Monday, November 28, 2005

week 9 reading analysis

Here are a few comments on the reading for the week. I found this book fascinating (it was my favorite so far). I will follow the standard quote-comment layout.

1 – “Cultures are arenas in which different ways of articulating the world come into conflict and alliance. . . . Meaning is always a social production, a human practice; and because different meanings can be ascribed to the same thing, meaning is always the site and the result of struggle” (x,xi). There are obviously a lot of philosophical assumptions here that I don’t have the space or ability to discuss well, but aside from this there is clearly much truth in this statement. We as the church must learn to talk about ourselves as an alternative “culture,” a way of seeing the world that doesn’t have to fit itself into existing categories, that doesn’t have to share the assumptions of other cultures. Our task is in part to create meaning for people, to help them see reality from God’s perspective and align with who he is and what he is doing.

2 – “The culture industry has depoliticized the working class – limited its horizon to political and economic goals that could be realized within the oppressive and exploitative framework of capitalist society. . . . The work of the culture industry is to arrest and imprison our cultural and political imaginations, thus making it increasingly impossible to think outside the prevailing structures of power” (28,29). This is so prevalent in the church! Every time I talk to someone about politics or economic issues they assume that we aren’t allowed to think out of the bounds of the present system. As mentioned above, our task is to equip and train people to resist “the culture industry,” offering real, creative alternatives to the tired ways of dealing with the problems in the world today.

3 – “By supplying the means for the satisfaction of certain needs, capitalism is able to prevent the formation of more fundamental desires” (29). I was thinking about this one in connection with our inclusion of capitalism as one of the factors that has led to our current economic problems. It pretty much speaks for itself.

4 – “Modernism’s self-image – an exclusive and excluding cultural practice – disguises the fact that modernism’s autonomy as a cultural practice . . . is dependent on the very market economy it pretends to despise” (42). This, too, I found intriguing, although I don’t have a lot to add by way of comment.

5 – “[Hegemony] produces a situation in which the interests of one powerful section of society are ‘universalized’ as the interests of the society as a whole. In this sense, hegemony is used to suggest a society in which, despite oppression and exploitation, there is a high degree of ‘consensus,’ a society in which subordinate groups and classes appear to actively support and subscribe to values, ideals, objectives, cultural and political meanings, which ‘incorporate’ them into the prevailing structures of power” (49). Along the same lines as 2, this quote helped me understand why people react the way they do when presented with real alternatives in the real of socio-political identities. We as the church are expected to underwrite liberal democracy and the free market system, systems that, while supposedly upholding equality and the possibility of success for anyone, often end up oppressing and exploiting the very people they supposedly aim to assist.

6 – “Culture is no longer ideological, disguising the economic activities of capitalist society; it is itself an economic activity, perhaps the most important economic activity of all” (65). To be honest, I don’t really understand yet what this quote means, but I do find it interesting and I get the sense that it is important. Maybe someone out there can help me get it.

7 – “National borders are becoming less and less important as transnational corporations, existing everywhere and nowhere, do business in a world economy” (107). On the one hand, this presents the positive result of the demise of nationalism. While it arguably replace it with something just as harmful, it would be nice if Americans released the grip of the “American” identity being primary, with its attendant allegiances and assumptions. However, Storey later presents the view that globalization is really more like Americanization – where everyone drinks coke, eats at mcdonald’s, and so on. He writes, “In this scenario globalization is the successful global imposition of Americanization, in which the economic success of US capitalism is underpinned by the ideological work that its commodities supposedly do in effectively destroying indigenous cultures and imposing an American way of life on ‘local’ populations” (109). While he points out the flaws in thinking about globalization in this way, this view is still popular, particularly among many of the people in the churches where we minister. This flawed but popular view of globalization reinforces the nationalism that should rightly be put to sleep by globalization. All that to say, our task still involves helping Christians see “Christian” as a legitimate alternative socio-political identity.

"I believe those were my thoughts; I hope I've crystallized them for you." (Brian Reagan)


At 10:56 AM, Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

There is a very good comment on earthly economic systems by the Holy Spirit over on The Christian Prophecy blog today. Apparently it's not so much about physical life than about QUALITY of life.


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