This month the 22nd Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. The spectacle of the event has captivated persons from around the world to tune into watch their favorite sport or favorite athletes. Russia spent over $50 billion to prepare for the Olympics by building hotels, roads, stadiums, and to bring in artificial snow into the Southern resort town. The Sochi Olympics are the first mega-sporting event to occur this year, but will likely be trumped by the upcoming World Cup in Brazil over the summer. Brazil’s price tag for hosting the World Cup is considerable less at around $9 billion dollars. Nonetheless, the cost of both of these events and the emphasis by the respective countries to show the world the capabilities of their nation reveal the increasing globalization of these world sporting events. The Olympics and the World Cup are two global sports spectacles that have considerable cultural and economic ramifications, and are a product of intense politicking to bring the events to one’s national home.
Source: Our Bodies, Ourselves
For a long time I have been interested in how cultural products, ideologies, commodities, norms, values, and beliefs travel within an interconnected global society. I struggled with questions such as, “What happens when cultural product move from one global locality to another?” and “What happens to the cultural ideologies embedded within these products as they travel?”
I found that previous scholarship often presented the movement of cultural products and ideologies as a linear process. Hybridity and ‘glocalization’ models, such as those presented by Robertson (1990) and Pieterse (2001) did take this analysis one step further. Here local culture also merged with the imported cultural ideologies creating a compound ideology. These models provided a theory of understanding how cultural products become embedded in different cultural contexts without minimizing the power of local culture.
However, what these studies did not address is that within the context of a global society, cultural movement has a more recursive character, meaning that as a cultural object, or product, travels from one locality to another they are constantly developing and being shaped by complex and contingent negotiation that occurs as they move.
Hanauer discusses the perceived wisdom or false premise that tax cuts for the rich creates jobs.
The following short video provides a really nice presentation of the gap between perceived and actual income inequality in the US .
(If you are interested in this post, please see my earlier post on neoliberalism)
Source: Microsoft Clip Art
Based on recent research, there appears to be a link between the ideals of neoliberalism and increasing rates of inequality. Navarro (1998) argues, for instance, that neoliberal policies have contributed to growing inequalities around the globe and to worsening living conditions for the majority of the world’s people. For her part, George (1999) agrees and blames increasing inequality on the common neoliberal practices of placing public wealth into private hands, approving tax cuts for the wealthy, and pushing wages down for the non-elite. And, unfortunately, evidence suggests that inequality may mediate the relationship between neoliberalism and a third variable: interpersonal violence. In this regard, Krug et al. (2002:1086) write that “economic conditions [i.e., inequality] are both the causes and the effects of violence” with those on the poorer end of the spectrum experiencing the most violence. Other scholars, too, have found that inequality is positively correlated with violent crime rates (see Fajnzylber, Lederman, and Loayza 2002). Considering these findings, it appears that as neoliberalism becomes more prominent in a country, it can be expected that inequality and, as a result, interpersonal violence within that country will increase. In an attempt to demonstrate this argument, I will review these relationships before providing a brief case study to demonstrate how these variables may be interrelated. (more…)
Starting in the second half of the 20th century, neoliberalism became increasingly prominent as a form of governance in countries around the world (Peters 2001). Originally, the roots of neoliberalism were planted by a classical political economy theory which advocated for markets (and thus people) to be completely liberated from any type of governmental interference (Smith 2009). “Free” competition and “free” enterprise were promoted as manners in which economies should be allowed to grow. Martinez and García (2000) contend that this “liberal” type of economic theory began to be adopted in the West throughout the 1800s and into the early part of the 1900s. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the development of Keynesian economics, though, temporarily slowed down the advancement of liberal economics. In recent decades, however, there has been a revival of economic liberalism (or, neoliberalism) on a truly global level as countries around the world now either choose or are forced to engage in neoliberal governance. As a result of the growing hegemonic prominence of neoliberalism, there have been vast changes at the national-level, the international-level, and the individual-level.
At the national-level, neoliberal ideas have drastically changed how states operate. By heavily promoting market-based economies that highly value competition and efficiency, neoliberalism has moved countries closer to adopting social Darwinism. Under Thatcher and Reagan, for instance, Peters (2001) argues that neoliberalism directly led to the economic liberalization/rationalization of the state, the restructuring of state sectors, and the dismantling of the welfare state. As a consequence of these changes, the U.S. and the U.K. have seen things like the abolishment of subsidies and tariffs, the corporatization and privatization of state trading departments, a sustained attack on unions, and the individualization of health, welfare, and education. Although the idea that markets should fully dictate governments would have seemed ludicrous in prior decades (George 1999), Bourdieu (1999b) contends that neoliberalism as a form of national governance has become a doxa, or an unquestioned and simply accepted worldview. Harvey (2005) is thus not surprised that the ideas of capitalism have been infused into political, social, and cultural institutions at the state-level. By placing a mathematical quality on social life (Bourdieu 1999a), neoliberalism has encouraged formerly autonomous states to regress into penal states that value production, competition, and profit above all else, including social issues.
In the ten days following the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital, Americans used text messaging to donate over $30 million. Text messaging has been prominent in the news as of late. Candidate Obama shocked supporters by announcing his vice presidential pick using this new medium. In 2008, Nielson reported that the average teen sends a whopping 2,272 messages a month. A new term, “sexting,” entered popular usage following several high profile cases of teens being expelled or even charged with distribution of child pornography. The Pew Internet and American Life Center reported in 2009 that 15% of teens ages 12-17 received sexually explicit images of people they know. Texting has proven the most dangerous common distraction to drivers. The first images of the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson were uploaded to the Web from the cell phone of a passenger on a nearby boat. The incident was also Twittered by a survivor. Then, of course, there were the protests to the recent Iranian elections, which used personal mobile communication devices to subvert state-run media.
Each of these incidences share a common theme: traditional practices were supplanted in favor of a new set of behaviors associated with mobile communications. That’s the what, but as a social theorist, I suggest we also ought to consider the why. I think Zymgunt Bauman, a remarkably prolific octogenarian sociologist, has a lot to offer us here. Bauman famously speaks of “liquid modernity” where traditional social structures are melting away and fading ambiguously into one another. He argues that things which are liquid, flowing, and mobile tend to undo things which are rigid, solid, and stable.
Mobile communication networks increasingly provide concrete examples supporting Bauman’s theory and Haiti is only the latest instance. The cell phone has made transferring money more immediate, more flexible, and simpler than even the credit card. People need only reach into their pockets for a device which is already profoundly integrated into their lives and dial a few numbers. Within seconds, the transaction is complete and money has flowed from one node in the network to another. The power of such fluid networks is that, with minimal cost in time and money (most were $10 contributions) to individuals, enormous resources can be mobilized. The political implications of this new fluid and hyper-networked reality should not be lost on us.
“Mobile giving to help Haiti exceeds $30 million” by Suzanne Choney
“Teaching and Learning Guide for: Social Implications of Mobile Telephony: The Rise of Personal Communication Society” by Scott W. Campbell and Yong Jin Park
Today’s papers have focused once more on the key motifs of the conference, that of breaking down borders and indisciplinarity. Nancy Naples (University of Connecticut) uses her paper: ‘Borderlands Studies and Border Theory: Linking Activism and Scholarship for Social Justice’ to highlight just some of the difficulties faced when ‘negotiate[ing] different disciplinary frames, methods, and theoretical assumptions in order to move forward toward collaborative problem solving’.
The second paper today entitled ‘Theorizing Borders in a ‘Borderless World’: Globalization, Territory and Identity’ was presented by Alexander Diener (Pepperdine University) and Joshua Hagen (Marshall University). The authors question the assumption that world is becoming increasingly borderless, instead suggesting that state borders continue to ‘remain one of the most basic and visible features of the international system.’
Finally, on the third day of the conference Kivmars Bowling (Wiley-Blackwell) has presented a particularly relevant publishing workshop entitled ‘The Online Author’s Survival Guide’. The daily book prize was awarded to Maeve O’Donovan for her comment on David Crystal’s keynote lecture and the conference day ended in the Second Life cocktail bar.
As Westerners, it is difficult for us to imagine a situation where women are regarded as the mysterious “Other” more than in Saudi Arabia, where wearing the hijab is required and what we consider basic rights, such as full employment and driving privileges, are not universal. There, Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of a gendered hierarchy is unusually present. Thus, it might seem strange to learn that plastic surgery procedures in that country are on the rise for women. In the West, and in many Asian countries, the reasons for getting plastic surgery are clearer, if not always positive. But if the results are not going to be visible in public, why spend large sums of money to achieve them? Additionally, Islamic law forbids doctors from altering God’s creation, unless there are substantial reasons to do so, such as deformity or injury, but many plastic surgeons are beginning to bend the rules a little to do breast augmentations and nose jobs.
As Sociologists, we are forced to ask: is this a positive or negative trend? On one hand, women are asserting their human right to control their own lives. On the other, Saudi women are becoming more influenced by Western notions of beauty. As with most other effects of Globalization, the results are unexpected and mixed.
Body Politics by Sandra Lee Bartky