False Consciousness And Imperialism Cultural Studies Essay

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Colonial powers seeking to expand and impose their control over the worlds weaker but richer territories have existed throughout history as the survival of the fittest rule and then Micavilles justification of the means for the goals of dominion and power were constant companions of the worlds thriving and covetous entities. The means may have changed but the goals and outcomes never did, as it progressed and evolved but not vanished from the spectrum; today these forces deserted the "savage" massacres their predecessors inflicted but resorted to more subtle and manipulative methods to destroy their prey before any physical interference. Imperial forces have attempted for the past century to manipulate third world's collective consciousness of their unity and the world's viewpoint on the "backward" countries to justify their intervention in them.

I will attempt to employ Marxist theories of the false consciousness and orientalism in my argument concerning the media's discourse pertaining occupied countries and their image in the West. Firstly, numerous questions come to the mind when discussing the media's role in assisting colonial powers in penetrating other countries and swiftly taking advantage of their resources. One question would be whether they are systematic efforts exerted for that particular purpose or are the chaotic result of cultural and racial misinterpretations and clashes.

Imperialism and colonialism, although related, cannot be used interchangeably as there are various opinions regarding their definition. Colonialism can be seen as "a broad concept that refers to the project of European political domination from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries that ended with the national liberation movements of the 1960s." (Kohn) Imperialism on the other hand is a broader concept and Marxist thinkers attribute it to the rise of the "financial capital" and its following policies of monopoly of trade and production especially by the early twentieth century capitalist Europe (Brewer). Since the primary objectives behind occupation of other lands by force are economical, Marxist theories of the

capital are one vital angle to understanding the mentality of colonizers. England, beginning with the late eighteen century, has strived to control trade routes and lands with valuable natural resources such as India for its spices and strategic position and America for its gold and shortcut rout to India. With the late nineteenth century and the Victorian era, England sought the Middle East and Africa for expansionist goals. "The white man burden" soon became the prevalent model for the justification of imperialism in Britain and its morality was rarely questioned due to the benefits, especially the economic burgeoning, that the people had. John Hobson estimated that imperialism provided Britain with 90 million to 100 million pounds, five times its original income. (Hobson,1902)

False consciousness, a pivotal concept in this paper, is according to John Jost is "the holding of false or inaccurate beliefs that are contrary to one's own social interest and which thereby contribute to the maintenance of the disadvantaged position of the self or the group." (Jost) Antonio Gramsci saw it as a tool of cultural hegemony in which the bourgeois power was further "reproduced" in various media resources and educational institutes. (Heywood) Although it is originally used to explore social classes' conflicts, it is employed it in this context to imperial forces and occupied countries relationship. Ideology is "said to reflect a false consciousness about society" and its primary function is to justify the class's actions and attitudes that are in its interests. (Evans1975, 79-85) Imperial forces, also, create an ideological reality that suits their interests in invading the world's natural resources. False consciousness has to do with the subconscious of people and their taken for granted notions about their lives and surrounding, and these notions, which accurateness is not important, become the collective consciousness or system of belief for those people. Repetition and constant exposure instill notions and ideas related to any issue and thus ensure their rigidness. For instance, stereotypes which are generalizations made about different groups exist due to the tendency of humans to explain or justify what revolves around them and they spread due to the lack of interest in pursuing more knowledge about the other groups (Macgarty, Y.Yzerbyt and Spears), are common in our world today as the media help in reinforcing them whether intentionally or inadvertently, directly or implicitly.

Interpellation is another mean by which false consciousness arise. Based on Jacques Lacan's ideas of the symbolic and the real, Louis Althusser brought forth the contention that" All ideology hails or

interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects, by the functioning of the category of the subject." (Althusser) In simpler terms, Lacan proposed that "reality" is constructed through symbols and signifiers-words- and thus is limited but constitute our consciousness. The "real" on the other hand is not constructed through language and thus cannot be attained. (Loos) When we are "hailed" we are called subconsciously as "subjects" to do anything or believe everything we are told and thus would become slaves. Some Marxist thinkers believe that capital, and therefore imperial, forces desire to control the people's minds by hailing them to accept whatever knowledge they offer. For instance, movies would incorporate materials such as sounds or pictures that go directly to the subconscious and implant notions or desires that would increase profit (Jackson) or imperial powers would interpellate their superiority in their media directed at third world, who would then internalize it and dread rebellion or accept the status quo and not even question it.

The East, the most targeted by colonialism, has always been conceptualized by the West's vision and labelled with traits that relate to fancy more than anything real. As Edward Said puts it, imperial powers such as Europe and then the U.S were not only interested in the economical and geopolitical advantages in the East but also from the cultural dynamics that gave the "orient" its complexity (Said, p 11-13). Common stereotypes of Arabs have generated from fantasies rather than actual experiences; the Harem which refers to the women often seen in Western fiction and art as concubines and hyper-sexual around the Sultan is a concept that is instilled in the minds of many and is often accompanied by the image of the exotic East. Stereotypes of Arabs are not only to be seen as a cultural misrepresntation but should be investigated deeper since the Middle East is the target of the new imperial forces headed by the U.S and thereby ought not to be neglected or simplified.

An interesting theory related to the costruction of false consciousness is the System Justification theory that basically "captures social and psychological needs to imbue the status quo with legitimacy and to see it as good, fair, natural, desirable,and even inevitable." (Jost, Mahzarin and Nosek) The colonized countries are driven to such a state when the occupier convinces them of its utmost military and economical power, and the peoples who are perceived as inferior start internalizing the claims of their powerful oppressor and accept the status quo of their colonization. On the other hand, the peoples of the

imperial countries do not question the morality of their actions but justify it with various rationalizations that are continuously repeated and confirmed in the media and social discourse and so become the "reality" of their existence. For instance, after 9/11 Arabs were deemed terrorists who would islamize the western "free world" and bring oppression and backwardness to it. According to a survey conducted by the research center of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2004, one in four Americans believes that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence. Significant percentange showed poor knowledge about Arabs or Muslims but that would not stop any from making judgments or being prejudice about them. To be considered terrorists is not a mere cultural misrepresentation that happened due to the attacks of 9/11 but is an image shaped long before that to inculcate savage and barbarbric premises about the so called third world so as to justify its occupation. The belligerent and dim-witted Other becomes either the enemy that needs to be put under control or the victim of oppression and a backward milieu that has to be saved. Under such false pretensies, the imperial ideology creeps in their targetted lands and abuse their fortunes; before bringing "democracy" there was the dream of civilizing the barbarians and introducing them to technology and order, and often missionaries would accompany the military forces to bring "truth" to those people whome cultures and values are considered lower and absurd. (Jones)

Imperial goals and invasion of lands all over the globe have been constant motives of wars and hostility amongst humans, and with disregard to any progress or technological advancement we have witnessed these motives are to stay in the consciousness of humans. The economic growth has incented Europe and then America to belittle mankind in front of capital and thus ethical liability was never questioned, but on the contrary new technology of mass communication was used to influence the beliefs and notions of exploited territories so as to subjucate them even more. Playing with world cosciousness and creating fancy of sugar-coated euphemisms of occupation would only aggravate the turbulence of our world today as cultural and religious conflicts steming primarily from the colonial discourse for the last century are on the rise and threaten to bring new devastating wars to the international arena.

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Brewer, Anthony. Marxist Theories of Imperialism. London: Routledge, 1990.

Hobson, John. Imperialism. New York: James Pot and Co., 1902.

Jost, John T. "Negative Illusions: Conceptual Clarification and Psycological Evidence Concerning False Cosciousness." http://www.buildfreedom.com. <http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/tl04d.html>.

Heywood, Andrew. Political Ideas and Concepts: An Introduction. London: Macmillan, 1994.

Evans, Michael. Carl Marx. London: The Alsine Pess, Letchworth, 1975.

Macgarty, Craig, Vincent Y.Yzerbyt and Russel Spears. Stereotypes as Explanations, the formation of meaningful beliefs about social groups. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.

Loos, Amanda. "Symbolic, Real, Imaginary." http://csmt.uchicago.edu. <http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/symbolicrealimaginary.htm>.

Jackson, Jessica. "Interpellating an Audience: Travel Advertisements in Women's Magazines." May 2008. http://people.southwestern.edu. <http://people.southwestern.edu/~bednarb/su_netWorks/projects/jjackson/index.html>.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 1977.

Jost, John T, Banagy R Mahzarin and Brian A Nosek. "A Decade of System Justification Theory:Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious." Political Psychology (2004): 881-919.

Jones, Jim. "Europe & Africa in the 19th Century." 2010. www.wcupa.edu. <http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his312/lectures/19thcent.htm>.

A Simple Outline for the Main Ideas

1.Thesis: Imperial forces have attempted for the past century to manipulate third world's collective consciousness of their unity and the world's viewpoint on the "backward" countries to justify their intervention in them.

2.Colonial ambitions and agendas in the Middle East

-Colonialism and Imperialism definitions.

-The Twentieth century European colonialism.

-Imperial economic and political agendas.

3. False consciousness and imperialism

-Definitions of false consciousness

-Ideology and Power

-Construction of false consciousness.

A) Stereotypes

B) Interpellation

-Parallels of imperial capitalists and occupied countries with the social classes' clashes.

4. Orientalism

- Image of the East.

-Reality and Fantasies

-The Self and the Other

5. System Justification theory


- Colonized acceptance of the colonizer.

6. Arabs image in the West

-Imperial gains

-Justification of colonization.

-Internalization of inferiority

7. Conclusion