Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Right Randy Little Devils

Paul Krugman highlights a remarkable ideological intervention in US higher education by the disciples of hard right 'philosopher' and 'novelist' Ayn Rand. In her works Rand provided a pseudo-philosophical rationalisation and justification for the greedy selfishness of the very rich and as such she has always attracted a substantial following among the very rich and those who desire to be very rich. Now the adherents of her cult are paying for the inclusion of her work in the syllabuses of US higher education.
This is of course nothing new; ever since noted C.19th monopolist Joseph Wharton threw a gigantic sum of money at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881 to teach his ideology of monopoly and protectionism the 'western world' has been filling up with capitalist ideological apparatus called Business Schools (in the US idiom of higher education of course) each named for the relevant Patrick Bateman analogue that granted them financial life. The point is that 'the right' have to pay to get their ideological tracts into education because no one interested in education would use them willingly because such screeds are pedagogical rubbish. Consider the point that one short article by Althusser - on Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses - perfectly explains the need of the right to construct such ideological institutions and how they function in and on society whilst nothing on the right explains anything at all.
It has long been the case that 'the left' has held dominion over large parts of education and the reasons for this are many and varied but the bankruptcy, either moral or intellectual or both, of the so-called intellectuals of 'the right' must be something to do with it.

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Thursday, 10 April 2008

Media Aristocracy

One of the fascinating things about Bourdieu's Distinction (or here) is the variety of approaches to the study of the media it provides us with and the range of connexions it allows us to form. Bourdieu's concept of an aristocracy of culture marked by its distance from necessity is what concerns us in this post.
How one consumes and receives culture is one of the most important marks of distinction and therefore a key means for the accumulation of cultural capital. Anything which is not necessary (and we are ignoring the psychiatric self-actuation as a need - necessity here means shelter, heat, clean water, and sufficient nutrition) is distinguishing as it displays use of spare time and resources. So there is a very raw and powerful difference between being able to consume media culture and not having the time or resources to waste on such consumption.
The tale is not told with this bare fact however. Every segment of society has its own authorised culture and the unnecessary participation in that authorised culture is a means of creating status within that part of society. Although the genres are similar and the issues addressed and narrative forms used appear the same there is a very radical difference in social status between reading Skins & Teen Vogue one the one hand and Hollyoaks and More on the other (and it is a step higher to transfer to Sex and the City and Vogue proper). The former is the mark of the aristocracy of (female) teen media culture and the latter is far more plebeian. This is by no means the full extent of this scale and it is not the only scale - there are a huge range of different social fields of status competition - but it is a good example of the the media texts and forms we can connect with Bourdieu's ideas.

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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

A Happy Night in Lardland

Viewing the first episode of the new series of Dr Who evokes even more intertextual echoes. Obvious points of reference were Gremlins, Alien, and Supernanny. Less obviously it seemed to me that there was a hint of Sur Mes Lèvres in the scene were The Doctor and Donna first encounter each other.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

A Dark Night in Toyland

Dr Who returns to the BBC's Saturday night line up with a story about adipose that provokes the intertextual echo of a short story by Bob Shaw. Shaw's short story anthology Dark Night in Toyland, as with all of his works out of print, contains a creepy tale (entitled Cutting Down I think) of menacing adipose that I would be unsurprised to discover bore uncanny similarities to the plot of the forthcoming episode of Dr Who.


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