Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mattelart: Clearly on Team Huxley


Mattelart’s Foucaultian analysis of the semiotics of ‘globalization’ kept bringing me back to that Huxley v. Orwell comic, or rather, the “Huxley was right” part of it.


The connection is between Huxley’s idea of being lulled by non-stop entertainment and info-tainment and Mattelart’s discussion of “forgetting history” and replacing it with a “techno-mercantile determinism that has instituted endless, unlimited communication, the heir to the notion of ongoing, limitless progress.”


His article is indeed a pretty good wrap-up because it sort of summarizes the critical position of many of the scholars we have read in the last half of the semester. Dutta, Castells, Bennet, Fisher, Melkote: they are all coming from the same place, really, in that they question the rationality of the rhetorical connection between

‘modernity’ and capitalism or

‘globalization’ and global free markets,

or Western scientific knowledge and ‘universal knowledge.’


Dutta’s excerpts from USAID’s white papers, for example, support Matellart’s section on ‘the revolution in military affairs’, in which he asserts that the U.S. military began “promoting an offensive strategy of enlargement of the world market as a paradigm, in place of the defensive strategy of containment adopted…during the Cold War years” (Mattelart, 2008: p 321 of Thussu).


Reading Matellart was also a lot like reading Boaventura de Sousa Santos, who does a similar archeology of the World Social Forum (particularly as a viable form of resistance to the ideology of the WEF), and apparently ones on capitalism, knowledge, and many other topics that fall under the general ‘anti-globalization-as-those-with-power-define-it camp.


I’m not sure I can go along with Mattelart for the whole ride, though. Matellart asserts that “the ideology of corporate globalism is indissolubly linked to the idea of worldwide communication” and I respectfully, hopefully (and naively?) disagree. He is right about U.S. military, aka development policy, and he is right about the power and megalomania of the TNCs, but I'd like to think that Benkler and Bennet and others are right, too...that networked publics still hold some power to resist.


On the other hand, daily activities such as reading a newspaper or watching the "news" rob me of that hopefulness. Some of those think tanks Mattelart was talking about, for example, plus their friends at the energy TNCs that fund them, have continued to successfully hold back meaningful action on global warming by the power of the press (also, chuckle, funded by the same or related TNCs, I'm looking at you, GE I mean NBC) to frame it as an ongoing "debate." That's just one example, really. There is also the fact that Tiger and the Salahi party crashers are rivaling Afghanistan in the press. I'm sure I could list more and better examples, but as I said, I prefer to be hopeful. When corporate interests attempt to steer political debate through campaign $$, there is change congress calling out our reps for bowing to those interests over the desires of their constituents. And globally, orgs like CARE and ECPAT are taking up the 'empowerment' mantel outlined by Dutta and Melkote. So that's good, right? ...Right?






32 comments:

  1. I think that a really great connection to put Mattelart on team Huxley. That kind of got me started thinking about E-E as Huxley-ian as well- the educational message in hidden within the entertainment. You think you're watching a TV show, but really you're being indoctrinated with hegemonic ideologies! Scary!

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