Monday, January 30, 2017

Social Class as Cultural Imperialism

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Roi Et Rajabhat University

Wikipedia (on 27-11-2016) "Cultural imperialism comprises the cultural aspects of imperialism. Imperialism here refers to the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations, favoring the more powerful civilization. Thus, cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually that of a politically powerful nation, over a less powerful society; in other words, the cultural hegemony of industrialized or economically influential countries which determine general cultural values and standardize civilizations throughout the world." (bolding added)
Now, use social class to replace the words civilization, nation, society, countries, and civilizations.

One of the underlying principles of the upper classes is that everyone should want to get ahead.  "Keeping up with the Joneses" is an old phrase, and a new movie, about trying to keep ahead, or at least keep even, with others.  If you don't keep up, then you are culturally and social class inferior, and the cultural assumption is that no one wants to be a loser.  Never mind how this idea ignores those with few resources and normalizes those with few resources as losers. 

Culture trickle down is a real thing.  Many fads and fashions begin with the upper classes and trickle down to the lower classes.  The use of visible fashion labels, observable wealth, positional goods, is part of this trend.  Why do we have visible fashion labels?  So that others can read them.  It should also be noted that some fashion trends trickle up, or even trickle across social class subcultures, notably athletic shoes and attire.  In the main, things trickle down.  

Even names trickle down.  In the book Freakonomics the analysis of names showed that baby naming fashion trickles down among European-American social classes.  The baby naming idea has spawned a long discussion in the Freakonomics discussion site.  I note that I have a remarkably 'British' (read white upper middle class) name that was typical of my generation. And I realize that this name has given me unearned privilege because of perceived prestige, or put another way, because of social class cultural imperialism.  People attribute privilege and prestige to me because of my name. When I accept and expect that privilege is when I help co-create and co-evolve the cultural imperialism of the upper social classes.

The mechanism of exporting culture from the upper classes to the rest of the people are advertisements.  Advertisers and the media they own are key players in this propaganda machine.  In a recent listing of the 30 largest media companies in the world Facebook is number 5!  Is it any wonder that a Google search for "Keeping up with the . . . . " fills in "Kardashians" automatically?  Is it any wonder that many web sites don't like AdBlock?  Is it any wonder that Mozilla has a tutorial to manage advertising on Facebook? The idea that if you are not paying for it then you are the product comes to mind.  I love the irony of people paying to advertise a brand name on their shirts, shoes, purses, and laptops.  

In some ways taking control of on-line advertising is an anti-imperialist action.  

The social class cultural imperialism message is that the stuff that rich people have and do is the stuff that you should have and do.  "Don't wear white after Labor Day" is a rule because in the late 19th and early 20th century the wealthy people came back to The City (New York City of course) from their vacation homes on Long Island, or Newport, Rhode Island, or Martha's Vineyard after Labor Day, and the rich people wore white for summertime sailing and summertime sport.  Keeping up with the Vanderbilts became a fashion rule still in force. 

tl;dr - you are being lied to and sold a culture that is not yours. 


5 comments:

Rani Kumari said...

really good post...
www.shayarihishayari.com

Assignment Consultancy said...

This information is impressive; I am inspired with your post writing style & how continuously you describe this topic. After reading your post, thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel happy about it and I love learning more about this topic..

Managerial Accounting Homework

Cloud EMS said...

Culture dribble down is a true thing. At present the social class cultural expansionism message is that the things people who are rich do is the things that you must do it and every upper classes is feeling is always to get ahead.

infertility treatment said...

"Imperialism occurs when a strong nation takes over a weaker nation or region and dominates its economic, political, and cultural life. Investigative study on socio economic issues
is needed to resolve this.

Karen Lyons said...

Nice share. I enjoyed reading it.