Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Interviewing Michael Parenti about The Culture Struggle

"Culture" refers to the entire panorama of conventional beliefs and practices within any society. But it has long occurred to me that what we call "culture" is not just a set of practices, mores, and beliefs, the "innocent accretion of past solutions," as an anthropologist once said. Much of culture is certainly that, but culture is also a politically charged component of the social order, mediated through institutions and groups that have quite privileged vested interests.

Culture should be thought of as a changing process, the product of a dynamic interplay-even serious struggle--between a wide range of social and political interests. To understand a society we need to understand the problem of culture as well as that of power. And, conversely, to understand culture we also need to take note of how power is used in society, toward what end and for whose benefit and at whose cost…

…Many parts of modern culture are being commodified, that is, packaged and sold to those who can pay. Folk culture is giving way to a corporate market culture. Art, science, medicine, psychiatry, and even marriage have been used as instruments of cultural control across the centuries. I deal with all this in the book."

Link to interview.
The Culture Struggle at Seven Stories Press.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's Not OK to Eat a Sexed-Up Chicken

"Researchers from the United States and Brazil posed the following hypothetical: "A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a dead chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Is that wrong?" People in both countries said it's not OK to eat a sexed-up chicken considerably more often if they hailed from a low socioeconomic background. Cultural differences extend even to basic matters such as the meaning of language. Imagine that Gödel didn't invent Gödel's Theorem. Some guy named Schmidt did. Then to whom do we refer when we continue to use the word "Gödel"? In one experiment, researchers found that Americans tend to say, "the guy who got credit for the theorem," while Hong Kongers say, "the guy who actually came up with it."

Jon Lackman writes on Slate about the new applied philosophy movement called "X-Phil" and philosophy's cross-cultural quagmire.