Giroux: A Culture of Cruelty

If you have wondered why violence is often glorified in media, or what this might have to do with anti-healthcare reform crusaders and hate crimes, read Henry Giroux' excellent article "Living in a Culture of Cruelty." Part of the problem, he argues, is the normalization of violence and cruelty through political policies that are largely based on a market fundamentalism that values wealth over people. His discussion proves to be a helpful way to understand the intersection of everyday life, the political and the production of cultural meaning.

Here is an excerpt that talks about power in a culture of cruelty:
The growing dominance of a right-wing media forged in a pedagogy of hate has become a crucial element providing numerous platforms for a culture of cruelty and is fundamental to how we understand the role of education in a range of sites outside of traditional forms of schooling. This educational apparatus and mode of public pedagogy is central to analyzing not just how power is exercised, rewarded and contested in a growing culture of cruelty, but also how particular identities, desires and needs are mobilized in support of an overt racism, hostility towards immigrants and utter disdain, coupled with the threat of mob violence toward any political figure supportive of the social contract and the welfare state. Citizens are increasingly constructed through a language of contempt for all noncommercial public spheres and a chilling indifference to the plight of others that is increasingly expressed in vicious tirades against big government and health care reform. There is a growing element of scorn on the part of the American public for those human beings caught in the web of misfortune, human suffering, dependency and deprivation.
And another excerpt that brings in popular culture:
Underlying the culture of cruelty that reached its apogee during the Bush administration, was the legalization of state violence, such that human suffering was now sanctioned by the law, which no longer served as a summons to justice. But if a legal culture emerged that made violence and human suffering socially acceptable, popular culture rendered such violence pleasurable by commodifying, aestheticizing and spectacularizing it. Rather than being unspoken and unseen, violence in American life had become both visible in its pervasiveness and normalized as a central feature of dominant and popular culture.
It might be interesting to place Giroux' argument next to Rene Girard's theories of violence (from his book Violence and the Sacred) to give a sort-of historical trajectory of the role of violence in society. Same thing with Foucault's Discipline and Punish. I think all three talk about the spectacle of violence and cruelty and the different ways it is absorbed and assimilated.
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:09 PM

    Violence and control seems to drive a certain part of the human psyche. And certainly the powerful have figured out what it takes to maintain their power, sometimes veiled, and sometimes not so much.


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