Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Summary of "Globalisation and Popular Culture"
by Tom Peele

No one who read this entire collection will be surprised to learn that Storey takes an oppositional stance to the concept of globalisation. By oppositional, I mean that he doesn't buy the concept that America is by degrees turning the world into a clone of itself. Let me let Storey (at least as I read him) explain.

Usefully, Storey defines globalisation: "the establishment of a capitalist world economy [I wrote and then corrected "world order." Are you familiar with Bush the First's justification for the first gulf war: establishing a "new world order" and something about 1,000 points of light. Where are they now?] in which national borders are becoming less and less important as transnational corporations, existing everywhere and nowhere, do business in a global market" (152). This sense of globalisation, he writes, can be experienced by going anywhere and doing anything -- clothes and food from around the world are available far from their origins. He also defines globalisation as "time-space compression," a world in which people travel more and are more digitally wired (and thus more often and more rapidly in communication with each other) than before. The final definition he provides concerns the increasing migration of the labor force.

Storey's beef has to do with "globalisation as cultural Americanisation" (153). He's not concerned about this because, as he emphasized throughout the book, culture is made locally; it happens when cultural artifacts are consumed. The meanings of those artifacts are not pre-determined, but rather made in the process of consumption. This is a point with which both Matthew and Jenny might take issue. If the range of products is predetermined, then how is meaning made locally?

To defend his claim, Storey points out that "commodities are [not] the same as culture" (154). By this, he means that individuals make meaning from commodities; it is this process of meaning making where culture resides. Instead of assuming that meaning remains stable, we need instead to consider how commodities are read (155-57).

Storey provides many examples of how culture is appropriated then moves to a useful discussion of "hybridization" (161). One can only imagine, he claims, that culture can be penetrated and overwhelmed only if one imagines that cultures are monolithic and static. Instead, what occurs is hybridization, which results in "Thai boxing by Moroccan girls in Amsterdam, Asian rap in London, Irish bagels, Chinese tacos" and other cultural manifestations (161). The difficulty, Storey, following Said, claims, "was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly exclusively, White, or Black, or Western, or Oriental" (162).

How, then, do we think of ourselves? How is identity shaped? How do we (should we?) stop thinking of ourselves as primarily one thing or another? If commodity consumption allows us to create our own identities, how have these come to be the identities we create? Commodity consumption is just one avenue of the creation of culture -- that culture is created in so many ways, from so many sources (Ideological State Apparatuses come to mind) suggests that as we pursue cultural studies we consider, or acknowledge that we will not be considering, various forms of cultural production.

It is telling that Storey ends the book with a discussion of hegemony: "popular culture is neither an 'authentic' subordinate culture, nor a culture imposed by the culture industries, but a 'compromise equilibrium' (Gramsci) between the two; a contradictory mix of forces from both 'below' and 'above'; both 'commercial' and authentic'; marked by 'resistance' and 'incorporation', involving both 'structure' and 'agency'" (163).

1 comment:

Bill said...

The questions you raised from the reading: "How, then, do we think of ourselves? How do we (should we?) stop thinking of ourselves as primarily one thing or another?" really appealed to me.

I grew up in two very different cultures, one Euro-american (German immigrants), and one Indo-american/canadian(kwkwk'wkw). There is a great diparity in the cultural values, stories, foods, etc. of each.

Growing up, that tension never really allowed me to feel comfortable in either, and it wass only as I grew older that I began to form a feeling of membership--however partial--in each; sort of an internal example of Storey's "hybridization." My identity, then, is not compartmentalized as one thing or another: I'm something of an aggregate of bits and pieces from each tradition.