Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Safety through capitalism

Capitalism is a way of controling the masses either through the use of money or the use of social restrictions posed by those in power. According to Foucault a panopticon is a towering structure built to oversee all activities that inmates and all those in total institutions may attempt to do. I however see this idea of panopticon as being able to transend to all social settings in a more subtle way. Do you think that we as humans feel the need to not do criminal activities because we have an internal panopticon or feel that there is always someone watching? If no one is watching over our behaviour do you think we as humans would turn into criminal behavior?

I always feel like somebody is watching me....

Foucalt (Allan, 2007; Appelrouth & Edels, 2008: 655) presents the concept of panopticism in which the power to control has been shifted from the controller to the controlee in other words the inability to know when and if one is being watched (under surveillance by the power) now serves as an auto or internal control mechanism so as to keep the individual and society as a whole in line. “The efficiency of power, its constraining force have, in a sense, passed over to the other-side to the side of its surface of application. He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection. By this fact, the external power may throw off its physical weight; it tends to the non-corporal; and the more it approaches this limit, the more constant, profound and permanent are its effects: it is a perpetual victory that avoids any physical confrontation and which is always decided in advance,” Michel Foucalt (1975, as cited in Appelrouth & Edels, 2008: 655). What changes, if any, have you noticed in your life since homeland security measures have been heightened? Do you feel like now you yourself have been given a greater responsibility to conduct yourself in a more “proper” manner?

Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:

Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press

Come on, I dare you!

Advertisements seem to come in layers these days. Right here in El Paso you can find billboards of certain outlets or boutiques where there are brand name clothing being worn then at the bottom of the billboard you will see the name of the company who owns the billboard. That's like three advertisements in one, all in a matter of only 6 seconds as we pass by on I-10. Talk about getting bombarded with commodified culture!

And what about movies in which we see the people drinking or eating certain products, or saving up to buy a specific name brand thing, or the movies that show the status of people according to the type of car that they drive. My favorite quote is one from the movie "Bride Wars" when one of the characters is purchasing her wedding dress and the sales lady is sure to remind her about the name brand dress she is buying and says: "We don't alter Vera Wang, you alter your body to fit Vera."

And what about the ads for a certain pair of jeans where you see two sexy people kissing/making out and you are only able to see the very top of the jeans (if any part at all). Or how about the ad that shows a lady in the shower and you see her silhouette while the jeans are thrown on the floor. Is this really an ad for the jeans? Or is it merely the ad for the image that the jeans will give you?

Advertising is all around us and if we are not careful, we too will be sucked up into the seduction of advertising and end up buying things that we only think that we need when in reality we have done fine without them this far.

So here are my two challenges for you:

#1) Go out and try to find more of these kinds of advertisements and write about them here in the comment section. (This task will be all too easy to complete.)

#2) I dare you to go out there and find an advertisement that is actually an advertisement of itself. Not those advertisements where the sign-value overshadows the use-value of the product. (Like my jean ad example.)

Have fun on your search but be careful. This is an assignment, not a reason to go shopping. ;)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A little confused, a little excited, and a little uncomfortable

After reading Foucalt and Baudrillard, the title of my blog represents how I feel. Foucalt's writing is intense, and in many ways, I would say right on. I particularly like the notion of "spaces" and yet I am also frustrated by them. Given the more common tendency of theorists to theorize a "better" way, Foucalt leaves us with spaces to be creative and to think of new possibilities. While I understand -absolutely- why Foucalt refuses to provides such an outlook (i.e. Marx' utopia or Wallerstein's world-wide social democracy, or even Habermas' ideal speech communities), I wonder what we are to do with these spaces.

I am also a little on the fence regarding Allen's interpretation Foucalt's conceptualization of power. I usually read Foucalt and see that power is at the heart of his theory - that it exists in relationships, that it exists, yes, in the very mundane ways that we carry on in our life (i.e. self-discipline), yet I like Chafetz' and Kanter's use of power (thus, I am not sure if I disagree with Allen's interpretation or if I just like Chafetz' and Kanter's notion better). In Chafetz', Kanter, and Zucker (1977), power is absolutley recognizeable in a person or at least with an associated office that a person may occupy. For instance, I may not have any power as regular student, but as the President of a club, the office gives me certain powers (this is also very Weberian!). Perhaps, someone can clarify Allen's interpretation of Foucaldian power.....

As for Baudrillard, I am not sure what to make of his theory. The most helpful concept from him is the "sign," and yet I do not see this "sign" as being a particuarly new contribution. I see a lot of Veblen in his work. Maybe someone else saw something I didn't: in that case, what is Baudrillard's greatest insight

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friendships around the world

Wallerstein's world-systems theory has a Marxist approach emphasizing on division of labor, exploitation, and the process of accumulation and overproduction. Globality interconnects variety of individuals with variety of backgrounds. Living in the country where there is variety of individuals think about the friendships you have, do you know anyone from another country? If so, how does thier culture and experience affect your relationship? How does this world-system theory influence the friendship?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Wallerstein World System Theory (WST, hereafter) always makes me rethink so much of my own perspective (and perhaps, some of my hopes). When I read WST, I have images that there is black hole, that I will call Capitalist World Economy (CWE),which swallows up everything: states, people, businesses, schools, hopes, peace, health, environment...society! It is a difficult switch to read Wallerstein after reading Bourdieu and Giddens because with WST, although, I agree with the underlying critique, it is an analysis that seems so hopeless whereas both Giddens and Bourdieu provide some hope that people and groups are not powerless ...

However, what I think is one of the most valuable perspective is within WST is the discussion about the powerful and stabalizing role of the semiperiphery. The semiperiphery acts very much like the middle class for the U.S. The semiperiphery are buffers.

I also appreciate the nuanced perspective that Wallerstein offers to explain why the semiperiphery does not flat-out revolt or rebel. Legitimacy as it is intertwined with fear for one's future and perhaps a sliver of hope that one is on her/his way to the core is enough, according to Wallerstein, to keep the semiperipheral nations in line. What do you make of the role that Wallerstein assigns to the semiperiphery? What is going to happen if more and more semiperiphery states decline in this steep world wide recession? What ramifications might (does) Wallerstein predict?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Individuality in appearance

Giddens wrote about the nature of individuality in modernity, and that due to the lack of a default method of physically presenting the self, an individual is forced to make choices about self-presentation. Bourdieu discussed the nature of Habitus, how cultural capital becomes embodied within an individual over the course of their life. These two concepts clearly intertwine in the nature in which cultural capital is written on an individual's body in the expression of the self.

To what degree is the manner in which you choose to express yourself upon your body determined by the cultural capital you have grown up with and written into your instinct? What aspects of your physical self, such as clothing or build, reflect the cultural upbringing you have received?