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Introduction-The Olympic Games and the Meaning of World Culture


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Chapter 1

Introduction: The Olympic Games and the Meaning of World Culture

The Olympic Games and World Culture
The ?rst modern Olympiad, held in Athens in 1896, hardly lived up to the grand vision of its organizers. Though they seemed an “indescribable spectacle” to some participants, those Games were a decidedly modest affair (MacAloon 1981: Ch. 7). Several dozen athletes from just a few countries competed in events, both classical and newfangled, before a Greek audience whose enthusiasm found no resonance abroad. The American delegation, one of the largest, consisted of college athletes from Princeton and Harvard and arrived barely in time, not knowing that Greece followed the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar. The opening and closing ceremonies derived some dignity from the participation of King George of Greece, who had supported staging the event for political reasons, but they involved no further pageantry. The winner in discus throwing had not practiced much (he was an English tourist who had signed up for tennis on the spur of the moment) and the famed winner of the marathon was a peasant rather than a trained athlete – amateurs all, in more than one sense. Newspaper coverage was limited – a few articles in major French and English newspapers, a small number of pieces in the New York Times – and far less prominent than that for domestic events. Though satis?ed that his brainchild had come to life, even Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the moving force behind the “restoration” of the Olympic Games, appears to have felt some disappointment, not least because the Greeks seemed eager to turn his vision of an international sports festival into a Greek event, always to be held on Greek soil (ibid.: 241ff.). When the Games were over, the Olympic movement’s future was still in doubt. Subsequent Olympiads at Paris and St. Louis, disorganized appendages to the world expositions held in those cities, did little to solidify its fortunes. And yet, from these inauspicious begin-

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nings, the Olympics grew to become a grand spectacle, the largest regularly staged event in the world (Rothenbuhler 1989). Both the surprising success of the Olympic Games as a quintessential global event and their actual content as ritual performance tell us much about world culture. Claiming the attention of a global audience, the Games have helped to foster a shared awareness of living in one world society. Run according to now-familiar rules, they show how people around the globe increasingly organize their common life on the basis of shared knowledge and principles. As the focus of athletic ambition for individuals and nations alike, they express widely shared values. The experience of both participants and audience shows how the world now has a repertoire of symbolic forms that enable, in fact impel, people to become conscious of the world as a single place and act in accordance with that consciousness. In this sense, the Olympic Games embody world culture. To some, that may sound unduly grandiose. After all, critics have derided the Games as the plaything of right-wing aristocrats, an arena for the mindless pursuit of national glory, and a hypocritical display of crass commercialism. Writing in Atlanta, the city that hosted the 1996 Olympics to distinctly mixed reviews, we sympathize with such interpretations. Yet as an event and institution embodying a certain kind of global consciousness, knowledge, and values, the Olympic Games also illustrate important features of world culture. Although it is risky to interpret the late nineteenth-century founding of the modern Olympics with the bene?t of hindsight, that history does have some bearing on the movement’s later success as a global event. When Pierre de Coubertin ?rst conceived of the idea of reviving the Olympic Games, he sought support among his friends in aristocratic circles. Members of an elite that cultivated ties across national boundaries, not beholden to any government, they endorsed his plans and several served as members of the ?edgling International Olympic Committee (IOC). Not all senior ?gures in the early movement were aristocrats, to be sure, but the aristocrats’ role left its imprint. From the beginning, the IOC would be run as a secretive, independent organization, professedly above partisanship of any sort, which capitalized on the connections of its elite leadership. While this may now seem the quaint legacy of a world long lost, in some respects the early IOC was very much a modern creation. It was, in fact, only one of many voluntary international organizations devoted to a humanitarian vision founded in the late nineteenth century. Its classic predecessor, of course, is the International Committee of the Red Cross, but several hundred other organizations had become active as well. Coubertin’s initiative, modest though its initial accomplishments were, was part of a welter of similar

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activities in numerous ?elds, on both sides of the Atlantic, in which private citizens articulated high-minded ideals – in other words, it contributed to “idealistic internationalism” (Hoberman 1995). The Olympics thus represent movements that, important in their own right, together also set a precedent for their ?ourishing after the Second World War. Coubertin envisioned the Games as distinctly international events. They would be staged in different countries every four years; they would bring together athletes from many different nations. In recognizing the importance of national loyalties and requiring that athletes represent nations – another fateful legacy of the early days – Coubertin’s thinking obviously re?ected the realities of the age. But he was no nationalist. Even before working on the Olympic revival, he had opposed French sports organizations devoted mainly to French glory. Notwithstanding his own experience, he also did not think of himself as a cosmopolitan. What the world needed, he thought, was not the cosmopolitanism of those who have no country, but rather the internationalism of “those who love their country above all, who seek to draw to it the friendship of foreigners by professing for the countries of those foreigners an intelligent and enlightened sympathy” (quoted in MacAloon 1981: 265–6). Accordingly, the Games would promote encounters in which, as Coubertin’s biographer summarizes it, “real cultural differences were discovered and celebrated,” leading foreigners to “true experiences of common humanity” (ibid.: 267). Apart from their Greek heritage, the Olympics would favor no country or culture but remain neutral, devoted only to their own cause, a secular religion capable of binding humanity as a whole. In this way, the Games would also aid the cause of peace among nations. The Olympics, then, arose as a hopeful expression of “pan-human” unity at a time when the nation-state seemed inexorably on the rise (ibid.: 142). Balancing national sentiment against universal aspiration, the Olympic vision thus displayed a close af?nity with the chief Western ideological currents of its day. The essential “contest” in the constitution of the Olympics (Hoberman 1995: 15) still expresses larger cultural forces that swirl around it. This vision was not just an exercise in political philosophy; it also enshrined sports as moral activity, amateur athleticism as virtue. Coubertin had long been interested in Thomas Arnold’s use of sports as part of moral education in his public school at Rugby. In such English schools, Coubertin thought, sports helps to form character and devotion to the public good. Physical activity produces “a happy equilibrium in the moral domain”; in sport, liberty “is complete” and courage exalted; it aids morality by “pacifying the senses and calming the imagination” (MacAloon 1981: 81).

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Considering athletics essential to overall intellectual development, he had actively promoted physical education in France. The Olympics were Coubertin’s effort to elevate his moral vision of the athlete to a higher level. While this particular vision did not command any great consensus at the time, Coubertin did tap into the rapidly expanding interest in organized sports in Europe and America. The rules of several games were being worked out, contests proliferated, participation across social classes increased, and sports performances were beginning to ?nd an audience. International organizations were established for 16 sports before the First World War, including the International Skating Union in 1892 and football’s FIFA in 1904 (Van Bottenburg 2001: 5). Prized in most sports was masculine physical prowess displayed through athletic competition. With his Olympic project, Coubertin thus helped to channel an emerging transnational trend. Over time, it fostered, and in turn bene?ted from, the continuing diffusion of sports as a rationally organized, systematically pursued activity, which ultimately crystallized into a “global sporting system” (ibid.: 2, Ch. 6). The Olympics’ nineteenth-century movement heritage, their tensionridden version of internationalism, and their role in the rationalization of one segment of popular culture all connect the Games to the larger story of world culture we tell in this book. World culture as we know it today took organized form in the nineteenth century and nongovernmental organizations contributed much to it. World culture, as we stress throughout this book, is not all of a piece, but rather shot through with tension and contradiction, notably between forms of particularism and universalism. World culture has become ever more rationalized, in part the work of specialists running specialized institutions according to formal rules. The Olympics are nicely illustrative in these respects, but without their enormous expansion in scale and reach they would hardly justify the attention we have given to their origins. That expansion took several forms. The Games themselves became vastly more elaborate. At the very ?rst Olympiad, events like swimming and tennis were already added to the ancient disciplines it was presumed to revive. Over time, from the early introduction of judo to the later inclusion of beach volleyball and table tennis, more and more sports became part of the Games. Inclusion in the Olympics became the goal of many international sports communities, for it constituted a stamp of global acceptance. To qualify, sports had to satisfy IOC demands, leading to similarity in the way they were organized. At a minimum, every self-respecting sport needed its own international organization. At the same time, the sheer diversity of sports made the Games a

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much more varied spectacle. Thus, while sports were being standardized, the Olympics were also allowing different forms to ?ourish on a global stage. The Games also expanded dramatically in size. After the Second World War, they attracted representatives from both the communist bloc and newly independent countries, ultimately making the Olympics a globally inclusive event; in parallel, new countries also gained representation on the IOC board (Guttmann 1984: Ch. 14). In principle, all countries were entitled to participate, to compete on an equal basis in the same arena. As the world map was covered by independent nation-states, so were the Olympic playing ?elds. However, the Games hardly re?ected a world in which everyone agreed on the greater common good. The Soviet Union challenged IOC precedent by appointing its own representatives; African governments challenged both South African and Rhodesian participation; Indonesia threatened to organize alternative games; Israel’s participation came under ?re from Islamic countries. Real-world ?ssures greatly disturbed the Elysian visions of Lausanne. Nor were participants die-hard believers in Coubertin’s internationalist vision. As the games globalized, the desire of countries to demonstrate national greatness increased as well. Medal counts counted. Otherwise modestly endowed countries like East Germany and Cuba made it a point to shine at the Games. While in its rules and ritual the Olympics enshrined the formal equality of nations, they thus also provided a forum for ideological contest and national self-elevation. The most dramatic transformation of the Olympics occurred in the 1960s when the Games became a television event, a mass spectacle for a growing global audience. From ?ickering images for a primarily Western public, they grew to become a slickly produced package broadcast around the world. Only a few events, such as the World Cup football ?nals, could match the simultaneous, shared interest in the same event by billions of people that marked the Olympics as a global festival (Tomlinson 1996). In this regard, the Olympics uniquely demonstrated the kind of integration made possible by new advances in communication and transportation. For a few weeks every four years, the Summer Games produced an undeniable common global awareness. This increased interest was the honey that attracted the corporate bears. Abetted by the IOC, corporations sought to exploit commercial opportunities by serving as sponsors. American commercial television became the prime source of funding. The Games turned into a billboard, one giant kaleidoscope of advertisements. While the Games at least tried to keep their distance from politics, about capitalism they were never neutral.

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However, their message is not only commercial. With the advent of television, organizing countries also gained a stage on which they could display themselves. The opening ceremonies, in particular, gradually turned into densely symbolic performances. From the “Spielbergian spell” cast by the Hollywood version of American history in Los Angeles in 1984, to the uplifting narrative of national revival, reconciliation, and global unity in Seoul in 1988, to the linking of Catalan and Spanish themes to a novel interpretation of Greek history in Barcelona in 1992, to the projection of the “New South” in Atlanta in 1996, to the multicultural recognition of aboriginal identity in Sydney in 2000, and the Athens 2004 emphasis on the Greek origins of the Games – these ceremonies each “arrogated” universal Olympic ideals in the context of particular histories and cultures, simultaneously celebrating the local and the global (Tomlinson 1996: 590ff.; the of?cial Athens theme was “Celebrating Humanity”). As ritual, they both express and contain the tensions inherent in the Games themselves, tensions that are also intrinsic features of contemporary world culture. In this way, the Olympics begin to tell our story of world culture – the culture of world society, comprising norms and knowledge shared across state boundaries, rooted in nineteenth-century Western culture but since globalized, promoted by nongovernmental organizations as well as forpro?t corporations, intimately tied to the rationalization of institutions, enacted on particular occasions that generate global awareness, carried by the infrastructure of world society, spurred by market forces, riven by tension and contradiction, and expressed in the multiple ways particular groups relate to universal ideals. To complement the example of the Olympics this chapter ?rst describes other ways in which world culture is embedded in numerous organizations and activities, including many that are not ostensibly global in scope. We then explain how we think about culture generally and how we distinguish “world” culture from other kinds. Previewing an important theme in this book, we stress that many elements of world culture are contested. We conclude with a summary of the case we want to make and an outline of the chapters to come.

Culture in World Society
Even if the Olympics are a richly symbolic event, one could argue that they are exceptional rather than representative. A now biennial television event

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comprising a few weeks of entertaining competition hardly concerns most people most of the time. Does this mean that the world culture it expresses is some rare?ed sphere ?oating above the “real world”? We argue that it is not. Many ordinary activities and institutions are saturated with it. In fact, all the things that make the world one – its infrastructure, economy, state system, law, and global problems – are deeply “cultural.”

Infrastructure For the experienced traveler, ?ying across oceans has become a mundane routine. That very routine represents a form of common knowledge among the wealthier classes of the world. They know all too well how to order a ticket, stand in line, ?nd their way around airports, and go through customs. They know how to squeeze their bodies into seats and stay put for hours. As international travelers, they share a slice of world culture, a set of shared assumptions and expectations. Mistaking the reality of air transportation for a species of cosmopolitanism, they might even perceive themselves as a cultural vanguard. In the air, the American tourist, Japanese executive, and African of?cial have more in common with each other than with their countrymen. Their cultural experience is not limited to the motions of traveling itself (cf. Tomlinson 1999: 4ff.; Iyer 2000). Crossing borders, they encounter far-?ung cultures. As people move, cultures mix. At least for a privileged elite, the culture of the neighborhood may lose its appeal by comparison with the pleasures of other places. Air travel thus intensi?es the “deterritorialization” many have ascribed to social life in the era of globalization (Scholte 2000). Floating routinely at 30,000 feet produces a distinct view of the world. We would not want to deny the cultural effects of air travel or de?ate its cosmopolitan potential, but our own take on it is slightly different. The very fabric of the civil aviation system is part of world culture. In less than a century, scientists and engineers have ?gured out how to build durable long-distance airplanes, how to operate them safely and enable them to communicate. Executives have found ways to run airlines and set schedules more or less reliably. Public of?cials have devised ways of monitoring safety and controlling traf?c. While a portion of the airline industry serves only a domestic market, especially in the United States, much of it concentrates on international travel. The system that makes even domestic travel possible depends on close coordination of policies and procedures across national boundaries. The relevant standards, some set by governmental but

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many by private-sector groups, apply universally. A country or airline wishing to become part of the system is required to abide by strict norms. This is not to suggest that aviation is a cozy business: competition is stiff, and many countries deviate from the norm. However, this system does embody a conception of the world as a single place, a conception shared by engineers, pilots, of?cials, and executives. It is based on a vast foundation of universal, technical knowledge, authoritatively produced by experts. It functions thanks to commonly accepted norms, developed by experts and enforced by state and other authorities. Among the public at large, it commands enormous trust in the rational enterprise of moving millions of people across thousands of miles. With only slight exaggeration, we can therefore say that the infrastructure of civil aviation is an intricate worldcultural system, a highly systematized world-view given material form in a specialized, rule-bound global institution.

Economy At the end of the twentieth century, the world economy seemed to reach a new level of integration. More than a trillion dollars’ worth of currency changed hands in foreign exchange markets every day; stock markets attracted capital from around the globe; commodities were produced in ever-widening networks; newly industrializing countries sought their fortunes in international trade. Workers, companies, and countries became exposed to new competition. Af?uent consumers became accustomed to a steady supply of cheap goods from foreign sources. As the web of integration tightened, the liabilities of interdependence increased as well: Western banks absorbed losses from loans to emerging markets; poor people in debtor countries particularly felt the sting of market discipline. After the end of the Cold War, the business of the world was business. Globalization, in the new conventional wisdom, meant making the world safe for capitalist free markets. As observers on the left and the right agreed, capitalism had taken over. The driving force in this system was the relentless pursuit of pro?t in the market. As the unintended consequence of millions of selfinterested decisions by market players, the world was becoming a single economic system. Yet this economic integration, real enough in its consequences, hardly was an eruption of blind forces. For many years, some academics and politicians in Britain and the USA had argued for the opening up of markets and a reduction in government’s role – in other words, for global liberalization

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(Yergin and Stanislaw 1998). As the role of international organizations like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank expanded to promote free markets and countries’ stable growth, they operated under what came to be called the “Washington Consensus” about what constituted sensible goals and policies. However, this consensus only expressed in the form of explicit policy an increasingly shared commitment to markets as vehicles of progress, to economic competition as essential to realizing individual freedom, to GDP (gross domestic product) growth as a marker of collective value. Complementing such ideological scaffolding of capitalism, labeled “neoliberalism” by skeptical observers (see Chapter 7), was the expansion of the knowledge and categories that make a global economy run. Internationally active enterprises were to be organized in corporate form; their success had to judged by rational accounting methods; transactions depended on common understanding of contractual obligations; for the purpose of rational enterprise, labor had to be treated as a factor of production. As in the case of global infrastructure, then, the very fabric of the global economy is part and parcel of world culture. Economic integration is more than a material juggernaut. It is, at least in part, the realization of ideas. Free markets themselves, after all, are a set of ideas, as Karl Polanyi showed in discussing an earlier period of globalizing fervor (Polanyi 1985). To seek material advancement through economic activity freed from social constraint, to encourage endless technical progress for the sake of competitive advantage, to pit workers and countries against each other in ceaseless battle, all that is part of a distinctive world-view. By the end of the twentieth century, that view had become second nature to many people around the globe. To many business people, public of?cials, and academics, the world-view also had become socially real: it governed a single system operating under a single set of rules. What made the system work was the very fact that, at least in their international dealings, the main players could rely on common knowledge about what constituted rational economic activity. The Washington Consensus that shaped the actions of international organizations was only one version of this larger consensus (Stiglitz 2002: 16, 53). The world economy, too, had become a world-cultural system.

Governance By the end of the twentieth century, the United Nations (UN) had close to two hundred members. Although control over some territories was still in

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dispute, with the end of colonialism virtually all the world was fully governed by independent nation-states. According to some optimists, economic integration would now tie states together more intimately. They would have to pursue their interests in peaceful ways: “no two countries with a McDonald’s desired to go to war with each other,” as one popular version of this argument had it (Friedman 1999: Ch. 12). Others argued that new forms of governance, for example through the UN itself, would bind states together as part of a larger whole. In 1990, Iraq confounded those expectations by invading Kuwait, claiming it as its rightful possession. Concerned about Iraq’s control of oil supplies and the power imbalance in the region, an international coalition beat back Saddam Hussein’s forces, thus vindicating Kuwait’s integrity as a state. Though the coalition acted under UN authority, the Gulf War was an exercise in hard-headed realism on all sides. It showed that states were still the prime repositories of force in the world. According to the most common form of realism, still conventional wisdom among statesmen and most academics, states are rational actors pursuing their security and power interests to the best of their ability in a world without shared norms or central authority (Waltz 1979). Order comes about through coalitions and self-help, through successful deterrence or victory in war. But in world politics nothing is really secure: underneath a veneer of civilized agreement, the war of all against all continues. What matters in that war, hot or cold, is the command of people, tanks, and missiles, as the Gulf War seemed to con?rm. The world of the 1990s had yet to shed the legacy of 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia af?rmed the principle of state sovereignty among self-interested war-making states. Once again, we accept the notion that states have interests, pursue power, and collide on occasion. But what does it mean to say that Kuwait, Namibia, and China are all “states”? Where do their interests come from, and what entitles them to pursue power as they see ?t? Why should the world be anarchic in the ?rst place? For all the hardware they have at their command, for all the devastation they can cause, states are the institutional form of an idea, namely that each part of the earth should be ruled exclusively by a single government that acts on behalf of “its” people in exercising sovereignty. However impregnable a state may seem, it exists by the grace of mutual recognition, its authority conferred by the system in which it operates. Like capitalism, enmity and political interdependence are cultural forms (Wendt 1999: 136). What states want is not something they can make up by themselves; rather, what they want depends on the range of interests their shared knowledge de?nes as appropriate and worth pursu-

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ing (ibid.: 372). The state system, therefore, embodies a common understanding across states that they do indeed constitute a single system. Its apparent anarchy re?ects underlying common knowledge of what it takes to be a state. This anarchy is not a condition in which “anything goes”; instead, state behavior is constrained by many shared norms, though of course some of these have been observed very imperfectly by the likes of Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq. As we will show in a later chapter, global governance is by no means limited to the actions of states. Here we only illustrate the point that the legacy of 1648 is also a cultural one, since this dimension of world politics constitutes a world-cultural system in its own right.

Law In the spring of 2001, a Belgian court convicted four Rwandans, two nuns among them, for their role in the genocide against the Tutsis. UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had already sentenced many others. People guilty of genocide or crimes against humanity, it seemed, were now being held accountable under international law. Heartening as those convictions might appear, the law obviously reached only a few instances of egregious cruelty. No similar acts in Chechnya, Liberia, or Afghanistan had yet been punished. The enforcement of international law was still a matter of political convenience. If major powers supported legal action, it would happen; if not, international law remained toothless doctrine. Thus realism was vindicated after all. Or was it? The war crimes prosecutions, however selective, are only the tip of a moving iceberg. International law already encompasses much more than the most dramatic violations of the Yugoslav and Rwandan cases. Business transactions are governed by rules – pertaining to contracts, insurance, and the like – that are understood across the globe. The dealings of states are often based on treaties and conventions that have binding force. Numerous tribunals are engaged in settling disputes. The International Criminal Court, discussed in Chapter 10, is designed to be a permanent body charged with pursuing crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Without claiming that international law functions as coherently and effectively as established municipal systems, it is fair to say that at the beginning of the twenty-?rst century, a new kind of “world law” is growing (Berman 1995). This world law is rooted in the realization of relevant judges, lawyers, and of?cials that there is one world, the problems of which

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require the impartial application of one set of rules. It comprises expanding doctrines of contract, state responsibility, and human rights. It applies to many actors besides states as parties to be held accountable. As a systematic body of rules and principles, implemented by an ever-expanding set of institutions, world law is growing into a single tradition enveloping the globe – a part of world culture.

Global problems In 2001, the world observed the twentieth anniversary of the discovery of HIV/AIDS as a new disease. Experts described the course of the disease in detail, scientists reviewed progress in research, reporters conveyed the hardships experienced across Africa, and activists advocated new policies on drug pricing and distribution. The UN Secretary-General called for a multibillion-dollar global effort to combat the disease. Since the early 1980s, that effort had already greatly intensi?ed. The expanded scope of HIV/AIDS research and drug production, combined with the political attention and organizational resources it had attracted, made the disease the object of a global campaign. Obviously, much was at stake in that campaign: without a sustained effort, many Third World countries risked losing a substantial portion of their younger generations. The campaign paralleled similar efforts to deal with other global problems by transnational means. It was remarkable in many ways. In less than 20 years, consensus emerged among experts, of?cials, and indeed a large part of the public that HIV/AIDS constituted a “pandemic,” a plague that involved the whole world and affected the whole world. Both in basic research and in public health studies, experts compiled a substantial body of common knowledge about origins, transmission, and possible treatments. Around HIV/AIDS grew a community of patients and advocates turning the disease into an object of global moral concern. They appealed to the human rights of patients as individual persons entitled to the caring concern of the world community. They de?ned the obligations of states and companies to people and principles that transcended their own interests. Once it was de?ned as an object of global concern, HIV/AIDS triggered substantial efforts by all kinds of international organizations, from UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and the World Health Organization to Doctors Without Borders and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. In the way it dramatizes the oneness of the world, draws on authoritative science, and expands the scope of common

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moral concern, the global HIV/AIDS campaign is thus also a world-cultural project.

Enacting World Culture
World culture is embodied in extraordinary events like the Olympic Games and it is at work in travel, commerce, con?ict, and research. However, its in?uence goes deeper than these examples convey. World culture also shapes all kinds of ordinary activities that do not have any ostensible global focus. Analyzing one such activity in some detail further helps to clarify what we mean by world culture. Consider a local chess club in a small town, anywhere in the world. The players abide by global rules governing the play of the game. These rules are formally overseen by the World Chess Federation (WCF), the authoritative chess body at the global level. The chess enthusiasts study the play of international grand masters who have achieved global recognition through major tournaments and high placement in the world chess rankings, which are generated by the WCF. For the most part, local players are only “enactors” of world (chess) culture: they conform to rules coming from the global arena, they learn from external sources which master players (past and present) are to be admired and which masterful books on strategy and tactics are to be purchased, they follow tournaments in distant places they have never seen, and they read newspaper chess columns by world-famous players whose hands they will never shake. Few and far between are the local players of unusual ability and feel for the game who make even a single contribution to the core of what might be called the world chess subculture – the game as such – but some do, by making brilliant plays and winning striking victories that boost them above the local and national levels into the rari?ed atmosphere of world chess. However, the game of chess as such is not the sum total of the subculture of world chess. The subculture also includes principles, norms, and models, often informal, about such matters as how to run a chess club, how to communicate about chess, proper and improper ways to approach master players, and so on. For example, the global model of a chess club points organizers to setting up a voluntary, nonexclusive, democratic organization. Anyone can be a member, all members are expected to help with the club’s activities, of?cers (if any) are chosen by one-member, one-vote elections, and club ?nances and decision making are open matters. Information is to be freely shared, events are to be announced well in advance and made

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known to all of the members, and so on. Thus, the organizational model enacted by chess clubs tends to be fairly standardized globally; a chess player from one locale is likely to ?nd many similarities between his club and others he might visit on, say, a world chess tour. Notable variations may occur; for example, some clubs may exclude women or particular ethnic groups. The standardized model is not wholly determinative in this respect. Obviously, the non-chess dimensions of the culture de?ning and shaping chess clubs around the world are not peculiar to chess. World culture supplies formal and informal rules about such dimensions for a plethora of global subcultures, most of them overseen by one – or, in some cases, two or several – peak global organizations, usually international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). Members of the subculture comply with the rules, for the most part willingly, because they accord with deeper principles of world culture that make these rules appear fair, reasonable, sensible, even natural. That a chess club should be nonexclusive accords with the principle of equal treatment of all, that is, nondiscrimination – and what could be more sensible and fair than that anyone who is interested in chess should be welcome to play? That a bunch of eager amateurs should not swarm about a grand master demanding autographs and advice while he is in the midst of a championship match accords not only with a basic principle of chess – a calm, quiet atmosphere is crucial for the concentrated thought required to make good moves – but also with the principle of respect for the integrity and dignity of the individual, indeed, all individuals. Thus, a complex set of elements of world culture, some of great generality that apply to many social arenas, others that apply to a number of chess-like activities, and still others that are speci?c to chess as such, constitute the global chess subculture. Many are implicit, understood, or taken for granted, while others are explicitly expressed in the formal rules of the game, in the constitution of the World Chess Federation, in the bylaws of the local chess club, and so on. The example thus far illustrates the constitutive and directive capacity of world (chess) (sub-)culture. Also important is world culture’s generative power, for it helps account for the dynamic aspects of global development. Because the global model of the “chess club” is widely known, it is easy for chess enthusiasts to start a club and begin organizing competitions. In this way, the world chess subculture fosters new organizations tied into global structures. Because the World Chess Federation maintains systematic rankings of world-class players, with corresponding rankings by national chess organizations, strong amateurs gain motivation to improve

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their play and, in some cases, eventually become innovative contributors to the game. Indeed, the structure of global chess makes innovation and evolution inevitable, since it is built around competition, intensive study, and the rapid dissemination of information about new openings, surprising defense strategies, twists on classic lines of attack, and so on. As the chess example illustrates, most world-culture doing is enactment – individuals and organizations adopt and implement the rules, norms, and principles of global chess on a largely wholesale basis. Local variations and departures from standard models occur, in response to local circumstances and conditions, but innovation is limited and often even regretted. In this respect, world culture is like culture at any other level. Culture provides the cognitive framework by which we understand the world and orient ourselves to it. It also provides a huge amount of cognitive detail that is interpreted as meaningful by those who enact it, and it is this cognitive detail that makes it possible to manage everyday reality. We inevitably take this cognitive detail for granted; it is the very de?nition of reality that is provided for us by culture. If we did not treat it as natural and normal, we would ?nd ourselves at every moment crushed by the immense load of puzzlement and confusion that would confront us in the dense social milieu in which we live. Of course, enactment is also constructive, i.e., an indicator of “agency,” but only in the limited sense that it tautologically reproduces the culture being enacted. It makes sense to reserve the notion of cultural construction for the development or propagation of cultural innovation (or cultural revival, which is rather common), that is, for departures from institutionalized rules, models, and principles. However, this form of construction or agency can occur only when actors are ?rmly anchored in the solid bedrock of cultural enactment. The full implications of this central feature of culture for the actors who enact, reproduce, and occasionally construct world culture will emerge in later chapters.

Thinking about Culture
In analyzing world culture, we apply a particular way of thinking about culture more generally. Since our main purpose is to show the strength of this way of thinking by example, we refrain from extended conceptual discussion. For the sake of clarity, though without attempting an overly restrictive formal de?nition, we brie?y want to explicate the way we use the concept of “culture.” Building on several sociological traditions that were

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famously brought together in the social-constructionist analysis of Berger and Luckmann (1966), we think of culture as socially shared symbolic and meaning systems that become embedded in objects, organizations, and people yet also exceed what particular individuals can grasp and accumulate in an increasingly systematic fashion. Culture is often discussed as if it were essentially a complex set of abstractions. It refers to conceptions of the nature of things, principles of social organization, norms regarding proper behavior, patterned “habits” or “folkways,” and similar ideas. All of these are noticeably abstract and general. Culture is thus treated like a kind of disembodied symbolism or world-view that ?oats freely above the mundane details of everyday life. This tendency to speak of culture as free-?oating is especially pronounced when world culture is at issue, not least because the “globality” of world culture is itself considered a high-order abstraction. A dual misunderstanding is at work here. On the one hand, regardless of the level of reality under discussion, be it “local,” “national,” or global, culture is always and inevitably abstract. Culture operates in and through language, whether it is guiding interaction in routine, face-to-face encounters (e.g., friends sharing coffee and gossiping about indiscretions by their co-workers) or setting the framework for the grandest global phenomena (e.g., capitalist forces impelling the IMF to impose draconian structural adjustment programs on debt-ridden states). But language is inherently abstract. For example, “friend” is a highly general category of broad applicability that can refer to innumerable past or potential instances, and any moderately competent user of a language can correctly apply this abstract category to concrete instances without having to think about it. “Gossip” is a similarly general category applicable to innumerable instances, as are “international organization” and “transnational social movement” and “global network.” These latter instances, in fact, are perhaps less abstract than “friend” or “gossip” because they refer to fewer possible instances and could even be reduced to actual lists. In this light, world culture is not more abstract than any other level of culture, and its elements may be less abstract than many elements of culture at smaller scales or more immediate settings. However, this conclusion is also misleading to the extent that it still seems to represent culture as free?oating, detached, or at some remove from everyday reality. Culture has the strikingly tautological habit of becoming incorporated into the very “stuff” that it de?nes, into the things that owe their existence and meaning to the cultural complex that constitutes them. Reversing the common observation that individuals, groups, and organizations are “embedded” in their

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surrounding cultural environments, we should also think of culture as embedded in the objects, actors, scenes, and structures whose nature and operations are culturally organized. It is embedded in purposive organizations, technical structures, formalized rules, and constitutional documents. Even the propensities, capacities, and potential pathologies of individuals are embodiments of culture. People growing up in a given cultural complex cannot turn out “any old way”; the enveloping culture sharply restricts the possibilities. Another less noticed aspect of the “culture work” that builds culture into people, organizations, rules, and documents is the longevity of cultural construction processes, increasingly explicit and deliberate, that lead to the formalized embedding of culture in structure. For example, a set of massive, multifaceted, long-term cultural processes eventually produced (and are therefore embedded in) the limited liability corporation, an arti?cial entity having both legal “personality” and a range of rights and obligations that are entirely taken for granted – so much so that corporations can now be easily and cheaply created out of thin air in huge numbers by quite ordinary individuals. To understand the culture embedded in the corporation, one needs to understand the cultural processes that produced it and the subsequent processes that have changed its meaning and purpose over several centuries. This discussion gives the lie to a third misunderstanding about culture – that it is primarily to be found “in people’s heads.” Socialization, acculturation, learning, and similar theories implicitly make this assumption, and we would hardly dispute the conventional understanding that cultural creation takes place above all in the head. We nonetheless insist on the cultural poverty of people’s heads. As containers of culture, they are not especially helpful, in two senses. The ?rst is trivial but still worth emphasizing: any given head is cognizant of a negligible portion of the culture in which it is embedded (i.e., the cultural complex that directly orders the daily life, meaning system, functionality, and life chances of the individual attached to the head). More signi?cant is the extension of this triviality: no matter how many heads we put together, their collective contents will still constitute only a small, and usually negligible, proportion of all of the enveloping culture. How is it possible that all the culture in all the heads of all the world does not approach the sum of all culture that embeds, shapes, guides, informs, and ultimately constitutes the being and meaning of all those individuals-attached-to-heads? We can leave aside history for the moment – the long legacy and vast accumulated residue of past cultures which have

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shaped contemporary cultures in innumerable ways. Even currently active, identi?able culture is far more than the sum of all the contents of all the world’s heads. How can this be? Four factors, at least, are important in accounting for this unlikely situation. First, as far as heads go, cultural redundancy is epidemic: most of the cultural cognizance of any particular head overlaps with that of many other heads. (The French sociologist Emile Durkheim labeled such cognitive and normative redundancy the “conscience collective,” which means both collective consciousness [awareness] and collective conscience.) For example, most heads have active vocabularies of only 5,000 to 10,000 of the tens or hundreds of thousands of words available in their languages, and most heads share largely the same active vocabulary – so most words are unknown to most heads, and many words are known to very few heads. Some words, in fact, may be known to no heads at all, in any active sense. The same logic applies to virtually all cultural domains: that which is culturally available is largely unknown to almost everyone. Second, for at least the past several centuries, and for much longer in some arenas like institutional religion, ever more expansive cultural creation has been the order of the day. More people have had more time to produce more kinds of cultural elements, and they are increasingly likely to do so self-consciously, elaborately, and thoroughly. Innumerable occupations and entire industries have emerged that do nothing but churn out new or reworked culture, ranging from the obvious “culture industries” (in the narrow usage of the term) like art, literature, performance, ?lm, and television, to the natural and social sciences, engineering, medicine, design, advertising, administration, accounting, etc. These sectors produce knowledge, information, propaganda, mathematical equations, techniques, diagrams, organizational charts, auditing systems, and on and on, all in such abundance that it has become commonplace to worry about “information overload.” As a corollary, we have an expanding range of media through which to produce culture, adding to classic verbal and visual media the many new technologies that have emerged since the mid-nineteenth century. Third, cultural accumulation is increasingly deliberate and systematized. In most social arenas, structures and organizations ensure that cultural development is recorded and preserved, accumulating on dusty shelves, in crammed ?ling cabinets, or in dense electronic circuitry. Not all of this stockpiled culture is constantly active, and accidental or deliberate forgetting may be common (Douglas 1986), but vast amounts of stockpiled culture are available to be activated on a need-to-know basis. The ubiquity and reliability of such stockpiling is re?ected in evolving theories of the purposes of education, which has shifted from memorization and rote recita-

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tion to “learning about learning,” that is, developing the ability to ?nd information (stored culture) by familiarizing students with a (limited) range of accumulative stockpiles. Finally, with the rise of an independent public sphere and its rapid differentiation, culture creators are increasingly likely to offer their creations to the world through commercial, professional, or informal means. Publication, in the general sense, is epidemic. Because a higher sense of reality and value is attributed to culture that appears in the public realm, and because this “value-added” impact of the public realm is generally on the rise, the urge to go public is continually intensifying. This trend produces forms of self-revelation (on radio and television talk shows especially) that in earlier times would have been considered shamefully exhibitionist but have now become humdrum entertainment in many parts of the world. What these four factors mean, taken together, is that cultural creation occurs at an ever accelerating pace and is ever more faithfully accumulated. Who has not heard the decades-old truism that half of all science (or literature, or images, or inventions . . .) has appeared in the past two or three decades? For many newer forms of cultural production, such as computer programming, management consulting, self-improvement psychologies, how-to manuals, and so on, even three decades is much too long a span in this regard. The German sociologist Georg Simmel’s observation that “objective” culture far outstrips individual “subjective” culture (Simmel 1971), already overwhelmingly the case in his day, is even more apt now: objective culture overwhelmingly outstrips all subjective cultures (the culture in people’s heads) put together. This dynamic quality of culture especially pertains to modern world culture, which always and everywhere exceeds what particular individuals make of it.

Distinguishing World Culture
If not only the grand spectacle of the Olympics and such obviously global activities as managing the international aviation system but also the seemingly small-scale and interpersonally immediate activities of the members of a chess club are instances of world-cultural enactment, one might be tempted to believe that virtually all social activity has world-cultural character. After all, building contractors are enacting world culture when they pour concrete that is designed to meet the standards for compressive strength and tensile splitting strength established by ISO (the International Organization for Standardization). So too are hospital nurses who inject patients with synthetic narcotic painkillers produced by global pharmaceu-

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tical companies like P?zer and Glaxo Smith Kline, and psychologists who turn to the globally dominant DSM IV manual to refresh their memories about the clinical symptoms of mental disorders. Each of these examples reveals a distinct aspect of social life that involves world culture, and an astonishing number of everyday activities similarly involve world culture to some degree. What remains unclear is the nature of this world-cultural involvement: how can we distinguish aspects of routine activity that re?ect or engage world culture from those that do not? In other words, how do we recognize world culture when we see it? To formulate a provisional answer to this question and illustrate ideas we will apply in later chapters, we use two concepts of central importance in studying contemporary world culture: the world polity (Boli and Thomas 1999) and cultural universalism (Robertson 1992). When anyone invokes the entire globe as a frame of reference, refers to global corporations or global governance IGOs (intergovernmental organizations), or explains some aspect of globalization, the social unit that is brought into play is what we call the world polity. The world polity is the conceptual vision of the world as a single social system, an encompassing “society” involving all of “humanity” in extensive webs of interaction and ?ows of goods, ideas, money, values, and so on, among other social units (individuals, associations, companies, ethnic groups, states, nations, INGOs, etc.). This global social system is a polity because it is integrated by and operates through a complex set of multilayered authority structures (Boli and Thomas 1997). Some of these authority structures are well-integrated and cohesive, such as international banking and ?nancial systems, global sports federations, and world-spanning transportation and communication systems. (Like most arenas in which a de?nitive world champion or world ranking can be identi?ed, the global chess arena is fairly well integrated and cohesive.) Most of the authority structures are rather disorderly and loosely interconnected, such as the international human rights regime, “global pop” culture (Taylor 1997), and international labor organizations. Whether strongly or weakly integrated, when any of these structures becomes relevant to a social situation – be it with regard to technical properties of concrete, marketing efforts of global pharmaceutical companies, or using DSM IV to make sense of a puzzling set of symptoms – the world polity is activated. That is to say, one of the levels of social reality that provides meaning, guides to action, and a sense of purpose to the actors involved is the global level and the cultural framework that is associated with the global level of reality. This occurs explicitly in the Olympics but also more implicitly in a great many other areas.

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Any given social situation typically involves numerous different levels of social reality simultaneously; the global may be only one of many levels of reality, and multiple polities, more or less formally structured, may be relevant at one and the same time. For a building contractor, for example, small-scale levels of reality that are constantly at work include personal relationships with supervisors and laborers (individual-level reality), the local or regional labor market, and city and county governments (which make building codes, rules for sewer lines and power hook-ups, and the like). Provincial (state) and national levels of social reality – polities of a more familiar sort – come into play via regulations regarding employer obligations to employees, tax and pension systems, and so on. An exhaustive analysis would reveal many more levels of social reality and associated polities that are relevant to the contractor’s work, and only one of these is the global level, or the world polity, and the many relevant cultural constructs that operate at the global level. However, an exhaustive analysis would also uncover many more ways in which the contractor’s work situation relies on, activates, is informed by, or enacts the global level of reality (that is, world-polity governance structures and world-cultural elements) – many more if the project involved, say, a great new opera house for a national capital city than if it involved a garage that is being converted to a bedroom. Implicit in the idea of the world polity is the correlative concept of cultural universalism. To say that a cultural element is universalistic is not to say that it is truly universal, that is, found in all cultures (the anthropological usage, now somewhat outmoded) or found “everywhere” (an exceedingly slippery concept to which we return below). Rather, it is to say that the element is presented to the world “as if” it were universally meaningful, applicable, useful, or proper. The element is presumed to have universal (worldwide) scope; it is presumed to be interpretable in a largely uniform way and to make sense both cognitively and, often, normatively, in any particular local culture or social framework. For example, the means of testing the technical properties of concrete (one of the key concerns of ISO’s standards regarding concrete) are presumed to work no matter where they are used. The properties required of concrete to support a given type of building using a given construction method are presumed to be the same no matter where the building is located. The proper dosage of a painkiller is presumed to be the same (allowing for variability in age, weight, and sex) for any person in any locale; so too are the probabilities of various side effects of the drug. More controversially, but no less de?nitively for those who accept its authoritativeness, the DSM IV classi?cation of mental dis-

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orders is presumed to apply to any troubled patient, regardless of cultural, ethnic, religious, or national background. In the strongest form, universalistic elements are presumed to have literally universal (cosmic) scope. Many of the natural sciences have precisely this character: the working assumption for chemists, physicists, planetologists, and the like is that the physical laws they study are literally applicable everywhere in our universe, and even, in the spectacularly wild-eyed theories of astrophysicists and cosmologists, to universes beyond ours. These examples, cognitive and “factual” in nature, may seem obvious, even natural (which observation in itself reveals the penetrative nature of universalistic world culture). As we move to more purely normative universalisms, such as the doctrines of human rights, conceptions of corruption, or Coubertin’s vision of brotherhood, uneasiness is likely and the sense of naturalness disappears. De?nitions can be at stake: one person’s corruption is another person’s dutiful effort to meet obligations to village, clan, or region. Tensions emerge: in the Olympics, nationalist fervor competes with transnational ideals. Similarly, implications can be troubling. The principle that all people are to be accorded the same rights and protections across all cultures and societies implies, for example, that women should have full equality with men in marriage. “Not so fast!” scream men, and clerics, and judges in many societies and cultures; women are to be subordinate to men, at least in certain aspects of the marriage relationship. Do these objections mean that women’s equality in marriage is not, after all, a universal principle, and therefore not a part of world culture? No. The principle is still conceived, by both its supporters and its critics, as inherently universalistic in itself (it speaks, notably, of “all people”) and as a wouldbe universal in its applicability. It is therefore world-cultural; but so too is the counterposed principle that, with respect to some issues and arenas, women should not be fully equal to men. World culture incorporates many controversies and contradictory claims of this sort. Like all levels of culture, it is the locus of much contention and struggle, the more so as world society becomes ever more inclusive and penetrative such that ever more diverse societies and groups become direct participants in world-cultural enactment and construction.

Contested Culture
As the disputes surrounding women’s rights show, the global scope of world-cultural principles does not imply consensus. World culture is not a

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seamless canopy hovering over us or a cultural Gaia that warmly envelops us. Global consciousness can take different forms and global sharing is often a prelude to argument. World culture encompasses as well the competing ways in which people construct images of the world they want to live in, alternative views of global futures. In many contexts, the meaning and purpose of world order are at stake. Many con?icts in the world today are also cultural contests. Culture is, in fact, a hot global topic. Consider a full-page advertisement that appeared in American newspapers not long ago, under the ominous heading “Global Monoculture.” A series of photographs challenged readers to name the place they depicted. One showed long lines of cars on a multilane highway, and asked: Frankfurt or Chicago? The accompanying text spelled out the message. “[W]ith economic globalization, diversity is fast disappearing,” it said. “The goal of the global economy is that all countries should be homogenized.” If “any place is becoming like any place else,” then “[w]hat’s the point of leaving home?” The ad argued that this sti?ing monoculture was the nefarious work of corporations concerned only about their pro?ts, people and nature be damned. Though bad in itself, monoculture therefore also re?ected the gross power imbalance that threatened the globe. Implicitly, the ad was an effort to rally progressive forces behind another, more egalitarian and multicultural vision. In fact, it was part of a series of advertisements, all of which offered a leftist perspective on issues such as genetic engineering and economic globalization. The advertisements were published by the Turning Point Project, a broad coalition of activist organizations that had banded together for this purpose. As arguments, these texts may leave a bit to be desired. For example, it is not clear that multinational business can thrive only on homogeneity, as Coca-Cola’s grammatically challenged “Think local, act local” corporate strategy suggests. However, as exhortation they follow an increasingly familiar pattern. They contribute to a backlash against neoliberal globalization, articulated in a globally diffused critical discourse. To call the rise of this discourse a turning point in quite the sense the Turning Point Project intended may be premature. But what has changed in recent years is that globalization has turned from mantra to threat. No longer a merely descriptive term, it has become an object of ideological debate. For many groups around the world, taking a stance toward globalization has become a primary way to express their own visions of world order. The contested nature and direction of globalization show some of the ?ssures in world culture.

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The expanding global backlash (Broad 2002) unites around certain common themes, such as those expressed in the Turning Point ads: Globalization is the process, dominated by greedy corporations, of imposing a rapacious economic system bound to produce social inequality, cultural blight, and environmental devastation. Neoliberal globalization is exploitative and therefore unjust. It serves the interests of global elites, not those of the poor. It turns democratic nation-states into empty shells. As it obliterates cultures, it denies people the very essence of freedom. The destructive power of the monoculture calls for the reassertion of diversity. Such themes ?nd expression in movements protesting against the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO (World Trade Organization), and particular multinational corporations. Among critical academics, they have led to descriptions of globalization as “predatory” (Falk 1999), a “syndrome” (Mittelman 2000), and a “false dawn” (Gray 1998). By 2001, they had gathered suf?cient support to constitute a platform for the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre in Brazil, which we discuss in Chapter 7. In a short period, backlash discourse had greatly intensi?ed in movements, at meetings, and among academics. However, apart from the core consensus on the discontents of globalization, the discourse takes different forms. Diagnoses of globalization express alternative world-views. For example, the critique of globalizing monoculture can take the form of a fundamentalist defense of a sacred tradition against the forces of “McWorld” (Barber 1995), a revival of national identity, or protection of the rights of “indigenous” cultures. Motives for opposing neoliberalism range from Catholic rejection of heartless materialism to neosocialist dismay at rising inequality to environmentalist concern about uncontrolled growth. Similarly, proposals to ?x what now ails a globalizing world also vary greatly, some envisioning communities or states as bulwarks against global assaults, others calling for one-world solutions relying on global ethics or global governance. The very richness of global debate should alleviate fears about the advent of monoculture. Such backlash discourse, which we examine further in a later chapter, is becoming an integral part of world culture. It is one prominent example of global debates joined by participants from many continents, focused on common problems, articulated through a shared rhetoric, and played out as a confrontation of competing world cultures. Of course, not all parties are equal; not all contributions are consequential. But what is at stake in these debates is how the world should be constituted as a single society, what counts as valid knowledge, and what principles should prevail in

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transnational affairs. To some extent, many such issues are up for grabs. Articulating and debating them means contributing to world culture.

The Case for World Culture
This book proposes a view of world culture as a global, distinct, complex, and dynamic phenomenon and supports this view by analyzing its different dimensions with concrete examples. As prelude to our substantive chapters, we now summarize our perspective on world culture.

World culture as global In speaking of “world” culture, we have in effect treated it as global, as the globe-spanning culture of actual world society. Though the distinction between “world” phenomena, as properties of large geographical areas, and “global” ones, of true planetary scope, once may have mattered, world and global in these senses have practically converged. As we explained earlier, what matters for our purposes is that certain ideas and principles are presented as globally relevant and valid, and are seen as such by those who absorb them. At any rate, the claim does not have to be wholly correct as an empirical matter (for example, not all parts of the globe need to be equally enamored of chess or well-represented in the backlash discourse we have just described) to be useful as a working hypothesis (for example, because the chess subculture works on common assumptions or the backlash discourse is universally relevant).

World culture as distinct Arguing that the world has a culture might seem to slight the diversity that still prevails today. However, our point is not that world culture obliterates all others, supersedes the local, or makes the world one in the sense of being utterly similar. To be sure, from our analytical point of view, it does have a coherence and content of its own, but this does not imply empirically that the world is on a long slide toward Turning Point’s monoculture. Nor does it rule out the possibility of a “clash of civilizations” (Huntington 1997), which we discuss in a later chapter. We suggest that world culture grows

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alongside of, and in complex interaction with, the more particularistic cultures of the world. In relating to world culture the more particularistic ones also change. For example, as we discuss in Chapter 9, the civilizations central to Huntington’s argument are always already embedded in an encompassing global civilization, which to some extent constrains their interactions and bridges their differences. Within world culture, civilizations cannot be self-centered, taken-for-granted practices, if they ever were. Actual cultural practices in particular places, as well as the thinking of particular individuals, are likely to exhibit mixtures of “world” and more local symbolism. In treating world culture as distinct, we do not claim to capture the full range of those practices. As our argument about how to distinguish world culture implies, world culture is not the sum of all things cultural.

World culture as complex From another angle, our analysis of world culture might seem too complex, too focused on teasing out tension and difference. The monocultural scenario, after all, has numerous supporters. According to the popular “McDonaldization” argument (Ritzer 1993), for instance, institutional forces pressing for ef?ciency and control threaten to impose one way of life everywhere. We think the direction sketched by this argument is partly correct: rationalization is powerful, and in fact a certain kind of rationality has become an in?uential cultural model. But even on the culinary scene, rationalization is not a cul-de-sac. The fast-food experience takes many forms, single models of food production come in multiple versions, foods and tastes mix around the world. From our perspective, the McDonaldization thesis is not so much wrong as one-sided. World culture encompasses different domains and contains tensions among its different components. Global consciousness does not come in one styrofoam package.

World culture as an entity We have already ascribed several characteristic to world culture. Whenever we say that world culture “does” x, the specter of rei?cation lurks. In some instances, of course, talking of world culture as an active whole is a matter of convenience, sparing us the need to unpack it into components or into the actions of people using the symbolic resources at their disposal. Treating it in this way does not entail seeing it divorced from other realms of

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human activity. As we have already hinted in our discussion of “real world” institutions, we think the analytical move to distinguish the cultural from, say, the political and economic, should actually enable us to see how those aspects of human activity are mutually constitutive. However, we do not want to grant critics of rei?cation too much. In the ?nal analysis, we do claim that a distinct and recognizable world culture is crystallizing as a phenomenon with its own content and structure. At the same time, we do not draw tight boundaries. In exploring what issues reasonably ?t under the heading of world culture, we err on the side of inclusion.

World culture as culture As we explained, we hold a particular view of culture. We regard it as socially constructed and socially shared symbolism. Our position is “holistic” and “constructionist.” This rules out subjective or purely textual views of culture – it is neither (just) in people’s heads nor (just) in esoteric documents. It also leaves aside popular grab-bag notions of culture as a way of life. However, it incorporates many other perspectives, from which we borrow liberally. Our holistic constructionism directs attention to the way in which culture is created and consciousness is formed. It suggests that, once created, cultural forms do have a dynamic of their own. It requires analysis of how cultural elements come to be shared, notably through the work of institutions that carry abstract ideas into practice. It points to the fault lines and tectonic stresses that may become sources of change. We argue in the next chapter that this perspective builds on and complements much previous work on world culture. We apply this perspective heuristically. Our purpose in this book is to marshal available resources to illuminate our problems, not to engage in scholarly polemics by advocating one theory to the exclusion of others. We hope that our view of culture is suf?ciently ecumenical to be useful to a wide range of readers.

World culture as dynamic Our opening example of global sports showed how rules, ideas, and symbolism surrounding this transnational practice have grown over the years. The world culture of sports is always being constructed and reconstructed. The point applies more generally. World culture is not simply a ?nished structure, a done deal. Certainly, some world-cultural patterns display con-

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tinuity over many decades, as the global commitment to the nation-state form illustrates. But world culture is open to new ideas, vulnerable to new con?icts, and subject to continual reinterpretation. Even the apparent convergence of people and countries from many regions on the merits of liberal democracy as a model for organizing societies hardly counts as the “end of history” (Fukuyama 1992). Much as we appreciate the value of the model itself, we lack the Hegelian con?dence to think of contemporary world culture as the fully formed end point of humanity’s ideological evolution, or as the irreversible progress of reason that has achieved a system immune to future contradictions.

World culture as signi?cant Needless to say, we think world culture is signi?cant in many ways. We argue against the view that it is a veneer, a set of fairly abstract notions only variably relevant in real people’s lives. Examples such as the globalization backlash, one could argue, still refer to the concerns of a relatively small elite. Models such as neoliberalism or even the nation-state would seem irrelevant in West African states on the verge of collapse. We agree that the relevance of world culture can vary in this way, but this does not diminish its signi?cance as a feature of world society. Without grasping world culture we could not understand the direction of world affairs, as we have already suggested. However, it is also vastly more pervasive in particular places than ever before. Anti-globalization discourse affects African dealings with international organizations, neoliberalism shapes development strategies even of countries with few resources, and the nation-state has become the operative model for groups not naturally hospitable to living within one political system. Even more concretely, as our earlier examples show, many regular activities now embody world culture in some way. World culture matters for the world as a whole and for the world in all its varied parts. That is what this book seeks to show.

Structure of the Book
In the next chapter we review relevant literature on cultural globalization and world culture and describe several partially complementary perspectives that will guide our analysis. Chapter 3 selectively recounts the recent history of world culture, tracing some of its important contemporary fea-

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tures back to the nineteenth century. Chapter 4 jumps forward to the contemporary era to examine how elements of world culture are constructed, speci?cally through the global ritual of major international meetings. Distinguishing between the “hardware” and “software” of world culture, Chapter 5 shows how world culture is carried by both a technical and an organizational infrastructure. Focusing on the issue of national identity, Chapter 6 argues that world culture fosters difference. Chapter 7 expands upon the “global backlash” referred to above to demonstrate how certain kinds of cultural critiques are part and parcel of world culture. In Chapter 8 we use the case of global Pentecostalism to illustrate how particular groups creatively expand world culture. Disputing the “clash of civilizations” argument, Chapter 9 analyzes militant Islamism as a form of opposition to world culture. Chapter 10 returns to the issue of global governance by studying how the International Criminal Court institutionalizes world culture. Finally, in the Epilogue we offer some general re?ections on world culture that tie together central themes of the book.


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