Sunday, December 5, 2010

Applying Gramsci to holiday consumerism

We can understand holiday consumerism through the lens of Gramsci's hegemony.

We live in a consumer culture, where we’re constantly purchasing more and more products, urged on by mass media and capitalists. Especially around the holidays, there’s a special culture of gift-giving and generosity, where gifts are seen as a way of making merry, of celebration. Therefore, we purchase food and drink in copious amounts, toys, gifts, Christmas trees, decorations, etc.

In addition, institutions such as churches and homeless shelters encourage that sense of holiday generosity as well, encouraging people to buy even more goods to give to those who are less privileged. The dramatic increase in the consumption of goods around the holidays is justified because not only are you celebrating the holiday spirit, but you are also helping the less privileged to join in the festivities as well.

In this way, holiday consumerism can be seen as a type of hegemonic power. The dominant class disguises their profit motive behind the guise of celebration, generosity, making merry – essentially, of being in the holiday spirit. We can therefore interpret the holiday spirit as a very successful fiction maintained by civil society that strongly encourages people to increase consumption during the holidays in order to increase profits.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Theory in Action Project

Social Theory in Spoken Word

Here's part of my poem. I used Marx and Gramsci to comment on being Asian in the performing arts.

Art in Action

To Marx, all that matters is class

So my age, race, and gender should disappear
My voice Marx refuses to hear
To him, my artistry
And identity
Will not make history

But to Gramsci
My battle takes part in the war of position
Where my petition
Is against racism in performance institutions
I’m starting from within civil society
In my resistance to hegemony
The dominant belief
Is that Asians are to be
The model minority
Quiet, obedient, and out of the way
But I refuse to let them take away my say
I will not conform to a stereotype
For I am not an Asian prototype

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I was about to continue reading Fanon and decided to see what i could find on the web about his life some more. I found this awesome short excerpt from a longer documentary!

The Tenderloin

“Repeatedly described in most tourist guides as "the worst neighborhood in San Francisco," the Tenderloin thrives despite its bad rap. Sure, there are Tenderloinloads of drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes and mentally unstable street people, but if you can get past that, you'll find it is also one of the city's most exciting and diverse locales.”

- SF Gate


The city is trying to rework the reputation of the neighborhood in order to attract more tourists and better the conditions of those who live there.

Want the locals to be proud of where they live


The Tenderloin has now been recognized as a historical district. All of the historical buildings in the neighborhood will now have a plaque that proclaims it as historical as well as s brief summary of the buildings story.

Marx would say:

The Tenderloin is a clear example of class polarization.

- The conditions of the working class have worsened over the years because of the capitalist system

- TL is a hub for degradation and crime

Naming it a historical district and asking the locals to feel pride because of it is simply asking them to adopt another ideology.

This ideology simply obscures reality and distracts attention from the real problems.

- The neighborhood still won’t be getting renovated, but locals should be ok with it because it’s historical.

The ideology is a justification of the existing norms.

The tenderloin has become a historical district because it has been ignored by the city. Over the years, resources have been channeled to the neighborhoods of the rich.

- The advancement of one class means the neglect of another.

The working class needs to unite and revolt against the unfair distribution of resources.

SF Hep B Free

SF Hep B Free is currently going through a war of position. In this war of movement, SF Hep B Free also needs to “take the offensive more openly against the oppositionists and organise permanently the ‘impossibility’ of internal disintegration – with controls of every kind, political, administrative, etc., reinforcement of the hegominic ‘positions’ of the dominant group” (238-9). They are attempting to affect change indirectly by ensuring that various aspects of civil society can empathize and began to see what change needs to be affected. We are seeing part of Gramsci’s theory of transition occurring.

In this scenario, SF Hep B Free is attempting to change society. Here, we can view the State as a “coercive apparatus to bring the mass of the people into conformity with the specific type of production and the specific economy at a given moment” (56). Right now, Hepatitis B is not seen as national priority.
More specifically, primary providers are attempting to care for all of their patients as a whole and have less time to consider health disparities such as Hepatitis B, which might only affect a minor fraction of their patients or even none of their patients. These providers generate consent and thus, hegemony of what society is unaware of. They help generate hegemony through the whole idea that they are the people, who take care of us and have no ill-intended thoughts in their mind. They only have the intention of ensuring our well being. However, the problem in terms of Hep B awareness is that they might not know how to ensure a person’s well-being if that person might have Hepatitis B. These providers’ lack of knowledge of how to deal with a health disparity ends up leaving society to deal with the real truth of what is at stake, the rotation “of the ruling-class parties, not the foundation and organization of a new political society, and even less of a new type of civil society” (160). What is really at stake is this system, where people, who have Hepatitis B and dying from it despite the lack of resources available. The vaccine has been around since the 1960s and yet over 270 million people in the world have this disease. This cycle needs to be broken for change to be able to affect society. The best way for change to affect society is through a war of position. This war of position, “once won, is decisive definitively” (239) and as a result, change will occur. However, “the war of position demands enormous sacrifices by infinite masses of people” (239). SF Hep B Free needs to stay strong and continue to mobilize groups of support from their cause, not to just focus on Asian interest groups, but the community as a whole from churches to trade unions, and businesses.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hanna and I wish there was a way we could make a pop-up version of our project on the blog to share with all of you, but this is as close as we can get without having you all invest in a pair of 3D glasses. Enjoy!