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A philosophy of culture
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|Subject: A philosophy of culture Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:47 am|| |
I agree that there will never exist a "world culture", but only if we understand world culture to mean a homogeneous culture of universally applied ideas, norms and standards. Culture is more diverse, heterogeneous and broken up within itself, and the fact of a culture's universality isn't that its ideas, norms and standards are themselves universal but rather than there exists a field in which these ideas, norms and standards actualize in certain relations to one another, and that field itself is what is more or less universalized. To define the space in which culture appears, at the material social level, we must look beyond national borders and see were certain forms of thinking and emoting have influence, where certain knowledges and experiences inform; there is indeed a general overlap to national borders but it is highly imprecise as cultural coordinates are fluid and stretch beyond national borders. In the past the national borders also ended up being defined in part by the spread of culture, but today national borders are more fixed and more resistant to cultural flows, so that those cultural flows simply pass over those borders usually without altering them.
A true world culture just means that a field will exist within which a number of possible relations amongst a set of ideas, norms and standards will always be the case, and that this field will be more or less universalized across all nations. It does not mean the end of nations, nor does it mean the end of sub-cultures. Culture peaks in the highest moment of its "material ideal", of its "factual" reality or we might say metaphysically, at the level of true onto-logical substance, and then after this peak attempts to keep peaking but cannot, resulting in a kind of stasis for a while, after which it begins to decline: as culture is peaking it is concentrating upward upon a certain vaguely defined point, a maximum potency, once it reaches that point it attempts to hold itself there, but inevitable begins to decline and break apart as it falls. These cycles have been ongoing throughout human history and the result is what one culture competes with another by infringing upon it, one culture provokes or shores up another in so far as each culture is at a relative stage of progress, stasis or decline.
A world culture too would rise, stabilize and then decline. But as Hegel noted, the present age always takes from the past ages those things which seem useful to it, and disregards what is not useful, and it is the task of philosophy to "mine the past ages" for those ideas which have fallen away but could be useful to us today. My idea of human progress of civilization is more Hegelian because Hegel describes both what Parodites notes as the cyclical nature of progress over time, the fact that it is not linear and that each age has its governing ideas and culture which ultimately succumb to self-contradictions and decline, but also because he describes an overall trend forward "in the background", a progress over the span of all those cycles and breaks. This span is precisely what philosophy does: takes what is useful and true and fast-forwards it into the present, keeps resuscitating elements from the past to prevent them from being lost. This is not only what philosophy does but what art, music, literature, poetry do as well. The work of culture in the present of a great civilization is always going to be in part a vast recollection and synthesizing of past ideas in order to supplement the present. And this takes place alongside or above the kind of cyclical cultural alternations upon which societies rise and fall. Hegel's point isn't, as far as I can tell so far, that there is one ultimate telos of history but rather that there is no such telos at all: history is simply this cycling back and forth of certain cultural-social formulations in stages of conflict and resolution, always animated by internal contradictions, and over which a meta-history is unfolding progressively as elements from the past are being gathered in the present to enhance the power of the present cultures and societies. What is true over time will endure, and even if a true thing is buried it never perishes but waits, for someone or something in the present to revive it.
The problem of world culture is not only quantitative (how to spread a culture over such a large space and diverse populace) but also qualitative (how would cultural forms progress and modulate their elements without inter-cultural competitions?). The outside of a culture, namely other cultures and the world at large, acts as a reality principle by which a given culture is limited in just how far its own errors and excesses (internal contradictions) can go. As a culture gets more powerful and large this limiting factors declines relative to that power and size, therefore a culture is able to go farther into its own errors and excesses, but ultimately even very powerful and large cultures end up shifting from stasis to decline as the reality principle imposes (even Rome fell). The barbarian hordes were not the case of Rome's failure, they were just an aspect of that reality principle at work upon the internal contradictions within Rome, and it is those contradictions that really caused the failure. The point is that there are always limits and they are never just "purely external", or at least that the total force against a culture's continued stasis is always defined by combining internal and external.
The difference here is that a world culture would have no outside to act as a reality principle. Imagine if Rome had conquered the entire planet; no barbarians left, everyone became Roman. At some point Rome would have still collapsed, quite simply because that global state would have broken into smaller conflicting regions and a non-global situation would have again been the case. So the philosophy of culture would be as follows: even in the event of a world culture, the internal tensions and contradictions to such a culture must eventually force the world culture to split into different regions or factions, thus re-instituting a non-global situation of different cultures in competition, i.e. a return to the reality principle of the external impositional limit. But as I said already, I do not think a world culture will truly exist, because culture is always more or less local. It is simply impossible to sustain culture at such a vast level, even look at the United States, there are many different cultures within the US even if you discount immigrants and indigenous people. The west coast differs from the east, differs from the mid-west; the north differs from the south. Old differs from young. Etc. Culture is always heterogeneous but it can even be said that there are always many different sub-cultures within every culture, and the larger culture itself can be seen as the collection of all those sub-cultures together across the same region. The sub-cultures are the critical elements of culture in this understanding, and the sub-cultures are always locally oriented (local in space and time).
Then there are the less common work that sustains a larger cultural image and progress over time, like art and literature for example, film also, now also consumerism and the manufacturing of memes and affects directly, patterns of relating to one another that emerge by intention and by accident. All of this "really active work" is occurring to fill in the cultural potential with real contents, and those real contents really relate and interact to produce the "material ideal" of the culture in total. This material ideal of the cultural is naturally a fusion of sub-cultural and (larger) cultural elements, since contents created by the "really active work" of direct cultural significance are always drawing from both the small and large domains, the local and the universal in combination.
There will never be a world culture just as there will never be a national culture; right now there is no such thing as an "American culture", there is rather a larger attempted to universalize of many sub-cultures that each can be called American, and the American culture itself, so called, is both the individual of those sub-cultures, their combinations and theoretical sum, and the larger material ideal space in which really active work is going on and to which such work is in ultimate reference. A nation is simply too large to have one culture, so the nation instead acts as a focal point toward which both the sub-cultures and the really active work of cultural significance gather. This larger domain of culturally significant work seeps down into sub-cultures to varying degrees and partially homogenizes them, but note that this effect is highly limited and tends to only function to unite sub-cultures up into a minimal shared national identity.
Last edited by Capable on Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:28 am; edited 3 times in total
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|Subject: Re: A philosophy of culture Mon Sep 26, 2016 6:30 am|| |
If nations exist not to instantiate a single culture but to act as the possibility for sub-cultural aspects and larger culturally significant direct work to come together to create a universalized field in which various ideas, norms and standards are constantly (productively) in relation, then I think globalism would serve this same function. In fact this perfectly explains the specter of globalism already in the world: when you have enough nations in cultural relation to each other, a default globalism obtains whereby a "super-nation" situation over-spans those nations just as the single nation over-spans its sub-cultures. The super-nation is not a true entity but is the field on which the shared relations of human exchanges become realized, just as a nation is not a true entity either but is also such a field. The nation itself is very much an abstraction; so too with a proper globalism.
Nations relate to one another through either cultural exchanges, economic exchanges, and military exchanges. The extent to which cultural exchange relating is the case is the extent to which the ghost of a global super-nation becomes the case by default, while the extent to which military exchange relating is the case is the extent to which that ghost is not present or rendered impossible; the economic exchange relating is a kind of neutral medium wherein both relations of culture and relations of military power are sublimated.
I see globalism as the natural possibility of "nation-ness" among nations. This super-nation lacks some characteristics of a typical nation, and I would argue it can only exist at the cultural-economic level and not at the military-economic level. No militarized globalism would even be possible, the very fact of a "globalism" comprised of military-economic exchange relations destroys the possibility of globalism to begin with, so what such a situation really reflects is the conventional situation of nation-states at war, albeit in this case through proxies of pseudo-globalist institutions and forces. I am not talking about such pseudo-global institutions and forces when I talk about globalism. I want true globalism, which can only mean a situation of super-national cultural-economic exchange relations with the absence of military-economic exchange relations. And those cultural relations (the economic is, again, just a neutral medium on which the cultural, and the military, sublimate themselves) would be of the same form and structure as the cultural relations intra-nationally, namely there would be sub-cultural groups in relation to one another alongside really active work of cultural significance (film, literature, art, philosophy, music) and all of that fused together into a larger field attempting toward universalization (remember, not universalization of any kind of homogeneity but of the field itself, which includes all ideas, norms and standards in relation). Globalism is already always the case in so far as nations interact with one another culturally-economically and fail to interact with one another militarily-economically.
The only way to stabilize a nation is to institute means preventing massive internal conflicts of a military or violent nature, and there are two critical ways to do that: 1) have a national-level military force that can resist local military forces, and 2) have a system of laws and law enforcement that deals with violence. Every successful stable nation has these two things, a military and a legal structure. A global national state, which again already exists as the 'ghost' of all of the non-military cultural exchange relating going on amongst nations, could be further realized, made successful and stable by bringing these two aspects to bear upon the global ghost: the global level, which is now seen as the national level taken to the highest degree, needs a military force capable of quelling local (national) military and mass violent conflicts, and it needs a system of laws and means of law enforcement able to prevent and mitigate military and mass violence. Only then would the cultural-economic be free to its universalization, and remember this only means that the sub-cultures (true human localities) and the really active work (true human philosophical, artistic production) are able to exist together in their own beings.
The very same rationale that justifies the existence of a nation-state also justifies the existence of a global situation among nation-states. Remember that any kind of military violent repressive globalism is a contradiction in terms: the lack of the universality of the cultural aspects, which is also the lack of those aspects' freedom to be, means that a nation at war with itself doesn't really exist. A civil war is technically the division of one nation into two or more separate nations in conflict, and only after the resolution of that war can the nation return. Just because one side of the civil war retains control over some of the former state apparatuses or institutions of power, or retains use of the flag, doesn't mean that nation actually still exists. America did not exist during the American civil war, there were really two Americas; after the war, these merged into one America again. But note that this "one America" is still culturally heterogeneous and its universalization-field includes many different and sometimes irreconcilable elements of ideas, norms and standards.
If a nation is justified, then it cannot allow civil war, or if civil war is the case then the nation is suspended as an entity until the resolution of that war; likewise a globalism could never subsist at the level of military violence and repression, it could only subsist at the level of culture. What we have today is not globalism, what we have today is extreme nationalism with nation-states acting both as entities proper and as surrogates for violent forces of capitalism in the world. Capitalism itself is as close as we have gotten to a true globalism, and that isn't very close at all; in my view, global capitalism is not globalism, it is just the global application of capitalist schemas and forces and just as culture transcends national borders so too does capital, for indeed capital is a kind of byproduct of culture. Capital is a symbolization of being at the cultural level, of the products of cultures, and mass accumulations of 'free' capital are an extraction of that cultural value from its true being. When elements within one culture exchange with elements within another culture, that is direct trade of capital as value; but when culture is bled in order to accumulate a massive pile of capital and this pile is pushed into global markets of financial speculation or drug trafficking or for military expenditures this is not a direct trade of capital as value but rather the direct exploitation of culture, the forfeiture of cultural value at the hands of "global" capital networks. Again, we need to properly articulate what globalism is and what it is not.
Nothing about this present "global capital" situation is truly global, in fact this present situation we have today represents not globalism but the impossibility of globalism. My aim is to continue demonstrating this through developing solid theory here, so that we can learn to differentiate true from false globalism and begin to work for the true and away from the false. Again, when there is a healthy situation of many nation-states exchanging culturally-economically without recourse to military-economic exchange then the ghost of a true globalism is already there; shared scientific, technological, philosophical, artistic cooperation among nations as among the peoples and corporations of various nations is precisely the point. This is the kind of globalism we can have. But it requires that we bring to an end this present state of 'globalized' (anti-globalist) capitalist nationalism in so far as this capitalism is only the expropriation and exploitation of already existing cultural value and capital as well as the forfeiture of the possibilities going forward of expanding cultural value and capital in the future. The "material ideal" of the cultural is very much the wellspring from which the any material-as-capital comes, although this is not to say that we do not also need larger institutions, systems of infrastructure and bureaucracies in order to maximize that cultural potential production. Hegel also knew that large institutions were the means by which societies extend themselves more significantly across time and space so that large-scale projects becomes possible. Institutions only need be rational toward their ostensible goals, and those goals must be posited at the level of the cultural in so far as the really active work of cultural significance (philosophy, science, art, etc.) is constantly informing and defining those goals. Sub-cultural groups instantiate and reap the benefits of the meaning that appears from those goals, just as people at the sub-cultural level contribute their work toward those goals by being organized institutionally.
A philosophy of culture