Cultural Theory and the Open Society

Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at Oxford Universty, has written an article about the concept of freedom in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet politics. She takes issue with the two-sidedness that pits the open society against the closed society, finding in Grid-Group Cultural Theory a helpful and illuminating alternative.

”The “open society” to which Soviet existence is often claimed to have been opposed resembles the old idea of “the free world”. A non-moralistic approach to group relations in the Soviet Union moves beyond the simplistic link between modernisation and openness”

Of Grids and Groups

The Open Society?Photo credit: Flickr/stephenpace

The a href= test

at the if:book blog, of the Centre for the Future of the Book,  Dan Visel has been reading Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques and noting his link between the invention of writing and improved social control.

Dan’s ‘wish that someone would present a cogent argument against reading’ rang a bell and I remembered Douglas Rushkoff’s argument that ‘text leads to a society of hearers read to by priests’; that by the time the masses have acquired the ability to read, the priests have already become writers, controlling what the masses read. The latest iteration is that anyone can publish (online), an ability until very recently reserved for elites. But now the publishing masses meekly accept the tools they are given to publish with. Every time a literacy skill becomes ubiquitous, the elite moves one step ahead once more. If the latest elite is the coders, it’s incumbent upon all of us, says Rushkoff, to learn a little coding – to program or be programmed. I read at the header to the little box I typed in to leave a comment: ‘you may use HTML tags for style’. This is often seen in comments pages on blogs. It raises the question of the way permission is embedded into the process, almost inconspicuously, mechanically. Who gives or witholds this kind of permission? It also raises a question about how many people can actually use HTML tags, or do any other kind of simple coding. Let’s call it the a href= test.