Academic journal article Cultural Analysis


Academic journal article Cultural Analysis


Article excerpt

We are in a crisis of belonging, a population crisis, of who, what, when, and where. More and more people feel as though they do not belong; more and more people are applying to belong; and more and more people are not counted as belonging. Economic welfare is increasingly disowned as a responsibility of the sovereign-state and pushed onto individuals and communities, onto civil society. Traditional means of direct state control have been added to by doctrines of self-management, through a project of neoliberal government that seeks to manage subjectivity, and often does so through culture--ironically, the very thing supposedly imperiled by threats to belonging. Models of national unity have been displaced or supplemented by sectarian allegiances below and across the level of the sovereign-state, while managerialist and neoclassical discourses of scarcity have deregulated the social, recasting the population as consumers and believers in a way that differentiates between social groups via a fine, culturally precise grain. This crisis began in the 1960s and has continued since, because of:

* changes in the global division of labor, as manufacturing left the First World and subsistence agriculture was eroded in the Third.

* demographic growth, through unprecedented public-health initiatives.

* increasing numbers of refugees, following numerous conflicts amongst satellite states of the US and the USSR.

* transformations of these struggles into intra--and trans-national violence, after one half of the imperial couplet unraveled.

* the decline of state socialism and the triumph of finance capital.

* augmented levels of human trafficking.

* the elevation of consumption as a site of social action and public policy.

* renegotiation of the 1940s-70s compact across the West between capital, labor, and government, reversing that period's redistribution of wealth downwards.

* deregulation of key sectors of the economy, especially the media; and

* the development of civil-rights and social-movement discourses and institutions that changed the division between public and private life, extending ideas of cultural difference from tolerating the aberrant to querying the normal, and commodifying the result.

Of the approximately 200 sovereign-states in the world, over 160 are culturally heterogeneous, and they are comprised of 5000 ethnic groups. Between 10 and 20% of the world's population currently belongs to a racial/linguistic minority in their country of residence. Nine hundred million people affiliate with groups that suffer systematic discrimination. Perhaps three-quarters of the world system sees politically active minorities, and there are more than 200 movements for self-determination, spread across nearly 100 states (Thio 2002; Abu-Laban 2000, 510; Brown and Ganguly 2003, 1, n. 1; Falk 2004, 11). Even the "British-Irish archipelago," once famed "as the veritable forge of the nation state, a template of modernity," has been subdivided by cultural difference, as a consequence of both peaceful and violent action, and a revisionist historiography that notes the millennial migration of Celts from the steppes; Roman colonization; invading Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and Normans; attacking Scandinavians; trading Indians, Chinese, Irish, Lombards, and Hansa; refugee Europeans and Africans; and the 25,000 black folks in London in the 18th century (Nairn 2003, 8; Alibhai-Brown 2005).

There are now five key zones of immigration--North America, Europe, the Western Pacific, the Southern Cone, and the Persian Gulf--and five key types of migration: international refugees, internally displaced people, voluntary migrants, the enslaved, and the smuggled. The number of refugees and asylum-seekers at the beginning of the 21st century was 21.5 million--three times the figure twenty years earlier (United Nations Development Programme 2004, 6 and 2; Massey 2003, 146; Cohen 1997). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.