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To say that Mr. Romney’s references to culture are a masked economism is probably stating the obvious. But now that Mr. Romney has used culture to argue that certain cultures, like the Palestinians, are inherently not capable of developing at par with their others, his use of culture as a trope needs further inquiry.

Attributing material success to culture is not something new: theorists of nationalism, like Ernest Gellner, belive in the existence of a national high culture essential to developing a national space. It was on the question of culture, let us not forget, that Marx had given us one of his earlier major pronouncement. It was while responding to Feuerbach’s view of the culture, that Marx had invoked that beguiling term “in the last instance” that has given us so much to talk about. According to early Marx no matter what or where the culture is, it is economics that ultimately determines a culture in the last instance.

Mr. Romney, however, would rather have the reverse logic: construct a suitable culture and you will have a better economy. This thing called culture, thus, is static but material and can be built ex nihilo or so it seems. To compare Palestinian economy with that of Israel and to reduce its failure to the question of culture alone goes a long way in providing a scaffolding for the self that Mr. Romney wants to project. If culture is fixed and can be constructed out of nowhere, then one could posit that certain cultures are by their very nature unlikely to succeed while others, the neoliberal one for example, are bound to succeed.

When Mr. Romney invokes culture, what he really means is an economic system void of any redemptive governmental policies based in free market principles that allows the most ambitious and the most aggressive strain of humanity to succeed. That this success comes at a great cost to so many so-called wasted lives is of no consequence. But in this culture, financial success is apodictic and becomes the proof for its own existence.

By reducing the Palestinian condition to a question of culture, Mr. Romney can clearly blame the victims of a foreign occupation for their own failure. That the occupation might have something to do with Palestinian economy and their national world-view does not figure prominently in the minds of Mr. Romney and his ilk.

But while talking about culture, Mr. Romney and his minions never really mention the infrastructural scaffolding that allows the edifice of culture to be built and stabilized. That is why, for Marx, high culture was ultimately determined–in the last instance–through economy and the right mode of production.

It is also fascinating that Mr. Romney and his ilk seem to suffer from an extreme form of intellectual myopia: to read Adam Smith as a prophet of laissez faire economics and not also as a theorist of labor is an apt example of this vested blindness. To look at Palestinian lands across from his rich and lavish hotel room, surrounded by his rich supporters, and to not see the induced suffering of a people is also a question of culture. A culture that can produce a callous, self-righteous, and unreflective subjectivity such as that of Mr. Romney.

Yes, in the words of a Gibson character from Count Zero, “the very rich” it seems are “not even remotely human” but rather walking stick figures constantly spewing their own self-interest in the name of people and, yes, culture.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Romney has devoted all his life to his ambitions, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    business and political, and to his church.  Where's the culture in all of this?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 04:09:31 PM PDT

  •  As I said before in another diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    To say that the Palestinians are not capable of economic success due to culture bypasses the reality on the ground in Palestine.

    This is the reason the Palestinians are not economically successful:

    Unemployment in the Gaza Strip remains among the highest in the world and real wages have continued to decline every year since Israel imposed a blockade of the area, according to a new report from the United Nations agency that assists Palestinian refugees.
    The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) report on the economy in Gaza for the second half of 2010 listed the unemployment rate at 45.2 per cent and said real wages have slumped by an estimated 34.5 per cent since the Israelis imposed the blockade in 2007.
    since 1967, Israel has controlled the economy of the Palestinian territories, restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the territories, collecting excise taxes — and withholding them from the Palestinian Authority to punish its leaders when they are perceived as being out of line. The disadvantages of Israel’s situation — the high cost of living, partly because it imports so much from so far away — are passed on to Palestinians, but few of the advantages are.
    Read more:
  •  Alas the knife cuts both ways (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love

    It used to be pointed out that Catholic culture impaired economic growth.

    The simple example cited was Great Britain and Germany in contrast to Ireland and Italy.

    In the 1980s, it was fashionable to cite the example of non-Catholic nations (Japan, S. Korea, Malaysia, Singapore) with strong economic growth contrasted with quagmire in Catholic nations in Latin America and the Philippines.

    Just a variant of the Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy those  of with graduate degrees who weren't the offspring of governors had to learn.

  •  I disagree with your quote: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rajam, volleyboy1
    When Mr. Romney invokes culture, what he really means is an economic system...
    When Mr. Romney invokes culture, what he is really talking about is race.  Specifically, he is talking about the President's race.

    Mr. Rmoney has spent weeks laying the groundwork of the President's "otherness" - from proxied comments about Anglo-Saxon heritage to the "foreignness" of the President's belief system.  The retracted and then unretracted comment on culture is one more brick in that wall.

    Please don't misunderstand what I am saying - Rmoney is not a fan of the Palestinians (or of any people he and his minions believe are descended from non-European culture(s)).  Compare the "cultures" (read that as the way people look) of the US, Israel, and Chile with the "cultures" of Mexico, the Palestinian people, and Ecuador; and you will see what Mitt is getting at.

    These comments are not intended to be consumed by anyone other than their target audience in the US - white people who fear anyone who looks or sounds different who happen to have a disposable income great enough to donate to his campaign.  The fact that people are talking about Mitt's misunderstanding of the "cultural" differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians - and not the racial bias of his remarks - is music to his ears.

    Until he is called out for it, Mitt will continue to paint the President in terms which serve as a dog whistle to his base - his "lineage" different, he thinks different, he comes from a different culture.  The discomfort of Palestinian supporters with the "culture" remarks is collateral damage for Mitt (you'll notice that he didn't even bother to vet the facts and figures he used in his argument) - he's made his point to his base, the rest can be cleaned up later.

    I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

    by Hey338Too on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 05:26:12 PM PDT

    •  Yes, I agree absolutely (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too, volleyboy1

      Thank you for this. Yes, I have noticed this trace of unacknowledged racism in his and other GOP politicians' speech.
      I will certainly incorporate your insights in my future writings. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      •  Thank you for taking the time to read... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... my comment.  We need to move beyond issues of race and call out those people who wish to exploit those issues for political gain.

        I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

        by Hey338Too on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 05:40:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very well said... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Race is often used by those seeking political advantage through fear and hate mongering. We see it constantly, and constantly it never fails to disgust me.

          "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

          by volleyboy1 on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 09:15:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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