government.”
Realism can show us how and why this is a mistake. If we are serious about global governance, we will need to consider the possibility of a political and institutional aspiration that too often remains a taboo even among the most ambitious cosmopolitans: world government. Even if it is at best a long-term aspiration, a properly conceived model of world government potentially remains an attractive goal.
Posted 774 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Arab media, al jazeera, Gutenberg, printing / 0 Comments
Several researchers of the Arab print media inaccurately claim that Islam prohibited printing and assume that printing began with Gutenberg. Thus they begin their study of Arab print media from the period of what I consider to be the dark age of the Arab world, the demise of the Ottoman Empire. The chapter on Arab printing corrects this inaccuracy and suggests that Arabs knew printing before Gutenberg and that printing (block printing) flourished during the earlier periods of Islam.
In discussing the development of early Arab newspapers the book also focuses on the geo-political factors that affected the development of the popular Arab papers. Earlier works often give attention to the official papers.
Nabil Dajani is Professor of Communications at the American University of Beirut and the co-author of Arab Media.
Posted 774 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: british politics, miliband, cameron, AV, alternative vote / 0 Comments
Labour leader Ed Miliband called it ‘people power’. Hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets of central London to protest against the coalition government’s programme of public sector cuts. Anti-capitalist and anarchist groups may have grabbed the headlines – much to the dismay of Miliband and the trade unions that organised the day of action – but was this a turning point for Labour in its fight to get back to power?
I doubt it. Putting aside whether voters support government cuts – they’re split – the real problem Labour and all British political parties face is the rise of the ‘undecideds’. These are voters who can’t makeup their minds which party to support – and sometimes switch their support between and across elections. This is a long-term trend. Voters have become less partisan in their politics, more willing to make political choices. This has fragmented the British party system, underpinning the rise of a more multi-party politics across the UK. Parties on the ideological edge (notably UKIP, BNP and the Greens) as well as mainstream nationalist parties (SNP, Plaid), are in the political running (and in some cases, in power). These smaller parties, it should be added, have also got their act together on the campaign trail.
This doesn’t make life easy for the traditional big beasts of British politics – Labour and the Conservatives. Not only do they have to fight the resurgent Liberal Democrats, but also watch their backs for the so-called minor parties. At the ballot box, British political parties have to reach those parts of the electorate other parties certainly can reach. And if first past the post is replaced by the alternative vote in elections for Westminster (the referendum is next month), what is called ‘catch-all’ politics will intensify as parties seek the second and third preferences of voters as they strain for the magic 50 per cent line.
For Labour, then, getting mainly hard core Labour supporters onto the streets of London against a Tory-led government is the easy bit. Getting ‘the people’ (read: voters with all kinds of different interests and views) on Labour’s side is much harder. Ask Tony Blair. Stephen Driver
is head of the Department of Social Sciences at Roehampton University and the author of Understanding British Party Politics
Posted 816 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sociology; Social Policy; Political Science / 0 Comments
Welfare rather than happiness or feeling good
In a time when talk of happiness and subjective well-being is all around, it is good to remind ourselves that there is another way of conceiving of human well-being. I make a strong case for the concept of welfare in this context. This concept’s original and enduring meanings lie in the distribution of material resources and the institutions and practices that govern access to resources and responses to inequalities.
As it has developed, welfare has become a concept attuned also to trajectories over time, inquiring of how people fare as their lives unfold. The term welfare has to some extent been corrupted – its dominant public register in the US, for instance, has come to be the behaviours of those receiving public benefits which have been interpreted usually in a negative fashion. This is a particular reading that robs the concept of its universal application. For, as an idea, welfare taps into the nature of social divisions and opposing philosophical and political positions on how to address fundamental issues about the good society.
One can see why concepts like happiness and well-being appeal. They have a ready reference to individuality and subjectivity on the one hand and agency and self-fulfilment on the other. All of these are central references in a time when such a vacuous notion as the 'big society' is mooted and even seriously entertained in some quarters. Welfare appears too passive in a context in which people are supposed to be self provisioning and too oriented to subsistence and minimum standards for those who prefer to see the world as a universe unbounded in riches and opportunities open to us all.
None of the new concepts is superior to welfare in describing the human condition and setting up an ideal to which we should aspire. I would argue that happiness and well-being are economically and politically shallow - they are too focused on the mind-sets and emotions of individuals and conceive of social and economic factors mainly as background conditions affecting individual functioning. Society becomes little more than the ‘atmosphere’. Moreover, there is no moral register in happiness - fairness and justice have no place in it and the concept has no terms to deal with unfairness or injustice in underlying conditions which lead to inequalities in the distribution of, among other things, happiness or chances therefor.
Welfare provides elements of the big picture that are missing from other concepts and approaches. In particular, it has a clear view of social progress which extends way beyond how happy individuals feel or a happy society. Moreover, welfare’s strong focus on objective conditions is to be underlined in a period when social structural factors are under-emphasised in policy, theory and research but count hugely in people’s everyday lives. We should note, with some irony, that as the conditions of people’s lives deteriorate, public discourse is being directed more and more to their mind-sets, emotions and feelings.
Let’s get serious and bring discussions of welfare back to the table I say.
Mary Daly, author of Welfare, is Professor of Sociology at Queen's University, Belfast.
Posted 816 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Literature; German Literature; European Literature; Cultural Studies / 0 Comments
Modern German Literature is a case study of literature as a cultural and spiritual resource in modern societies. It is as much about literature, as a variety of social and artistic practices, as it is about Germany. It is neither literary criticism nor literary history but something in between. It asks what kind of resource many different kinds of writing in German from many different parts of Europe have been in the period one could roughly describe as ‘modernity’. I understand this to mean the part of European history that goes from the high tide of the Enlightenment in the middle of the eighteenth century to the end of the Cold War in 1989, when it finally ceased to be possible to believe that capitalism meant freedom simply because it was not state-controlled.
Beginning with the emergence of German language literature on the international stage, the book plays down the familiar labels and periods of German literary history in favour of the explanatory force of international cultural impact and symbiosis. It explores, for instance, how specifically German and Austrian conditions shaped major contributions to European literary culture such as Romanticism and the ‘language scepticism’ of the early twentieth century.
From the First World War until reunification in 1990, Germany’s defining experiences have been ones of catastrophe. Abandoning chronology, the book provides an overview of the different ways in which German literature responded to historical disaster. They are, firstly, modernism (the ‘literature of negation’), secondly, literature under totalitarian regimes (the Third Reich and the German Democratic Republic), and thirdly, the various creative strategies and evasions of the capitalist democratic multi-medial cultures of the Weimar and Federal Republics.
The book aims at a balance between textual analysis and cultural theory, hoping to combine intellectual independence with usefulness to readers who wish to learn about a body of significant European literature.
D r Michael Minden is Senior Lecturer in the Department of German and Dutch at Jesus College, University of Cambridge.
Posted 816 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Politics; Philosophy; Political Philosophy; Human Rights; Justice / 0 Comments
Michael Freeman, author of a new second edition of Human Rights, looks at the boundaries of the concept.
The practice and academic study of human rights have been dominated by lawyers. Respect for human rights depends on the rule of law and thus lawyers have co ntributed, and continue to contribute, much to the formulation and im plementation of human rights. Yet there are obviously important political, social, cultural and economic dimensions to human rights. Why are governments so inconsistent (some would say hypocritical) in their approach to human rights? What social conditions are favourable and unfavourable to delivering such human rights as those to health, education and an adequate standard of living? What are the relative contributions of lawyers and soc ial movements to the promotion of human rights? Are there important cultures that resist the human rights message? If so, how should human rights supporters respond to their challenge? Is respect for multiculturalism compatible with defending the human rights of women, children and sexual minorities? Which economic strategies are most likely to promote development with respect for human rights? Should the powerful international econom ic institutions – such as the World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organisation – do more to promote human rights? Should the academic economics profession take human rights more seriously? Should human rights activists take economics more seriously? These are some of the questions I address in the second edition of my book, Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach. In addition, I give an historical account of the development of human rights with some original elements; most standard accounts, for example, begin their histories of human rights in the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and ignore the important debates about inherent and universal rights that took place in the late Middle Ages. It is now commonplace to talk of `three generations’ of rights: civil and political, economic and social, and various `solidarity’ rights. This is unhistorical. It is worth knowing that economic rights and the rights of indigenous peoples were among the first human rights to attract the attention of philosophers and theologians. So, many disciplines other than that of law can deepen our understanding of human rights.
Michael Freeman is Reader in Government at the University of Essex.
Posted 844 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Politics; Parliament; Conservative Party; Government / 0 Comments
Tim Bale, author of The Conservatives: from Thatcher to Cameron, reflects.
To hear some people talk you’d think that Andy Coulson, by signing on as David Cameron’s Head of Communications back in mid-2007 had single-handedly saved the Tory Party from having to face a snap election which it looked sure to lose. Between then and his resignation in the face of persistent public interest in his role in the phone-hacking scandal engulfing his former employer, the News of the World, he was apparently the only man standing between a leadership supposedly incapable of understanding how the other half lives and an electorate of inverted snobs. There maybe a grain of truth in all this – Coulson undoubtedly sharpened up the media operations of a Party not exactly renowned for looking or sounding much like the country it aims to govern. But it seriously overstates how much social representativeness and presentational tactics matter to political success. Far more important is getting the fundamental strategy right. This has long been David Cameron’s strongpoint. Whether, however, it remains so is worth debating.
When Cameron assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party at the end of 2005 it had done little or nothing to overcome the negative perceptions that had seen it lose three elections on the trot. Those perceptions had begun to build up even before 1990, when Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her colleagues. For fifteen years, however, the Party remained wedded to the belief that it had somehow won‘the battle of ideas’ and therefore didn’t really need to change its tune. This might not have mattered had Labour not worked so hard to pull itself back into the centre-ground and then found itself a credible leader: John Major, after all, was able, after taking over from Thatcher, to win the 1992 election pretty convincingly – at least in terms of vote share if not parliamentary seats. But once Tony Blair took over, and was able to persuade voters that he could deliver both a dynamic economy and a commitment to renewing Britain’s crumbling health and education systems, the Tories were in deep trouble. Ideologically incapable of appreciating just how far to the right they were stranded – and individually and institutionally incapable of doing much about it even if they had ‘got it’ – a succession of Conservative leaders (Hague, Duncan Smith, and Howard) virtually gave up trying to fight Labour on electorally-crucial issues like the economy and public services. Instead, they tried (spurred on by their so-called friends in Britain’s highly partisan print media) to makethe most of issues like law and order, Europe, and immigration, where they could argue they were more in tune with public opinion.
Cameron’s insight was to realise that Conservative leads in these areas were virtually guaranteed and that ‘banging on’ about them not only added little to overall levels of support for the Party but actually had a negative impact, reinforcing impressions – especially among liberal middle class voters – that the Tories were narrow-minded, mean-spirited, out of date and out of touch. He also understood that the Party, at least in opposition, had to ‘concede and move on’ when it came to health and education. The same desire to signal a return to the centre-ground even extended to the economy – at least until the global downturn messed up everyone’s calculations. Cameron, having done a great deal to ‘decontaminate’ the Conservative brand by stressing his commitment to the NHS, his relaxed attitudes on many social issues, and his concern for the environment – and having slowly and carefully brought back into the mix hardy perennials like crime, immigration and taxation – then took the risky decision to take a more hawkish line on the deficit. The gamble that voters would appreciate a little more honesty about the ‘austerity’ needed to balance the books wasn’t wholly misplaced, but nor did it pay off as handsomely as he had hoped. Labour may have been incapable of winning the election in 2010, especially having decided to stick with Gordon Brown. But it could still frighten enough voters about Tory cuts to prevent Cameron making it back into Downing Street without the assistance of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
Once in power, however, Cameron has decided to play an even riskier game, so much so that it’s no longer clear whether his strategic sense remains as keen as it once was. The cuts announced since the formation of the coalition may be an economic gamble – testament to the fact that Conservatives remain as convinced now as they ever were that shrinking the state will energise the economy. But the biggest gamble is political. A Conservative Prime Minister who failed to win a general election outright because he was unable to persuade enough people to trust his party has chosen (like Thatcher in 1979) to risk confirming their suspicions rather than (as, say, Churchill had been determined to do after1951) allaying their fears. It worked for her because she made damn sure, at least before the poll tax fiasco, that she left the middle class welfare state untouched and because she could bank on enough residual support in the North to see her through. Cameron, on the other hand, is letting ‘middle England’ fend for itself, while a large part of the North (and of course most of Scotland) is a Tory-free zone, meaning he will need a bigger vote share than Thatcher did to maintain a working majority at Westminster. Even if Cameron finds a Coulson Mark II, then, it’s hard to see how together they can do much about these inconvenient truths.
All this presents Labour with an opportunity. Whether it’s one that its leader Ed Miliband is able to exploit may depend, at least in part, on whether his party can avoid making some of the same mistakes as the Conservatives. It has to listen to voters more than to its own members and the media. It has to avoid the complacency that comes from winning second order contests, like by-elections, local elections, and elections in Wales, Scotland and Europe. And all this can only come about if it acknowledges the scale and the scope of public disillusion with what it had done and become in government. In opposition at least, you are a price-taker rather than a price-maker: deprived of the opportunity to implement policies that deliver the goods to key sections of the electorate, and having used up in office whatever chance you may have had of securing a long-term shift in public perceptions, you simply have to go with the grain. That means giving up, at least for a while, some of your most deeply-held beliefs and admitting – genuinely rather than through gritted teeth – that your rivals may be more in touch with public opinion than you’ve been. That’s democracy, and – as the Conservatives took so long to remember – parties which fail to meet the electorate at least half way, are doomed to failure until they do.
Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex.
Posted 901 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy; Continental Philosophy; Politics; Social Science; Humanities / 0 Comments
David West on the new edition of Continental Philosophy: An Introduction
To set out to write something as ambitious as an introduction to continental philosophy might be thought unwise, to say the least. It is, of course, only possible to write an introduction to such a broad and diverse tradition – or as some would insist, a motley array of traditions – by focusing on the most important figures and ideas. This means inevitably dealing more cursorily with some others. The unavoidable choices made on the way are, no doubt, always controversial.
But even a necessarily incomplete account of continental philosophy makes it easier to access the most diverse thinkers by providing a kind of map of the whole tradition. One major aim of Continental Philosophy: An Introduction, therefore, is to present major thinkers and ideas in a systematic (but not necessarily synthetic) way. In other words, philosophers are considered through their relationships to one another, even if their views do not necessarily all ‘add up’ to some greater truth. In broad terms, continental philosophers are considered in terms of their critical but varying stances toward Enlightenment or scientific rationalism and European modernity.
Adopting this approach, it is possible to cast light not only on important individual philosophers and their ideas but also on the broader trajectory of continental philosophy. As a result, it is also much easier to understand the point of different approaches – to grasp what these philosophers are doing with all those ideas and arguments. How else, after all, can we begin to understand what philosophy really is? Surprisingly some accounts of philosophy seem to lose sight of this fundamental question – as if it were enough just to list the fundamental questions of philosophy and then some of the most popular answers to these questions.
The systematic approach is the ultimate justification for the particular selection of thinkers in this introduction. But even if some thinkers are left out or, more often, not treated in as much detail as some would like, the overall account should still help to understand their fundamental concepts. Ideas of reason or rationality, knowledge, history and power, mind and body, emotion, experience, and understanding are just some of these key ideas. The concept of philosophy itself is, of course, inevitably at stake both in the very definition of a continental tradition of philosophy as well as in the arguments between different approaches within that tradition.
A number of ‘classic’ thinkers and ideas are essential points of reference for other thinkers in the continental tradition and often in so-called analytical tradition as well (for a brief explanation of this distinction have a look at the introduction). Works of continental philosophy are rarely without some significant intellectual relationship to pivotal thinkers like Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Husserl and Sartre – even (and perhaps especially) when they attack them.
However, on an encouraging note, pointing to all of the numerous family resemblances – and family disputes – within continental philosophy shouldn’t be taken to imply that you can’t understand one philosopher without understanding all his or her sources and influences. That view leads rapidly to an infinite (or at least very lengthy) regress. What is certainly true is that we will understand more recent philosophers better if we also understand something of what earlier philosophers have thought. So this approach can be taken in a much more encouraging way - the many connections between different thinkers mean that understanding any one significant thinker throws light on many others. Rather than facing the potentially infinite task of understanding predecessors in order to understand successors, we discover instead that on turning to a previously unknown thinker you already know quite a lot.
All that said, it might still be thought that to attempt a second edition of such an ambitious work looks (with apologies to Oscar Wilde) very much like foolishness. The main justification for undertaking such a work – for re-opening what amounts to a considerable can of worms – is, of course, the fact that continental philosophy continues to change, sometimes in quite radical ways. To reflect some of these changes, I’ve added to this new edition a full-length chapter on continental philosophy in the twenty-first century. This chapter focuses on Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and a number of other related thinkers.
The thinkers discussed in the new chapter, who turn in a variety of ways towards more political concerns (what they sometimes call ‘the political’), often draw on the ideas of Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt. So I’ve also added a new section on these thinkers in Chapter 4. All these additions reflect the fact that although postmodernism and associated debates (dealt with at the end of Chapter 7) are still important, they can no longer be regarded as the central and defining focus of current continental philosophy. Other than that I have (I must admit) made minor additions and revisions too numerous to mention – which taken together amount to substantial evidence of the fatal temptations involved in rewriting what once seemed finished and ‘final’.
David West is reader in political science at the Australian National University.
Posted 921 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Peace Studies; Conflict Resolution; Politics; International Relations / 0 Comments
Denis Sandole, author of Peacebuilding, blogs on the synergistic partnerships necessary to eliminate violent conflict.
Other than finding it extremely difficult to say 'no' to Dr. Louise Knight, Polity's senior acquisitions editor, who invited me to participate in Polity's Series on War and Conflict in the Modern World, I was attracted to write Peacebuilding: Preventing Violent Conflict in a Complex World, by the, perhaps, arrogant assumption that I could make a contribution to solving the kinds of problems that citizens and political leaders alike around the world are confronting more and more with each passing day. These are the kinds of problems that theTurkish-American social psychologist Muzafer Sheriff implied years ago were linked to his innovative concept of superordinate goals: problems that could not be solved by any one actor alone but only by the coordinated efforts of multi-level, multi-sectoral actors workingtogether in synergistic partnerships.
Hence, for a comprehensive, macro enterprise such as Peacebuilding to be effective, it must address climate change, pandemics, population growth, ecological degradation, poverty, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, state failure, and terrorism, among others, operationally as well as conceptually in any given pre-, during-, or post-conflict situation because these may be among the complex, interconnected"hidden drivers" of the conflict in question.
One of the major reasons why Peacebuilding has not been too successful up until now is because the underlying, deep-rooted causes and conditions of violent conflict have tended not to be addressed by a fatigued but also impatient international community. This volume makes a contribution to at least sensitize us to that need and to how it can be addressed.
Dennis Sandole is Professor of Conflict Resolution and International Relations at George Mason University.
Posted 940 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Social Theory; Cultural Theory; Philosophy; Politics; Media Studies / 0 Comments
Paul Taylor, author of Zizek and the Media, blogs on an unlikely academic celebrity.
Slavoj Zizek is a discombobulating tour de force who, more than any other living intellectual, embodies “the Heineken effect” - he refreshes the parts other theorists cannot reach. Love him or loathe him, Zizek and the Media demonstrates that the surprising success of such an unlikely academic celebrity, is ironically due to the stubbornness with which he has kept faith with two deeply unfashionable influences - Marxism and psychoanalysis. Paradoxically, these approaches are profoundly out-of-favour at a time when they have never had so much diagnostic accuracy.
Addressing such suggestive Zizekian concepts as the chocolate laxative, this book shows how he exposes media cant by uncovering the miscellaneous forms of denial and repression that are used to avoid acknowledging a series of fundamental political contradictions at the heart of the capitalist project.
Zizek's iconoclastic blend of high theory and filthy humour tends to produce polarized responses among his now huge international audience - either zealous admiration or po-faced distaste. To move beyond both these sorts of reaction, Zizek and the Media examines the underlying significance of his provocatively perverse humour by subscribing to Todd McGowan's belief that, “the path to seriousness is strewn with jokes”. From the preface onwards, the theoretical importance of Zizek's comic obscenity is tackled directly. There is a consistent focus upon the way in which his scholarly analysis and media performances combine form (provocation) and content (abstract theory) in order to uncover, with Zizek's unique skill, the misleadingly obvious ways in which today's media achieves its ideological effects. It is shown to be at its most ideologically dangerous when it appears to be functioning normally. From Kung Fu Panda to Forrest Gump, Zizek and the Media systematically exposes the darker side of the superficially benign to show that whatever life's secret ingredient really is ... it is definitely not a box of chocolates.
Notwithstanding “the Marx Brother” comedy he provides along the way, Zizek and the Media argues that he is a Hegelian jester with a deadly serious political point. Like the Joker from The Dark Knight, Zizek's ultimate political point is no laughing matter. To quote the final chapter's paraphrasing of that film's police commissioner James Gordon: ‘Zizek is the theory-hero Gotham doesn't deserve ... but the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero … he's a voluble guardian, a watchful provocateur ... a dark knight of the dark night of the soul.’
Posted 956 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Globalization; Food; Security Studies; International Relations; Environmental Studies / 0 Comments
Bryan McDonald blogs on food security in a global age
From food riots in Mozambique, Egypt and Haiti to tainted food recalls in the United States and China, questions of food quantity and quality have emerged as critical issues of concern for states, international organizations, and individuals.
Globalization and global change have amplified traditional food security concerns such as chronic malnutrition but have also given rise to new forms of challenges from biotechnology, bioterrorism, and emerging infectious diseases. Food security challenges are made more complex in that they impact and interact with other global security concerns such as reducing conflict and instability, maintaining economic prosperity, and ensuring human rights.
Food related events in recent years highlight the rise of an interconnected global food system that transcends national boundaries: tainted milk powder from China was found in products as far away as the Netherlands, challenges of chronic hunger and obesity have reached crisis levels in many parts of the world, and rising global food prices have fueled unrest and hardship in more than sixty countries in just the past few years.
While global food networks provide opportunities for improving human health and well-being, a full examination reveals considerable challenges to successfully navigating the new global food security landscape to ensure that all people have access to sufficient safe and nutritious food necessary to lead active and healthy lives.
Today’s global food problems emerge out of a complex mix of economic, environmental, political, and social factors that impact what ends up (or doesn’t end up) on people’s plates. These new forms of threat and vulnerability have become increasingly clear to policymakers, experts, and publics. What is less clear is how to effectively address these challenges and improve food security.
Food Security provides a detailed and comprehensive introduction to the major issues impacting global food security including detailed discussions of the need to ensure nutrition, manage global environmental change, and optimize food safety. The book will be of interest to students and scholars in security studies, international politics, and environmental studies as well as general readers who are seeking new perspectives on global food issues.
Posted 977 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: political philosophy; politics; philosophy; J.S.Mill / 0 Comments
Dale E. Miller, author of J. S. Mill ,sheds new light on the work of a classic thinker
Mine is hardly the first book on the Victorian philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill, and someone might well wonder why another is needed. Part of what I take to make my book distinctive is apparent from the table of contents.
I address a broad sweep of Mill’s views, as opposed to focusing on a single text. I attempt to show how Mill’s utilitarian moral philosophy, his liberalism, his theory of democracy and his views on economic organization fit together into a coherent whole.
In order to explore the topics that I cover in sufficient detail, while keeping the entire discussion to a tractable length,I do forgo any detailed discussion of Mill’s work in other areas of philosophy, such as epistemology, logic or metaphysics.
Nevertheless, I say enough about these topics that readers will have a sense of the foundations of his practical philosophy. In my chapter on the‘proof’ of the principle of utility, for instance, I explain how Mill’s much-maligned argument for the claim that happiness is desirable as an end is analogous to his vindication of the faculty of memory.
Needless to say, I believe that my book is also distinguished by the interpretation of Mill that it presents. This is not to suggest that I offer a radical rereading. Mill is a sufficiently lucid writer that we cannot have entirely misunderstood him unti lnow.
Still, his writings do present us with many interpretive quandaries. Mill scholars disagree about how he conceives of happiness, what he takes to distinguish right actions from wrong ones, what account he means to offer of the notion of harm, whether he is an elitist or an egalitarian and whether he is a socialist.
In brief, I argue that
- Mill is a consistent hedonist who conceives of happiness in terms of pleasure and freedom from pain and who conceives of pleasure and pain as mental states.
- He holds what we would today call a ‘rule-utilitarian’ theory of morality, according to which an action is wrong if it would maximise happiness for people generally to‘internalise’ a rule that forbids it, that is, to feel guilty about breaking such a rule.
- He understands harm — the pivotal concept of On Liberty — in terms of damage or a definite risk of damage to one’s interests, where interests bear a (very loose) resemblance to Rawlsian ‘primary goods’.
- His nuanced theory of democracy incorporates elitist and egalitarian elements, with neither clearly predominating. This is most clearly reflected in his endorsement of a plural voting scheme in which (nearly) everyone gets a vote but the better educated get more votes. (Contrary to several other recent commentators, I show that Mill’s endorsement of plural voting is not half-hearted, that it is not withdrawn and that it is not given merely to the idea of using plural voting as a temporary expedient.)
- Mill is a socialist only by his own overly broad definition of ‘socialism’. He is best viewed as an advocate of competition and limited (if not minimal) government who happens to believe both that market economies will spontaneously move in the direction of employee ownership and that this is a pleasing prospect.
In the book’s concluding chapter, I argue that Mill is a utopian — although not, I hasten to add, in the pejorative sense of the word.
Mill is a utopian inasmuch as he believes that it may someday be possible for nearly everyone to lead a life that is genuinely happy, that is, that contains little pain and is rich in the best and most valuable pleasures.
Moreover, he believes we must move society toward this end if happiness is to be maximised. While some interpreters may find Mill’s more utopian moments excessively romantic, I take this thread to serve an important unifying purpose within his moral, social and political thought.
Furthermore, I take the attractiveness of this vision of a possible future to account for much of Mill’s appeal as a philosopher, and I do not think that it can be dismissed out of hand as utterly unrealistic.
Finally, I hope that my book is distinguished by its ability to appeal to diverse groups of readers. My ambition while writing was two-fold.
On the one hand, I wanted to write a scholarly book that would be of interest to Mill specialists, one that defends a controversial interpretation by drawing on a wide range of Mill’s works and engaging with the secondary literature.
At the same time, though, I aimed to keep the discussion accessible and lively enough that it would be suitable for advanced undergraduates (and I am gratified that everyone who was kind enough to provide a blurb for the book’s cover commented favourably on its readability).
If the book has something to offer to these very different groups, it should have something to offer everyone in between, such as someone who already knows one of Mill’s texts well but wants to see where that work fits in the larger picture.
Posted 984 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Literature; Politics; French; Cultural History; Europe / 0 Comments
Alison Finch, author of French Literature, posts on the relationship between writing and power.
I’ve always been keenly interested in both politics and literature. But when I was an undergraduate studying French literature at Cambridge, these two passions were in separate parts of my life. I was active in student politics, but as far as my studies went, it was rather frowned on to depart from the text in front of you.
The Cambridge English Faculty’s stress on ‘practical criticism’ was also important in the Modern Languages Faculty, where you were encouraged to see the text as a ‘well-wrought urn’. You had to know what was called ‘the background’, but if you started to strip down literature for its ideas, you were reminded that any political pamphlet had ideas; what was unique to good literature was that it expressed things beautifully.
The notion that you might study a ‘second-rate’ novel by a woman just because it was by a woman was anathema. Gradually, that changed. Critics began to emphasise that the form of even great art couldn’t be divorced from the conditions of its production, and that literature could change readers’ political consciousness.
It could reinforce stereotypes, or it could powerfully suggest socially radical scenarios. And it could do so through a range of tones and techniques: tragic, comic, quietly ironic, metaphorical.
I found these developments exciting – without them I could not have written my last book, Women’s Writing in Nineteenth-Century France. At last, a way to bring together my political and literary interests! So when Polity asked me to contribute French Literature to itsCultural History of Literature series, I jumped at the offer.
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about writing the book has been the chance to show that even exquisite and apparently highly individual style has roots in politics of the time. That is particularly the case in France, which of all European countries has most valued fine wit, virtuoso literary patterning and the role of the intellectual.
Indeed, there are three French words that demonstrate this. Esprit can’t be properly translated into English: it means spirit, wit and mind all at once. Nor can moraliste: not ‘moralizer’, but he or she who comments on social and psychological behaviour non-judgmentally, wryly, compassionately: see how droll and paradoxical we humans are! And finally, philosophe does not mean ‘philosopher’ in the Anglo-American usage. It means ‘thinker’, one who participates in political debate and who may also – this brings me back to my main theme – compose drama, fiction, even verse.
The philosophes, at least, saw no contradiction between the writing of literature and the wish to intervene in politics. And while this has not always made ruling elites happy, those elites have, at almost all stages of French history, understood and promoted the international prestige of great writing as part of French ‘exceptionalism’.
So French literature is a particularly rewarding subject for a ‘cultural history’ – and I’m glad that, among many other attractions, writing the book enabled me to say what I think is politically and artistically unique about France’s stellar writers.
Posted 1054 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Asian American Politics; Politics; American Studies / 0 Comments
The 2010 midterm elections may have a critical impact on Barack Obama’s political future. What role will Asian Americans play in shaping the President Obama’s fate?
Almost twenty years ago, Don Nakanishi suggested that Asian Americans could become an important swing vote in California. More recently, S.B. Woo formed “80-20,” a group trying to get Asian Americans to vote as a bloc to increase their political influence, but the effort has had limited success so far. Do Asian American votes matter?
Some suggest that Asian Americans are too few and too diverse to make up an important voting bloc. Outside of Hawai‘i, where they are thedominant ethnoracial group, Asian Americans are usually less than 10 percent of the population. Even in California, they make up only about 13 percent of the population, and their diversity makes it doubtful that they will be a potent voting bloc even in the Golden State (AsianAmericans do hold considerable power in some local elections).
However, a recent Gallup poll suggests that Asian Americans may still wield political leverage. According to Gallup, Asian American are more likely to label themselves moderate than Americans as a whole (46 to 36percent), and more so than any of the other major ethnoracial groups. Interestingly, Gallup also reports that no other ethnoracial group except African American is as likely to identify as Democrat as Asian Americans. What can explain these findings?
It’s possible that one part ofthe explanation is religious. The Gallup report finds lower levels of religiosity among Asian Americans, although cultural differences might mean that Gallup’s measure misses some aspects of Asian American religiosity. Even so, the Gallup finding suggests that the increasing influence of Christian religious conservatives within Republican Party may not be as attractive to AsianAmericans.
If this is correct, Asian Americans might still become an important swing vote. While the Republican Party has moved to theright, the endangered species known as “moderate Republicans” might look to Asian Americans as potential supporters. Economically conservative but socially moderate candidates—characteristicof moderate Republicans—might appeal to many Asian American voters, and states with higher numbers of Asian Americans—such as California and New York—are also ones where small bands of moderate Republicans have continued to exist, and sometimes even thrive.
In addition, socially moderate candidates might be able to rally large numbers of Asian Americans in cases where immigration and immigrants are a flashpoint. Although anti-immigration voices are increasingly influential within the Republican Party, notable exceptions remain, including former President George W. Bush, and, until recently, SenatorJohn McCain.
South Carolina Tea Party favorite Nikki Haley seems to fit this description. Although Haley has apparently dropped references to her Sikh background as she has risen to favorite status in the gubernatorial campaign, her campaign has stressed economic conservatism and open government, not the social issuesof the religious right.
While Asian Americans are unlikely to represent a powerful national voting bloc, there is no such thingas a national election in the United States. As every experienced campaign manager knows,the president is elected in fifty different state campaigns, where the key challenge is to assemble enough victories to add to 270 electoral votes. Congressional campaigns are still usually dominated by local concerns, and growing numbers of Asian Americans mean an increasing number of House districts where they might wield influence. According to the 2008 American Community Survey estimates, Asian Americans make up over 30 percent of the population in four congressional districts in California (districts 12, 13, and 15, and probably also district 8).
Savvy candidates would still do well to court Asian American voters in districts where their numbers are growing. Asian Americans are growing at a faster ratethan Latinos (measured by percentage increase). Meanwhile, organizations such as APIAVote are working hard to mobilize more Asian American voters in 2010. “Raging moderates” is probably far too strong a term, but Gallup andother data suggest that Asian Americans may indeed be a force for moderation in American politics.
Posted 1080 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: consumerism, consumer culture, consumption, sociology / 1 Comments
Shopping: meaningful or meaningless? It is the activity on which we in the rich nations spend most time after work and sleep, and the favourite soft target for the commentariat who regularly argue that shopping is more than emblematic of a ‘hollowed out’ society and is actually destroying the social fabric of modern ‘consumer’ societies.
Modern societies are consumer societies, as well as producer ones,and as they are also urban societies - self sufficiency is not an option.
Written against the grain of a social critique which cannot distinguish between shopping and consumerism this book shows how the activity of shopping holds us together physically, socially, psychologically, and as a community. As a ‘practice’ shopping is a mainstay of everyday life.
Shopping, the book, is essential for second and third year courses in the sociology ofeveryday life and will soon earn a place in courses in economic sociology; consumer behaviour; the life course; material culture; psycho-social studies; business studies; gender studies; cultural studies; and practical ethics.
Based on the premise that shopping is both more and less than buying, Shopping argues that to understand the activity we have to understand the meanings made and remade through it, and this can lead us to see shopping also as a‘practice’ as understood and commended by social philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.
Still, shopping is not normally seen in this way and Shopping explores why shopping has a ‘bad name’, how it ‘fell from grace’ and instead of being associated with thrift and good housekeeping became synonymous with being a spendthrift. Our attachment to shopping is not all selfishness, frivolity and indulgence,and going shopping is not how we spend most of our money.
Shopping explains why early shopping memories are so lasting, why we have a deep attachment to certain shops, what we learn from shopping, how it tracks us and nudges us along the life course, and why old people are culturally ‘absent’ from the high street.
Examining shopping is a way of examining culture, thus in how we shop, where we shop, why we shop, and whether we profess to like or dislike shopping, are part of the way we express ourselves but also our nationality, our class and our gender.
Shoppingchallenges many everyday assumptions about shopping as well as the popular discourse about it as the epitome of meaninglessness, before concluding with a bold and radical account of the meaning of shopping as based on a ‘deep structure’ formed from the unconscious meanings and processes evoked by the activity.
Perceptive and penetrating, imaginative and interdisciplinary, Shopping is not a text book, but makes its readers think. It is completely original, there is nothing else like it on the market and it will be controversial.
Posted 1122 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: History; Architecture; Built Environment; Urban Planning / 0 Comments
What is Architectural History? is organized by five chapters. The first positions modern, academic architectural history (the architectural history of Wölfflin, Gurlitt, Riegl and their contemporaries) as a disciplinary inheritance of four traditions for knowing architecture as a past field. These are the presentation of architectural history in the architectural treatise, as part of the architect’s historical and technical patrimony; of the architect as an artist in history, in the biographical tradition consolidated by Vasari; of architecture as a fact of the past available for empirical study; and of architecture as part of culture, and therefore subject to the early study of cultural history. Of these, cultural history (or the cultural sciences) has arguably played a strong role in establishing the field’s disciplinarity.
Chapter two lays out a series of methods—soft methods—by which historians organize past time and relate it to the present: as a succession of styles, governed to a greater or lesser degree by concurrent historical events; as a succession of architects, subject to processes of influence and transferral; according to geo-political boundaries, recognizing that the historian can often find coherence in a field bounded by a political border or held together by a shared language; by type, comparing like with like in order to understand processes of change within comparable buildings; as a technique, finding a history in the arguably irreducible concerns of (what we can now call) architecture over a long period of time (planning, spatial formation, shelter, etc); and theme and analogy, where architecture can be held to index concerns that are not architecture’s own (or, which in turn help shape architecture as a field).
The next chapter draws upon a series of cases to consider the relation between forms of evidence and the kinds of architectural history they allow. It suggests that evidence can be procedural, contextual or conceptual in nature, each kind of evidence serving the historical subject to specific ends: from tying up loose ends in established knowledge to defining architecture historically on new grounds. Chapter four returns to the question of actuality, asking how involved architectural historians should be in the world of architectural practice. It sets up a conversation between three architectural historians of note—Zevi, Millon and Tafuri—to tease out a series of positions on this question, which are in turn informed by Croce, whose influence over the Italian discussion on this issue has been immense.
The final chapter speculates on the impact of the ‘theory moment’ on the shape and possibilities of architectural historiography in the present moment, tracing some developments that would seem to have decisively informed the outer limits of the field, its content, and the objectives of its scholars.
I would be a fool to imagine this as a definitive answer to the question What is Architectural History?, and indeed I look forward to learning from the debate that my own views will provoke.
Posted 1122 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sociology; Disability, Disabled; Social Policy / 0 Comments
A decade ago, a socio/political or ‘social model’ of disability – inspired by an understanding of the economic, political and social deprivations encountered by people with accredited impairments and labelled ‘disabled’ – was hardly visible within mainstream sociology and related disciplines. Today it stands centre stage alongside sociological explanations of racism, sexism, heterosexism and other forms of social oppression and inequality.
The last decade has witnessed a growing number of undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the general area of ‘Disability Studies’ at both the national and international levels. This has been accompanied by the establishment of specialist centres, journals and professional chairs in disability and related fields. Globally, the rise in interest in disability has been equally phenomenal. In 2010, for example, there are international Disability Studies conferences in Honolulu, Montréal, Philadelphia, and Tokyo. The UK Disability Studies Network holds its fifth international event this September at the University of Lancaster. All of which has generated considerable debate and discussion about the relevance and utility of social-model-inspired theorizing and research for the 21st century within the academy and beyond.
At the same time, social-model-inspired insights are firmly established in government and policy circles and official documents in Britain and elsewhere. Important examples in the UK include the setting up of the ‘Disability Rights Commission’ in 2000, the Cabinet Office report Improving Life Chances for Disabled People (2005) and the setting up of the Government’s ‘Office of Disability Issues’ in 2007 and their assertion that ‘by 2025 disabled people in Britain should have full opportunities and choices to improve their quality of life and will be respected and included as equal members of society’ (Cabinet Office 2005: 5). Similar assertions are implicit at the European level (Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities, 2003) and internationally with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Yet despite these initiatives, exclusion rather than inclusion into the mainstream of economic and social life remains a constant feature of the everyday lived experience of the overwhelming majority of disabled people and their families. The numbers of disabled people have increased significantly over recent years. Yet barriers to inclusion in education, employment and mainstream leisure and social activities are still prevalent. Consequently disabled people remain the ‘poorest of the poor’ in all societies. The situation is especially dire in the poorer nations of the ‘developing’ world where health and disability-related support services are almost non- existent.
Moreover, public attitudes toward the meaningful inclusion of disabled people are now seriously undermined by the recent resurgence of interest in eugenic-type solutions to the problem of disability which many claim threaten their very existence. Examples include developments in bio-medicine, prenatal screening and the growing trend toward the legalization of ‘assisted suicide’ for people with ‘serious handicaps’ and or ‘terminal illness’.
All this has created a heady mix of progress coupled with new and continuing demands for change which has inspired the new edition ten years on.
The second edition of Exploring Disability has been completely re-written and expanded to take account of these developments. As in its predecessor, the book’s 10 chapters focus on the increasingly complex relationship between theory, policy and practice and on-going struggle for meaningful change. It concludes with Chapter 9 which addresses recent ethical debates surrounding ‘Disability and the Right to Life’ and Chapter 10 which centres on global perspectives on ‘Disability and Development’. The book will prove to be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the growing controversies surrounding the struggle for human rights and equality for those sections of the population who are unfortunate enough to be labelled ‘disabled’.
Posted 1156 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, the Normative / 1 Comments
The biggest buzzword in contemporary philosophy is normativity. Volume after volume has been churned out defending the idea that normativity is real, indispensable, even the single metaphysical basis for everything, including nature. The past of philosophy, especially Kant and German idealism, has been reinterpreted as being about normativity. Wittgenstein has been made into a defender of normativity against naturalism. And the rejection of normativity is characterized as irrationalism because reason is a normative concept. The term has crept into social theory as well, with Habermas and his endorsement of arguments taken from Robert Brandom.
So what is normativity? The one thing it is not is the sociological fact of people behaving in a certain way, using certain terms, and believing certain things. Behavior can be contrary to the relevant norms, and beliefs can be false. Genuine, as distinct from sociological normativity is the thing that makes behavior wrong, usage genuinely meaningful, and beliefs false. Without genuine normativity, there is no meaning, no truth or falsity, no act correct or incorrect. And this has implications for Asociological accounts of the social world: without accepting the reality of genuine normativity we can't even describe the social world as we know it, because the world as we know it is constituted by these normative distinctions.
How do we know all this? Regress arguments. When we use normative language, or even reason about something, and are asked for a justification of our reasoning, we get back to a justification in the same normative language. The mere fact that people expect a promise to be fulfilled doesn't make it a promise or generate an obligation. Only a norm, one that says something like one should fulfill ones promises and justifies our saying that someone who fails to fulfil a promise has done something wrong. Merely violating our expectations is not wrong.
This, at least, is the conventional wisdom in philosophy. But philosophers ordinarily keep an eye on the shiny regress arguments and avert them from the trainwreck of the metaphysics behind it. What is this normativity that lies at the end of justification? Is there really a realm of the normative? Is it really the case that every time one uses a normative term, such as correct,and that one invokes this netherworld of normativities? Does appealing to genuine normativity actually explain anything in this world? And if so, how does this kind of explanation relate to the kinds of explanations social scientists have given of normative facts? What is the source of normativity? There seems to be little agreement, and wide variation, in answers to these questions, where there are answers at all. And when we look at the answers, they turn out to be all over the place: from a system of proprieties co-extensive with language, to presuppositions that flash into existence whenever they are needed, to the Kantian norms of reason, to the tacit rules behind the meanings of sentences, to the normativity embodied in and created by collective intentions, and on and on. This should be an embarrassment, but no one seems to be embarrassed about it.
There is also a puzzle about what exactly normativity explains. Does it explain something real that the social sciences don't explain? In the case of science, this problem has been discussed in two ways. One argues that science is a normative activity and therefore any sociology which purports to account for science must be insufficient. The other says that philosophy of science is an attempt to make normative sense of science, and that this activity does not compete with explanations of science or the course of scientific development: the project of fashioning a normative lens for science and the project of explaining what scientists believe to be true are different enterprises, that do not compete. One could extend this to other forms of normativity: there is what people say and understand, and what they believe to be correct speech; then there is what is really correct speech. Social science is concerned with the former, normativity with the latter.
Normativists say that social science explanations don't explain normativity: they are only about regularities or probabilities, expectations, perhaps, but never the normative fact, and therefore the meaning, of promising itself. Is this really true? A simple example is the explanation of Maori gift customs in Marcel Mauss's classic The Gift. The Maori think there is a spiritual substance, Hau, that attaches to a gift and must be returned by the giving of another gift. They acknowledge that hau is a mysterious thing. Nevertheless, they believe in it, and organize their social and economic life around this substance. Hau is a Good Bad Theory: good, because it co-ordinates behavior and motivates compliance; bad, because hau is an non-explanatory, false, and fails to fit into our ordinary stream of explanation, which is why the Maori treat it as a mystery.
This standard social science explanation works just fine for the Maori. It is difficult to imagine even a normativist philosopher quibbling with it. But it also raises a tough question: why don't explanations like this apply just as well to our own moral beliefs? If we think we are obligated to return a phone call, is the obligation any more real, or is our belief that this obligation is real any different than the beliefs of the Maori about hau? Isn't the whole concept of normativity suspiciously like the concept of hau, namely a false belief wrongly used to explain something that isn't there in the first place?
In a way, this one has an easy answer: there is no difference. And there is nothing mysterious that is left over after the social science explanation is given. For beliefs like this, it makes sense to be a relativist. But things appear to be different for reason or rationality itself. How can we treat that as a superstition? We rely on it. It is not a good bad theory, but a good good theory, if it is a theory at all. Here, it seems, the regress arguments work: there is no denying rationality, because justifying our denial would assume rationality, the rationality of the speaker and the person persuaded. And rationality is normative.
Or is it? Do we really appeal to rationality when we try to persuade someone or communicate with them? When we try to communicate anything, we have to say something that is intelligible. And we hope that the listener will understand it and see it is true. But that is not the same as invoking a norm. But something is right in the normativist argument. What we do need, to communicate or to reason with another person, as the normativist argument suggests, is a stopping point: an end of the regress, something that is in common that the justifying can close with. The normativist thinks these stopping points must be norms because they are not causes or data.
But there is another possibility, found both in the philosophical tradition and in the social science tradition Brentano's notion of Evidenz, which appears also in Weber in relation to empathy. Evidenz is defined by Brentano as being evident to all. The things that are evident to all though the all needs to be qualified might include steps in reasoning, or ostensive definitions that were understood by others, which are the kinds of regress-stoppers that are needed. Brentano thought of Evidenz as an alternative answer to the problem of grounding mathematics, which bedeviled Frege and Husserl. The alternative was derived as Apsychologism and the concept of Evidenz as subjective. But the critics were wrong, and they misrepresented it.
Today we can construe these points of mutual obviousness in terms of cognitive science concepts. The mirroring system in humans, the basis for empathy, is a good candidate for naturalizing Evidenz, for accounting for such things as our capacity to understand others without appealing to normativities, hidden structures of norms, and the like. These systems are objective. They do much of the explanatory work that the mysterious notion of normativity is claimed to do. We can do without these mysteries.
Stephen P. Turner
Posted 1156 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: sociology, Dying, Death, America / 0 Comments
As we write this blog we are coping with the aftermath of the tragedy in Haiti. The latest count is an estimated 230,000 deaths and rising. Haiti happened too late to be included in our book but it reflects its scope--trying to understand and explain who dies, how we die, what happens after we die, and how do we cope with death. We clearly saw the social implications of death in Haiti, as the poor died by the tens of thousands, where the medical care was makeshift and minimal, where the survivors had nowhere to find shelter and no food to eat, and the dead were buried in mass graves.
We use three central themes in this book. First, we look at death and dying at the macro level, how many people have died and the social structure in which the deaths occurred, and the micro level, the individual instances of death. Second, we relate the patters of social inequality that are institutionalized at the societal level to the corresponding patterns inequality at the individual level of dying. Third, we outline the topics of consumerism and commercialism that link life and death in late capitalist American society.
We divide the book in four parts. In Part I we examine the demographic aspects of death, who dies according to gender and race in United States and how it compares to other nations. We also examine the cultural changes in perceptions of death in the western world from the Middle Ages to the present and how death is intertwined with the nature of health care in today’s America. In Part II we discuss where death takes place, increasingly away from home and into medical establishments. We then turn to the dying itself and examine the controversial topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We end the section in surveying the various types of funeral practices, such as the movement away from traditional burial toward cremation and more recent green modes of burial—chemical free and in biodegradable containers. In Part III we look at the individual death of children and then review death and destruction on a large scale, from war to natural disasters such as Katrina. In the final section, Part IV, we turn to the professionals who have to tell the ‘bad news’ to the dying or the families of the dead. This topic is followed by the different ways in which we grieve when someone dies and then we move on to discuss the various beliefs (or lack thereof) from religious to philosophical in immortality. We conclude that death is a mirror of the way Americans live, increasingly highly expensive and consumeristic, continuing to privilege the rich over the poor and still trying to deny its coming by wrapping it in ribbons and glitter.
Posted 1178 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Finance, economy, Regulation, globalization, Business / 0 Comments
With all the hand-wringing that goes on over financial regulation, you would think that books on the subject would be two a penny. Surprisingly, they are not. So, Howard Davies’s and David Green’s book, Global Financial Regulation, remains an essential guide.
This is despite the fact that, as they write in the Update, “Time seems to have speeded up in the world of financial regulation” since the first edition was published in spring 2008. That Update is, of course, a crucial part of the second edition, but the job is made easier by the fact that two important trends in reforming the system were recommended by the authors.
The first is that the Financial Stability Forum should be beefed up and fulfill its promise as a co-ordinating body for the world’s economic and financial regulators. Now dubbed a board, in April 2008 it set out tasks for bodies ranging from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to the IMF and national central banks. In many cases this remains a work in progress, but profound changes in such areas as bank capital and liquidity requirements have been initiated.
The second is the expansion of the membership of international bodies to reflect the changing balance of power in the world towards emerging nations such as China. This addresses the legitimacy issue raised in the book. An obvious example is the expansion of the political hub from the G7 to the G20.
Other trends are either less clear or less appealing to the authors. The US, with its bewildering array of financial regulators has realised the need for fundamental re-engineering. But while some consolidation of banking supervision has taken place, delivery of wholesale change has run into political resistance, not least because of scepticism about giving additional power to the Federal Reserve.
In the EU, the Larosière proposals have tackled both the need for a systemic risk board and greater cross-border powers to ensure standards are applied. But, in the authors’ view dependence on co-operation between national regulators remains a second best solution in a single market.
Larosiere also left the sectoral bodies – covering banking, insurance and markets – intact. This is out of line with the book’s original theme that such divisions are out of date. The collapse of firms such as the insurer AIG through their dabbling in investment bank-style activities would seem to bear out the need for regulating according to what the institution actually does, rather than what it calls itself.
The authors’ background is at the Bank of England and the FSA, where they led the case for “one stop shop” regulation. But even though the crisis has shown little correlation between structure of regulation and good or bad outcomes, there preference for a unitary authority has been frustrated. In prudential supervision, the swing is back towards central bank authority, with new or separate bodies focusing on consumer protection. If the Conservatives win the UK general election this spring, the FSA will be dismantled.
But none of this negates the value of the original book, which is descriptive rather than opinionated. The advantage is that it does what it says on the tin. It is indeed an essential guide to the teeming bodies that feed into the “simplified” chart on page 33.
The authors conduct a first-class bluffers’ tour of differing approaches to regulation and of the surprisingly short history of cross-border bodies. The Basel Committee only dates back to 1974 and the buzzphrase “financial stability” is a juvenile apparently coined in 1994. Charles Goodhart has since pointed out how hard it is to define it, let alone measure it.
[OPT PARS] [They also point out how difficult it is for grand international initiatives to be effective. The book describes the other FSAP – not the EU’s action plan but the Financial Sector Assessment Programme of the IMF and World Bank. Launched in 1999, it has cost more than $1bn and “most major countries” have been assessed.
Exceptions are China and the US – one of many instances where the latter is a whipping boy in this book. The former is of course to be welcomed into every international forum. Yet are these two countries wrong to resist when cost-benefit analyses of this FSAP have proved inconclusive and the inspectors could not even sniff the onset of an international crisis in the Dominican Republic.
In the end regulation is a political subject and the authors do portray their prejudices: they do not like sectoral regulation, fragmented and competitive regulation, or regulation pulled in different ways by politicians.
As one would expect from powerful intellectuals, the case for a rationalised and simplified way to manage the international world of finance is strongly made.
But the practical problem of how universal regulators can develop sufficient market knowledge is skipped over; and so too is the cultural divide between prudential supervision and consumer protection.
Jane Fuller is Co-director at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation.
Posted 1187 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, African American Studies, Karenga / 0 Comments
Maulana Karenga is an important American cultural philosopher and one of the leading proponents of the cultural reconstruction thesis for African Americans. His key writings, based upon his studies of African cultural and philosophical history, treat the classical bases for re-interpreting the social behavior of people whose cultures have been crushed by oppression. In effect, Karenga is an ethicist, having studied ethics as one of his two doctorates, but he is also an activist who has found his intellectual and creative values in the realm of political organization. Karenga is the author of many books and monographs, but his major tome is Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt. He is also the author of scores of important articles advancing the Kawaida, traditions, thesis that creating a dignity-affirming life is a key component for fully realizing the human potential.
Karenga’s works, especially in African moral philosophy, whether Yoruba, Ancient Egyptian, or Zulu, are always grounded in his belief that Africana Studies represent the best route to a resurgence in ethical decisions in the communities broken by hegemonic racism. In recognizing the possibilities in reconstructive freedom, Karenga commits himself to serudj-ta, that is, repairing the damage that has been done to African and African American people. No contemporary African American thinker has impacted the popular culture and language of the American society as thoroughly as Karenga. Indeed, his creation of the holiday Kwanzaa, now celebrated by nearly thirty million people around the world, has made him an enormously significant cultural presence. While some authors have written about Karenga’s personal life and activist work, the book, Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait, is the first work to seriously deal with his ideas.
Posted 1187 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: politics, International Relations, Power, the State, globalization, Justice / 0 Comments
Financial crisis, environmental crisis and terrorism are all taken as signs of the weakness and increasingly irrelevancy of states. Capital, ecological disasters and terrorisms seemingly cross borders with impunity. In fact, citizenship remains one of the most important determinants of someone’s life chances. Stand at the U.S.-Mexican border, at the wall dividing Israel and the Palestinian territories, or on the beaches of the European islands in the Mediterranean to see what efforts governments make to secure their borders and the risks non-citizens take to pass through those divides. Jobs, civil rights, social benefits, physical security, and even water are kept on one side of those borders. More than thirty million humans today are refugees, fleeing from one country to another in an effort to survive.
States and their futures matter because, at the outset of the twenty-first century, they remain, by far, the most significant repositories of power and resources in the world. The vast majority of violent deaths are caused by wars between states, by states’ violence against their own subjects, and by armed attempts to seize state power.
Politics is almost entirely about states. People mobilize to influence state policies, and to gain control of states through elections or with violence. Where states are weak, as in much of Africa, citizens’ life chances and life spans are drastically reduced. Every realistic plan for economic growth, for reductions in poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental degradation, and to slow or reverse global warming depends largely on initiatives that are directed by governments alone or in concert.
Posted 1196 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Empathy, Civilization, History, climate change, economics, politics / 0 Comments
The anemic global economic recovery is beginning to stall. Unemployment is shooting up again. The housing market is threatened by a new wave of foreclosures. Tens of millions of Americans are teetering on the edge of survival. Public surveys show that people on Main Street are fast loosing trust in Wall Street and the workings of the market. What’s gone wrong?
The economists have a difficult time understanding the public reaction, in large part, because they believe the market is functioning as it should: that is, it is serving as a self regulating arena where individual material self interest can express itself under the guidance of an “invisible hand” that continually adjusts supply and demand and other market forces to ensure a proper functioning of commerce and trade. Recall, the words of Adam Smith, the great Scottish economist of the Enlightenment, who wrote in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations that
Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment to whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society’s, which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leaves him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to the society.
What the economists fail to grasp is that commerce and trade, and indeed, all market relations, are only made possible by a very different kind of “invisible hand”—the one that establishes social trust among people. That social trust, in turn, is created by the extension of empathic sensibility to others. This is the process that creates human culture.
Sometimes referred to as the third sector, as if to suggest that it is of less relevance than the marketplace or government, in fact, the culture or civil society is the primary sector. It’s where people create the narratives that define their lives and the life of the society. These narratives serve as the cultural common ground that allows people to create emotional bonds of affection and trust, without which commerce and trade would be impossible.
While the empathic drive is faintly acknowledged by economists, it is relegated to a secondary level in human affairs − something one engages in within the family and among friends and neighbors, but which plays no appreciable role in the economic arena. Being open, vulnerable and sensitive to the plight of others is considered detrimental to commercial relations and a prescription for failure in the marketplace.
Yet the market requires a continuous infusion of social trust to function. Indeed, the market feeds off social trust and weakens or collapses if it is withdrawn. That’s why there are no examples in history in which markets preceded culture or exist in its absence. Markets are extensions of culture and never the reverse. They have always been and will always be secondary rather than primary institutions in the affairs of humanity because culture creates the empathic cloak of sociability that allows people to confidently engage each other in the marketplace.
Only recently, in the wake of the disastrous downturn of the global economy have some economists began to turn their attention to the role social trust plays in providing the foundation for commerce and trade.
The close ties between commercial and empathic bonds might seem a bit paradoxical, but the relationship is symbiotic. Sociologist Georg Simmel, in his landmark study on The Philosophy of Money, observed that coins are promissory notes based on the assumption of an established collective trust among anonymous parties that guarantees that at some future date the token passed in an earlier exchange will be honored by a third party in a subsequent exchange.
It’s instructive to note that when anthropologists study the history of exchange, they find that social exchange virtually always precedes commercial exchange. The Trobriand Islanders engaged in an elaborate social exchange of shells, often canoeing long distances between islands to pass the tokens back and forth as a way of cementing bonds of social trust. Commercial exchange in the Trobriand Islands was always preceded by social exchange, again confirming the ancient wisdom that cultural capital precedes commercial capital and that commerce is an extension of cultural relations and, therefore, not a primary institution in the affairs of humankind.
The relationship between empathic and commercial bonds is complicated and fragile. That’s because empathic extension is always a nonconditional gift, freely given, without consideration of reciprocity on behalf of the other, either in the moment or in the future. While commercial exchange would be impossible without empathic extension first establishing bonds of social trust, its utilitarian, instrumental, and exploitive nature can and often does deplete the social capital that makes its very operations possible. That’s exactly what’s occurring now in the United States and around the world in the aftermath of the global economic meltdown.
The populist revolt that is spreading to many countries represents a profound loss of trust in the global economy and is fueled by the sense that a small elite has rigged the game in favor of a few at the expense of the general well-being of society. But below the heat and light of the populist outcry is a deeper feeling of betrayal; that is, a feeling that our business leaders no longer empathize with the plight of their fellow citizens. It is this deep sense of abandonment that is perpetuating a decline in social trust and threatening to transform America, and other nations, into social chaos.
Still, economists shake their heads and continue to hope that governments can patch together a rational, quantifiable, utilitarian set of mechanisms to regulate a global economy and jumpstart the economic engine, only to throw up their hands in despair when world trade talks breakdown. A history lesson might be instructive to help world leaders and economists get to the nub of the problem.
At the beginning of the modern market economy, Europe found itself in the throes of a great struggle between a new commercial order and an old economic regime. New technologies were radically altering spatial and temporal realities. The old medieval social economy, based on controlling production, fixing prices, and excluding competition from the outside, was too provincial to accommodate the range of new technologies that were making possible greater exchange of goods and services between more people over longer distances.
What was missing was a new, more expansive, and agile political framework that could transcend the thousands of local municipalities and force the elimination of local tolls and tariffs and countless other statutes and codes that maintained an aging medieval economy. It was this need, says Karl Polanyi, “which forced the territorial state to the fore as the instrument of the ‘nationalization’ of the market and the creator of internal commerce.”
Although never intended, the emergence of the territorial nation state had a collateral effect that proved to be every bit as important as acclimating large populations of previously disparate people to national markets. Nationalism extended the empathic impulse to the new expansive borders of the nation itself.
Today, the new technologies of Third Industrial Revolution − distributed communications and distributed renewable energies − are taking us to a new biosphere economy. The human race is becoming technologically interdependent and interconnected. What is sorely missing, however, is a leap in human empathy, beyond national boundaries to biosphere boundaries. We need to create social trust on a global scale if we are to create a seamless, integrated, just, and sustainable planetary economy.
We can no longer afford to limit our notion of extended family to national boundaries, with Americans empathizing with fellow Americans, Chinese with Chinese, and the like. A truly global biosphere economy will require a global empathic embrace. We will need to think as a species − as homo empathicus − and prepare the groundwork for an empathic civilization imbedded in a shared biosphere.
Jeremy's new book, The Empathic Civilization is now available from polity.
Posted 1208 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: sociology, globalization, climate change, Copenhagen / 0 Comments
The Sociology of Globalization discusses dimensions of globalization from media and identity to migration and social movements, from history to theories. It also argues that environment, economics and politics are things that any sociologist who aspires to understand society needs to pay attention to. These dimensions affect society. They are not outside it.
Recent developments such as the Copenhagen climate talks and the financial crisis raise possible conclusions about globalization: 1) they appear to demonstrate the reality of global interdependency; 2) they suggest a crisis for the neoliberal type of globalization that seems to have been behind such problems; and 3) they show the need for global governance to tackle climate change and regulate the economy.
Interdependency – global but uneven
It’s true that climate change and financial crisis demonstrate global interdependency. But they also involve great unevenness. The financial crisis was global. Events in one small part of the world had global repercussions. But how global was it? It had origins at a local level, in the US sub-prime mortgage market and in irresponsibility and lack of political regulation in US lending. Some countries have been more affected and taken longer to come out of recession, like the UK and Spain because of their financial bias or housing markets. Other parts of the world were less affected. China and Brazil are two significant economies that experienced less upheaval. Or areas have been affected differently - for instance through the impact being on exports or aid rather than finance. Countries also responded differently. Some like the US and UK poured money into their economies. Others, like Germany, were more cautious.
So, global interdependency has been shown in the economic crisis - but with local differences in its origins and effects, more than homogenisation or evenness. Similarly climate change has effects across the world. But these are greater in some areas, such as African countries and low-lying islands, whose carbon emissions are often quite low. At the same time, out of nearly 200 countries in the world just two – the USA and China - produce 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. The effects and origins of climate change are also uneven.
A crisis for neoliberal globalization?
Has the credibility of neoliberal globalization been damaged by climate change and the financial crisis? Many say these were caused by individualism, lack of regulation, short-termism and risk – all characteristics of neoliberal types of capitalism in the Anglo-American world. During the economic crisis, economies that are more regulated, state-interventionist and social, of a German or Japanese type, gained the edge in arguments about how organise capitalism. For some, globalization is the spread of neoliberalism. So if the credibility of neoliberalism is damaged this also means that globalization is under threat.
Opinion polls show that the public is appalled by the greed and irresponsibility of bankers, and to be paying the price for this with cuts to their jobs and public services. If neoliberalism is to be challenged in favour of more social and regulated types of capitalism there is no better chance than in the context of climate change and financial crisis. However public criticism has been personalised, aimed at greedy bankers, irresponsible borrowers and weak politicians rather than structures or systems. Politically there has been no systematic attempt to shift away from neoliberalism. Governments have bailed out capitalism with big injections of finance, rather than reconstructing it. Banks are determined to continue paying bonuses that encourage risky and individualistic behaviour. There was no greater opportunity to challenge neoliberal capitalism than the financial crisis, but it has survived intact.
Towards global governance?
Both climate change and the financial crisis appear to have shown the need for global governance. They are global problems, which require the combined action of many governments rather than just national solutions. However this hasn’t happened. The financial crisis was tackled by reflation at a national level, rather than regulation globally. And this was effective, bolstering the credibility of nation-state politics.
The crisis was linked to the irresponsibility of finance and deregulation. Common taxes and regulations on finance could have been introduced across nations by global agreements, but governments didn’t pursue this. If this crisis didn’t provide a basis for more global governance, in pursuit of the responsibility of capital to society, it’s difficult to see what will.
The failure of global agreement at Copenhagen, meanwhile, has been blamed on weak-willed leaders. But it was caused by structures as much as personnel. One typical problem in global governance is that it involves many actors with conflicting interests. At Copenhagen 195 countries seated round a table couldn’t find a common position. Another problem is that powerful actors can wreck the whole thing by their recalcitrance. In the past on climate change this has been the USA. We are told that this time it was China. These problems are as much to do with this kind of structure as with individual leaders.
Before Copenhagen countries like Australia said there was more chance of national governments finding solutions and enforcing them than of this happening globally. National levels are where agreements can be made and sanctions are enforceable. At the same time, agreements on economic issues, carbon emissions, and disarmament, for instance, need to be made above national levels. But the lack of a basis for this in global governance, means that above-national but below-global arrangements may have to be where this happens
Pre-Copenhagen President Obama sought bilateral agreements on climate change with countries like China and India. After Copenhagen commentators argued that solutions need to start at local and national levels, where there are people pursuing carbon reductions, or with enough in common with others to make agreements with them. Such below-global attempts to pursue alternatives nationally and in international alliances have also been pursued by politicians like President Chavez of Venezuela.
So, in the case of two major crises that seem to call out for global regulation, below-global and bottom-up seem as effective approaches as global and top-down. Copenhagen and the economic crisis have left us with an unevenly globalised world, with neoliberalism over a crisis which it seemed could have defeated it, and with national and bilateral government as important as global governance.
Posted 1208 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Peace, Conflict Resolution, sociology, globalization / 0 Comments
Over fifty people were killed in the Johannesburg area in 2009. This seems unsurprising given that it considered the murder capital of the world. The fifty or so people to whom I refer, however, are different: they were economic migrants from neighbouring states, drawn to South Africa by its status as rainbow nation and by the prospect of work. The display of very magnanimous forgiveness South Africans showed each other after the collapse of apartheid and the evident stability of its new non-racial political system makes it appear odd that strangers should be viciously attacked. South Africa’s peace process has been universalised and its processes of reconciliation, truth recovery and memory management have been championed as examples for other societies undergoing a democratic transition to peace. A sociological approach to peace processes, however, identifies the weaknesses in South Africa’s transition. The peace process was an elite compromise at the top, in which Black people felt everything would change because they now held political power and Whites felt nothing would change because they retained control of the economy. This is no conundrum. South Africa’s peace process has essentially been about the introduction of good governance structures to deliver institutional reform. This approach to peace processes is the dominant one in the West and argues that the introduction of democratic politics, human rights law and free market economics is the way either to eliminate conflict or allow its reproduction in non-violent ways. We might call this a political approach to peace processes. It is based on the naïve assumption that once problematic politics are resolved, social healing, reconciliation and restoration follow on naturally. South Africa – and all other political peace processes – illustrate that they do not. Underlying the political peace process is a social one; the social peace process is about societal healing, forgiveness, the restoration of social relationship and the like. Good governance approaches neglect the social peace process or take it for granted. A sociological approach to peace processes, however, prioritises it, taking for granted that institutional reform is essential and must proceed in parallel. For all the institutional reform in South Africa, there has been very little societal healing. Frustrated economic expectations, fierce competition for economic resources and huge unemployment spilled over into attacks on strangers. The incidents offer no better demonstration of the need for a sociological approach to peace processes: of the need to address issues of justice, fairness and social redistribution in addition to ending the killings; of the need for good governance institutional reform to be introduced in a context in which issues of victimhood are also dealt with, where public policies are forged to manage the problem of social reintegration for ex-combatants or assist with the empowerment of women, the deconstruction of violent masculinities amongst ex-combatants, or which deal with the management of emotions, introduce spaces for hoping and forgiving, assist in bottom-up truth recovery and forms of memory work that help in the re-remembering and re-memorialisation of the past. These are the topics that go to define the sociology of peace processes.
Posted 1220 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media, Technology, Digital Culture, Music / 0 Comments
More than ten years have passed since Shawn Fanning and friends released the file-sharing software "Napster" to the world and thereby kick-started one of the most radical transformations of the multinational music industry.
Today, young music listeners no longer put on a CD then they party and it is actually also becoming less common that they play MP3s from their computers or iPods. Rather, the young audience of today listen to music from YouTube, last.fm, Lala, Spotify, or some other Web-based music service. Music is no longer something the mainstream audience owns and collects - Music has moved
into the Cloud.
*'The Cloud' has been used as a metaphor for the Internet since the early 1970s when the technologies behind the network of networks were invented. A cloud was considered to be a useful and vague enough symbol which could be used to summarize all the resources, cables and gadgets which connected the computers at the nodes of the network.
*During less than a decade, the music industry has completely shifted from the physical to the virtual - from the Disk to the Cloud. The Disk-based music industry was all about control and a music firm's top priority was to maximize the revenues from each individual piece of intellectual property and to minimize unauthorized use. In a Cloud-based music industry, it is
still important to know how one's intellectual property is used by the
audience but it is more or less impossible to control that use. In a
Cloud-based music industry, music firms must embrace the enhanced connectivity between fans and build their businesses on an assumption that their recordings are universally available.
The relationship between connectivity and control is fundamental to all cultural and media industries, and as the connectivity increases and the ability to control the flow of information decreases, the logic of these industries is radically altered. In the old music industry, the content(music) and the medium (disk) were inseparable, and the music industry was focused on music products as a physical goods which were shipped and sold all over the world. In the Cloud-based music industry where information is more or less impossible to control, it becomes increasingly difficult to charge a premium for discrete chunks of information. As soon as some kind of information is uploaded to the Cloud, it is instantly universally accessible which makes the commercial value of providing basic access to an individual track or album very close to zero. But there are other things which remain chargeable. In a world where information is abundant, people may not be willing to pay a premium for basic access to that information, but they are most likely willing to pay for services which help them to conveniently navigate through the vast amounts of information. Such services, such as the currently much-hyped European based service Spotify, is an example of how the industry may be able to survive even without the ability to control.
Further, the increased connectivity combined with various kinds of music production tools enable 'non-professionals' to create, remix and publish content online. The making of mashups and remixes based on well-established musics seems to be a thriving mode of consumption in the Cloud-based music industry. Many music firms respond to this user behavior by arguing that this is copyright infringement which should be policed and ceased as soon as
possible. However, it is not entirely unrealistic to assume that those fans who create, remix and upload content to the Cloud also are the most dedicated and loyal. It is also quite likely that they are the ones who spend the most on concerts, merchandise etc. Based on those two assumptions, it makes sense for music firms to secure a good relationship with these fans, encourage their creative desires and do their best not to push them away.
Posted 1222 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social policy, happiness, politics, society, economics, halpern / 0 Comments
For this blog post, I thought I’d set out the bones of the argument in my new book The Hidden Wealth of Nations. I certainly found it interesting to revisit some of the big questions that in government there’s rarely the luxury of time to examine very deeply, rolling up my statistical sleeves to wade into data sets and literatures around public concerns, well-being, social policy, inequality and developments in government itself. I should stress that this has been a personal project done alongside the set-up of the Institute for Government, but I have nonetheless been grateful to my colleagues for indulging intermittent and excited reflections on my latest analysis. It is also, as the title implies, ultimately an optimistic vision.
Prosperity and well-being. The book starts by revisiting Easterlin’s famous paradox – that wealthy nations are much happier than poor nations, and yet decades of growth do not seem to have boosted the happiness within them. I argue that this occurs because a bundle of deeply rooted social characteristics of countries – values, institutions and ways of relating to each other – independently drive both the ability of countries to take advantage of new economic opportunities (hence economic growth) and their citizens’ happiness. This gives us important insights into how we can both boost growth and increase well-being – and strongly implies that they are not incompatible. In many areas, the implications of the well-being literature simply confirm existing lines of policy, but there are some areas where it pulls you in a different direction. I also suggest one or two areas where economic policy has missed important tricks, such as the promotion of information as a public good.
Not getting along. The focus of the book then shifts to rising public fears in the UK and a clutch of other countries of other people in recent years – concerns around crime, immigration and terror. There is a detailed analysis of the empirical roots of these concerns, including why they only seem to have affected a minority of countries, and an examination of what evidence-based policy responses might look like. The evidence base is, in many areas, in great tension with the media headlines and public instincts, at least within theAnglo-Saxon world.
Virtue. These public concerns form the background to the pivotal argument of the book: how can societies, communities and policymakers support ‘virtue’ in their citizens, as opposed to simply stamping out bads? Across nations, while traditional religious beliefs have only marginally altered, their influence on our other attitudes has waned dramatically – though with the notable exception of North America. Yet there’s little evidence for ‘moral decline’. And within nations moral and social attitudes have become more nationally distinctive. Drawing heavily on studies of how citizens spend their time, the book concludes that policy has systematically underestimated the importance of what Offer calls the‘economy of regard’ – the parallel economy of everyday life within which we help each other acts of consideration, care and reciprocity, and a key part ofthe Hidden Wealth of Nations. Echoing the analysis on prosperity and well-being, the policy implications are drawn out, including the intriguing case for community-backed complementary currencies to oil the works of the economy of regard just as conventional dollars and pounds oil the ‘real economy’.
Inequality and fairness. Levels of poverty, fairness and inequality are defining characteristics of many nations, often representing the darker side of Hidden Wealth with major consequences for citizens. Reducing poverty and inequality was a major ambition of the Labour project, and though the growth of inequality was halted it was not reversed despite twelve years of effort. One reason is that inequality has its roots in a far wider range of factors than income or education. At the same time, though the public does not like inequality, there is little appetite for more conventional policy responses and most countries are broadly accepting of their situation, whatever their absolute level of inequality. It is suggested that, in the long-term, inequality can be reduced with the help of ‘affiliative welfare’ - an attack on a broader range of capital inequalities harnessing the desire to help those close to us.
Power and governance. The last chapter seeks to bust a number of common myths about shifts in political trust and confidence, but suggests that there are other underlying trends that are a source of deeper concern. It then offers thoughts and cross-national evidence on how governance will need to evolve in relation to the division of power, the practical provision of public services, and its re-emerging role in relation to behaviour change in the decade to come.
The book finally concludes with a suggested top-10 list of policy proposals for current, or future, Prime Ministers.
Posted 1222 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Spielberg, film studies, cinema, media, politics, film, Wasser / 0 Comments
Is Steven Spielberg a better political filmmaker than his peers?
Steven Spielberg has managed to show that the most successful film director in the history of popular culture is capable of engaging history - but not quite as he pleases. He has done so to a greater degree than his fellow film entertainers. Scorsese, the “thoughtful” American director, has not been as political as Spielberg, nor has Soderbergh or Coppola or other “auteurish” directors. Because Spielberg is the great mass entertainer his engagement is richer than more overtly committed filmmakers. His sincerity brings the audience along but the blockbuster apparatus of distracting visual thrillsleads to contradictions.
Spielberg has made a great deal out of his balancing act between serious and “popcorn” (entertaining) movies. In 1993 he shot the serious Schindler’s List while finishing up on the popcorn Jurassic Park. Other pairs include Lost World(popcorn) and Amistad (serious); Munich (serious) was released within the same year as War of the Worlds (popcorn). But to present this as a balancing act between two opposing poles is deliberately misleading. The “serious” films are not that different from the entertaining ones. He does not switch crews, cameras, and distributors when going from one to the other (he barely scales back the budget). This fact alone shows Spielberg believes the blockbuster style is capable of engaging politics and history.
The critics have not accepted this and from the mid-1970s both academics and journalists have bemoaned the rise of the blockbuster and the corresponding decline of more artistic and, by implication, political filmmaking. Many have written some version of this critique of the blockbuster. Pauline Kael’s take on it was perhaps the most intriguing, since she praised his filmmaking skills in his first feature film but nonetheless came to bemoan the overwhelming dominance of the Spielbergian vision in the film industry of the 1980s. It was a vision limited to the American suburbs, the family, and the eternal wish-fulfillment of popular culture.
Spielberg and his fellow blockbuster creator George Lucas drew such negative reactions because their films reversed the direction all thoughtful people were hoping that American filmmaking was going before Jaws broke box office records in 1975. The previous direction has been labeled “new Hollywood” and was ushered in with the release of The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. It reached a high-water mark when Midnight Cowboy won the1969 Academy Award for best picture. These films emulated the various foreign films that emphasized artistic autonomy. They were not overtly political but everyone understood how their themes of alienation and dissatisfaction resonated with the political strugglesto implement a new era of civil rights and limit the U.S. imperial project.
This personal-expression trend faded whenthe studios realized that the thrills and spills of Jaws and StarWars had revitalized a formula for attracting the huge audience. As artistic autonomy faded so did any kind of political overtones in the movie plotlines themselves. Indeed, part of the blockbuster formula for attracting a huge audience was to paper over the cultural and political divisions of the 1960s. Lucas had stumbled upon it in American Graffiti and Spielberg came to it in Jaws after the relative disappointment of The Sugarland Express. The blockbusters flattered the “hipness” of one side of the cultural wars while giving the other side old-time movie thrills.
This papering over of the political divisions coincided with the Reagan turn in American politics. The 1960s leftwingers were often anti-government because government was not doing enough to fulfill New Deal promises of social justice. The Reaganites took over the anti-government ideology and attracted many former countercultural adherents. On both sides of the Atlantic neo-liberals worked to delegitimize all domestic government activities and knocked out the props supporting labor unions. Instead they established the idea that the marketplace could deliver public benefits more efficiently than the government. Few places in the cultural sphere, certainly not the Hollywood blockbuster, resisted this rapid ideological transition.
American filmmakers are not deep political thinkers, which is perhaps why the best political films are those that are not the product of overt reasoning, but in their naiveté reflect the contradictions of American politics itself. The most fruitful contradiction comes from sincerity. All too often there is cynicism either from the right (Milius, the various makers of the Rambo series and vigilante films) or the left (Oliver Stone) that reduces the story in order to eliminate contradiction. From the beginning, Spielberg’s sincerity stood in contrast to his fellow directors. He loves American popular culture and he unashamedly wants to please all audiences. He emphasizes giving the viewers not only a story but an experience. The narratives of Close Encounters and E.T. do allude to bitter social isolation but watching these films overwhelms the viewer with the pleasurable experience of sentimental fulfillment.
This desire to please is at odds with the desire to engage history as politics. Yet unlike other filmmakers of his generation, Spielberg has been drawn to history and politics. Increasingly,in the last decade with Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, and Munich, but starting even earlier with Saving Private Ryan and Amistad, audiences can find a politically liberal motivation behind Spielberg’s choice of scripts. Given the original blockbuster formula of papering over political divisions, this motivation should alienate parts of the blockbuster audience. The American audience rarely gives a Spielberg film its profits anymore. For example, Amistad was a box office failure and prominent American pundits attacked Munich. In compensation the foreign audience has made several Spielberg political movies successes, such as Munich and Minority Report. Why does such an inveterate crowd-pleaser jeopardize his domestic audience to embrace these libera lthemes? Perhaps because his artistic soul is reacting to the darkening American climate today and on a more conscious level he wants to share the populism of classic Hollywood with his various global audiences.
The 1930s Hollywood populism, however, was never dominant and like a regressive gene shows up as a contradiction in Spielberg. This is perhaps most evident in Saving Private Ryan, which is not a hawkish call to arms but an examination of the paradoxical duties of the citizen-soldier (something that became so paradoxical that the United States eliminated the citizen army as it used volunteer soldiers to pursue police actions around the world after the loss of the Vietnam war). During the Bush years Spielberg kept leading his audiences back to old-fashioned issues of trust, community and law versus security. Yet both he and the audience share a disdain for public life that works against old-fashioned populist resolutions. Sometimes he distracts the audience from the contradiction with “you are there” camera work. Other times he retreats behind the claim of being merely an entertainer. At all times his work at pleasing international audiences reveals political dilemmas that tell us more about our collective selves than does the work of other more cerebral filmmakers.
Frederick Wasser's new book, Steven Spielberg's America, is available now.
Posted 1270 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Molly Rothenburg, The Excessive Subject, Polity / 0 Comments
On the Edge
Edged in: I decided to write this book when it became clear to me that a new theory of the social subject, with some powerful advantages for social change theory, had become sequestered within a small area in the academy simply because it was associated with psychoanalysis. It turns out that the theory of the excessive subject, as I term it, depends on developments in the fields of symbolic logic, topology, and set theory that can be applied to the question of how to model causality in the social field. Lacan was instrumental in bringing these developments into the discourse of the humanities, but they are not psychoanalytic per se. Lacan picks up these developments because they enabled him to articulate a causal logic necessary for his sense of the way the subject emerges. That logic, which I refer to as “extimate causality,” offers a significant alternative to the causal logics of Marxism and Foucaultianism, but the alternative became quarantined on account of attacks on psychoanalysis by prominent theorists in the latter quarter of the twentieth century. I want to make this alternative available to a wider audience, especially to students.
Backing away from the edge: The book tells the story of a number of theoretical attempts to find an alternative causal model of social effects in order to grapple with the fundamental problem of how subjects conditioned by ideology and cultural practices could become change agents. This problem is the common link among a number of theorists who otherwise don’t seem to have much in common. It is the central focus of Pierre Bourdieu’s efforts to split the difference between subjectivist and objectivist accounts of the subject, and it shapes Michel de Certeau’s response to Bourdieu. Judith Butler has her own way of intervening in that discussion, by trying to cobble together a model from Bourdieu, Derrida, and Lacan. Ernesto Laclau encounters this problem as he seeks to articulate a theory of the formation of politically effective groups from the concept of the split subject. Slavoj Žižek takes it up in his accounts of revolutionary violence. I follow this thread through these thinkers in some detail to develop a history of approaches to the problem and to highlight the ways that each thinker both relies on some version of extimate causality and then repudiates it when it compromises, or seems to compromise, some cherished political tenet.
Cutting edge: The story’s central figure is the subject in its social dimension as excessive to itself. I explain how the social subject comes to acquire this excess by giving my readers an accessible account of set theoretic principles and fundamental concepts from nonclassical logic that converge with Alain Badiou’s philosophical writings as well as Lacan’s theories. I discuss the Möbius topology of the social field in terms that link up with Felix Guattari’s early work and Giorgio Agamben’s current investigations. I explore the utility of the excessive subject for thinking politics and ethics that spotlights features of Jacques Rancière’s, Walter Benjamin’s, Theodor Adorno’s, and Emmanuel Levinas’s writings. The excessive subject turns out to provide a means for assessing the degree to which a given theorist has an adequate model of social interaction to ground political and ethical proscriptions. I argue that the model of the excessive subject is crucial for the most innovative work being done today in political and ethical philosophy.
The disappearing edge: The Möbius strip, with its paradoxical two-in-one-sidedness—its edge between two sides that mysteriously disappear as you trace a path along one side only to find yourself on the other—serves as a useful analogue to the excess of the social subject. The excess of the social subject both separates it from its fellow subject and links it to them: the excess of the subject, which is a function of the subject’s emergence by way of the addition of a negation to its initial state of being, is irremediable and essential. I argue that we must understand that this excess is not the impediment to the social field but rather the means of producing and sustaining the social field. As Jean-Luc Nancy points out, dreams of absolute comm-unity or comm-union fantasize that the excess of the social subject can be eradicated, a fantasy that predominates in the literature on political and ethical theory. Theories of ethical action, for example, that rely on the subsumption of one subject to the demands of a radical other, fantasy the erasure of the excess requisite for the social/ethical relation in the first place. But, in fact, attempts to eradicate excess risk the collapse of the social field itself and set in motion catastrophic pathological defenses to protect the social field, examples of which tragically abound in modern history. The book explains the generation of this excess, how the excessive subject functions in the social field, and how the circulation of affect in the social field promotes or impedes political and ethical activity.
Gaining an edge: I wrote this book for students and for others who wish to understand why social change theory has taken certain paths and ignored others. I want them to know that many of the most significant thinkers of our day have been using the model of the excessive subject without making it explicit. I want to see what happens when that model becomes more widely available. I want students to acquire an advantage by learning a new set of tools with which to think. My hope is that this book provides the means for a new appraisal of the possibilities for social change. I look forward to the work that will be done with these new tools.
Posted 1270 days ago by Polity Blogger / Tags: Oliver Leaman, Islamic Philosophy / 1 Comments
When I was asked to prepare a second edition of my Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy I wondered what needed to be added to the existing text. When I looked at the book again it seemed strange that although I emphasized that Islamic philosophy is a living part of world philosophy, I only dealt with earlier aspects of Islamic philosophy, so I thought it would not be a bad idea to have a chapter on some more modern thinkers in the discipline. I wrote such a chapter, and I think it gives a broad view of where Islamic philosophy is today, with the views of a range of contemporary thinkers and the sorts of issues that have become part of the modern curriculum. One of the unusual features of Islamic philosophy is that there has been a protracted debate on what it is throughout the tradition, and that debate persists today. The controversy brings in interesting features of how Islamic culture differs from other cultures.
The other chapter I added deals with a related issue, something that people constantly say to me, that Islam has yet to experience an enlightenment, and that it needs to go through such an event in its cultural history. As a result, they suggest, Islamic philosophy is too limited in its scope and cannot really take on the challenge of modernity and a commitment to reason. I argue against this approach, and compare and contrast the ways in which Jews and Muslims reacted to the Enlightenment. There is no right or wrong way of dealing with modernity, and different communities will react differently, and there is nothing problematic about that. In any case, it just is not true that Islamic philosophy has not taken the Enlightenment seriously, and the idea that there is something very different about Islamic culture on this and related topics should be questioned. This brings us back to the essentially contested concept of a philosophy being Islamic. All religious philosophy contains within itself a struggle between the traditional rules of religion and the rational principles of philosophy, and how that struggle plays out defines the nature of the religious philosophy. My book tries to sharpen how this plays out in the case of Islamic philosophy.
Posted 1270 days ago by Polity Blogger / Tags: Ellis Cashmore, Martin Scorsese, America, Polity / 1 Comments
“In this country, it doesn’t add inches to your dick to get a life sentence” Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) in The Departed
America is a country where success is measured by how long you have to wait in line to get served. The shorter the wait, the more successful you are. This is one of the lessons Martin Scorsese teaches us.
In his new book Martin Scorsese’s America, Ellis Cashmore has anatomized Scorsese’s film, not just his dramas, like GoodFellas and Raging Bull, but his documentaries like No Direction Home (about Bob Dylan) and his television program “Mirror, Mirror,” which he directed for Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. This is the first comprehensive examination of Scorsese’s entire oeuvre and the first attempt to explain the clasp Scorsese has had on the hearts and minds of filmgoers.
“This city doesn’t discriminate: it gets everybody ”
Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) in Bringing Out the Dead
Cashmore, author of Tyson: Nurture of the Beast and Beckham (now in its second edition), begins from the understanding that films have no power to entertain us unless they educate us too. In his own fashion Scorsese has taught us more about America than any living filmmaker. Indisputably one of the greatest living directors, Scorsese has, over four decades, provided us with a body of work that reveals the story of America.
“We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges … we were treated like movie stars — with muscle … we had it all ”
Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in GoodFellas
“What give Scorsese’s film reverb is their sense of engagement with American issues. His themes are big and resonant. The manic pursuit of the American Dream of success, the moral and cultural decline of the cities, the hopelessness of romantic love, what it means to be a man – these are the kinds of issues that pulse through Scorsese’s films.
And, yet Cashmore asks whether, for all his daring and ingenuity as a director, if Scorsese is a conservative filmmaker: there are traditional values and attitudes that go unchallenged, and cautiousness about radical change, especially in relation to gender, politics and religion. Women are frequently compliant doormats who give men license to philander just as long as their credit card bills are settled every month.
“All the animals come out at night: whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies”
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) Taxi Driver
Martin Scorsese’s America is a place where everyone obsesses over something, where lives collapse and are rebuilt, where women willingly submit to being doormats and license their man to philander.
“American culture, for Scorsese, is a proving ground for manhood: in every movie, he makes his audience familiar with the brutality of manhood, not always in a physical sense either. Scorsese’s anti-heroes can be smooth-talking charmers one second, blood-curdling fiends the next.”
“Should I fuck him, or fight him?”
Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) in Raging Bull
Yet for all his daring and imagination, Scorsese is, on Cashmore’s account, a conservative filmmaker. “He respects the nuclear family, never challenges the preeminence of men and seems to admire the maneuvers of career criminals, who exploit the weak for their own gain.”
In Scorsese’s America, there are no moral signposts signaling the roads to redemption or damnation. The police are criminals in uniforms and criminals seldom taste the costs of their behavior. Yet, somehow, Scorsese has held his finger to the pulse of the nation in a way that arguably no other director has managed.
“How could he write ‘how many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man’? This is what my father went through: he was the one who wasn’t called a man.” Mavis Staples [on Bob Dylan], in No Direction Home
Cashmore argues that Scorsese has produced a comprehensive portrait of America. “No living filmmaker can boast such a range of subjects and such historical depth,” says the author. “Scorsese’s America starts in the 1860s and brings us right up to date, examining what Scorsese sees as a society that continually rips itself apart then repairs itself.”
For Cashmore, Scorsese’s epic tales warrant comparison with Tolstoy, his explorations of the city are worthy successors to those of Dickens and his sympathetic yet authentic portrayals of disillusionment rank with those of Steinbeck. And yet, the nagging doubt remains: is Scorsese a reliable chronicler of America, or merely a visionary filmmaker?