Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Stumbled upon this article today, it's interesting in how it relates to the Marxist concept of how superstructures can influence how a culture dictates an individual to be. In the article, it is like authoritarianism/totalatarianism vs capitalism or socialisms way of influencing... maybe more capitalism?
I started looking into it by brushing up on Marxism (via wikipedia) and this stood out;
"Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand."

— Karl Marx, Grundrisse, 1858
[Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, by Karl Marx & Martin Nicolaus, Penguin Classics, 1993, ISBN 0140445757, pg 265]

In circling back to the idea of how these superstructures relate to the influence of culture on power relation in different social groups and how these cultures help dictate the clashes that occur when differing social groups come into contact and create superstructures of oppression [classism/racism/etc].

Central to understanding this seems to be getting a grasp of Marx's concept of the dialectic

This stems from Hegel's concept of the dialectic but with a focus on materialism, or, dialectical materialism .
Gould, the biologist contributes to this idea by using it as a heuristic for biological systems, their complexity, ecology, and interdependence. I like this idea, and it aids the philosophical to biological and sociological transition. [I should look up more of his work and philosophy; Gould, Stephen Jay (1990). "Nurturing Nature". In …. An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas. London: Penguin. p. 153.]

This may relate to Noam Chomsky's work with linguistics as well; he talks about a deep structure and a super structure to grammar, is there a way this harmonizes which the deep and superstructures of culture from a Marxist perspective?

It seems that an emergence or connectionist theory, which would maybe be more in line with how the cultural model im considering works, but this appears to counter the ideas of language used by Chomsky. Is it acceptable to use only part of his work to connect it to the connectionist model?
The connectionist model may also work in the network modeling of the Framptom heart study; is this part of how the influence of social networks was partly analyzed? If this can work, then we can connect a long line of theorists and ideas from the linguistic level to the cultural; political and economic, and then use this column to run over a text like a grater, shredding the pieces to see how they fit to create a whole of oppression and how the cultural legacies are altered or maintained over time in response.

But I digress...

Returning to Marxism and base-superstructures, this seems to very an issue I have to pay attention to as it has come under criticism, I need to lookup Raymond Williams as a critic of this. He seems to have a school of theory called cultural materialism (and cultural studies ) which is, as I mentioned, one aspect of the thesis I need to cover. His bleedings of Marxism are worth paying attention to analyze texts seems worth pursuing. This seems to imply that I am conducting a neo-marxism literature review focusing on mexican literature. But the fun would be in adding a case-study or experimental element to the study which would involve real subjects. I worry about the language issues, and it looks like either way I will need to practice mis espanol.

I think this is where the research portion needs to come in. Now that I have a clearer idea of a topic and a philosophical basis to fill so many of those precious pages to explore, I need to see what has been done in this field, if anything (Fingers Crossed!).




Stuart Hall [consumption (I need to consider this in view of Gould and Chomsky...hmmm)]

Terry Eagleton
Pierre Bourdieu

***that is a foundation, but I think the idea of change is complicated by the concept of a cultural legacy and cultural echo from the last post... I need to look at how the neo-marxist approach is used to get a better understanding of this***

Althusser's "levels" connect to Gladwell's Tipping Point, and seems to link with Gould's punctuated equilibrium and ecological theories. Althusser seems to be a key source I can use. Too bad he also strangled his wife...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mountains Beyond Mountains

In looking at topics for a thesis, I have been frustrated by the wax and wane of ideas; from looking at how cyberpunk and dystopia/modern literature posits the individual as in isolation while simultaneously allowing them to have and create or find meaningful relationships and communities; how modern web 2. technology has effected literature, writing, journalism, and educating by creating a new cultural standard for literacy, agency, and writing; to working with chicano culture and literature in a restaurant or professional setting to analyze how culture superstructures and the long term effects of cultural legacy in cultural collisions and classism/racism.

Through this wide range of ideas, a dominant undercurrent of influence has held sway. The works of Jarod Diamond and of Malcolm Gladwell have been strongly influential in changing how I perceive different settings. Against these post-structuralists theories, there is a counter-current of agency, a devotion to the existentialists philosophies/philosophers.

Does this then reposition me in the same place I found myself some four or so years ago, wondering what bridges are between these post-structuralists and existentialism?

"Guns, Germs, and Steel" is always in the back of my mind as a guiding ideology for understanding the broader place cultures have in history and modern society as a response to their environmental pressures. Recently, writing on Marx has rekindled too the class and socioeconomic awareness that underlies much of consumerism and American culture today. Gladwell, in his article in the New York, "The Revolution will not be Tweeted" made me skeptical of technology and coupled with a Marxist perspective allows me to view Cory's paper on Twitter in Education as increasing a class division. Gladwell's book "Outliers" helps position me in a better way to understand how this, cultural studies, directly effects the individual and can be determining (in a similar kind of argument that Diamond uses, which is why I consider both of these text to be post-structuralists ideologies.

But what room remains between these texts? How does an individuals statistical percentage, probability, challenge or confirm the concept of agency and the existential crisis?
I have three forays planned thus far; "Forms in the Abyss" has been sitting on my bookshelf for too many years, its purchase stemming from a similar vein of inquiry years ago, after being introduced to theory after my own previous obsession with existentialism in early college. Purporting to bridge the concepts between Sarte and Derrida, it promises to be a good jumping off point in looking for how both can speak to the same reality/experience and so address this returning curiosity of mine. However, heavily steeped in linguistics and semiotics/semiology, the text also appears way over my head. "Existentialism 2.0" may help familiarize myself with the philosophies current conceptualization, and finally reading "Curseo's Footprint" (another book collecting dust that has been unread in the 2 years that have passed since its lending) maybe help with the cultural perspective.

But I feel unprepared for the voyage and task ahead. The topics are not something that we have studied in any meaningful way in school. My bitterness at the educational institution increases daily as I look at what I have to do, what I have to pay, to finish, and how much of a waste it all is in so many ways. But I wouldn't embark on this without it, so, I jump, fiery rings and all...

All rivers lead to the sea" the saying, at least in intellectual pursuits, has always seemed to hold true for me. Idea pods upon idea, field leads to field, from general to specific and back again. One of my favorite illustrations is from SEED magazine,

What I take from this picture is the idea that all things, all information, is connected, the field we choose to explore is really a difference of scale, but each layer is connected to every other. So, if I try to explore several ideas, after enough time, maybe I can begin to see the connections between them in more detail, or at least have better questions...

So what can one do with all this, what are the initial questions?
When I drive, often my best ideas come to me, or at least I think they are my best because no one is there to disagree. I have taken to recording my rantings, so here are the questions I have a few minutes left to jot down (clarifications coming soon!);

cultural studies redefinies new fields and interdisciplinary work;
modern conflicts and paradigm shifts not taught in courses and cross-disciplinary not encouraged;
cultural studies of revolution? (kristena, feminism and civil rights movements- leaders through cultural studies lenses?)
restaurants as a illustration of opportunity based on cultural divisions and histories and influenced by racism/class-ism?
Correlation of studies on influencing qualities of application of 10,000 rule to literacy based on literature awards given internationally?

Two take aways from listening to those... I need to speak in a much more practiced way and I need to be clearer in my ideas, because I know what I'm saying and I can barley make sense of them. Explication coming soon...

Below is a running list of books I can pull from so far, I need to look for some chicano texts...

The Botany of Desire
Mountains Beyond Mountains
Sex at Dawn
The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted
Ender's Game
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Love Medicine*
Wuthering Heights
100 Years of Solitude*
Cultures Consquences* [power-distance-index's]
Albion's Seed*
The Tipping Point*
Forms In The Abyss*
Existentialism 2.0*
Crusoe's Footprint*

*to read