Homogenizing difference: necessary prejudices and the rhetoric of belonging

Gough, Tim (2008) Homogenizing difference: necessary prejudices and the rhetoric of belonging. In: Cultural Studies Association conference 2008; 22 - 24 May 2008, New York, U.S.. (Unpublished)


Recent articles by leading European academics � for instance, those by Ulrich Beck and Bernard-Henri Levy � have, in the name of a championing of French culture or the evolution of the European post-nation state, emphasised the �differences� of Europe over against the character of the �sameness� of America, the staging of which appears to trans-Atlantic eyes to be exemplified by the hustings and conventions of the current primaries, where the distinctions between candidates seem less important than the repeated rhetoric of belongingness to a constructed and hoped-for unity of the United States. Beck�s �cosmopolitan tolerance� posits, not a toleration of difference by that which is inherently the �same�, but an active opening up to the �world of the Other, perceiving difference as an enrichment� (A new cosmopolitanism is in the air, 2007), a political message derived perhaps from Deleuze�s extreme philosophy of difference and anti-representation (Difference and Repetition, 1967), and exemplified on the one hand by the apparent retention of the concept of the nation state by America, and the ditching of it by Europe. Levy (American talk of the death of French culture says more about them than us, 2007) argues not for any intrinsic superiority of French culture, but against the homogenisation of the concept of �global significance� (the words of Time magazine), especially in so far as this is equated with a significance to American capital. This paper will discuss the extent to which this contrast between America as the �same�, as a sort of homogenising agent allied with global capitalism, and Europe as the �different�, the sign of an emerging delegitimisation of political power as related to unitary structures and identity, is on the one hand a caricature of more complex realities; and on the other hand nonetheless a necessary prejudice in order to allow a potentially constructive debate on global economy and justice.

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