Race, ethnicity and culture as surrogates for promoting a…

The notion of racial hierarchy is based on unsubstantiated perceptions and beliefs that skin pigmentation determines intellectual superiority in humans. Under this belief, power relations tend to be tied to racial hierarchy as a surrogate for ethnic cultural identities and, by extension, the culture then assumes a hierarchical status based on race. From then on, traditional ethnic and cultural values ​​take a back seat while the hegemonic values ​​of the group take over space, virtual or real, and settle in stealthily with the help of institutional arrangements to universalize a particular culture. and economic asymmetries.

In the age of the slave mode of production and reproduction, slavery and gender inequality have become functional tools to entrench economic inequality. Slaves were used for dual purposes, for the production of commodities and for the reproduction of human labor power. The process of reproduction, on the one hand, has remained both natural and socially designed to manipulate population demographics while entrenching economic and institutional inequalities.

While the notion of cultural autonomy has a legitimate claim to exist based on ethnographic and historical factors, the underlying racial undertones often present and the hierarchy that is instilled in the formula tend to undermine the positive aspects of the concept of culture. . The apartheid state classified population groups not only according to ethnic identity but rather according to racial identities which were manipulated to justify the domination of a particular racial group over others.

It should be noted, however, that a racial/ethnic hierarchy tends to be replaced by a class hierarchy and social inequalities in neoliberal or capitalist economic systems. The philosophy of black consciousness sought to defuse this racial hierarchy by popularizing the positive aspects of the concept of “black” by deliberately raising the political consciousness of black Africans, mestizos and Indians. However, the effects of the hierarchical structure of the economy have not been fundamentally changed.

The post-apartheid state, by adopting the concepts of black consciousness philosophy in the official categorization of different population groups, did not use its constitutional mandate to insert strategies aimed at virtually reversing historic economic asymmetries. Therefore, as Wallerstein asserts, the group that was at the bottom of the hierarchy tends to remain at the bottom of the hierarchy after political change. Instead of addressing the inequalities of structural apartheid urban planning, the post-apartheid state – unwittingly – simply entrenched historical class stratification and, by extension, racial and cultural inequalities.

Ethnic vs cultural identities

A line must be drawn between the political use of the terms racial classification and ethnic classification, not only between geographical spaces but within the territorial entities of the same country. Racial and cultural differences between groups within the same country can be significant and even impact the allocation of resources by the state. It is not enough to have a legislative framework without putting in place policy implementation mechanisms.

For example, ethnic and cultural bias can have the same effect as racial discrimination if no distinction is made between structure and agency. The constitution of the structure is intended to condition the behavior of the agency. The caste system of the South Asian subcontinent can discriminate based on class categorization based on nuanced chromosomal differences.

Similarly, if we take the isiXhosa language group in South Africa, there are nuanced cultural differences that arise from historical interpretations of the origin of these groups, regardless of their languages ​​and their different dialects and color coding (pigmentation racial). This therefore requires the explanation of the organic fabric of social identity within a given community. The subtle difference between Amamfengu and AmaXhosa, Amampondo and AmaBhaca, who all speak isiXhosa, needs to be analyzed and contextualized.

There are visible normative cultural differences between these groups which are collectively classified as amaXhosa without regard to their historical and cultural differences. AmaXhosa is a group term centralizing individuals based on the language they speak without regard to the cultural identities of the sub-groups.

The term AmaBhaca, for example, is associated with “to flee”, in a manner similar to the term Shangaan as interpreted by the Tsonga. The controversial term Amashangana is interpreted to mean “leave the child” (shiya ngane), i.e. people who left their children behind and ran to Mozambique following Soshangana who fled from Shaka. As a result, South African Shangaans resent the use of the term and prefer to be called Tsonga. They maintain that they did not flee Shaka to Mozambique leaving behind their offspring. The ethnic origin of the group is essentially the same, but the fabric of the social organs which constitute the groups is not the same, whatever the common language. Leaving children behind and running for safety is considered by the Tsonga to have been immoral, hence the term Shangaan is considered derogatory to South Africans while Mozambicans are proud to be called Shangaans. This suggests that ethnicity and language alone are not sufficient determinants of group cultural identity.

There is a danger in generalizing behavior using overarching group protocols that may not accommodate the nuanced diversity of subcultures within a single ethnicity, group, race, or of the same sex. The risk of generalization can be compared to the plant kingdom, where it is often assumed that a particular plant family will grow under certain conditions without taking into account the specificity of the genetic makeup and the particular needs of the given species in a geographical area. given. space. For example, a type of grass colloquially called shade grass or LM is marketed as suitable for shady areas in the garden, but this is not always the case. LM grass does not grow in completely shaded spaces, it needs some sunlight.

Interaction between technology and democracy

In his analysis of the cult of leadership, Read (1963: 49) explains that ‘history studies the organic fabric of society just as histology studies the organic fabric of the human body’. He goes further by arguing that history cannot explain the processes governing the immediate emotions of collective organisms called states or nations. For this reason, for the analysis of culture and race, I decided to take a brief look at the analysis of the relationship between technology and democracy.

The difference between AI and blockchain in the artificial intelligence space, as explained by Divya Siddarth and Kelsie Nabben in Neoma magazine is that,

“AI promises to usher in an era of peace and abundance for humanity that frees us from the burden of work and need, provided we play our cards right to avoid the risk of existential catastrophe. Meanwhile , blockchain provides the infrastructure for the unparalleled exercise of individual and collective action, opening the doors to automation, self-governance, and global coordination.

Interestingly, Siddarth and Nabben (2021) draw a parallel between AI technology’s desire to implicitly or explicitly abstract human fallibility in the service of a fully automated view of perfection. They are careful not to take for granted that human fallibility can be abstracted from an automated vision of perfection in an age of coordination failures and corruption at the highest levels, and the aspiration for decentralized coordination between autonomous individuals. Both political economists and social technologists above seek to establish the intersection between technology and democracy.

Their contention is that the ultimate goal of the blockchain vision is freedom itself, but they argue in the negative sense that the absence of regulation, corruption, banks, schools, and governments is a process of freedom. Highly individual autonomy and end results are dependent on individual choice. To counter this conception, blockchain, according to Siddarth and Nabben, has grown and evolved into a plethora of protocols and applications, many of which claim to directly actualize visions of politically autonomous futures through software code.

However, despite these ideal visions, Siddarth and Nabben came to the conclusion that these technologies often inevitably collapse in recentralization in practice because the forces of commerce and individual profit drive technological innovation. The outcome remains dependent on individual choice, as the resolution of collective action problems depends entirely on individual incentives and structures. Notwithstanding the technology-driven view, it should not be forgotten that technology itself, as Siddarth and Nabben warn, due to the extreme ideological orientation towards self-reliance throughout the development process in blockchain communities, and technical and administrative decentralization, can be confused with democratic decision-making. non-hierarchical ways of making and interacting. This assumption that human fallibility can be abstracted from the perfection of technology cannot be taken for granted, it must be proven in each case.

It is interesting to note what Herbert Read wrote in his book To hell with culture about Hitler and how he came to power. “If Hitler consciously represented an economic interest, it was that of the ‘little man’, the bankrupt trader, the petty capitalist, who had been bankrupted by the big monopolies and chain stores.” But, he adds, even that sympathy was not genuine. He quoted Dr. Fromm, who said that Hitler succeeded because he was able to combine the qualities of a resentful petty bourgeoisie, with which the middle classes could identify, emotionally and socially, with those of an opportunist ready to serve the interests of Germany. industrialists and Junkers.

The idea that structural centralization can cross-subsidize the allocation of resources without defining the role of the agency is wrong. Geographic coverage, like technological centralization, in an age of corruption and manipulation of systems, offers no guarantee of ideologically worthless results. DM

Thozamile Botha holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Johannesburg, M.phil in Political Science from Strathclyde University (Glasgow, Scotland) and a National Diploma in Development Administration (Glasgow College of Technology, Scotland, now changed to British Caledonian University).

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