Monday, October 28, 2019

Public Myth vs Social Reality Essay Example for Free

Public Myth vs Social Reality Essay Pierre Bourdieu asserts that public opinion does not exist. This poses the question, how should we conceive public opinion? If it is true that the public does not exist, than the real question is, whose opinion is public opinion? Rational Choice Theory poses that idea that human beings form their opinions and decisions based on collective observations and calculations. It also assumes all individuals are well informed of all of their options and that it is an inherent human tendency to think everyone makes decisions this way. If this is true, it would explain the blind faith people have in public opinion. It is a faith so devout, it often sways and molds popular culture ideals. Pierre Bourdieu strongly negates this view. Pierre Bourdieu is a highly acclaimed French sociologist. Born on August 1, of 1930, he recently passed away on January 23, 2002. His views embody the disciplines of many tenets including: philosophy, literary theory, sociology, and anthropology. He is the protagonist of the world of sociological studies, and he opposed and debunked some of the most prevalent antagonisms in the genre. His most popular work is Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. In the 1967 study, he interprets how members of the upper class define taste as an aesthetic. He finds that the public has no genuine representation in democratic societies. Rational Choice Theory is the theory that assume human beings naturally choose a given path dependant on whether it is the best means to achieve their goals. It is a belief in methodological individualism; this meaning it adopts the belief that social situations, and group behavior is solely the result of individual action. Within this theory, corporations and national governments are viewed as individual operators as well. The problem that arises with this theory are the certain assumptions. This theory assumes human beings are aware of certain information, of which they aren’t always aware, and it assumes that individuals consistently make mental calculations to determine their next decision. Bourdieu is historically known for his opposition to this theory, based on the fact that he feels human beings operate more based on how they feel toward a given situation or at a given time. In his book, Outline Theory of Practice, Bourdieu analyzes human nature. He points out the human tendency to conform. Doing one’s duty as a man means conforming to the social order, and this is a fundamentally a question of respecting rhythms, keeping pace, not falling out of line. ‘Don’t we all eat the same wheat cake? Don’t we all get up at the same time? These various ways of reasserting solidarity contain an implicit definition of the fundamental virtue of conformity. (Bourdieu, 1977) He later goes on to show that conformities only other opposition is eccentricity, which becomes natural for those intrigued by it irregularity. The opposite of which is the desire to stand apart from others. Working while the others are resting, staying in the house while the others are working in the fields, traveling on deserted roads, wandering round the streets of the village while the others are asleep or at the market – these are all suspicious forms of behavior. The eccentric who does everything differently (Bourdieu, 1977) Bourdieu believes that society cannot just be analyzed in terms of economic classes and ideologies, but that individual education and culture must be applied as well. Bourdieu does not separate people based on class and then analyze them, but groups everyone into what he calls a field/ social arena. This contradicts classic Marxism. In this field people compete and struggle to attain their desires. It is a system of social positions organized by terms of power relationships. This idea of terms of power is most easily defined as the differential between a judge and a lawyer. Within this field the social agents fight over monetary gain, or whatever holds symbolic significance. In all of Bourdieu’s beliefs, his most popular is his assertion that the public does not exist (1984). This concept is addressed in his book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, in that he feels there is a different of class taste between the ruling class and popular culture. But, within this conflict, there is no public, only a media mediating between the two and a culture to which they often cater to do so. Jon Simons addresses this concept in his essay, Governing the Public: Technologies of Mediation and Popular Culture, when he says, technologies constitute the people as a mediated public. The public is only amenable to representation in the form of an electorate which is an effect of technical organization that can mediate between people at a distance from each other. The key point of this analysis is that the public does not exist prior to or outside of its constitution. (Simons, 2002) His essay evaluates the importance of media technologies within a democracy. Bourdieu feels that in this field of power struggle, the ruling class uses their cultural capital to assert their distinction (1984). This is seen in the way politicians might only use terms or syntax understandable to the elite of society. This separation between popular culture and the elite culture of a society makes it virtually impossible for government officials to ever get the unanimous appeal for which they often aspire. Most political elites view popular cultures’ apathy towards politics with great disdain. Even still, they relentlessly attempt to relate to popular culture voters, whom they know will support them. In John Fiske’s critique on television, Television Culture he analyzes the nature of what makes popular television. He concludes that the shows that succeed in gaining popularity tend to have many symbols and plot lines containing multiple meanings. He also states that remain within a duality of containment and resistance (1987). This idea basically revolves around the fact that television producers, who are viewed as the upper class and political elite, are expected to produce material that correspond with popular culture. This material that the elite minority culture produces for the popular culture contradicts elitist ideals but allows the status quo to remain intact. This means the political elite can only remain the elite so long as they humor the beliefs and ideals of their less powerful but more dominant counterparts. The rules Fiske establishes for television shows can very easily be applied to the media. They present the media as a tool being used to prey on the wants and needs of different cultures. Another media technology that isn’t always addressed is the literary outlets in societies. This is undoubtedly the reason that Pierre Bourdieu is an acclaimed literary theorist as well, addressing such theorist as reader response theory. Reader response theory augments the importance of the role of the reader in interpreting texts. It disagrees that there is a solitary, fixed meaning integral to every literary work. This theory embraces that an individual creates his or her own meaning through a transaction with the text based on personal associations. Because all readers bring their own emotions, concerns, life experiences, and knowledge to their reading, each interpretation is subjective and unique. It is common that many people trace the foundation of reader-response theory to scholar Louise Rosenblatts influential 1938 work Literature as Exploration. She believed, close readings of literature should practice impassiveness in the study of texts and should reject all forms of personal interpretation by the reader. The text is an independent entity that could be objectively analyzed using unambiguous methodological criteria (Rosenblatts, 1938). Her work has been the topic of study for many professors and theorists who specialize in this form of analysis. In Fish’s piece, Is there a text in this class? The authority of interpretive communities, he argues that the readings of a text are culturally constructed. He feels that reader-response theory recognizes the reader as an active agent who imparts real existence to the work and completes its meaning through interpretation. Reader-response is an experience that every user goes through during the act of reading, it transpires and it affects reader and sometimes this counteracts to force user to do some practical reaction (Fish, 1986). This aspect of Stanley Fishs theory is one of the most radical and controversial and is part of the reason why many people object to the views backing this movement. He adds further rational to his stance with his view that most of the theories that are formulated on the grounds of practical experiences are likely to be accurate and are easily acceptable. The reader of reader-response theory is not just a hypothetical or theoretical reader, he is a practical reality (Fish, 1986). Since this theory has exact results it effects lives, personalities, cultures and societies. There are also some theories that fail but the reason of their failure is not the notion of being a textual work, it is their impractical approach that disappoints them (Fish, 1986). Fish’s attempt to place reader-response theory in a position of practical perspective more certifies its methodology. His political stance frees other theorists to do more in-depth analysis. Applied to the idea of public interpretation, we see that there is again another outlet for public opinion to be controlled through the targeting of specific popular culture emotions or ideals, and triggering whatever reader response might favor certain positions, or corporations. I’m sure news paper, and magazine advertisers are well studied in reader response-theory. Despite the insurmountable methods of control instilled on individuals, through popular culture, by the media, Simons argues that there are certain times when citizens group together in masses and act on their own apart from the propaganda projected by the media. A prime example of liberal citizens standing up and countering Bourdieu’s perception of public opinion is the Civil Rights movement in America. It was a much needed, and detrimental, shift in popular culture and eventually governmental law. A more contemporary version of this would be Hurricane Katrina, or 9/11. In her article Al Qaeda, Terrorism, and Military Commissions’, Ruth Wedgwood proves that though most American citizens consider terrorism to be a federal and national problem, it is very much a local one. Al Qaeda’s published doctrine maintains that there are no innocent civilians in Western society (Wedgwood, pg2)†¦ She later goes on to analyze the psychological foundation they use to form their tenet. She says,†¦this tenet leads it to [committing] the gravest of international crime[s] (Wedgwood, pg2). All of these qualities impose a large enough threat to individual human ideals and popular culture that a public arises from a nonentity. We also see this with protests. Here is where the weakness lies in Bourdieu’s theory. Despite this, we still see the prevention of certain liberal up risings maintained by systems of control, like racial, sexual and religious prejudice, or even class prejudice through the myth of the American Dream. The American dream that one can become something from nothing is the main reason why America is the fastest growing country. It is often seen as a melting pot encompassing many different religions and nationalities. People move to America with dreams of becoming wealthy, but many of the ideologies that have existed within the country for years inhibit these dreams from coming true. It is Harlon L. Dalton’s belief that Horatio Alger’s writings, during the mid to late 1800’s, promoted a destructive myth that overlooked the realities of society. Dalton specifically targets Alger’s story Ragged Dick, about a young man who devoutly works his way up the American corporate ladder slowly succeeding based on his merit. Dalton feels the myth implied by this is that the American dream is accessible to all those who are willing to work for it. Alger has been a highly acclaimed writer in American culture, and the popularity of his work partly suggests that most Americans have and inherent belief in this myth. If this mindset is a part of the mental tapestry of America, and it is as destructive as Dalton claims it to be, it would mean that American’s are inherently delusional. One might argue that this is only the problem of the minorities in this country, but Dalton protests that part of the want for most Americans to believe in this myth is fueled by a white discomfort with addressing the reality of a racial problem in America. He identifies this when he says, By interring the myth of Horatio Alger, or at least forcing it to coexist with social reality, we can accomplish two important goals. First, we can give the lie to the idea that Black people can simply lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. With that pesky idea out of the way it is easier to see why White folk need to take joint ownership of the nation’s race problem†¦ (Dalton) This idea of dual ownership for racial injustice is a concept Dalton feels most whites avoid and is a concept we see on many occasions being played out by the media in daily society. This is just a perfect example of the power of popular culture to create a sense of public opinion. In Horatio Alger’s day, the sociological circumstance of America was perfectly visible to every individual, but people chose to adopt the popular false reality projected from Alger’s novels. Alger was noted for not being a very skilled writer, and the majority of his novels were written solely for the purpose of maintaining his extremely large fan base, so he made sure his books adhered to certain ideals. Most of these ideals involved the overlooking of racial stratification. Racial stratification that existed in the U. K. at the beginning of the last century also deprived its colored citizens from the access to the most valuable resources the American society had, from the education, proper medical treatment etc. To make the Afro-Americans believe in the uniqueness of the whites they developed ridiculous theories of the mental or physical prevalence of their race. (Banton, 1998) Despite this, America wins the title for being the most racially conflicted, and thus corrupted. This corresponds with Bourdieu’s view that ethnicity and education will be one’s core sources of decision making, as apposed to ideology (1984). The first persuasion, which is that everyone can participate equally and can always start over, is troubling, as throughout most part of the American history, women of any race and men who were Native American, Asian, black, or just poor, were barred from all but a narrow range of elective positions. White men, especially European immigrants, able to ride the wave of the Industrial Revolution to comfort or prosperity, have always been the most valued members of the American society. Those who do not fit to that description, disappear from the collective self-portrait. The situation is that not only has the ideal of universal participation been denied to most Americans, but also the very fact of its denial is been denied in our national self-image. This state of things determines deep misunderstandings and correspondingly deep political tensions. This is especially true for the victims of racial attacks. Social stratification, according to some scientists has always accompanied the life of the human beings, after appearing on the down of the humankind history. The reason for its existence is a very simple one and it’s that the amount of resources this planet can provide is limited, thus it’s impossible to give everything needed or desired to everyone. As we all know people have always been unequal. It was determined by numerous factors even many centuries ago, and nowadays the amount of those factors has increased greatly. Despite of the principles about the equality of all of the societys members that are declared in the contemporary society nowadays, the phenomenon of discrimination still exists in our country. This problem is enforced by Bourdieu’s public opinion created by the media, and heartfelt by many individuals. From one viewpoint it is only natural for people to treat those a certain way in accordance with their age, gender, religious beliefs, physical condition, but when these peculiarities are used for to determine the persons rights or regulate his or her freedom of action and choice, it created huge problems in interpersonal and social communication, and other processes. One is only left to wonder what the state of racism would be in this country if it wasn’t constantly displayed as the symbol of western society. One might argue, like in the case with Horatio Alger, the disregard of racism only resulted in its unacknowledged enhancement. The very purpose of the Civil Rights movement in the states was to allow whites the opportunity to see how black were being treated by the police Lots of books and articles written recently, state that the degree of negative discrimination is still very high in the U. K. , which strings the social relations up, and leads to numerous conflicts within various racial groups. Martha Minow addresses this in many of her writings. In her essay on identity, titled Not Only for Myself Identity, Politics, and the Law, she says, There are two kinds of people in the world†¦those who think there are two kinds of people, and those who do not (Minow, 1997). Her essay reveals the ever segregating nature of Western Civilization, while she takes a clear stance in favor of the universal individual. Her essay takes an in depth look at the attitude that is truly necessary for one to make a lone effort towards furthering the genuine full racial integration of the United Kingdom. Her essay condemns all those who settle into social tribes of convenient sameness. To encourage those who oppose conforming to the common American culture of segregation, she describes in detail the trials of a young Nathan Marx. The story also suggests how an identity is founded on both the views of others and the individual; Marx is treated as a Jew both by his non-Jewish fellow officers and by the Jewish trainees. Both kinds of treatment influence his sense of himself as a Jew. Although he resists both, he defines himself in the course of that resistance (Minow, 1997). Here Minow points out a key factor of equality in that individuals all find equality in others in the fact that they refuse to be solely identified ethnically. Those who rather remain segregated are incapable of seeing others as equal to them and just harbor hate. This is a complexity that the U. K. often shares with the U. S. The ironic factor in this circumstance is that racial and religious separatism is just as much the result of the media as it is the people at adhering to it. If we look at the statistics found by the 2005 United States Census Bureau, the discrepancies in success among ethnicities is quite revealing.

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