Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Bob Dylan and Post-Structuralism?

I think my last entry was a little depressing so this one is going to be light hearted. Well, as light hearted as I can do.

I was in a Sociology lecture the other day for a 'Topics of Comparative Historical Sociology' class which focused on the concept of liberalism stretching from the Enlightenment going right up to Charles Taylor (know as 'Chuck' to the lecturer) and Ernest Gellner. This lecture was a revision lecture and the teacher is so passionate about the subject it's hard not to agree with everything she says. The following comparison made me smile. This is somewhat paraphrased:

"OK, lets try and explain the differences between the Enlightenment and post-structuralism, post-colonialism and everything else post! Think of Bob Dylan, Blowing in the Wind and that 60s feeling of we're going to change the world for the benefit of everyone else?" pause "Everyone in this room is too young for Bob Dylan, aren't they? Anyway, go and listen to Blowing in the Wind and that should explain what I'm talking about. Then, jump to post-everything else and think of Radiohead, No Surprises. This is what Western intellect has become, this narcissistic naval gazing self-absorption with ourselves. While people are being killed for being different ethnic identities, in the West Sociologists are worrying about the affects of the Ipod on teenagers."

So, while I was waiting on the bus home, my Ipod alternated between the Folk Singer and naval gazing.


CB Buckland said...

I actually thought the Charles Taylor you were refering to was the Liberian warlord who has business relations with Pat Robertson. Think of what you said in that way and it becomes quite strange.

I would disagree with this though. If you take these two musical (I won't say pop culture cause that demeans both) references and compare, all it says is that the last 30 years has seen disillusionment with being able to change the world, hence Radiohead. I don't believe people are anymore narcisstic now, par example, you think hippies wore beads because they helped them tap into ley lines or something?

People aren't necessarily more self involved, its just they're less involved with idealism. I'm not sure which would be worse.

Just a thought.

A Woman with an Opinion said...

First of all, apologies for taking a while to reply to this. I wanted to mull it over before I added my thoughts to your comment.

I do agree with your point that people are less involved with idealism. However, I think it's a different issue when it comes to Western academia. A small part of me wonders what the benefits are of awarding a grant to a sociologist to investigate advertising on young children when contrasted with people starving in areas of the world. Which project will achieve the greater good?

It's interesting to contrast the 'great' social movements in the 60s and 70s. Can you imagine today's students protesting against war, nuclear armament, poverty? As our dear Strathclyde Telegraph reported recently, apathy has become a part of student life. Many people want to go to university to get a degree, get a good job and get all those lovely consumer goods society wants to hoist onto us.

It is going off the beaten track somewhat but I do believe consumerism has made people more self-involved.

I'd be interested to hear what you think.

CB Buckland said...

^^ I absolutely agree with your argument about academia. There has to be some practical element to research that I think is sadly missing nowadays. I do also believe that all academics should have to justify their use or be shot, a la the Cultural Revolution, but I'm a bit of a radical on this front.

I think consumerism, however, has changed over time. I think it's taken over the slot that religion used to hold, in a sort of worship fetishism thing. I think people were very self-involved with religion rather than the point of it which was to go out and actually help people in the name of God. Consumerism doesn't have the altruistic aspect I suppose, so people are perhaps more self-involved in that sense. Consumerism will probably go the way of religion in a hundred years as people are beginning to realise (certainly in the West) that it isn't going to make their lives complete. ( See the ludicrious rise in "alpha courses" etc)

I think that the sheer scale of poverty/war etc that we have become aware of through mass media has a part to play. People become more apathetic when the odds seem insurrmountable. On the whole though, I do agree with you that there is a major issue with it. It bugs me too, the apathy, but what can you do? (Delicious irony...)