Reflections on the Cultural

Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama both appeared in a collection of essays by that title, Culture Matters.  Neo-conservatives are always talking about culture while making apologetic for liberal capitalism by illiberal means.  So, in a sense though, it is true that the culture wars and the cultural development over time does matter:

Economics and culture are different ways to explaining and conceptualization human relations whose very reification  effects the relationships it describes.  It becomes a rubric of description with a particular lens but over the time the lens affects the relationships themselves.   The descriptive drafts to the prescriptive: economic policy assumes economic descriptors,  traditions are standardized and even invented and forced into the collective memory, implicit and explicit laws develop from these code, etc.   To some degree getting in too much parlance between the “base and the supra-structure” to use an unfortunate conception from Marxist to which Engels gave the dominance “in last instance” to the economic base confuses things:  material conditions both changed and are changed by cultural practice.   It’s not a mechanical feedback loop, but it has a similar relationship.

This is why the Radical Enlightenment and the Radical Reformation in Europe as well as Buddhist encounters with Modernity and the tensions within Confucianism  fascinate me. In general, when economics confronts culture, economics wins: but the causal relationship is not all the clear.  South Korean and Japanese capitalism, even more than Chinese state capitalism, retains a strong familial piety and Confucian element: the Chaebols that run Korea are operated almost like clans with a dominant family often promoting based on seniority and familial status. There are Chaebols that deliberately tried to buck this trend: Samsung being the most prominent example. Japanese companies still function on a hybrid model of the family clan, but with CEO’s often adopting outside of family to keep the appearance of the clan up and keep nepotism at a minimum for such a system.

Now we can get into these academic debates over how many modernities there are (multiple or singular) in spatial relations, if the general population has ever been truly modern in its attitude (Latour, Eco, etc),  or if there can be a post-modernity (Latour again), but this is in a nexus of cultural existence.  We can argue about how to break the various modern cultures into typologies (as Hofstede and Huntington did).  We can argue about sub-strains within a culture like Haidt does.  These moves, however, sometimes seem arbitrary, or at the very least, a form of trying to fit a amorphous emergent complexity into a set of taxonomic categories.

Sociology and philosophy have science envy sometimes. Forgive them their insecurities.

Anyway, in the spirit of this some disclosed readings including some poetry and science fiction. This is what is in my cultural input at the moment:

 Anti-Nietzsche by Malcolm Bull.*

American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man by Jonathan I. Israel

Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy  by Francois Laruelle (trans by Rocco Gangle)

Introduction to Antiphilosophy  by Boris Groys

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

You are Not So Smart by David McRaney

Next Life: Poems by Rae Armentrout

The Orchards of Syon by Geoffery Hill

Infinite Thought by Alain Badiou (trans. and ed. by Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens)

Consider this a sort of guide to what’s bouncing around in my head at the moment other than student essays and podcasts.   I will be trying to weave these in as I begin some real writing on culture, which has been on my mind in this period of returning to economics.

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About El Mono Liso

Por una civilización de la pobreza.

Posted on April 18, 2012, in Korea. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Benjamin David Steele

    “We can argue about how to break the various modern cultures into typologies (as Hofstede and Huntington did). We can argue about sub-strains within a culture like Haidt does. These moves, however, sometimes seem arbitrary, or at the very least, a form of trying to fit a amorphous emergent complexity into a set of taxonomic categories.”

    That is something that bothers me. It is easy to create a theory to explain something and then that theory begins to become conflated with what is being observed. The theory can end up being talked about as if it were a fact itself. Trying to discern what is actually fundamental is quite the challenge.

    The problem is that the more confidently a theory is promoted the more popularity it potentially gains. Presenting a theory as one of many possible views of “a amorphous emergent complexity” won’t satisfy most people. In the competitive world of theories, winning over adherents can become an end in itself.

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