Re: po-mo is part of the world-system, not a virus

Wed, 12 Mar 1997 11:04:47 -0500 (EST)

WW Sorry about my previous intemperate post. One question to Al
Bergesen--if hegemony is associated with universalistic frames, rivalry
with particularism, how do you understand the second half of the
eighteenth century--wasn't it precisely the case that the rival, France,
universalistic as could plausibly be, while, beginning with Burke,
England became talking a blue streak about the virtues of local,
untheorizable differences, and didn't really stop at least through the
mid-17970s, with Thompson scolding Althusser for being too abstract.
I'm not sure that whatever emerges out of East Asia won't build its
hegemony on a skeptisicm about the universalism that in some ways proved
to be the US's achilles heel.

STeven Sherman
Binghamton University

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, Albert J Bergesen wrote:

> WSNers--Along with long waves in the global political economy there are
> corresponding long waves of cultural forms, which frame the discourse of
> the age. In short, hegemony (unicentricity) is associated with
> universalistic frames; rivalry (multicentricity) with particularistic
> frameworks. These are part of the world's power dynamics. They are not
> accidental, or "viruses". General, universal, theory--and abstract
> modernism in the arts (classicism earlier)--is a means of hegemonic
> cultural domination, suppressing the voices of particular groups within
> nations, and nations within the world. With hegemonic decline comes the
> lessening of this universalist grid of discourse, and with American
> decline, comes the Mannerism (the po-mo of Spanish/Hapsburgh hegemonic
> decline) of our age, post-modernism. Remeber what the title means:
> modernism was the world of universalism, and post-modernism is the
> world of particularism. Particular groups, ethnicities, genders,
> sexual preferences. What shifts is the frame: race, class, gender, can
> be done as a consequence of mode of production, capitalist development, world
> systemic position, etc. But that is from the frame of hegemonic cultural
> universalism, which has now passed on to particularism, such that one
> believes there is no longer any general theory, or if there is, it is but
> an intellectual fig leaf for oppressions of various particular
> groups: race, class, gender.
> In short, in our age of hegemonic decline, this is the way race, class,
> gender will be talked about. The goal is to join the debate, or to
> subsume it somehow, but not just put our world-systemic heads in the
> intellectual sand. To the Binghamton School's credit they have made, more
> or less, constant efforts to reach out to these new intellectual
> developments. For that IW should be praised.
> Remember too in ones world-systemic quickness to judge that these are not
> called the "new social movements" without reason: they seemed not to fall
> prey to explanation by traditional universalist theories of class, mode of
> production, and I would add, world system status. The "economic" lost
> favor in late 20th century intellectual life for a reason: class just
> wasn't the best explanation for the new social movements; neither, I would
> add, has world system theory been any better. IW's smugness of "we
> said it earlier" is not all that correct, of if so, how come we are on the
> margins of contemporary intellectual debates about gender, class, race,
> ethnicity, sexual preference? If world-systemness is a general frame, and
> this is an age of particularism, then we may be on the outside for a
> while, or even if making convincing arguments they will not be heard. Our
> conditionis a little of both: we aren't heard and we haven't made the
> best of arguments on these particular issues.
> So, over the long history of the world system, global consciousness swings
> back and forth between the general and the particular; each puts down the
> other; each claism to be the ideology of liberation--remember that po mo
> claims a better, more radical, more liberated, way of doing things. They
> claim a higher progressivity; they claim you are part of the past and
> irrelevant. The universalists make the same clain during their period,
> and both--and this is the key point here--serve the power of the world
> system.
> Particularism allows for the mobilization of national populations for
> core-wars, struggles, etc. Universalism allows for hegemonic domination
> by framing the world as a unity (under hegemonic leadership/domination,
> of course). We are in the pre-hegemonic succession struggles stage. We
> are heading from hegemonic universalism in theory and the arts, to a 30s
> like social realism of my group vs. yours. Both are functional. Both
> serve power. Both claim to be liberation and prgressivity; but ultimately
> both are cultural outlooks within the working framework of the world
> system, and as such, serve its power dynamics.
> al b.
> Albert Bergesen
> Department of Sociology
> University of Arizona
> Tucson, Arizona 85721
> Phone: 520-621-3303
> Fax: 520-621-9875
> email: