Lately, I’ve been re-thinking Jean Gebser’s description of civilisations as “structures of consciousness” in terms of Antonio Gramsci’s (1891 – 1937) theory of “cultural hegemony”, and this seems a quite suggestive and fruitful way of reflecting on power, values, and consciousness structures.
“Hegemony”, from the Greek hegemonia, translates as “leadership”, “rulership” or “domination”. “Rulership” is the theme I want to stress in reconsidering consciousness structures in terms of hegemony, which means I must take Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony to a whole other level of interpretation that he didn’t consider.
It’s a curious thing that free radicals, rogue states, and factoids should have become such dominant memes within their respective cognitive frameworks and our perception of things. We might refer to them as memes of disintegration or incoherence. “Free radicals” in biochemistry are said to be implicated in aging; rogue states in the breakdown and fracturing of internationalism and of the modern Westphalian system of nation-states. “Factoids” is a term used to describe discrete or rogue pieces of information, often news clips or reports, that have no apparent meaningful relationship to each other and don’t seem to fit meaningfully in a broader framework of knowledge. They are texts without context, answers without a question, isolates, the “free radicals” and “rogue states” of the datasphere.
“Factoids” are a symptom of the aging and atomisation of a consciousness structure; the flip-side, as it were, of “the end of the Grand Narrative”; “the end of ideology”; and “the end of history”, too.
Last evening, I drove to the city to hear the now elderly but evidently still vigorous Canadian environmental activist (some say “shit-disturber”) Dr. David Suzuki deliver a talk as part of his cross-country Blue Dot Tour. The talk was surprisingly well-attended by some two or three thousand people who gave Suzuki what might be described as a “rock-star’s welcome”.
Dr. Suzuki has been characterised as both a “national treasure” by some, and by others (particularly in the present Conservative government) as public enemy number one — as both saint and sinner, as it were. Personalities who arouse such polarised judgements of adulation and revulsion always interest me, as they seem particularly representative of the times. They become symbols.