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Re: culture ... (aka there are/no cultures)
by Threehegemons
08 August 2003 13:17 UTC
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Culture is not a thing, or a causative element.  It is a process--the 
production, distribution, interpretation of signs, symbols, rituals, texts, 
narratives, performances, etc to create shared meanings.  Human social life is 
unimaginable without it.  All 'structural' aspects of social life are also 
cultural performances.  War is an extreme example.  Apparently the US army 
believed it was self-evident that it 'won' the war with Iraq when its troops 
could move freely about Baghdad.  It ignored the  ritual of a treaty conference 
to cease hostilities and make sure the Iraqis were 'on the same page.'  As it 
turns out, they weren't.  Convincing the Iraqis that the war is over is turning 
out to be much more complicated than the US anticipated.

Money is another example.  If everyone (or at least, enough people) does not 
believe it has value, economic 'structures' collapse (or at least, have 
trouble).  How exactly does one determine the 'real' value of the dollar?  It 
is a piece of paper!  Perhaps one can look at what the US economy produces, but 
this turns out to raise a host of philosophical/cultural questions, and, if one 
is to compare the US economy to China...  Good luck, the 'real' measurements 
are going to be even more problematic.  Even more rudimentarily, economic 
behavior is underpinned by cultural beliefs that diverse things--an hour of 
working at a computer and a washing machine--can be compared and measured on a 
single scale of value.  Not all humans for all time have believed this--in 
fact, many still don't, depending on what we are talking about.
So culture is inescapable.

Steven Sherman

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