Monday, October 7, 2019

Power (Key Concept)

Understanding culture in terms of relationships of power is what lies behind the argument that questions of meaning, interpretation, and identity are political issues, and that we can talk about ‘cultural politics’ or ‘the politics of identity.’ Power is often defined in terms of one set of people exerting power over another set of people, or over space, or nature, or the landscape in order to control them and their meanings in various ways. This ‘negative’ definition of power is useful in that it makes it clear that there are different interests and that they can come into conflict (often over cultural issues). It also raises the question of the forms of resistance (again often cultural) which contest the exercise of power. However, we might also understand power as being ‘positive.’ This means that power is not just about preventing things from happening, it is also the capacity to make things happen. Here power is part of all sorts of forms of social and cultural construction. Power is involved in constituting identities (including those of the individuals or social groups who are understood to ‘hold’ power), social relations (such as the relationships between men and women), and cultural geographies (such as the definition of national identities, or of ‘East’ and ‘West’ in Orientalism). (9-10)
Ogborn, Miles. “Knowledge is Power: Using Archival Research to Interpret State Formation.” Cultural Geography in Practice. Ed. Alison Blunt, et al. Oxford UP, 2003: 9-22.

Allen, Amy. "Feminist Perspectives on Power." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (July 7, 2016)

Koopman, Colin. "The Power Thinker." Aeon (March 15, 2017) ["Original, painstaking, sometimes frustrating and often dazzling. Foucault’s work on power matters now more than ever"]

Lukes, Stephen. Power: A Radical View. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005.

"Power (Social and Political)." Wikipedia (Ongoing archive)

"Rape Culture Syllabus." Public Books (October 15, 2016) ["Scholars and activists, poets and playwrights have been writing about rape for centuries. What would the conversation around sexual assault, police bias, and the legal system look like if investigators, police officers, and judges read deeply into the literature on sexuality, racial justice, violence, and power? It is in view of this question that the following syllabus is offered as a scholarly resource—and object of critical discussion and debate—on “rape culture” in the 21st century."]

Robinson, Andrew. "Bakhtin: Carnival against Capital, Carnival against Power." Cease Fire (September 9, 2011) ["The dominant worldview of medieval Europe was of a natural order which is hierarchical, stable, monolithic and immutable, but poised on the brink of disaster or ‘cosmic terror’, and hence in need of constant maintenance of order. This is similar to Aristotle’s view. For Bakhtin, such a view is oppressive and intolerant. It closes language to change. The fear of ‘cosmic terror’, the pending collapse of order if things got out of control (or the threat posed by the Real to the master-signifier), was used by elites to justify hierarchy and to subdue popular revolt and critical consciousness. Today, we might think of this vision of monolithic order in terms of fantasies of ‘broken Britain’, of civilisation under siege from extremists, and a discourse of risk-management (and the crisis-management of ‘ungovernability’) in which ‘terrorism’, disease, protest, deviance and natural disaster fuse into a secularised vision of cosmic collapse. This vision of collapse has infiltrated legal and political discourse to such a degree that any excess of state power seems ‘proportionate’ against this greater evil. The folk view expressed in carnival and carnivalesque, and related speech-genres such as swearing and popular humour, opposes and subverts this vision. For Bakhtin, cosmic terror and the awe induced by the system’s violent power are the mainstays of its affective domination. Folk culture combats the fear created by cosmic terror.""]

Williams, Kristian. Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America. South End Press, 2007.

Zoller, Matt. "Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy." World in Time (November 22, 2019) ["'There are many arguments for what is at the root cause of our current social dysfunction,' journalist Matt Stoller writes at the beginning of his book Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy. 'Various explanations include the prevalence of racism, automation, the rise of China, inadequate education or training, the spread of the internet, Donald Trump, the collapse of political norms, or globalization. Many of these explanations have merit. But there’s another much simpler explanation of what is going on. Our systems are operating the way that they were designed to. In the 1970s, we decided as a society that it would be a good idea to allow private financiers and monopolists to organize our world. As a result, what is around us is a matrix of monopolies, controlling our lives and manipulating our communities and our politics. This is not just happenstance. It was created. The constructs shaping our world were formed as ideas, put into law, and now they are our economic and social reality. Our reality is formed not just of monopolized supply chains and brands, but an entire language that precludes us from even noticing, from discussing the concentrated power all around us.'"]

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