The third chapter of the book talks about Power and the daily life. According to Grossberg, power operates vertically, as the dominant groups use culture to organize subordinate populations from above. I’ve mentioned a few examples of this situation in older posts, but I can provide new ones, like the use of propaganda in movies and cartoons during the World War II to increase a sense of nationalism and unity inside the United States.
“Cultural texts embody, communicate and hence reproduce – either through what they say or through what they don’t say – the dominant ideologies which reflect and reproduce relations of power existing outside the texts.” (p. 91)
So we are all dominated by manipulative cultural practices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t interpret texts in order to reject or embrace them as our own. People can be both empowered and disempowered. The example the author uses is women living in sexist societies, in which they may also be empowered to discover new relations to their own bodies and identities, as portrayed in new media (Sex and the City). However, this opportunity to be “in control” doesn’t change the fact that women were driven to third way feminism because they live ruled by men and men’s desires.
As for chapter 4, I found a really interesting statement about humanity. According to Grossberg, it is the product of social practices which define what it means to be human. There is always a human nature, but it is different in different social formations, in different historical periods. It’s real, but not universal or transcendent.
Then, I bumped into the concept of interpellation, which is to place individuals at particular sites. So I’m being interpellated when the government tells me I’m a citizen, when the university tells me I’m a student, when the media tells me I’m a consumer, when the society tells me I’m a young woman, and so on. All these contradictory interpellations determine my individuality and many times, I get confused (I’m putting myself as an example, but I really mean all people) stressed and depressed, because there are so many different demands that becomes overwhelming. All together, this is an example of articulation, for it shows the many stages that conform me, and even when they are different, they’re within the same individual.
We don’t have the freedom to scape our historical context. People make history but people are also determined by it.
Now, the concept of agency is close to the concept of “tendential forces”, which represent a movement and a direction which appears to be independent of the desires or intentions of any and even possibly all social groups. Capitalism, industrialism, technology, democracy, nationalism, religion, all are examples of such forces. They do not exist independently of or in some opposition to individuals. No group controls their direction, but it’s a common belief that technology will give us control of forces and hence, the future.
History has proved us wrong, but I suppose we can wait and see if this time is any different.