I really struggle and flail around a lot when I try to explain the rationale between my poco list, which encompasses globalization and the “cultural turn.” What’s this cultural turn I speak of? I guess the easy way to put it is the death of Vulgar Marxism! (Or, presumably, the nascence of Marxism as a potential vulgarity among Marxians…) VM, as I understand it, considers the economic factor as the prime determinant “in the final analysis,” as the “base” upon which the “superstructure” of all the other epiphenomena like gender relations, behaviour, religion, etc. rest. The cultural turn brought culture and language to the fore–and I guess where my weird obsession with this thing is, is that I think that in practice (as in, what do undergrads learn?) if not in theory, culture has supplanted economics as the base, and economics relegated to the superstructure, if it’s discussed at all. How does this intersect with postcolonialism? I wonder if the three Posts–postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism–are part and parcel of this perplexing passage. With postmodernism, you get cultural studies–pop culture as an object of artistic and academic exploration. With poststructuralism, you get a linguistic turn that’s more or less coextensive with the cultural turn–it’s Language constructing Culture and vice versa, rather than language as an expression of Structure. With postcolonialism, you get the powerful notion of cultural imperialism and cultural hegemony, and, at the end of the century, cultural hybridity.
Where my own interest enters the picture, is that while a vulgar culturalism (respecting other cultures, the importance of one’s roots) seems to have taken hold, nobody (i.e. students) wants to talk about economic exploitation, and we’re really lacking the really subtle class analyses of folks like C. L. R. James and Raymond Williams. To say nothing of a fairly widespread unawareness of issues of neoliberalism and financialization among humanists, and liberals in general.
So this is what’s going on in the twentieth century. What’s up with the nineteenth? That’s what Culture and Anomie and Primitive Culture and fucking Hegel are doing on my list.