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Volume 20, 2004

World-System Analysis: Contemporary Research and Directions

Jonathan Friedman
Pages 217-238

Culture and its Politics in the Global System

This article deals with the relation between cultural process, the politics of culture and global systemic dynamics. The central argument is that cultural forms are generated out of socially constituted experience, what I refer to as the experiential substrate of culture, and that the latter is itself elaborated in specific conditions of social existence that can be linked to global processes. The history of the culture concept is discussed in such terms and the emergent salience of identity politics from the mid 1970s is understood to be part of a larger process of Western hegemonic decline. From the point of view of the larger system, the new cultural politics is an expression of real political and cultural fragmentation. This systemic decline is also the basis of real political economic globalization and the emergence of cosmopolitan elites that are the major bearers of the discourse of globalization. The latter is part of a process of class polarization that pits emergent cosmopolitan “hybrid” elites against downwardly mobile indigenizing locals.