Karl Marx – Base & Superstructure

14 May

So yeah, Karl Marx.  There is so much tied to his ideas.  It seems like theorists build and tear down every one of his ideas.  But the stuff I like is the Base/Superstructure ideas where The Base (or economically powerful) decide what is contained in the Superstructure (everything else).  So if the Bourgeoisie hegemony uses its power to makes changes that support themselves.  The changes might include the arts, child-rearing, property values, infrastructure, and anything else that might interfere with the The Base’s goal of staying in power.

The Proletariat (laborer) is supposed to be a “free agent (Barker, 13)” but really is exploited by The Base.  This is a rather simple statement about a larger subject but it makes me think of our lecture on Fordism and how the worker in the Chaplin movie works very hard at one small job in the assembly line of workers, becoming ‘alienated’ from his job as he no longer had connection to the finished product nor took part in the profits made from his labor.  “Those who, being a propertyless proletariat, must sell their labour to survive (Barker 13).”  Those in power or management, executives, & owners profited from labour while working less hard.

There is an idea that the worker has the freedom to work or quit as his choosing but “Marx argues that this appearance covers over a fundamental exploitation at work (Barker 13).”  Corporations have the power of many people against the lowly laborer leaving the proletariat powerless to control whether he keeps his job or gets a raise or promotion.  The laborer has the least power, makes the least amount of money and The Base or Economic powers will do what is necessary to keep it that way.

Unions might have been very powerful at one time but today, they are being systematically removed from our workplaces.  At UCLA, open union job vacancies are being reclassified into non-union classifications thus methodically eliminating the union at UCLA.  So, even though CUE, the original UCLA union joined with the Teamsters, a more powerful union; there does not seem to be anything anyone can do to stop UCLA’s Base from hegemony to support their own selfish motives.

The worker at UCLA will have less job security.  Another problem about the union being forced out is that there will be no organized effort to maintain our health benefits, vacation time, or sick time.  All of those benefits we work so hard for may also be systematically attacked and eliminated once the unions are no longer present to protect staff.

To be sure, I am not all pro-union.  I don’t care for the idea that seniority trumps hard work and ability, most of the time.  I prefer that we be given raises, promotions and other gains through merit rather than length-of-service.

In any event, I look to Marx as a signpost of what is happening to some degree.  I agree that The Base wields its power over the proletariat and influences The Superstructure as it wishes without care for the powerless worker.  I think that income disparity is a result of the influence the bourgeoisie has over politics, popular culture, and everything else.

But I don’t believe that Marx was right in that the working class will rebel against The Base without gaining a better understanding of how they are exploited.  The widespread apathy that has been perpetrated by The Base for those outside of our immediate view (developing countries, for instance) help hide the ways transnational corporations (The Base) carry out its day-to-day business and who gets hurt immediately and ultimately.

The Occupy has started the conversation but we are far from a national understanding of how the American public has been manipulated, consentually.

 

Simone de Beauvior – Woman as Other

14 May

So I like to think of myself as a woman independent of labels.  When I was little, Gloria Steinem was publicly challenging The Gender Code as often as the media would allow her.  My mother (divorced) and all of her friends spoke of concepts like “equality” “equal rights” “equal pay” and “equal division of labor.”  They frowned upon any idea that a man could do something better than a woman.  They marched and spoke out and formed Women’s Groups designed to discuss and explore ways in which really equality among the sexes could be obtained.  They also argued that women could do anything men could do and maybe better.

I grew up believing that all people regardless of ascribed status should be treated equally no matter what.  And I did believe the concept.  And today, I still believe that our society should try to offer as level a playing field as possible to reward hard work over statistic.

But I no longer believe that men and women are the same.  I don’t believe that The Gender Code is altogether wrong.  I believe that women are not given the credit due but it’s not because I believe that both genders are endowed with the same abilities or reasonings.

Simone de Beauvoir attempts to answer the question, “what is a woman (p 1)?”  She talks about “woman as other” in that women are not the opposite of men but rather ‘other’ than men.  To be a woman is to be feminine but what is that?  De Beauvoir goes on to discuss the various ways in which femininity is losing ground in our culture.  That women are acting less and less woman-like thus confusing the concept of what constitutes woman.

Dorothy Parker has written: ‘I cannot be just to books which treat of woman as woman … My idea is that all of us, men as well as women, should be regarded as human beings (p 1).”

Okay so I get the harmonic sound of the ‘human beings’ part of Parker’s sentiment but WTF?!  If she cannot read a book as woman then she is choosing to remove ‘woman’ from the conversation.  But just because she doesn’t want to single women out as ‘other’ does not fix the problem.  SHE IGNORES THE PROBLEM.  And by attempting to take the word ‘woman’ out of her vocabulary (this quote hints at this, anyway), she is essentially sticking her head in the proverbial sand.  In other words, there is no progress in the conversation.

‘The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,’ said Aristotle; ‘we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness (p 2).”

As I do believe this sentiment to be felt today, it is this very belief that keeps women from obtaining the equality that I work for:  Equal respect.

To be quite frank, I don’t believe that women and men should always be paid the same.  There are many factors into determining salaries.  For instance, if a law firm hires to Associate lawyers at the same time with the same amount and type of previous work experience and educational background, to work the same hours to do the same kinds of cases and play the same role in each case and one Associate is a woman and one Associate is a man; then I believe that they should both start out with the same salary.  But then things will change.

If the female Associate has a baby and opts to stay home for several months while the man continues to work cases and pay his dues, I don’t believe he automatically should get promoted faster but that is a consideration.  If the man bills less hours for the same reason, then that is also a consideration.  The thing is, if the woman follows The Gender Code in child-rearing, then she will be more likely to leave early when children are sick or go to children’s sporting events and less time to study legal briefs at home when cooking dinner and doing laundry.  I’m saying that if the female Associate puts in less time and effort than the male Associate, regardless of reason, then the male might deserve a larger salary compensurate to his efforts.  The notion of talent and ability brings a whole other aspect to the argument, as well.

I’m not saying that women and men are equal enough at this time.  I know that women make more money than ever before but the disparity between women’s and men’s salaries are too large at this time to incorporate my understanding of profit through effort.  Women are not being given the same rewards for similar talent and effort.  A greater effort toward income equality among the sexes must be achieved before one can continue the argument of other inequalities of the sexes.

Aristotle’s notion that women are of a defective origin is a problem.  He is not saying we are different from men but that we exist out of a mistake in nature.  In the same quote, he says that we exist in what men are not.  I am fascinated by this part of his thought but I have to dismiss it as being to general.  I don’t even hate this part of the quote but rather the connotation that it is bad that we are not of the same ilk as man.  Why do we even have to be the same, anyway?  Whatever.

Simone de Beauvoir discusses many aspects of ‘what is a woman?’ but the most compelling for me is the binary of Master/Slave.  If men are the Masters, then women are the Slaves.  And I understand the comparison.  de Beauvoir illustrates how the relationship is one of economics.  If men always make more money than women, then women will always need men to survive.  The man has all the power in this relationship.  So an argument might be that if women made the same money that men made, women would no longer need men and the binary would no longer exist.  I think the same argument goes for every Master/Slave binary that could be applied.  If the economic disparity in this country was not so great, the proletariat would have more choice (power) in how he/she lived; work, education, pleasures.

Anyway, if income equality existed, the Master/Slave would not exist and men would have to take more responsibility for other areas including household management, child-rearing and so on.

The fascinating part of her paper though is the idea that some women don’t actually want to be equal.  Now, I kinda feel that way in some ways.  For instance, I like when a man opens the door, carries my groceries, and pays for dinner.  I prefer traditional dating.  And I appreciate that if I want the man to pay for dinner, it might not be fair for me to make the same salary as a man.  So I am conflicted with certain traditional aspects of courtship with modern ideas of equality.

But I am not of the mind to stand in the way of women’s progress in the cultural eye.  I want equal respect for the different things I bring to the table.  I want to be revered for being a good mother, writer, friend, lover, contributor, singer, hiker, surfer, organizer, and so on.  I want to respect the man in my life for the things he holds dear:  like work, hobbies, passions, fatherhood, and so on.  I don’t believe we have to have the same abilities to respect each other.  It is for the differences that I want to celebrate and support.

Anyway, de Beauvoir does say that:

“Man-the-sovereign will provide woman-the-liege with material protection and will undertake the moral justification of her existence; thus she can evade at once both economic risk and the metaphysical risk of a liberty in which ends and aims must be contrived without assistance. Indeed, along with the ethical urge of each individual to affirm his subjective existence, there is also the temptation to forgo liberty and become a thing (p 4).”

So woman may resist equality so that she does not have to take responsibility for her life.  It seems a lazy way into servitude.  But de Beauvoir suggests that women will willingly accept the status ‘as other’ in order to avoid economic and metaphysical risk.  She is willing to forego freedom for the ease of domination.

 

 

 

“10” – Romantic Sex Comedy vs. Radical Sex Comedy

14 May

So the question is whether the movie “10” falls into the category of Romantic Sex Comedy or Radical Sex Comedy.  Films lecturer, Tamar Jeffers McDonald says that “the romantic comedies of the 197s also reflected contemporary preoccupations and anxieties (60).”  So film reflects society.  McDonald goes on to say that once the oral contraceptive became available, women could have any kind of sex without the repercussions of pregnancy to damper their lives.  So film reflects women’s ability to fuck without worry.

Okay so the movie “10” is about George, a 42-year-old man going through a mid-life crisis.  During his crisis, George finds Jenny, a much younger, beautiful woman who has recently married.  The themes of the movie at this point are common:  Man fears death, man pursues younger woman in hopes of capturing his youth, and so on.   George sees Jenny as innocent, untouched, and virgin-like.

But there are other things going on that are radical in their presentation.

For instance, even though Sam (George’s girlfriend) appears to be a good mother (traditional female role), she is having a sexual relationship with a man she is not married to.  She also has a career apart from George.  She is independent and strong while preserving a certain ‘woman-ness’ about her.

Jenny, the young women George thinks is the perfect conquest, turns out to be anything but virginal.  She has been living with her boyfriend (now husband) for two years.  This means that she was having a sexual relationship out of wedlock and has no children, illustrating that she is practicing sex for the joy of sex.  Also, Jenny enjoys using drugs openly without fear of judgment from George.

Another radical departure from a traditional female role is that Jenny is open to having a sexual liaison with George even though she is now married.  In traditional romantic comedies, women waiting for ‘Mr. Right’ and were faithful when the romance started.  The women were usually virgins before marrying and sex was downplayed.  Jenny wants to sleep with George and doesn’t see a problem with it.  The fact that this disturbs George is yet another way “10” challenges the Gender Code.

If women were supposed to be chaste, men were supposed to be conquerors.  When George realizes that Jenny is behaving the same way he was, he is turned off by her attitude of free love, free sex, free drugs.  He is repulsed at the idea of participating in a non-traditional role with Jenny.

As McDonald states, “sexual desire and pleasure, as important for both genders, is accented in” films like “10,”… “they seem driving by the male protagonist’s sexual obsessions (p 63).”

So, George’s sexual obsession for Jenny is what drives the film but it is Jenny’s self-possessed beliefs about sex that are radical.

Annie Hall – Modern or Postmodern?

13 May

Is Annie Hall of the Modern or Postmodern discipline?  Well, I think there are aspects of both but I would argue that the film is more Postmodern.

The character, Alvy is self-reflexive, a trait found in Modernism but more prevalent in Postmodernism.  He constantly defines himself using un-scientific means saying that he has been in therapy for many years but never discusses the diagnoses his psychoanalyst has determined.  His belief system is not based upon fact but upon non-analytical beliefs he has derived from his experiences as a Jewish New Yorker.  His opinions are illogical and superstitious in how the world is.

“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers?  I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.” -Alvy

Another aspect of Alvy is that he politicizes everything.

Also, the story itself is non-linear, jumping around to different stages of Alvy and Annie’s relationship along with flashbacks to when Alvy was a child in school. 

“What’s with all these awards? They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.” -Alvy

“Are you going with a right-wing rock ‘n roll star?” -Alvy

“Oh really? I had heard that “Commentary” and “Dissent” had merged and formed “Dysentery.”” -Alvy

The story is also expressive on Postmodernism in that it is told in a non-linear way by jumping around the time line of Alvy and Annie’s relationship with flashbacks of Alvy’s childhood.

Annie’s character does have Modern aspects to her in that she is much more interested in communication and the preference to be understood.  At least that’s what her character begins to feel after undergoing some therapy and attending school.  She begins to search for her own truth which takes her emotionally away from Alvy.  While in the beginning, Annie’s character comes off as non-totalized, chaotic, and fragmented; Annie begins to solidify her feelings and opinions through self-discovery.  Again, there is reflexivity involved but Annie is using outside influences to help guide her where Alvy seems to hold on to his old ideas, leaving no room for growth.

Annie begins to believe and enact progress where Alvy stands steadfast in his unwillingness to take a risk and change or grow.

Another area where Annie and Alvy are different is that Annie has had a democratic view of their relationship yet allows Alvy minority hegemony.  At the beginning of the relationship, Alvy is the power figure, using his power to support his views and Annie is the willing participant.  Later on, Annie begins to wield her own power causing Alvy to panic while refusing to yield his role as Master.

The binary of Master/Slave works well here in that Alvy is clearly the Master and Annie the Slave but as the film goes on, Annie begins to re-negotiate her role causing Alvy to lose his power thus proving the point that the Master needs the a willing slave to allow him his power.

Once the slave or rather Annie is unwilling to be the subordinate, Alvy’s dominance dissolves leaving him unable to recover from the loss of stature in their relationship.  Because of his inability to re-negotiate a new role for himself, Alvy loses Annie.

Jacques Derrida’s “Differance” makes a good point for the continuous deferring of meaning in that Alvy thinks he means one thing when he wants Annie to go back to school and get into therapy because he believes her going to school and therapy will result in Annie believing all the same things Alvy does.  But the result of Annie’s furthering education and therapy helps Annie to develop other beliefs and to see the world in a different way than Alvy does.  He believed in a fixed meaning where Derrida’s theory of ‘Differance’ where we can never assume the same meaning for people of the same geographical location no matter the circumstance.

 

Facebook Presentation

30 Apr

This is my blog post regarding my part in the Facebook presentation for Popular Culture with Professor Wexler.  Since I missed the first meeting of the FB group, I got the others’ email adds from Allen.  Then, I got a list together of the members and suggested two different meeting times to meet @ library so we could get started.

At our 1st meeting:

The next contribution I made was to suggest an equal division of labor; each of us could select a chapter from the Barker readings to look at as to how it relates to Facebook.  Then I helped schedule the next two mtgs for our group.

Before meeting #2 – Working on Chapter 9, I submitted a few slides to Allen (slides manager).

At our 2nd meeting:

When we met again, I submitted an idea for the closing of the presentation.  I also suggested more integration of the presentation (per conversation with Professor Wexler).

At our 3rd meeting.

I suggested that we integrate our presentation to include personal experiences, questions for the class and cross-presenting into others’ presentation to give a more ‘group feel’ to our presentation.

After meeting this time, it became clear that I needed to re-make my slides so I worked on a more focused version of Facebook as it pertains to Sex & Subjectivity in my part of the presentation.

I also worked on an agenda for the 4th & 5th meetings and gave them out to the members who attended class on Monday, 4/23.

4/24 – I submitted eight completely different slides to Allen.

At our 4th meeting:

I caught a member up to what we were doing as few members were able to attend the mtg.  She also received a copy of the agenda sheet.

At our 5th meeting:

I suggested the order of the presentation and participated in the discussion of how to integrate our presentation better.

Throughout the process, I became the go-between for late arrivals, chapter questions, and to confirm deadlines.  I think everyone had my phone number and I think I am the loudest of the bunch so those two points may explain why others felt comfortable texting me when they had questions or scheduling issues.

I was also crabby the last couple of meetings so I should take responsibility for that too.

In general, I hope that I was a positive member of The Facebook Presentation Team and that all the members felt that I contributed to the process and the results.

I’m not sure what else I can include in this blog except to say it was a pleasure to work with everyone involved and I learned more with the group than I would have had I researched all of this information myself.  For example, our discussion of gaming on Facebook was completely new subject-matter for me.  As a frequent Facebook user, I was not aware of the addictive-like nature Facebook members have for Farmville and Petville and really all the “villes.”  I have heard of Farmville but have never played it or any other game on FB.

Submitted will be the documents I mentioned above, a copy of the slides I produced, the agenda I wrote, the original meeting schedule, and a copy of this blog.

Panopticon

22 Apr

In Foucault’s use of the Panoticon, Foucault points out the way communities “including schools, prisons, hospitals and asylums” uses “dividing practices, training and standardization” to control ” ‘docile bodies’ that could be subjected, used, transformed and improved’ (Barker 91).”  The design of Panoticons utilizes the tool of surveillance to control the population.  By design, there is a tower in the middle, surrounded by a chain of separate cells, housing inmates (or whomever) whereby those in the tower can watch or surveill the inhabitants for behavior that might go against the rules set forth by those in the tower.

Those in the tower or in the example used by Foucault in”Discipline and Punish (1975) Panopticism,” Magistrates who oversaw the intendants and syndics, during the plaque were the ones in power.  The powerful make the rules.  The powerful decides who follows the rules.  As in Discourse and Discipline:  The powerful decide what is going to be said and who is going to say it.  The rule-makers and rule-followers.

During a quarantine, ordinary law-abiding citizens were treated as prisoners with no personal rights.  The argument made is that people will die if they are not separated and kept apart.  The very real possibility of dying helped to keep families in their homes, following the orders of those in power.

In prison, inmates must follow many rules on where to sleep, when to eat, what to wear, how to spend their time, the amount of time spent outdoors, and so on.  Rules are made by those in charge including the guards in the “tower.”  The prisoner must follow the rules or risk punishment like suspension of meal privileges, exercise or made to stay in isolation for a period of time.

While there is ample evidence for why there must be mandates in place during a quarantine or while in prison, the Panopticon offers no voice to the prisoner or potential plague victim.  The average citizen kept prisoner in his home has no choice in how the Magistrates decide the rules.  They are not allowed a physician or to leave their homes or have any contact with the outside world.  And while prisoners have presumably committed some crime to become incarcerated, their punishment is to be imprisoned.  The courts do not sentence criminals to a life of racial segregation but populations in prison are often segregated in order for prisoners to stay alive.  The courts do not sentence criminals to becoming victims of violence, rape, or murder but many ex-cons have reported being forced into sexual relationships, received injuries, and some have died while in prison.

Abuses exist in any organized community that does not allow all inhabitants a voice and require all those in power, accountability.

To be continued…

This is Stupid

16 Apr

If Fordism says there should be assembly lines so that each employee learns a certain skill and gets better with that one skill and efficiency will go up.  It doesn’t matter if the employee is less likely to enjoy job satisfaction but the product will get made faster and more precisely.

So fine, Fordism works for the employer.  But let’s talk about service jobs, or Postfordism, if you well.  And let’s say the company you work for is really nice and cares to give you insurance and vacation pay and all that good stuff.  And let’s say that employees in this company don’t mind doing the same thing, day in and day out.  So let’s say that the employees like being part of the working class where they don’t often get promoted or take part in the profits and every one is really happy there.

What I want to know is what do we do with employees who don’t have the capacity to learn the basics of their specialized position that only requires a high school diploma?  How do we interpret this problem?  Is the employee no smart enough to do the job or are the jobs that are deemed suitable for people without higher education actually becoming too detailed and challenging for the high school graduate but corporate just doesn’t want to pay the higher earnings needed to obtain competent employees with more education?

In my experience, I see employees being asked to increase their job duties without greater compensation for their efforts.  The duties vary of course but more often than not I see my friends and coworkers take on more and more complicated tasks without offering the promotion or raise compensatory to the greater duties.  I don’t believe this practice comes out of ignorance of the employer.  I believe that the employer knows they are asking for greater job skills without paying for them.

Unions once addressed this problem and in some ways, they are still helpful.  But the unions are dying out.  Employers are changing job classifications in order for new hires to be kept out of the unions.  And promotions are being advertised in new classifications that take existing employees in the union out of the union classification.  In a few years, all unions may be gone.  I believe employers are purposely attempting to eradicate unions from the workplace.  And it appears to be working.

And if that happens, then what will happen to that worker that doesn’t understand the complicated “assembly line-service industry” job she has landed?  She will be trained for a few days or weeks but if she does not begin to comprehend her J-O-B description, then is that because she does not have the intelligence of the average American?  Or does it mean that the job she was given has been ratcheted up to such a degree of sophistication that very few high school graduates would be able to succeed in this low-paying position.

I’m just saying that if the employee has reached her “level of incompetence,” at an entry-level position, then what are we saying about our current workforce?  What are we saying about Postfordism?  Is this working?  If we were not forced into the “Assembly line” format, would there be a place for this soon-to-be displaced worker?  Because in Postfordism, the worker has no job security.  She may be summarily dismissed at any time for any reason, really.

‘Mass suicide’ protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory

Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html

If the worker is expected to take a straight factory job because she has no better skills than to put Part A into Part B; has this really worked for Foxconn employees?  When eighteen people attempt suicide at their work, is this what our girl can look forward to?

My point to this entire post is that from an employee’s point-of-view:

OUR SYSTEM OF WORKING IS NOT WORKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!