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John Urry on Culture - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 272
Culture/postmodernism/Lash/Urry/West: an important (...) consequence of [the] economic, social and political developments (>Capitalism/Lash/Urry) is the increasing importance of culture as a site of domination and resistance: 'domination through cultural forms takes on significance in disorganized capitalism which is comparable in importance to domination in the sphere of production itself' (1987(1): 14).
Postmodernism: what differentiates Lash and Urry most clearly as theorists of postmodernity is their distinctively postmodernist view of contemporary culture. Disorganized capitalism is associated with the 'appearance and mass distribution of a culturalideological configuration of „Postmodemism" [which] affects high culture, popular culture and the symbols and discourse of everyday life' (1987(1): 7).
Accordingly, philosophical postmodernism can be regarded as a symptom of broader cultural developments, which can, in their turn, be characterized in terms of postmodern philosophy. Postmodern culture is 'transgressive' both of intellectual boundaries between 'rational' and 'non-rational' and of aesthetic boundaries between 'high' and 'low' culture. It is suspicious of the distinction (so important for Habermas) between ethical, scientific and aesthetic discourse. Art/aura: Drawing on the work of Walter Benjamin, Lash and Urry describe postmodern culture as 'post-auratic' (1987(1): 286): the work of art is no longer an eternal object of contemplative, almost religious reverence, just another constituent of an 'economy of pleasure', a means of distraction
like any other. By implication, postmodern culture is particularly resistant to the discursive forms characteristic of modernity. Communication now occurs more through images, sounds and impulses than through the spoken or written word.
Politics: Culture, finally, is an increasingly important medium of political struggle. It is the potential site for the imposition of an 'authoritarian populism' closely identified with the politics of the new right and Thatcherism. On the other hand, developments like the counterculture, popular music and film testify to the alternative possibility of an 'anti-authoritarian radical democracy'. Less clear from Lash and Urry's analysis are the details of this progressive alternative: they offer little guidance beyond the need for a 'genuine dialogue' between 'new social movements' and the old left (1987(1): 312). >Democracy/Laclau/Mouffe.


1. Lash, Scott and John Urry (1987) The End of Organized Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.


West, David 2004. „New Social Movements“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Urry, John
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-03-04
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