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RE: [xmca] Lave and McDermott (w/ Bauman link)
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- Subject: RE: [xmca] Lave and McDermott (w/ Bauman link)
- From: Tony Whitson <twhitson@UDel.Edu>
- Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2011 18:35:12 -0400 (EDT)
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I guess I should have included a link, so here is one:
On Sun, 30 Oct 2011, Tony Whitson wrote:
This may be of relevance:
Bauman, Zygmunt. 2007. /Consuming life/. Malden, MA: Polity.
With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed
into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become
simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote.
They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the
goods and the travelling salespeople. They all inhabit the same social space
that is customarily described by the term the market.
The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet
requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention
to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into
commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is
the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the
consumer society in which we now live.
In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes
and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social
life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities
and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and
The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews
and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the
sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying
forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the
worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.
On Sun, 30 Oct 2011, Julian Williams wrote:
I was indeed 'inspired' by the Lave and McDermott article: the methodology
is seductive, and generative metaphor is a powerful means sometimes to
But what took me to that article and forced me to work with it was in the
end the need to understand learners' alienation from learning (and so
themselves) in schooling. L&M say that schools take (by force) everything
from the learner - in the same way that capital takes everything from
labour, and gives back nothing - and so the analogy begins...
Let me tell a story - I talked to a student from a well-to-do stock-broker
background (where expectations on him seemed high) who got into a
university Physics course ... I asked him where/how he got his interest in
Physics... he said he wasnt really interested in Physics, but he chose it
because 'it would look good' on his CV/ resume and 'especially from a top
university like this'. This is the kind of extreme case of alienation in
schooling/academe that interested me.
But the L&M analogy is not - I found - theoretically satisfactory: hence
my journey back to Marx from 1844 to 1867... If I am right then the
use/exchange contradiction arises not JUST (and not essentially) from the
forced conditions of learning in school, and the 'competition' between
learners etc., but from the fact that the learner is preparing themselves
to labour, and so they are working on developing themselves as 'labour
power' for the labour market, i.e. to sell themselves to capital ('labour
power' is the commodity-proper). This is not just consumtpion, it is a
particular kind of consumption of education for a future role as exploited
(also exploiter) ... . I am still working on this and expect to still be
plodding away until ... well, for a while...
In the MCA paper I told how I began to find Bourdieu's work useful in
fleshing out the notion of 'educational/cultural capital' in the analysis
of schooling: I am still at this idea. I think that this 'educational
capital' may also have a kind of 'educational use/exchange value' type of
contradiction. Of course here we have a problem of terminology and it is
important to distinguish between Marx's analysis of commodity proper and
the terms Bourdieu uses for 'capital' in the cultural fields....
Larry - I agree that 'values' is what is at stake here ...
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