Acculturation of the ‘Pure’ Economy: Sci Fi, IT and the National Lampoon – Rock Chugg

We are still living under the banner of medieval technology.
Umberto Eco (1986)
The medieval system, based on graded ranks, of course knew no economic quality.
Lewis Mumford (1961)

Science and technology are locked into an unbreakable dualism that differs from traditional binaries, like mind and body, through assumed complementarity rather than a variant relationship. Yet they are far more differentiated than the latter implies or the former conceals. Handed down via a cloistered academic lineage of discovery, paradigm shift and conditions of contestation, the scientific context of industrial development is ironically overlooked in our eternal present of supposed ‘economisation’. I argue in this paper that such neglect results in the fictionalisation (‘sc fi’) of science, enabling change of emphasis to the cultural correlative of technology (‘IT’), while retaining only a diminishing superficial appearance of science. The proof of neoliberal deindustrialisation (‘national lampoon’) is sufficient, before calling on linguistic grounded ‘deconstruction’ to demonstrate ‘essentialism’ of arguments supposedly teetering between foundationalist or metaphysical ‘objectivity’, divorced from historical conditions. Even basic scientific facts have been reinterpreted in terms of technological social construction or cultural readings, according to values ranging from sociological conceptions of ‘methodological individualism’ (see Smelser and Swedberg, 2005 passim) to structuralist ‘anthropomorphism’ (Schutz, 1974).

Fictionalisation of science to a point of assumed everyday technologisation convergence, involves assimilation and incorporation of beliefs and values from one social group to another, in a process of ‘acculturation’. Acculturation is a concept borrowed from anthropology and social psychology to chart the normally one-sided dominance of national host community cultures over minority cultures (Walker and Le, 1999). Although recent success of ‘Cultural Turn’ theories, like Cultural Sociology or Cultural Economy imply a cultural determination of all social levels, politics and economy are still considered of equal though variant importance. Williams’ cultural definition of ‘a whole way of life’ was not absolute. However, recurrent ‘contradictions’ suggest that ‘there is something fundamentally wrong with theories and research on acculturation’ (Rudmin, 2006).[1] While this research claims to find answers in ‘naïve’ phenomenology, postmodernism described the ‘paralogy’ as politicised cultural identity meta-narratives (identity politics or multiculturalism).[2] But if acculturation employs neutral cultural media (technology) between economy and politics, corresponding to the three main social groups (rulers, producers and communicators), alleged contradictions can be decoded into these straightforward distinctions. 

While not wishing to dwell on ‘methodological police’ issues, Bourdieu has shown how less-educated producers are socially excluded from opinion-styled research in sample procedure, question formulation and survey comparison (Bourdieu, 1987/1990; see also Myles, 2008; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1983). ‘Social research methods to uncover the belief systems of ordinary members’ (Smith and West, 2003: 648) in Cultural Sociology, for example, are geared to middleclass populism characteristic of neither producers nor rulers. If, like the Eco and Mumford epigraphs above, technology regresses to medieval hierarchy, the tendency of surveyors to reflect their own ‘dominated dominant’ petit bourgeois intellectual values is merged with a tall-poppy strain of ultra-nationalism in loaded answers ‘very proud to be Australian’ (‘pride’, of course, is the medieval ‘Deadly Sin’). Smith and West inaccurately describe their (vested) interesting 70 per cent result as an ‘identity’ (2003: 648). But identity is a political or police category (‘tradition’ names it the first ‘law of thought’)[3] whereas a national interest is economic. Transcribing neoliberal values of bureaucratic interviewees in Canberra, Pusey seemed aware of these variations in his acclaimed early data on economic rationalism (1991). Yet, predictions that ‘humanities’ educated bureaucrats would differ was disappointed in my own much smaller sample presented here.

Bourdieu found the remedy of ‘scientific critique’ to control the false ‘value-free’ disinterestedness of empirical research in ‘a sociological analysis of the institution’ (Bourdieu, 1987/1990: 174). This he undertook in Homo Academicus (Bourdieu, 1988 – also providing my reference point for publication of respondents’ names due to high public profiles (278) in this research.[4] Unfortunately, his exclusive ‘institutional’ focus repeats a sort of sci fi ideal of the elite personality network pursuing its own heroic ivory tower genius (as do radical histories, like Werskey, 2002). The candid comments excerpted in the following sections, though not a major axis of the argument (from smaller groups than the breakthrough work of Pusey), might confirm unexpected consistency of opinion across otherwise diverse cultural boundaries. After tracing his own institutional history of science, Bourdieu (1973) argued how innovation results from ‘organization’ not technology (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992). Thus the neutral technology milieu of ‘acculturation’, upheld by historians like McQueen (1983), is a basis for my own thesis on paradigm or field exclusion, ‘purified’ of work organization (economy) and science (reality).  
Two cultures (sci fi):
Although Snow held that science and technology separation was ‘untenable’ (1993), his disputed ‘two cultures’ did admit of ‘contradictions’ between scientific knowledge and the cultural ‘field’. Yet Bourdieu thought ‘literature…is on many points more advanced than social science’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992), while an academy-based Sociology of Knowledge still saw scientific and everyday knowledge as ‘extraordinarily similar’ (Meja and Stehr, 1999). Conversely, for Merton (1967) a generalisable ‘science, as distinct from the arts’ (69) of particulars ‘is public, not private’ (72). When I queried beliefs on ‘two cultures’, literary critics like Ross Gibson made their intellectual reference group position on a science/economy assimilation to culture/symbolic capital clear: ‘I am not interested in the distinction [science and culture] basically, because to be interested in that distinction is to validate it in some way. And I am much more interested in just proceeding with totally other terms that describe a history of intellectual endeavour in a society.’ Similarly, post-structuralist philosopher Paul Patton indicated his collective order of enunciation position as a cultural intellectual (surprisingly like Pusey’s bureaucrat, 1991). ‘It is not clear to me…that [the] two cultures distinction [science and culture] is any longer the most appropriate one…The intellectual situation in this country is considerably more complex than that.’ [My italics]  

While a more ‘institutionally’ (laboratory/academic) scientific sample could be expected to communicate answers with shared assumptions (Connell and Wood, 2002), consistent culturalist assimilation of beliefs by ‘arts and humanities’ interviewees was also widespread. When I posed the ‘two cultures’ question to professor emeritus of English studies John McLaren, his acculturocentric response was significant as another apparent exception to Pusey‘s observations about Australian ‘anti-intellectualism’. ‘I think the distinction [science and culture] is a false one…I think the attempt to draw a boundary between science and the humanities has always has been absurd … there is only one culture.’ However, this shared self-interest of cultural individuals does not really contradict their intellectual social position. Even Bourdieu, who criticised the symbolic violence of economic capital subordinated to cultural capital favouring the dominant over the weak (‘art for art’s sake’), occasionally fell victim to his own critique of this ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992). It took non-humanities industrial researcher John Buchanan to distinguish current acculturation trends away from ‘Keynesian demand’ as ‘primarily due to a fairly effective campaign by neoliberals, in the business and especially financial sectors, teamed up with leading economic policy agencies. I think the end result of that kind of policy mobilisation is social fragmentation.’   

1 Sci fi economics: ‘The Ax’

The Luddites were skilled workers who looked backwards to medieval craft traditions and forwards to modern trade unions.
Barry Jones (1983)

Whether criticised as same and ‘other’, ‘complex’, or ‘false’ distinctions (like the responses above), what Bourdieu saw as an ‘idealist’ consensus on the meaning of science and culture today appears to be taken for granted. A hypothesis breaking with this truism and resuming possibility enabled by the new historical contexts of a post-Cold War era might again see the generalisation differently:

1) Culture signifies the ‘customs, conventions, and language’ of a community – the art of communication (Huxley, 1963; Milner, 1991).
2) Science is logical facts ‘generalised’ from natural (‘hard’) and social (‘soft’) productive reality – the economy of knowledge (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992; Norris, 2007).

Without the conventions of culture we cannot describe our environment, let alone gather knowledge about it. Conversely, culture could not signify without referring to science or knowledge. Thought can be discovered in the simplest action: the two are inter-dependent (Jones, 2000: 512). In the ‘ideal’ tradition of academic institutions exorcised or purified of economic production, science was fictionalised (Kuhn, 1962/1996; Parrinder, 1980)[5] until a ‘renaissance’ of Western knowledge and industry, recycling ‘classical’ or ancient ideas (Hodges, 1971). Apart from Islamic science (Alatas, 2006),[6] an undifferentiated church and state Middle-Ages won no claim to scientific progress. Yet according to Kropotkin, the foundational discoveries of modern science were made in the free medieval cities (1976). Lyotard noted the ancients’ failure to link science to technology (1984), while Veblin saw the surviving separation as ‘industry’ versus ‘conspicuous consumption’ (1899/1980). Mental math or ‘learning of the mind’ for the ancients (Feyerabend, 2002), modern science and technology merged (with Cartesian dualism) via applied mathematics (Grace, 1993). Culture and economy gradually became interwoven in goods and services production during an ‘industrial revolution’ (Tillet, Kempner and Wills, 1978).    

Recent twentieth century stages of this passage include ‘Fordist’ mechanisation, ‘Sonyist’ electronisation and ‘Taylorist’ managerialism (Wark, 1992). Taylorism, pioneered by systems expert Taylor (Tillet, Kempner and Wills, 1978), met with resistances ranging from dissent to confrontation in lately industrialised and urbanised workforces. AKA ‘speed-up’, Taylorism incited industrial strife and defensive legislation in modern economies like Australia or America (Iremonger, 1973; Lash, 1984). But where early mechanical Fordism and later electronic Sonyism objectified scientific change in work organization or content, mid-term managerial Taylorism represented technological change in work control or form. In effect, one economy and one culture, not ‘two cultures’. Industrialisation developed over a history of ‘pre-capitalism’, from primitive, ancient and medieval ‘modes of production’ (Hindess and Hirst, 1975; Veblen, 1899/1980), and earlier phases of labour devalued as fit only for ‘slaves’ or ‘serfs’. As Cultural Sociology suggests, it was never purely a ‘convenient fiction’, even if ‘no economy could consist of a single mode of production’ (Beilhartz, 2002: 177). A capitalist ‘work ethic’ demand and ‘division of labour’ supply resulted, enabling greater professional ‘specialisation’ (Durkheim, 1893/1964).        

Moves toward post-industrial or knowledge economy, intensifying consumption and cutting production, cemented geographic North/South divisions of labour into ‘value added’ First World vertical mental service demand, and ‘cheap’ horizontal manual goods supply seconded to the Third World. A monopoly of access to ‘capital’ intensive markets by professional socialisation or mental upskilled ‘higher education’, was formerly balanced in closed shops of ‘labour’ intensive or manual unskilled ‘collective bargaining’ by trade unions. ‘The formation of trade unions was a historical response to the perceived unfairness of markets for labour’ (Streeck, 2005: 262-3) in order to close the gap between economic allocation (efficiency) and social valuation (exploitation). Recent data indicates that acculturated free trade in ‘specialist professional knowledge’ (Brint, 2001) of Luddism craft-style associations, has displaced the protected sale of ‘tacit knowledge’ objectified or ‘present in person’ (Streeck, 2005: 262) of trade union labour. Yet the social value of Fordist industrial (rather than Sonyist enterprise) union ‘collective action’ persists for ‘restructured’ employee ‘team work’ outcomes, through still reachable benefits of a conflict approach over co-operation with management (Bacon and Blyton, 2006).     

Acculturation mystification of the ‘two-cultures’ has again moved rapidly in post-war times (Stearn, 1968) toward short-term, insecure, nonstandard, employer-employee blurred casualisation, even ‘decriminalisation’ of ‘oldest professions’ sex trafficking, doping and gaming. Socially polarising Western and developing economies increasingly capitulate to the ultimatum of free trade from international NGOs and overkill professionalised resistance. Fragmented economic actors or ‘dividuals’ are undergoing ‘deindustrialisation’ (Bluestone and Harrison, 1983), while work teams and project managers regularly get The Ax, in filmmaker Costa Gavras’ words, under pervasive ‘fixed-term contracts’ (Streeck, 2005). Abstract Empiricist ‘economic knowledge’, (Steiner, 2001) expurgated from Lazersfeldian market research (Frenzen, Hirsch and Zerrillo, 2005) and reinforced in Grand Theory multiculturalism (Gunew, 1992) is the propaganda for neoliberal biopolitical strategies (class, race, sex, age) of institutionalised inequality (for ‘Abstract Empiricism’ and ‘Grand Theory’, see Mills, 1959). Growing wage/salary gaps ensuing from sci fi economics, in value-added inter-linkages of under-producing and over-financed exchange, ‘network’ a technology acculturation revolution of under-protection i.e. ‘un-Australianisation’.

Information technology (IT):

As the major form of bygone 20th century art, an influential Australian advertising industry eighty per cent foreign owned and controlled (Sinclair, 2006) is the costly effect of a digital image revolution, apparently defeated long ago. What has replaced the once mixed economy (‘public and private’, see Williams and Stevenson, 1981) of agriculture and manufactures, now labour-shedding, restructuring, downsizing, relocating, and moving offshore in freetrade, trans-national capital transition since 1985: a simple deregulation and privatisation phase? (Thompson, 1999) For my next respondent, linchpin arts editor Ashley Crawford of pop to futurist media and perhaps provisional ‘information’ convert, the effect of acculturation is complex: 

What we now have post Cold War is a world without geographical borders because of electronic communication. If you could put a date on that, I suppose it was the fall of the Berlin Wall, where the Cold War in effect was over … But the bottom line is the old geographical borders are falling apart from WWII status. You could almost look at the Cold War as being WWIII status, because all these electronic information units or systems were set up in order to spy on West versus East, et cetera. The whole idea of electronic mail, the whole idea of the Internet was an American system established to have no boundaries, to have no central system, which is why it is now turning rampant. In fact, what you have got is the kind of post-border period established by electronic communications, by American media in the Cold War as equivalent of the new boundaries set up by the Second World War … So it is a whole new world.

In this widely shared post-industrial lebenswelt (Edwards, 1993), global ‘electronic communications’ are channelled by rapid technology that has overtaken production [see Table]. Only in that sense is a Technological Revolution as ‘real’ as Snow’s Third Scientific Revolution. Along with First Agricultural and Second Industrial Revolutions, the ‘two cultures’ remain ‘the only qualitative changes in social living that men have ever known’ (1993: 23). Yet while the above quotation translates the trans-avant-gardism of an ‘arts and humanities’ intelligentsia, ‘neoliberals tend to emphasise the entrepreneur as financier’ (Grossberg, 2005: 114) not the artist – even though ‘the growing dominance of finance capital over industrial capital’ means ‘“fictive”, “unreal”’ money is only making money (122). Debating Weber’s unfinished social science, critics warned of a technology, ‘used in such widely differing senses that it eventually becomes unintelligible’ (Freund, 1970: 282). Confirmed by speculation ‘ten times the value of global production’ as early as 1997 (Grossberg, 2005: 122), this is because technology is a neutral medium or culture and not a science (Milonakis, 2002; Werskey, 2002).


2 IT culture: ‘Tilt’

[Luddites] were chiefly downdraughts, bankrupts, men always in debt and often in drink – men who had nothing to lose, and much in the way of character, cash and cleanliness – to gain.
 Charlotte Bronte (1849) [7]

Social research has embraced new technology in sweeping language, like ‘Information Society’ (Lyon, 1988), ‘Mode of Information’ (Poster, 1984) or ‘Managerial Revolution’ (Burnham, 1962). Advancing a phase from earlier scientific innovations of ‘Industrial Revolution’ (Dosi et al. periodise prior stages as ‘Steam’, ‘Steel’, and ‘Oil’ – 2005: 694), information technology is applied to industrial activity for ‘commercial and managerial uses’ (Hall and Jefferson, 1976). It is a long anticipated and increasingly realised managerial control technique (Rose, 1969; Deleuze, 1992; Postman, 1993). By mediating forms of control (administration and management), new technology (cultural and commercial) ‘speeds up’ industrial practice, such as Fordism mechanics (‘steel’ and ‘oil’) or Sonyism electronics (‘media’ and ‘information’), augmenting productivity for new markets, like bio-technologised genetics, agriculture or medicine. New technology is a ‘mode of information’ (Poster, 1984) or performance culture, developed between two phases (mechanisation and electronisation) of the late capitalist mode of production – alongside mounting ‘managerialist’ ownership changes and ‘Taylorist’ control techniques (Burnham, 1962; Coriat and Dosi, 1998).   

Prompting a vast research program from ‘arts and sciences’, like Science and Technology Studies, Cultural Economy, Economics Imperialism, and Social Construction of Technology, technology analysis is stuck in ‘two cultures’ tilt (in the video game sense), between the subjectivities of ‘technophile’ (Postman, 1993; Krips, 2008), and ‘technophobia’ (Marshall, 1997; Ryan and Kellner, 1990) altered perception. In technophobia mode, for example, Krips revives one of many scientifically (if not culturally) dubious futurist ideas of perception altered by technology, arguing that ‘childhood is changing and in ways that we can scarcely imagine’ (Krips, 2008: 51). Conversely, Ryan and Kellner examine technophile romance, applauding ‘reconstruction of the social world’ in a sexless union of human and android (Ryan and Kellner, 1990: 65). Bellicosely labelled ‘Science Wars’ of the 1990s encapsulate these tendencies, reviving ‘two cultures’ debates now militated around ‘postmodern science’ (Sokal, 1996; Ross, 1996). Lampooned in a ‘hoax’ submission to Social Text magazine by scientist Sokal, in Postman’s words postmodernism was a ‘social technology’ (1993) becoming conscious of its own ‘accident’ (Virilio, 1982: 124) or acculturation. Perhaps an ‘ideal type’ or generalisation based on recurring traits can help to account for this misunderstanding: "Technology value adds to goods with capital intensive services – the culture of performance"(Jones, 1983; Lyotard, 1984; Nelson and Rosenberg, 1998).

The ‘Social Text Affair’ was remarkable (like ‘two cultures’ over thirty years before) not simply for over-reactions it provoked from a veritable bandwagon of reputable technologists and scientists (Dawkins, 1998; Nagel, 1998; Derrida, 1997; Fish, 1996). Those not denouncing ‘postmodern’ cultural studies technology readily highlighted the differential criteria apparently undigested by scientists triumphant. Assertions of ‘objectivity’ behind culture interestingly resumed Mach and Lenin style economic debates, glossed over by decades of Popper and Kuhn oriented institutionalism. In the as yet untapped post-Cold War context of information, nobody noticed that neither side got it wrong despite their mutual institutional membership. People interacting with new technologies in communication society refer to it as Information Technology or ‘IT’ (Lyon, 1988). The central medium of IT is a personal computer. Research and Development recently endowed computers with performance upgrades in size, capacity, and cost (if not ‘equal access for all’ – Willis and Tranter, 2006 [8]). The huge volume of private computer finance exchanged everyday (Hartman, 2005) for example, was preceded by major bank branch closures and staff retrenchments (McQueen, 1983: 218).  

Computers encode information by ‘converging’two forms of capital: 1) cultural, and 2) political. More than communicating cultural symbols, political rules are services. The computer merely extends the earlier nineteenth century typewriter (McLuhan, 1967: 275-82): its two dimensions are ‘number’ and ‘line’ (like ‘Hindu algebra and Greek geometry’ amalgamated in the invention of ‘calculus’, see note [6]). The one is quantitative (political) and other qualitative (cultural), and neither is real (economic). A computer is an administrative and managerial control machine. The word ‘control’ merges this dual etymology of numerical ‘counter’ and linear ‘roll’. Acculturating the mental/manual division of labour, computers remodel (mental) ‘consumer’ political capital of use value services, with (matrixal) ‘commercial’ cultural capital of exchange value symbols, both derived from (manual) ‘productive’ economic capital of surplus value goods (Poulantzas, 1979). Philosopher of science Hilary Putnam (Magee, 2001: 205-6) saw a computer ‘paradox’ in autonomous technology software ‘function’ (‘programme’, ‘rules’), now purged of science hardware or ‘what has that function’ (‘physics and chemistry’). In mental terms, the ‘soul’ of the computer is control or repression (206). Bourdieu also mistrusted ‘disinterested’ cultural capital (like autonomous technology) because of this ‘denial of the economy’ (Bourdieu, 1986).   

Rapid transmission of micro-data from internet memory banks programmed for silicon chips, amount to no more than permutations of noneconomic capital’s vehicle (the capital was assembled over a century ago). Williams formulated this sort of distinction of technological form (vehicle) from content (programming) for his study of earlier televisual media (Williams, 1974). Yet cultural studies uncertainty about technology-form and science-content is recognisable in Snow’s 1950s ‘two cultures’, McLuhan’s 1960s ‘medium is the message’, Baudrillard’s 1980s ‘precession of simulacra’ and Virilio’s 1990s ‘information bomb’. The growing dissociation of derealised post-Cold War information, largely escaping everyday notice, emerges acutely in the identity biopolitics of multiculturalism (Gunew, 1992). The unreconstructed political-culture of expelled economic capital exacts a stubborn inequality of institutionalised racism, prompting worst case scenarios of ‘unscientific’ usage.[9] For example, in Australia: the film ‘Wogboy’, radio ‘Dykes on Mics’, theatre ‘Il Dago’, sport ‘Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters’, advertising ‘Bugger’, and revealingly academic ‘Queer Theory’. [10] The estimated seventy per cent ‘pornification’ (etymology ‘whores’ – Caddick, 2010) dominated internet is just another side effect.[11]

The itinerary of social capital, from Cultural Economy (Hinde and Dixon, 2007) and Economics Imperialism (Fine, 2001) to segregated segments of biopolitical practice and neoliberal niche markets, like ‘gay’ games or ‘women-only’ gyms, sidesteps socialisation by productive business or labour (Bourdieu, 1986). Numerical valued ‘mono’, ‘dual’ or ‘multi’ culturalism policy is political aestheticisation without economics. Even Bourdieu, while granting ‘economic capital at the root of all other types of capital’ (1986: 252), did not distinguish productive economic reality as the origin of abstract market exchange ‘relations’ or politically embedded ‘culture’ (let alone surplus value). Whether academic and business agencies on respective sides of Demand/Supply-side economics wangle or weasel over ostensible commodification and economisation of society, industrial science should re-distinguish acculturated ‘post-industrial’ technology from economy. ‘Perhaps a particularly ostentatious form of bad faith is required of any latter-day “literary intellectual” who composes on a word processor and then faxes to a journal a jeremiad about the wholly negative effects of scientific advance’ (Collini, 1993). Yet both ‘technophile’ and ‘technophobic’ acculturation or assimilation of (in this sense relativised) science only increases that bad faith.     

The national lampoon:
Angered or xenophobic as media technology can get, or deregulating and pure trade-liberalised as ‘globalisation’, mixed economic protections continue to characterise developing nations like China, India and even the USA (each affected by neoliberal inspired finance crises). Similarly, Smelser still sees nation states as ‘the effective agency of normative control’ asserting globalisation really ‘increased the salience of states’ (2003). Australian government proposals for state led recovery from a ‘global financial crisis’ (GFC), and critique of crisis inducing ‘financial liberalisation’ (Rudd, 2009) are consistent with Smelser’s observations. Yet, this policy is betrayed by overawe (see Botsman and Latham, 2001) for Shock Doctrine IMF ‘predictions’ or Third Way ‘economic modernisation’ of Hawke and Keating, who ‘removed protectionist barriers’ (25) in the worst imprudence the national interest has known (Jaensch, 1989). By locking-in to such pure post-industrialism, acculturation gaps (salaries ‘twenty five times’ wages – Greer, 2009: 6) of ‘extreme capitalism’ are consolidated. ‘Electronic space is going to be far more present in highly industrialised countries than in the less developed world; and far more present for middle class households in developed countries than for poor households in those same countries’ (Sassen, 2002: 367).  

In the now familiar refrain, Smelser thus predicts international culturalist restoration of ‘religious diversity’ from future globalisation, not economic or scientific progress (2003). ‘Even the most liberal theorists caution against selling off utilities’ says Greer, noting that, ‘Australians detest being patronised’ (2009: 7, 8). For example, asked about state welfare replacement, like already overstressed religious charity, humanities and arts interviewees await inevitable industrial and environmental crises. For radio’s Stephen Walker, ‘the notion of civilisation is a far more tenuous thing ironically enough in Australia, than it is in a lot of other countries. Because you are imposing a cultural grid on what is primarily a very physical and geographical kind of identity that the country has got. So it is not as if…we keep the ball rolling, this civilisation can keep going the way it is. It looks like it was all built yesterday’. On the workplace, IT researcher Marcus Breen ads, ‘the industrial category, for example, is not any one industry but the entire structure of the society. The inequitable distribution of resources produces some pretty dreadful outcomes…Social democracy or a society like Australia attempts to come to terms with some of those things. But it has generally failed because [of] the pressures from the vested interests …like the capitalist class’.   

3 Acculturation politics: ‘Auto de fé’

Large scale destruction of machinery…occurred in the English manufacturing districts…largely as a result of the employment of the power-loom, and known
as the Luddite movement.
Karl Marx (1867)

A measure of how fatal protection issues became in Australia, might be personified by tensions exposed in conservative politics after the 1967 death, even assassination/suicide of Prime Minister Holt (ABC, 2008). Declassified documents recount a subsequent ASIO raid on the home of staunch free trade supporter, senior Minister, and future Prime Minister McMahon. The Minister was found with incriminating evidence of tariff secret sales to Japan which, jeopardising the future of the party, plausibly led to Holt’s auto de fé. As if cued by the rarity of secret ‘intelligence’ agents acting responsibly, later free trade policy also underwent erratic fortunes. Successive research favouring (at that time) anti-Australian ‘pure’ unmixed free trade (see Williams and Stevenson, 1981; Anderson and Garnaut, 1987; Costa and Easson, 1991) was implicitly adopted without ‘fear’, even adversely influencing, it is argued, Thatcher and Blair (Greer, 2009). Surplus value creating capital in the Australian economy (food, shelter, and clothing) has as a result largely disappeared (Webber and Weller, 2001). Garnaut’s unchecked high-status, in unhinging more equitable economics, failed exploitative Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), to deindustrialising mineral Super Profit Tax (Stilwell, 2008) is alarming. Endorsing Economic Imperialism charges of ‘indifference to the real world’ (Fine, 2001), pre-crisis cumulative data on this growing inequality was registered, both from within the ‘UN consensus’ of the ILO (Gunter and van der Hoeven, 2004) and macro-research (Galbraith, 2002); and without by micro-research (Klein, 2007) and sociology (Frankel, 2001).  

A key, and often taken for granted ‘social fact’ (Durkheim, 1895/1966) from unfairly discredited theories of capital (Poulantzas, 1979), cultural studies (Hall andJefferson, 1976) and sociology (Rose, 1969; Deleuze, 1992; Postman, 1993), free trade ‘managerialism’ reinforces unequal hierarchies, re-scaling if not neutralising national borders. ‘As the national scale loses significance along with the loss of key components of the state’s formal authority, other scales gain strategic importance. Most notable among these are subnational scales such as the global city, and supranational scales such as global markets’ (Sassen, 2002: 371). According to idealist historical paradigms, nationhood is a modern experience facilitated by new technologies of print media circulating among ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson, 1991). The ‘nation’ is ambitiously seen only in ungrounded ‘imaginary’ terms of political culture, and not economically in the ‘fragile civilisation’ with ‘industrial resources’ noted above by real media and IT respondents (Bourdieu, 1986: 241). Beilharz shifts that imaginary to Australian ‘antipodes’, defining nation as a false universalism (2001: 187) and (like Bourdieu) modes of production as ‘relational’ (192). A Global Village only enlarges this ‘imaginary’ Freudian slip. It ‘does not mean that old hierarchies disappear, but rather that re-scalings emerge along side the old ones which can often override the latter’ (Sassen, 2002: 371).

For historian Anderson, modern nations first emerged in the American New World. In a rehabilitated technology Age of Information, we could logically anticipate that (delimited) national ‘imagined community’, formed earlier around new print media, would intensify in this (unlimited) media era of TV, PCs and mobiles. For example, the recent pre-crisis most ‘profitable industry’, non-productive ‘financialisation’ totalled over 43 percent of global Gross Domestic ‘Product’ (Frankel, 2001: 51, 67, 77). A conservative estimate of ‘specialist professional knowledge’ is 36 per cent of all employment in the United Sates (Brint, 2001: 118). Yet national intensification clearly has not emerged in times some term ‘post-national’ (Docker, 1994). The ‘value adding chain’ framework of Economic Sociology links the ‘integration of world trade’ to a ‘disintegration of industry’, no longer driven by undifferentiated ‘commodities’, but based on ‘geographical fragmentation’ and ‘organizational fragmentation’ of global industry (Gereffi, 2005). In that economy of ‘deregulated markets and unhampered international markets’ (167) the ‘modern world is stateless’ (171), and ‘globalisation appears to have gone furthest in the area of finance’ (163): services not productive goods

An economy fragmented by Information Age inequality, and labour interests managed out of contention, arises from over-controlling national ‘deregulation’ favouring globalisation. Production chains, trade networks and the managerial cyberspace web are tagged an Information Society or Knowledge Economy. If there is controversy over the merits of its private business (Nelson and Rosenberg, 1998) or public university (Brint, 2001) funded research, it is assumed that ‘institutionally, the mental demand of the work is clearly an important organising factor as well’ (114). Brint’s intricate study provides an unscientific division of practical, standard and professional ‘knowledge’. But concedes, ‘all workers have economically valuable, practical knowledge and can, in this sense, be considered “knowledge [or science] workers”’ (113).[12] ‘Standard’ (formal) knowledge only routinises ‘professional’ (theoretical) knowledge. Status quo ‘mental’ information stressed [13], ‘manual’ knowledge excluded from the division of labour lampoons the information/knowledge distinction (Sassen, 2002: 373; Dosi, Orsenigo and Labini, 2005: 688: Chugg, 2006). This national lampoon (economic goods) by sci fi IT (consumer services/commercial matrix) acculturates to break-off point where:

‘Information’ is identified as a ‘factor of production’ or knowledge (Lasch, 1984: 285; Guattari, 1984: 285; Williams and Stevenson, 1981: 64).

‘Economic efficiency’ (goods production) is identified with ‘performance culture’ (commercial delivery).

Two-dimensional information speed up of quantity and quality is only enabled by the third-dimension of productive capital (Brint, 2001; Fine, 2001). This acculturation/assimilation of economic science (Steiner, 2001) to the politics/culture of technology (Sassen, 2002) is a ‘category mistake’ instance of ‘mythology’ noted in the ‘philosophy of mind’ (Ryle, 1980: 17), or again in the Social Text Affair (Sturrock, 1998). Forthcoming research might ascertain whether this bodes a return to the medieval craft ‘Luddism’ censured by two cultures (Snow. 1993) or behaviourism, ‘because their [skilled] jobs were threatened’ (Skinner, 1977: 60, [my italics]); or reverts to ancient scorn for manual labour (and by inference youth and women). Like advertising (Sinclair and Spurgeon, 2006: 50; Chugg, 2006), information mythology rescales economy in a managerial net for ‘new types of political actors’ (Sassen, 2002: 382), reviving inequality (neoliberalism, new Labor) in all industries under imaginary empire-building globalization (Giroux, 2008). Meanwhile ‘virtual society’ debate remains ‘heavily polarised’ (Barraket, 2005: 20) as auto de fé ‘de-industrialisation’ spreads job insecurity (McQueen, 1983).

Concluding remarks: ‘Military alms’

The real machine breakers [Luddites] in Australia today are the free trade dogmatists.
Humphrey McQueen (1983)

In the interests of science ‘valid for all times and for different societies’ (62), Merton intended to ‘distinguish between a theory, a set of logically interrelated assumptions from which empirically testable hypotheses are derived, and an empirical generalisation, an isolated proposition summarising observed uniformities of relationships between two or more variables’ (66). Merton was accused of assorted ‘Capitoline’ and ‘Marxist’ tendencies, as if to confirm the cross-fertilisation of his ‘middle range theory’ between Grand Theory and Abstract Empiricism. In our ostensibly globalised moment of uncommonly acute inequality, acculturation theory fulfils these conditions. When culture subordinates economy, it produces ‘a delightful contradiction’ as Boer puts it: ‘the less historically reliable such a story is, the more powerful it is as a political myth’ (Boer, 2008: 75). ‘Globalisation’, removing production to the Third World, fills the vacuum with ‘religious’ panic. Neglect of science is not also ‘delightful’, but we can say ‘that should they also sell their means of production, then the Christian communities would quickly starve’ (71). This fact unrecognised, an acculturating West’s turn to military arms (Sparrow, 2009) only deters any ‘logic of alms’ (Boer, 2008)[14] to remedy our rashly relinquished reality.  

Before we jump to this conclusion, let us get away from money values and think in ‘real’ terms, that is, of the goods that are produced.
Morris Williams and Keith Stevenson (1981)

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[1] Spivak refers to ‘the sophistication of the vocabulary and the poverty of the conclusions’ in this research (2004: 569).
[2] Recent research distinguishes at least three multiculturalisms divided between practical versus commercial activity: ‘corporate’ (Grossberg, 2005), ‘metropolitan’ (Spivak, 2004) or ‘cosmopolitan’ (Hage, 1997). The opposition can be clarified by revisiting Benjamin’s two-sided usage of politics/culture to theorise main continental ideologies in the ‘age of mechanical reproduction’ (1982). Fascism was dubbed culturalisation or ‘aestheticisation of politics’ and communism the ‘politicisation of aesthetics’ or culture. The multiculturalisms of Grossberg, Spivak and Hage remain delimited by these terms (see section 2 below). In our own neoliberal ‘age of information’ updated terms include aestheticisation and politicisation of economy or deindustrialisation in the West. It is argued here that this is acculturation.
[3] See Russell, 1988: 40. Perhaps this view is behind Weber’s idea of violent nationalism preceded by ‘abuses of self-accusation’.
[4] Hage refers to this methodological approach as ‘supply side interviews’ (see 1997: 149).
[5] An ‘epistemological break’, when science is appropriated to ‘form a division between mental and manual labour’. But it is ‘in the last analysis the result of the accumulated experience of the direct producers themselves’ (see Poulantzas, 1979: 236-7).
[6] On ‘Islamic science’, Butterfield’s History of Modern Science refers to ‘Hindu algebra and Greek geometry’ linked in a calculus already discovered by eighth century Baghdad – ‘the centre of civilisation’ – 900 years before Leibnitz, Newton and Descartes(cited in Grace, 1993).
[7] Like ‘IT’, for Thompson Luddite skilled/craft labour was defined by ‘superb’ communications, passwords, security, and secrecy (1963).
[8] In a cybernetic-styled technophile analogy, biologist Cohen and mathematician Stewart estimate that the human brain is composed of some 10 billion brain cells or ‘neurons’, and that each one could be like ‘an entire computer’…‘If so the brain would be far more massively parallel than most people think, and much further beyond the reach of present technology’ (1995: 454).
[9] (ABC, 2006). Moorhouse (2002) praises Lumby for her critique of censorship but exempts ‘racial vilification’ from everyday interest. Yet an express motivation in Lumby’s work is criticism of feminist tendencies to form alliances with reactionary groups (1998).
[10] Apart from rationalising his own irrational ‘hate’ pathology, Clemens blames poststructuralists for ‘Queer theory’ (1997). Bourdieu speaks rather of self-exclusion/assimilation dilemmas motivated by resentimment: ‘the worst thing that the dominant impose on the dominated’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992: 82, 212). A rehabilitating logic ‘which leads stigmatized groups to claim the stigma as a sign of their identity’ (Bourdieu, 1987/1990: 155).
[11] (SBS, 2007). Spivak characterises such multiculturalism as ‘a class division dissimulated as a cultural division’ (2004: 569).
[12] Gramsci could say ‘all men (and women) are intellectuals’ [my brackets] – cited by Poulantzas (1979: 254), who refers to ‘secrecy and the internalised monopoly of knowledge’ of bureaucratisation (175).  This differs from acculturation, which eliminates economy/knowledge.
[13] Technology acculturation researcher Metusevich (1995) claims, ‘knowledge doubles every two years’ with ‘a shelf life of approximately one and half years’: (2, 4, 5). Yet technology transmits ‘information’, not scientific ‘knowledge’. As Nelson and Rosenberg argue, ‘technology’ is distinct from science: ‘often this science was so old that it was no longer considered by some to be science’ (1998: 50).
[14] Rudman suggests ‘Anglo-Saxon settler societies [the United States, Australia and Canada], may be the worst places in the world in which to develop a general theory of acculturation’, because they are both ‘too similar to each other’ and ‘too atypical of the world’s societies’ (Rudmin, 2006).  


Author’s Bio
: Rock Chugg is a freelance sociologist from Melbourne,
specialising in science and technology, the information age, deindustrialisation,
media studies, subcultures and civil regulation, with recent research published
in Continuum, Refractory, and Meanjin. Contact: