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Globalizing Americana: Part 5

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Franchising Communities

In discussing cultural accommodations and market conditions, it was demonstrated that cultural diversity fuels the market. The more diverse the population, the more specific the demand for niche marketing, all of which translates to more capital flowing through the system.

From this account of diversity and accommodation, it was then suggested that cultural accommodations are reserved for those groups that have demonstrated their economic viability, suggesting that cultural accommodation arises as a consequence of economic contribution rather than as a consequence of heightened moral awareness.

Thus, in accounting for the historical increase of tolerance throughout Americana, one must take note of how such levels of tolerance were attained. Since tolerance is a consequence of cultural accommodation, and cultural accommodation a consequence of a group’s economic viability, the basis of tolerance, at least within capitalism, is itself rooted in capital.

Cultural groups are tolerated insofar as they ultimately contribute to the expansion of capital. Thus, those unable to make such economic contributions have little if any platform for articulating their grievances. Granted, their grievances will be heard, but the ability to affect change is itself grounded in capital.

Take, for example, President Obama’s revolutionary campaign finance machine during the 2008 Presidential Election. President Obama was able to solicit small donations from millions of contributors directly through their email inbox. His ability to affect change was intimately tied to his campaign’s ability to generate capital. The more capital he was able to generate, the more accessible his message became.

What both he and his campaign administrators understood, better than anyone in the history of U.S. politics, is that convenience is the ultimate source of power within a capitalistic economic model. Were he and his campaign managers to solicit contributions by having constituents mail in checks, he would not have approximated the amount of money he actually raised.

In capitalism, convenience is power. To suggest that the machine is built on impulse speaks more to the psychological aspects of capitalism, which I am not qualified to discuss. But in understanding the ease with which consumers are able to purchase things they are emotionally attached to suggests that the main obstacle in acquiring capital is the method with which their money is procured. The easiest method of procuring capital results from its digitization.

Returning, then, to the notion of cultural accommodation, since innovation and niches may be tailored to satisfy particular demographic needs, and since there are always multiple manufactures producing similar products, there will invariably be redundancies within the market, namely, product redundancies.

Generally speaking, product redundancies support competition, and competition ensures that monopolies are not established. With respect to an analysis of Americana, however, knowing that redundancies are an inherent aspect of the system, consumers expect both variety and convenience, two key elements that will be discussed in greater detail. Not only do consumers have an understanding of these expectations, corporations do as well.

For example, an industrious family opens a deli shop in their community. Their business is supported by the sandwiches they make and consumers have recognized that this location is an ideal location for a sandwich shop. The business thrives, which motivates others to enter the market, but to be competitive they offer specialty items and hard to find meats and cheeses, thereby catering to an even more specialized niche market.

The more businesses that enter the market, the more specialized the market becomes. The more specialized the market becomes, the more convenient it is for the consumer because there are more sandwich shops to choose from.

A major sandwich corporation has also taken notice. Though it cannot possibly provide the level of specialization that currently exists within the community, shareholders understand that the power of their advertising dollar, coupled with a well-established market and cheaper sandwich prices, will ultimately factor in their favor.

What happens?

A good businessperson would franchise a corporate sandwich shop in the same location where mom-and-pop shops have been for years. Consumers have already associated these locations as those where sandwiches can be purchased, and with prices substantially lower than the specialty shop, it is only a matter of time before they all go out of business.

Culturally speaking, however, what has happened is far more ominous than it may seem. It is not merely that these businesses have been forced out of the market or that their ingenuity in establishing and sustaining the market has been absorbed by billion dollar conglomerates with which they could never fairly compete. The true cultural devastation results from a reduction in specialty shops (diversity) and a proliferation of franchise shops (uniformity).

Culturally, then, as major corporations take over mom-and-pop shops, they essentially rob the surrounding community of its cultural specificities and specialized products and services, which established the market in the first place. The community becomes more uniform. It becomes a template with which all communities may be constructed, thereby “franchising communities.”

In nearly every strip mall in the United States of America there is bound to be a Chinese restaurant, a sandwich shop, a dry cleaner, a pizza shop, and a video store. Three out of five of these shops will be retail franchise stores, which leads me to believe that it is only a matter of time before America’s next household name will be a company franchising dry cleaning.

The idea of franchising communities, of incentivising corporate expansion through neighborhood expansion is easily recognizable in Florida. As a Floridian I have noticed this trend over the years. To no surprise, Florida also leads the nation in foreclosures, because when business expansion ceases, so too does the expansion of the neighborhood.

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About Jason J. Campbell

  • ~:;C i n d y;:~

    Jason,

    I am just going to put this here for now. I have to think more about these two sections.

    Culturally, then, as major corporations take over mom-and-pop shops, they essentially rob the surrounding community of its cultural specificities and specialized products and services, which established the market in the first place. The community becomes more uniform. It becomes a template with which all communities may be constructed, thereby “franchising communities.”

    To continue with my rap music/bell hooks thing. This is very much like what she is saying in her video. (But, I will say something a bit different, so my following remarks are not exactly attributable bell hooks.)

    That music, the commercial rap, is designed for one thing–making money. It is not an expression from the community. It is more like your example. It is what sells (in this case to many suburban white boys). The rappers are not, after all, to be considered above Capitalism. They want to make millions of bucks. Sing about this or that–portray this or that image–result: millions of bucks.

    This, I think, creates what you said–a template. Now you have millions of little girls and boys, and big girls and boys, subscribing to a norm. A norm developed by a corporation. To make money.

    Can that be removed from a system that is based on greed and not human needs and values like love and community?

    How do you sell cosmetics to people who like what they look like? How do you “sell” image to people who don’t need to create an image out of a sense of inadequacy?

    Are there more sections to come? It seems so, yes?

  • ~:;C i n d y;:~

    Oh, I forgot to include the corporations that are behind the rappers. Those are the real decision makers about what sells.

    Guess what color they usually are?

  • ~:;C i n d y;:~

    The executives, I meant, of course.

  • http://jasonjcampbell.org/blog.php Jason J. Campbell

    Cindy,

    There are more sections to come. America is business and Americana is quickly following the same trend. you asked:

    “How do you sell cosmetics to people who like what they look like? How do you “sell” image to people who don’t need to create an image out of a sense of inadequacy?”

    There’s always something there, beneath the surface that plagues us all, something we want or want to fix. and believe there is a product designed to do just that, or at least give the sense that it does just that. So for the person that likes how they look great so you won’t by cosmetics but what about that 75,000 dollar BMW you always wanted, or that 13,000 rolex you dream about. Not materialistic? Cool how about a 250,000 house (good investment). Not into home ownership, well we’ve got books you can buy etc etc…when it was siad that that the revolution would not be televised, they were right because there will be no revolution. As the discussion progresses I’ll discuss why I think that’s the case.

    Hip Hop culture functions on the idea of “struggle” at least good Hip Hop, and over coming struggle it’s as Jeezy says, “motivational rap”. It’s probably best exemplified in Rick Ross’ “Everyday I’m Hustlin'” That’s the template, struggle, which includes all the crap, drugs, violence, pimpin’ you name it. What drives the industry is Hope, Hope to get out the struggle.

    Since your into rap vixens, look at superhead. she admitted to her escapades with all these rap stars and then publishes a tell all book. They certainly exploited her and she exploited them. They way out for Black folks, NBA, NFL, Rap etc…we believe that crap. The way out for most everyone else EDUCATION

    City boys, as we call them in the south, look at dudes like me as a sell out. Oh you think you all smart? That crap or you talkin’ white, that crap. Luckily for me it’s not that bad because I never professed to be a thug or gangster. But in Hip Hop it’s all about “Keeping it real” AKA authenticity, something I’ll discuss in the next few sections (not pertaining to music though).

    What’s real in HIp Hop? Dudes gettin shot multiple time, former drug dealers gone clean, all that cliche crap. But what’s really real? Most of the dudes I know are college students both Black and White listening to the music to motivate them. Hey I may have never sold drugs but I’ve written huge chunks of my diss. listen to Ross’ “Everyday I’m Hustlin'”

    The truth is trying to sell Black folks on Education is bad for business and Black folks have bought into it, when the best means of truly overcoming the hustle and struggle is through education. The template is to sell the lie that it’s really possible to make it in Hip Hop, it’s really possible that all these people will get a deal.

    That’s why I reject both academia and Hip Hop, too smart for the streets too hood for the classroom. I know I have to play the game and get tenure and publish in all the big journals, which the average person will never read. The whole tenure things a huge machine itself. But I’ll play the game. On the side I’ll blog and get the word out to regular folks and make a greater impact. I’m not going to ask if I can publish my book I’ll start a company and publish them myself. I’m not going to ask if I can write about things I’m a write about things.

    I don’t profess to have any answers. I have a lot of experience and, time to think. HIp Hoppers need time to reflect, to digest all the crap. It’s not so much about changing or influencing minds as it is about exposing people to new ideas. That’s why the net’s so powerful, why stuff like blogcritics is so influential. If you have an idea no matter how ignorant or insightful–share it.

  • Cindy

    Jason,

    One note: I do not know the ins and outs of rap and hip hop. I took my nephew to NYC for a Hip Hop tour. It was guided by Grand Master Cas. What a cool thing that was (and he was)! So I know about the 4 legs of hip hop. But, I’m a lightweight.

    I like bell hooks’ discussion about Capitalism and rap. She discusses authenticity in that. And says that commercial rap is authentic to what it is a commercial enterprise, as it has been tweaked my the machine Something like that.

    Hip Hop culture functions on the idea of “struggle”…

    Yes. That is why it is meaningful to my nephew. (I don’t really know why it resonates with his few friends as they are different than him.) It is a popular music that he can relate to his own struggle, which is not the same struggle as urban blacks, but is a struggle against a system that he also feels oppressed by.

    And he doesn’t seem to incorporate into his “self”, the aspects related to misogyny, or drugs, or violence. When we’ve discussed the ideas of the way women are depicted, for example–he’d explain his views, which went like this:

    1) that he loves women, 2) that the way women are depicted does not mean the rapper does not love women, because 3) they all have to do that to get money.

    That was what he said at maybe 13. He listens generally, doesn’t watch music videos.

    He does incorporate some, not all, of the style. Not the clothes, but the hairstyles. Well, he tries, the poor thing. With his uncooperative straight blond hair, cornrows and dreadlocks can be problematic. These choices have burdened him with peer ridicule that had created both painful self-defeat and defiance toward their standards.

    Are certain rappers changing or making statements that struggle needs to take on a different form? I see this expressed, say, in Common’s I have a Dream lyrics. I like Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y.. KRS One has songs like this. And now I discovered Son of Nun, who may put my nephew on a new path. He has decided that activist rap, for a world struggle (one that will resonate with his own life experience), might be a place he can involve himself and create.

    Anyhow. If you have some good rappers to recommend. I am looking for those who are activist or related to positive change.

    I’ll look forward to the next installment of your article.