Category Archives: Статьи на Английском

The Relevance of Commodification

The “commodity” critique of consumption, and often, by extension capitalism originates from the Marxist tradition and has been elaborated on by thinkers such as Lucacks and members of the Frankfurt School. Though their theories were published before the onset of the most recent form of capitalism and mode of consumption, some of their ideas are still applicable today. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate, using recent research articles, the relevance of Marxian, Luckacks’, and the Frankfurt School’s ideas of commodity fetishism, reification and mass culture as social control to contemporary consumer culture.
Karl Marx explains the phenomenon of “commodity fetishism”: the disconnection of the act of production form consumption and the subsequent alienation of people (who play the role of both producers and consumers) from the objects produced, the process of production, other people and the true human self. Social relations then are projected onto objects: individuals identify with commodities, define their selves through them and use them as a means of communicating those selves to others, resulting in a kind of object worship. In his article Matthew Killmeier cites Bauman’s “subjectivity fetishization” – the masking of work put into creating the idea of human subjectivity – as a ploy companies and media use to perpetuate the notion that a consumer makes independent choices that have power and meaning in the grand scheme of things, while alienating the individual from reality in pursuit of capitalist ends. Here the commodity is subjectivity. Killmeier uses alienation from nature as an example: he references a documentary on ecological damage that stresses the impact of the individual on environmental deterioration; Honda, one of the sponsors, features ads for fuel-efficient cars in attempt to align itself with eco-friendly practices, and places the ethical responsibility onto the consumer, and none on companies or capitalism. This reinforces the notion of subjective power as the only power while alienating the individual from the fact that large corporations exploit large amounts of resources and contribute to pollution through mass production and their yearning for capitalist success.
It looks as though in contemporary society ideas and abstractions, rather than physical objects, are the main target of commodification. In her article, Murtola argues that increasingly capitalist institutions accumulate profit by selling not just an object with implied meaning, but the “experience” of said object or activity: “dining experiences” at restaurants, attractive “shopping experiences” in malls or boutiques, etc. This phenomenon echoes Lukacs’ notion of reification. In this case commodification is not limited to the process of production of goods, but can be found in any and all social interactions. Murtola writes that because in contemporary society the lines between work-life and free time are blurred – for example office workers have access to wifi/apps on the job, or can go out to local restaurants for lunch/happy hour – the capitalist effort needs to become more creative in gaining attention of the consumer in all aspects of their life. In such ways “commodities come to occupy a place in a whole system of consumer goods, constituting a widespread objectification of life experience”.
Such invasive commodification would be seen as a form of social control by the Frankfurt School. Frankfurt School thinkers criticize the efforts of the powers that be to control individuals’ behaviour by creating and disseminating a standardized mass culture through various forms of entertainment in mass media. Even attempts of retaliation can be pacified by being transformed into objects of mass consumption. Monica Heller writes that performance art-forms, such as hip-hop, that have been based on ideas of resisting an oppressive system, while still provide much social commentary, can be seen as parts of the commodity chain that perpetuate modern consumerism. This is true of modern hip-hop culture, which often sheds light on the realities of marginalized groups but also commodifies every day life by aligning artists and their current successful lifestyles with various brands and excessive consumption of objects and activities. In the eyes of the Frankfurt School scholars the popularization of such entertainment is a deliberate scheme to entice the desire for a particular kind of consumption.
The commodity critique does not fully explain modern modes of consumption and leaves out the issue of individual motivation, making it easy to dismiss the consumer as being a dupe or inevitably manipulated by the system, however these theories should be used as only part of the explanation. Certainly there are many other meaningful reasons to why individuals consume the way they do, but it is important to identify and analyze how structural consumption trends influence consumers and question whose needs/wants they are really serving especially if distributors have institutional power over consumers. These theories should not be used to paint a dystopian picture of consumer culture, but rather to create awareness and empower the consumer.

 

Framing Genocide: The Case of First Nations in Canadian History

INTRODUCTION

          As inhabitants of the proverbial “free world”, I think that many Canadians view themselves as embodying the official attributes that the state is so proud of: multiculturalism, equality, and freedom. This however has not been, and is not, always true, and yet is a cultural mythology that persists on both and interpersonal and a nation-wide level. The images of the “nice” Canadian and the “peaceful” country they live in dominates public perception, while some of the unsavoury bits of history are too often glossed over- at least in my experience. One such aspect of our national narrative is the systematic oppression of the First Nations peoples of Canada. Understandably, people that are part of an arguably successful and modern country do not want to think of their land as a cite of state-approved, long term genocide, but when flaunting one’s national identity one must take the good with the bad, and to do that one must know of the good and the bad as such.

          This paper will be a discussion of Canadian colonial history and its effects consisting of three parts. First I will briefly outline the events, institutions, and legislations in Canadian history that are most closely associated with the loss of persons, culture, land, and human rights in First Nations communities. Second, I plan to argue, using academic sources that the experience of the First Nations brought on by colonial institutions and legislation should be considered genocide proper. I also plan to discuss the term “cultural genocide” that is often used to describe the effects of Canadian colonialism and propose that the use of such terminology nominally minimizes the severity of these historical events, and therefore takes away from societal and state accountability. Alongside this discussion, lastly I plan to frame the ongoing social neglect and violence towards modern First Nations groups and individuals as a continuation of this colonial genocide.<!

 

PART I: Colonialism and Oppressive Policy.

          In her article, Susan Neylan writes that Canadian history is often viewed through the lens of the “settler myth” which is a narrative that sees First Nations as “obstacles to, or in the least, passive players in the ‘real’ history of non-Indigenous peoples”, and that in the formation of this history, settlers have been fair, just, and peaceful in their treatment of these nations(2013:383). However, contrary to this popular belief, the complex relationship between Aboriginals and the state was not peaceful or friendly and stemmed from the state’s desire to control the Aboriginal population by “making…[it]…legible to the state”(Manzano-Munguia, 2011:404) through the use of various policy and legislations in order to promote the dominant settler interest, rather than the well-being and autonomy of the First Nations(Manzano-Munguia, 2011:405). In the early settler period, George III issued a Royal Proclamation that outlined the intended nature of future settler-Indigenous relations; according to this proclamation Aboriginal people could “exchange their territorial rights for goods and services to be provided by the Crown”(Woolford, 2009:84). This document led to the creation of the “numbered treaties” in Ontario and the Prairies, but the groups that signed them were not in agreement on how these would work. Aboriginal groups assumed that the parameters of the documents could be adjusted depending on needs, while the white settlers saw “the treaties as an opportunity to restrict Aboriginal peoples to reserves and to gain access to their traditional territories through annuity payments”(Woolford:2009:84). Manzano-Munguia writes that by about 1830, this policy based on so-called sharing and “friendship” was scrapped and replaced by an official “Civilization Policy” that stemmed from the notion that “Indians” needed to be controlled, protected, and culturally re-educated (2011:406), and manifested itself through various legislations. Continue reading

Modest is Hottest?: An Introductory Analysis of Concealing the Female Form

 

Clothing while protecting our bodies from the elements also serves as a cultural platform for expressing/identifying attitudes, social class, occupation, gender as well as personal affiliation with that or another brand, person, ideology. Dress is practical, historical and cultural, and there is a reason that there are whole magazines, blogs, television shows and many conversations dedicated to fashion and makeovers, and that reason is that clothing is important aspect of social identity, especially to women who happen to be the most common targets of all these media outlets. Continue reading

Karamzin, Discussion on Education

 

  While reading Karamzin’s account of the popularization of reading in Russia during the 18th century I found several points that very much confirmed the spread and influence of Enlightenment ideas in the country, and in addition some points that left me wanting more information, further explanation.

        Karamzin explains that most reading materials were translations of European texts or newspapers reporting on events including foreign affairs- this therefore contributed to ideas of Enlightenment spreading to the noble as well as the general public. The fact that nobility enjoyed reading made it fashionable and with that the ideas they picked up from Western literature might have been popularized. Continue reading

BDSM: Peeking Through The Blindfold

 

Light BDSM seems to be everywhere these days, appearing anywhere from music videos- Rihanna’s S&M for example- to movies and women’s magazines (just look at the cover of Cosmo). Unfortunately most of these pop-culture images and discussions seem very superficial to me: we never get to really hear about everyday people practicing BDSM, their experiences, their reasons for interest or how it affects the nature of their relationships with romantic and sexual partners. The closest we come, in my opinion, to having public access to this kind of information is the sex-advice column Savage Love which runs in various newspapers all over Canada and United States, and is written by an openly gay sex-expert and sexual rights activist Dan Savage. BDSM is a popular topic in the column and many people write in to ask Dan for his advice, which is great, but that’s one very small honest discussion we’re having as a society; I was curious if there exists a comprehensive body of research on the topic of BDSM, and if so what more does it have to add to pop-culture fluff and Savage Love’s rawness. Continue reading

Cover Letter

Anita-Smith-Clerk-Treasury-Cover-Letter.doc

 Это реальное Cover letter (сопроводительное письмо) на английском языке одной из моих клиенток. На Западе практически на любую мало-мальски приличную работу или в любую уважаемую организацию вместе с Резюме нужно отправлять сопроводительное письмо (Cover Letter), в котором Вы “похвастаетесь” своими достижениями и попытаетесь убедить компанию Вас нанимающую почему именно Вы больше всех подходите на эту позицию. На обычные должности это письмо не должно быть больше чем одна машинописная страница. По этическим соображениям персональные данные изменены. Хочу похвастаться, что моя клиентка получила работу.

Résumé

 

Anita Smith Resume

Это реальное резюме на английском языке одной из моих клиенток. По этическим соображениям персональные данные изменены. Хочу похвастаться, что моя клиентка получила работу.

 

Все статьи на Английском языке

PETA: Friend or Foe? An Analysis of PETA’s Contribution to the Animal Rights Movement

One could say that there is no other animal rights organization that is as much a subject of controversy as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals(PETA). One could also say that no other large animal rights organization is as proud of their infamy. Since its formation in 1980, PETA has been using controversy-inspiring tactics to deliver the message that appears on the home page of their website: “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way”(peta.org). PETA “is the largest animal rights organization in the world with more than 3 million members and supporters”, and they seek to end animal suffering in the industries where it is experienced most intensely – that is – the clothing industry, experimental labs, factory farms, and the entertainment business (peta.org). The PETA website claims that they achieve their goals by the means of “education, cruelty investigators, research, animal rescue legislation, special events, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns.” What they forget to mention is that very often in addition to the listed tactics they use exploitation and social coercion, which will be discussed later on in the paper. Continue reading

Zombie

The zombie genre has enjoyed steady popularity since the middle of the last century, but it seems that only in the last decade the zombie plague managed to irreversibly infect the masses of popular culture. Numerous video games, movies, and even novels depicting the human struggle with, and the occasional victory over, these dead(ly) quasi-humans have established themselves as a necessary part of contemporary Western entertainment. So what is it about zombies that makes them so interesting, and why are we all so obsessed with them? This paper seeks to explore the appeal of the zombie by investigating the similarities that this monster shares with contemporary culture, and what attributes of the zombie, and the zombie invasion scenario reveal about our fears and inadequacies as a society. Continue reading

Mass Media

In a society that places great value on entertainment and consumerism, the media serve as powerful tools for communication of ideas. Voluntarily or not we are surrounded by them: we see images on bus stops, billboards, in magazines, and on products we buy, not to mention on our television. Ignoring the media in our time would be equivalent to social exile. So as a result “…the mass media have enormous effects on our attitudes and behaviour, they are important contributors to the socialization process” (Macionis & Gerber (b) 2011:92). Contemporary shows and advertisements tend to place heavy focus on the human sexuality, and by doing so are acting as indirect educators about what it means and how it works. There is a significant imbalance of sexual power between men and women displayed in the North American mass media that has been observed since the 1950s and has evolved a greater imbalance today. Continue reading