Archives for category: Living

The problem of ‘hard consciousness’ is a sub-problem of the wider mind/body problem. For David Chalmers, the hard problem is qualia or the qualities of sensed experience[1]. The dualist position on mind/body relations is that although we need bodies and brains to have consciousness, consciousness is not the same as our bodily and brain states[2]. Mental events are of a different order to physical events, however they causally interact. This explanation does not explain how they interact but presumably as matter obeys certain physical laws so the mind obeys different laws pertaining to the realm of mental events[3]. However, there is an opposing simplicity argument against dualism and that argument is based upon the principle of rational methodology known as ‘Ockham’s razor’[4]. This can be expressed as not multiplying entities beyond what is strictly necessary to explain phenomena[5]. Therefore, materialists argue that there is only physical matter and only one class of physical properties and  theorizing that there are two separate substances, as dualists do,  gives no advantage[6]. As a further alternative view, in his Philosophical Investigations (1958) Wittgenstein assesses the ‘unbridgable gulf between consciousness and brain process’[7]. He asks: ‘How does it come about that this does not come into the considerations of our ordinary life?[8]’ He posits that it is not our consciousness that is a strange thing but our attitude towards ourselves that is strange. Whereas our consciousness is normally intentional, philosophical investigations into the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness do not envisage a context for their concepts. Therefore it is only the study of philosophy or being mentally troubled through which one is inclined to see consciousness as a ‘thing’ or to wonder at ‘it’ being connected to matter[9].


[2]Townley, Dr. C., Lecture 14, The Mind Body Problem, in “Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics”, PHI130, Macquarie University 2011

[3] ibid.

[4] Churchland, Paul M. “The ontological problem (the mind-body problem)” in Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind , Churchland, Paul M. , 1988 , p.12

[5] ibid., p.18

[6] ibid.

[8]ibid.

[9]ibid.

‘The world’s inequality is due to capitalism. Not to capitalism having made certain groups poor, but to its making its practitioners wealthy.’ (Johan Norberg)

Johan Norberg began the decade of 2000-2010 cheering the ability of capitalism to cure global inequality in his book “In Defence of Global Capitalism” (2003) and ended the decade trying to explain why capitalism had gone so terribly wrong in his book “The Financial Fiasco” (2009) . In the quote above he asserts that capitalism does not make people poor but makes people wealthy and this is the only cause of disparity in income inequality between people. It is the manifesto of laissez-faire capitalism that the ability to be able to earn money and keep it is fundamental to a human’s freedom. It is through the use of their own ingenuity and rationalism that human’s can thrive and buy property enabling them to establish wealth. Norberg argues that it is the regulation of this wealth through the state’s interference that causes financial crises, not the greed or ruthless fraud of a few who are wealthy and influentially connected. This essay will argue that Norberg is wrong in his reasoning. Although liberalism and its counterpart capitalism are great engines for human growth and civilization, it is the corruption of these systems through monopolies, subsidies and fraudulent trade practice that bring these systems down. With the collapse of these systems the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few and it is taken from the effort of all those that support or connect to those systems, leaving them poor. I will use the collapse of Enron Corporation and the growth of global agribusinesses as examples to argue my conclusion, and begin by attempting to establish what the ideals of liberal-capitalism are through looking at the work of one of its greatest advocates, Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand, a precursor to neo-liberalists such as Johan Norberg and Milton Friedman, stated in her 1967 essay “What is Capitalism?” the essential characteristic of humans is rational thought. The human mind is the basic means of survival through the acquisition of knowledge . This enormously complex process of identification and integration is something only an individual brain can perform. The concept of a collective brain is a fallacy as humans can learn from one another and can cooperate to gain new knowledge but this process requires the independent exercise of each individual’s rational faculty . For Immanuel Kant, a liberal philosopher, humans are not only individualised and rationalised they are also ‘capable of appreciating the moral equality of all individuals as ends rather than means’ What binds all individuals is that all means of survival depend upon the degree to which rationality is able to be applied; in Rand’s words ‘men prosper or fail, survive or perish in proportion to their degree of rationality’ . For a rational mind to think, freedom is a fundamental requirement . A rational mind cannot work under compulsion, it cannot be controlled by others; it cannot give up its knowledge or its perception of the truth. That principle of rational action is what all humans, no matter their ability or achievement, owe for their survival. Irrational action will be to their self-destruction . It is the connection between reason and survival that gives us the concept of individual rights .

This liberal view of individual rights is important to the tenets of capitalism because it is only the system of capitalism that recognises individual rights, including the right to property . In capitalist societies human associations are free and voluntary . The objective theory of value underlies the structure of the capitalist system. What is implied by recognising the rights of the individual is that the concept of the good is not an ideal but a concept based in the reality of every human life, such as the right to pursue happiness. It also implies that the concept of what is good cannot be held separate from its beneficiaries. It cannot be that one human or group of humans can achieve good at the price of others . Most capitalism that is alleged to be practiced today is really that which can be defined as a mixed economy. True capitalism is not compatible with government control as its innovators do not rely upon government assistance or interference, or coercion .

Corporate capitalists seek to avoid the anarchy of the marketplace by managerial coordination within firms. It is based upon the rational of economic activity rather than reliance upon market coordination . For the economist Max Weber, economic organization holds together through a system of authority . For a complex organization such as a corporation this requires an impersonal set of rules of conduct . This is the process of rationalization according to rules and structures, and it is this corporate structure upon which I will base my argument that is susceptible to corrupting the liberal capitalist system.

The economic theorist Adam Smith provided an insight into the workings of capitalism through the integration and coordination of markets with the actions of millions of people manipulating the supply and demand system . It is markets that establish values of goods and services rather than them having any innate value .This assumes, however, that there is such a thing as market equilibrium . But this denies that market equilibrium can be brought about by distorted markets. Examples of this are when goods are produced by slaves or forced labour, when there are speculative bubbles brought about by excessive leverage which allows buyers to unsustainably distort the system of demand and supply or when depression or economic stagnation deflates demand more than the amount a country can produce . For market equilibrium to be a reality, values must reflect true social cost and demand must be sustainable without undue financial leverage . If not, an oligarchy develops where significant political power is vested in the economic system and is not held to account by anyone . One of the most classic examples of this process of distortion in capital markets is the manipulation of Californian energy supplies by Enron Corporation in the late 1990s as documented by the film Enron: The Smartest Guys on the Room (2005).

In fifteen years Enron Corporation grew from a small concept company of founder Kenneth Lay to be the seventh largest company in the USA with 21000 employees in 40 countries, a true example of the globalized economy . In the late 1990s California was hit by a rolling series of power cuts organised by the monopoly energy supplier, Enron. Although California had plenty of power to meet their demands the controllers of the power grid blacked-out the northern half of the state using a series of controlled outages which were implemented in order to enact pricing fluctuations from which Enron was able to profit . This was enabled by the deregulation of California’s electricity legislation in 1996 after pressure applied by energy companies such as Enron. California State Senator, Joseph Dunn, stated that California was selected by Enron as the place “to experiment with this new concept of deregulated electricity” . The CEO of Enron at the time, Jeffrey Skilling, stated: “Reducing electricity cost is only one benefit from choice and competition” . Enron used these new rules to profiteer and gain control of the California market. In the midst of California’s energy shortages Enron began to export energy out of the state and when prices soared they brought it back in . Soon Enron was shutting down power plants to create artificial shortages to push prices even higher . In short, it was a process of extortion perpetrated by a monopolised corporation.

Enron made about $2 billion from their manipulation of the Californian energy markets, even though energy is the lifeblood of an advanced society . Instead of the average price per kilowatt hour being $35-$45 it was $1000. Enron did not behave ethically, it did not behave in its best long-term interests thus it did not behave rationally. Eventually it collapsed in 2001 amidst allegations of fraud, insider trading and political scandal over its close associations with the US president George Bush and his family . However, although many of its top associates were able to abscond with their profits intact, the millions of Enron employees, investors and pension funds went for next to nothing, leaving those people vastly poorer for their efforts .

The actions of the executive of Enron were a threat to the liberal capitalist system through its arrogant greed, fraud, and political and market manipulation. Its advocacy of the ‘free market’ brought the financial system to its knees in 2001 . This contradicts the argument made by Johan Norberg and Ayn Rand , who argue that it is government regulation that causes speculative bubbles and financial crises. The economist Milton Friedman also posits the theory that liberal capitalism organized through private enterprise operating through the free market is a system of economic freedom and is essential for political freedom . He argues that concentrated power is a threat to freedom and political authority is a threat to economic power. However, Friedman assumes that only political power can act as a restraint on a free market. In that, he disregards the fact that large corporations can be a threat to the freedom of individuals, employees and smaller companies . For Friedman to disregard this power imbalance brought about by large and powerful corporations like Enron is disingenuous and an oversimplification . By oversimplifying economic power Friedman negates the meaning of freedom to those members of society with little economic power . It allows those with great wealth to grow even stronger and the weak to be left to pick up the pieces.

In his 2003 book “In Defence of Global Capitalism” Norberg contends that instead of the world becoming increasingly more unequal, that it is in fact becoming more equal . He argues that the wealthy have become wealthier and that absolute poverty has diminished in places like Asia, where most of the world’s population lived in abject poverty only a few decades ago . This may have been the case in 2003 but since the global financial crises of 2008-2010 the level of world hunger has increased beyond the levels seen forty years ago . This is because of the globalization and corporatization of the global food supply. In December 2010 the UN Food and Agricultural Organization announced that its Food Index had hit an all-time high. This spike in commodity prices has not been caused by weather events as in the past but by trends in the supply/demand ratios for food. There is demand caused by population growth, rising affluence and the use of grain to fuel cars. The supply is affected by the loss of cropland to non-farm uses . Other causes are the cumulative effect of three decades of neo-liberal free-trade agreements where the national food production systems in most countries around the world have been dismantled and replaced by a system of agroexports which are stimulated by government subsidies to agribusiness . By forcing governments to sell off their grain reserves, the World Bank and the IMF have created ‘the tightest margins in recent history between food reserves and demand’ . These countries are now dependent upon food imports which generate greater demand and results in skyrocketing food prices.

The most important cause of the global food crisis is the entry into the commodity market of speculative financial capital in the way of global hedge funds that have invested heavily in the food market on the proviso that food prices will rise . These hedge funds have also invested in the crop-fuel industry which results in governments being pressured to designate agricultural land being used for agrofuel crops . This seems much like the energy crisis developed by Enron in the late 1990s and results in those with investments in these hedge funds and agribusinesses becoming wealthier at the expense of the world’s poor.

The liberal concepts advocated by economists such as Norberg and Milton Friedman and philosophers like Ayn Rand are based upon the theories of philosophers as John Locke, Immanel Kant and Adam Smith. The concepts that these philosophers put forward were a belief in reason and the possibility of progress; that the individual was at the heart of moral value; that human beings are ends not means and that ethical principle be paramount over the pursuit of power . These corporations that have been mentioned above are not applying these principles at all. They are benefitting from the advocacy of free markets and manipulating the financial system so that ethical principles are no longer their concern and power and money are everything. The human beings affected by their greed and manipulation are used as the means to their ends. These corporations and their supporting international institutions advocate liberalism and demand that countries cede sovereignty so that they can increase the profits of a few at the terrible expense of hunger and poverty to the many. Therefore, although persuasive and personable, Norberg’s assertion that he makes in the quote above is a fallacy. The world’s inequality is due to corporate capitalism making many poor so that a few can be wealthy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. A Mystery in Which Everyone is Guilty- Johan Norberg on his book “Financial Fiasco” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svY3uyODAqU Retrieved 6/10/2011

2. Brown L. 2011 “The Great Food Crisis of 2011” in Foreign Policy http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/10/the_great_food_crisis_of_2011

3. Enron Scandal At- A-Glance, 2002, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/1780075.stm Retrieved: 9/10/2011

4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, 2005, film, HDNet Films, Written and directed by Alex Gibney, http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/831811 Retrieved: 8/10/2011

5. Doyle, M.W., 1986, “Liberalism and World Politics”, in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 4 (Dec. 1986)

6. Independent Lens – Enron Timeline, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/enron/timeline2001.html Retrieved: 12 October, 2011

7. Kegley, C.W., Blanton, S.L., 2011, World Politics- Trend and Transformation, Wadsworth, pp. 37-45

8. Langlois R., 2007, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler and The New Economy, Routledge Press- http://web.uconn.edu/ciom/Graz.pdf Retrieved 25.09.2011

9. Norberg, J., 2009, Financial Fiasco: How America’s Infatuation with Homeownership and Easy Money Created the Economic Crisis, Cato Institute

10. Norberg, J., 2003, In Defence of Global Capitalism, Cato Institute

11. Rand A., 1967, “What is Capitalism?” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand with Nathaniel Brandon, Alan Greenspan and Robert Hessen, Signet Book

12. Rosset P., “Food Sovereignty and the Contemporary Food Crisis” in Development, 2008, 51(4), p. 460 http://www.mtholyoke.edu/global/docs/global/RossetDEVfoodcrisis.pdf

13. Scott B.R., 2009, The Concept of Capitalism, Springer, http://books.google.com.au/books?id=7bjpSwjrmY8C&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=9.+The+Concept+of+Capitalism+Bruce+R.+Scott&source=bl&ots=Lz2vQSdTIw&sig=FClYNjByWlk3C11w5kqUVOw_39I&hl=en&ei=1oR1ToqsNOnbmAXc08TNDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false Retreived: 28 September 2011

14. World Hunger Education Service, 2011 World Hunger and Poverty Statistics, Washington D.C., http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm Retrieved: 5th October 2011

Affluent developed nations hold 14.9% of the world’s population but 79.7% of its aggregate global income[1]. Global inequalities are greater today than they were 50 to100 years ago even though the world has become more connected through globalisation[2] . This gap will continue to grow because of political and financial power[3]. Socioeconomic rights such as a standard of living that is adequate to provide health and well being for an individual and their family would require only a barely noticeable shift in the distribution of global income[4]. This is attributed to a Western ‘double standard’ by the political philosopher Thomas W. Pogge[5]. This essay will assert through the exploring some of Pogge’s work, and the theories of  his supporters and detractors, why a “double-standard” arises in regard to global justice and contend that those who live in such wealthy nations cannot justify the perpetuation of such a double-standard.

 Liberal political philosophy believes that all human beings are morally equal. These moral principles thus become moral benefits and burdens to all, formulated so as not to arbitrarily disadvantage or privilege certain persons or groups[6]. However, traditional liberal moral philosophy has held that equal treatment of individuals only pertains to the small nation state of which they are citizens, rather than the equality of the entire world population[7]. The justification of a domestic focus for moral equality has three forms. First it states that we must look after our own, which is a concept that originates in human affiliation and community ties[8]. Secondly, it argues that only nations can determine the administration of justice, and thirdly that the principles of distribution cannot work as well internationally as they can domestically[9].

The British philosopher Alaisdair MacIntyre argues that the morality of impartialism, which is the basis for global justice, runs counter to the morality of patriotism which generates moral reasons to be partial to one’s fellow citizens[10]. However, this argument even goes so far as to state that in a conflict over scarce resources that one’s community’s interests can be paramount over the interests of another community. The Israeli academic and politician Yael Tamir, argues that nationality is important for personal identity and self-understanding and needs a shared public space in which its culture can flourish and be protected[11]. However, the global liberalist, Michael Ignatieff, contends with this by stating that this type of ideal results in the least well-off having no meaningful right to any moral obligation merely because of their disenfranchisement [12]. Neither of these arguments establishes that a nation’s or a culture’s importance is paramount to the survival of other nations or cultures.

The American political philosopher, John Rawls, objects to global justice on the grounds that it is unacceptable for one people to bear certain costs of decisions made by another- such as decisions on industrialization or birth rate[13]. However, Pogge asserts that Rawls does not explain why this does not analogously relate to national societies as well[14]. Secondly, Rawls objects to the global application of liberal standards because there is a need to accommodate certain non-liberal societies[15]. Pogge counters this by stating that non-liberal societies and their populations tend to be poor but willing to cooperate in reforms that would bring global economic order ‘closer to meeting a liberal standard of economic justice’[16].

Pogge argues that people coexist through a system of global economics that aggravates great inequalities which demand global justice[17]. But the question then becomes should the same or different principles of justice apply on both national and international levels[18]? The fortune of where one is born should not entitle one to hold oneself distinct for equivalent moral treatment[19]. Pogge states that moral universalism, being equal moral status for all, is only applicable if it subjects all people to the same system of moral principles[20].

Although moral principles assign fundamental moral benefits and burdens to all, assertion of a ‘double standard’ refers to the contention that most people in affluent countries think that the global economic order is just- even though it does not meet the minimal requirements that we place on national economic order[21]. The first of these minimal requirements is that, allowing for justice, social rules should be free to peaceful change by the large majority on whom they are imposed[22].  Pogge states that the global economic order relies upon stability imposed by a non-elected state whose minority control the rules and depend upon the security of great military power[23].

In his book Global Justice (2001) Pogge states that wealthy societies contribute through the imposition of their own policies and the global economic institutions that they control, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to the denial of human rights in developing countries[24]. Pogge advocates that it is these wealthy nations’ responsibility to stop imposing a detrimental global economic order and to mitigate the harms caused by them[25]. To assert that it is a charity or a humanitarian need denies the fact that it is demand of justice and a moral duty that affluent nations are obligated to assist the human rights of the impoverished[26]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised”[27]. Because of this it can be argued that wealthy countries violate the rights of the poor in underdeveloped nations by collaborating with existing illegitimate governments and aggravating poverty, through protectionism, land and resource grabs, and denial of agricultural and medical technology[28]. The resource base upon which all economies of the world depend give wealthy nations benefits which poorer nations are excluded from. These inequalities are perpetuated by a global system that still reflects the basis of colonialism[29].

The legitimacy of the social system goes to the heart of the ideals of liberal justice, therefore a global society requires an examination of the means of global morality, such as the form and nature that such a society would take[30]. Rawls argues for two principles that should govern the formation of a just society: a) the principle of equal liberty where each person has an equal right to liberty and b) the difference principle where socio-economic inequalities are arranged so that they are both a benefit to the least advantaged and give equality of opportunity to all instruments of power[31]. Pogge argues that if the difference principle was applied on a global level, it would imply that global inequalities are unjust[32].

Pogge argues that economic, trade and cultural links between the individuals of various nations are enough to form a system of global cooperation[33]. Pogge, in particular, argues that there are sufficient institutional relationships of trade and law to allow a single global system of trade and justice[34]. He states that what follows from the application of such a system is an ‘international pluralism’ which allows respect for other states’ methods of economic organisation[35]. The application of a difference principle could then be applied internationally to allow a just maximization for the expectation of the global poor[36]. Pogge propositions that a system of federal globalism could be possible whereby a state may favour its own citizens as long as it acts under an international jurisdiction and that both international and  national institutions can work together to produce a just, economic order[37].

A system of global justice is not only a necessity but it is also a priority. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed at the United Nations by all wealthy developed nations in 1948[38]. Since that time the essential articles of that Declaration have been ignored and global inequality has grown.  The Declaration was based on the liberal ideal that all humans are morally equal and that one’s nationality or race should not hold one distinct for unfair or beneficial treatment. Despite this, the wealthy nations of the world continue to oppose a harsh economic order upon the global poor so that their own positions of power will be maintained. The double standard is that while Western wealthy nations think that the global economic order is just, it does not even meet the minimum standards of their own national concept of moral equality. This can be addressed through the global cooperative systems that are in place today and need only the desire of wealthy nations to mitigate the damage that they have perpetrated by ceding a small portion of their sovereignty to a federal global system that can build a fair and just economic order.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), pp. 95-112.
  2. Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 91-2; 94-101;108-117.
  1. Blake, Michael, “International Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/international-justice/&gt;  Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney
  3. Pogge T. W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Ed. Thomas Pogge, Blackwell Publishing Oxford pp.6-23
  1. Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”, http://www2.ohchr.org/ Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Universal Declaration Of Human Rights- http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ Retrieved: 10 August 2011
  3. Walker M. Dr., 2011, Lecture 20, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney

[1] Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University

[2] Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), p.95

[3] ibid

[4] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, p.92

[5] ibid

[6] ibid:93

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid

[12]ibid

[13] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.105

[14] ibid

[15] ibid:106

[16]Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.107

[17] Pogge, T.W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.14

[18] Walker M. Dr., Lecture 20,  2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University

[20] Pogge, T., (2002), World Poverty and Human Rights p.93

[21] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[22] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[23] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[24] Pogge, T.W., (2001) “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.12

[25] ibid:22

[26] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”, http://www2.ohchr.org/

[27] ibid

[28] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”, http://www2.ohchr.org/

[29] ibid

[31] Walker M. Dr., 2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society

[32] ibid

[35]ibid 

[36] ibid

[37] ibid

 

 

                   I am what I desire; and I desire what I gaze upon.

                                             Sigmund Freud (1905)

Power relationships within our societies are image-based (Sturken & Cartwright 2001). Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, asserted that humans imagine themselves as individuals within the social constructs of Western capitalism (Sturken & Cartwright 2001). An example of this is the advertising campaign known as The Champion Family. The Champions are the hyperreal, simulated family who feature in a set of advertisements directed at shoppers who shop at the various shopping malls owned by the multinational corporation known as AMP (Facebook: The Champion Family 2010). Their images are displayed throughout these shopping malls in the act of consuming products. This essay will focus on this family as it analyses how this advertising campaign affects the target audience through the technologies of visualisation and evaluates it effectiveness as a normalising process of vision.

 The Champion family are depicted as the average Australian family ‘flaws and all’: Anglo-Saxon, youthful, attractive, and comfortably wealthy. The mother, Mrs Sarah Champion, is represented as the centre of the household being in the centre of the picture. She is referred to in the advertising campaign as someone who ‘manages to juggle the demands of the household while keeping the family together’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010). Mr Paul Champion is described as a ‘doting husband’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010); this is represented by his close proximity to Mrs Champion with his body leaning into to her and his arm protectively around her. The older son, Will Champion, is also represented as a small version of his father. He is well-dressed in casual white shirt and beige pants with his arm also protectively and lovingly draped around his mother. The older daughter, Chloe Champion, is also represented as a reflection of her mother. Both have blonde hair, are dressed in casual white dresses with an emphasis on their smooth-skinned arms and legs. The younger children are the ‘mischievous’ twins Charlie and Annabel, representing the younger consumer. The image’s whiteness is reinforced by the repetition of the colour beige throughout the subjects’ clothing and the furnishings of the room. Even the dog, Millie, and the flowers are white.

The organisational properties of the image group the family together as a whole. In such group photographs the identity of the individual is dissolved into the identity of the group (Schirato and Webb 2004). The conformity of the Champion family’s smiling faces denotes compliance and contentment (Schirato & Webb 2004). The interior design which surrounds this group in the photography can also be deciphered through the value that it places upon the group (Communicating the Visual). As the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss posited, much can be learned by analysing the clothes people wear, and the colours, lines and textures with which they decorate their home (Schirato & Webb 2004). The cultural theorist Stuart Hall goes on to state that this displayed visuality tells us how valuable these people are within their society and how powerful they (Schirato & Webb 2004). The simulated Champion family has a name that denotes success within society. The advertising campaign tells us that, ‘when it comes to shopping, they’re champions’ (Facebook: The Champion Family 2010).

The advertising campaign tells us that this campaign is relevant to all consumers at these shopping malls because of the ‘unique and endearing characteristics of the individuals that make up the Champion family’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010). ‘Templates of normality’ are used by capitalism to promote consumption by advocating the transformation of people so that they can be assessed by others as normal (Schirato & Webb 2004). The role models used become an interactive way of seeing through which the audience plays out its relationship with them and it perpetuates through the audiences evaluation of the people that surround them to create a ‘normal’ way of seeing the world (Schirato & Webb, 2004). Paradoxically, one of the most important notions of this way of seeing is that the role models are depicted as individuals.

To individualise the campaign the story of the family is then broken into its individual segments. For example, Sarah is described as a ‘fun-loving caring mother’ and the heart of the family (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). Her job is to organise the household’s needs and, being 39 years old, we are told that she is at the age when she can enjoy spending time with her girlfriends, shopping for the latest fashions and pampering herself (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). The shopping mall is the centre of her life because it solves all the family’s problems (Knox Shopping Centre, 2004). By individualising the family the campaign is imitating reality. This imagery represents an ideal and it is this trick of advertising that can convince the eye into thinking about the aspiration of the ideal (Schirato & Webb 2004). It mimics reality by reflecting a family moment and representing such ideals of marriage, family and happiness (Schirato & Webb 2004).

In modern Western culture such visual imagery has come to control and influence people’s perception of reality (Schirato & Webb, 2004). People are seen by institutional powers through their ability to contribute to the state. They are contextualised and evaluated through normalising processes just as selective breeding programs occur on farms (Schirato & Webb, 2004). People are trained from an early age to lead non-reflective ‘normal’ lives with reality being decided by the rules of society (Schirato & Webb, 2004). Therefore people relate themselves in the everyday context to what is seen as normal which is evaluated through such things as people’s appearance, clothes, sexuality and work (Schirato & Webb, 2004). In the Champion family the two older children are depicted as normal because Chloe loves ‘shopping, texting, facebooking and thinking about guys’, while Will likes ‘surfing, skate-boarding and eating fast-food (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). 

In order to produce a population that is pliable, productive and reliable the logic of what is normal prevails. As the seventeenth- century French philosopher Blaise Pascal was quoted by Pierre Bourdieu: “Custom is the source of our strongest and believed proofs” (Schirato & Webb, 2004). As Judith Butler, the gender theorist, argues that there are sites in society where we can assess whether we measure up to the normalised standard by their imagery of what are considered normal, healthy, desirable subjects (Schirato & Webb, 2004), the advertising campaign of the simulated Champion family does this work upon consumers that attend the shopping malls of AMP. The relationship of the consumer within this advertising campaign is one that plays upon what Jacques Lacan refers to as the gaze or le regard (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001). This imagery has the power to articulate desire for the consumer, an ability to shop without consequence. It is an opportunity to see themselves in the role of this family; to achieve happiness through shopping. However, the integral function of this advertising campaign is to activate the latent desires of the consumers relative to their social circumstances (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001).

The simulated Champion family works its effect upon the consumers attending these shopping malls by presenting themselves as the average Australian family. They are something to which the advertising executives want people to aspire: white, youthful, well-off, and happy. By trying to convince consumers that it is desirable to conform to such standards and that through being compliant they will achieve happiness, the advertisers present their shopping mall as the place where this achievement can take place. They have given the consumer individual role models that cover all aspects of the consumers that they wish to encourage by convincing them that to be like the Champions is the expected societal ideal.  Thus the world becomes shaped by such fictitious and normalised visual ideals.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Champion-Family/140330556023037?v=info
  2. http://www.knoxshoppingcentre.com.au/News—Events/News/Meet-the-new-faces-of-Knox-Shopping-Centre!.aspx
  3. Schirato, Tony; Webb, Jen. “Normalising Vision (extract)” in Reading the Visual, Schirato Tony; Webb Jen, 2004, 131-150
  4. Schirato, Tony; Webb, Jen. “Communicating and the Visual (extract)” in Reading the Visual, Schirato Tony; Webb Jen, 2004, 57-80
  5. Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa. “Spectatorship, power, and knowledge (extract)” in Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture , Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa , 2001 , 72-84

Utopia is synonymous with the ultimate human hope of a rational effort to remake the human environment. Sir Thomas More, who coined the word, explained that it referred to either the Greek word ‘eutopia’, meaning good place, or ‘outopia’, meaning no place (Mumford, L., 2003:1). After the Industrial Revolution and the growth of dystopic towns and cities, the idea of Utopia became more prevalent. Socialism was an attempt to reinvent society into a cooperative experiment, rather than the free-enterprise system of market capitalism. These two diametrically opposed political philosophies stood at the basis of the utopias that were conceptualized and designed by the architects Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in the twentieth century.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was interested in designing affordable homes for the middle class of the USA, he was also interested in urban planning. By the late 1920s he put forward an ideal environment called Broadacre City. To Wright, home ownership was a moral and political value that could produce a more harmonious society. Along with car-ownership, he believed modern communication would provide society with the end of centralized urban environments. In Broadacre City he envisaged a vast semi-rural landscape covering the entire continent. Decentralized in organization, self-sufficient in supply, republican in constitution and populated by car-owning citizens, it was centred on a homestead placed upon one acre of cultivated land. Wright considered that this plan would allow the community to be based upon family values, spirituality and knowledge. The marketplace would be in the shape of trade by barter between proprietors, or an agricultural fair. It would also be a community in which everyone would do everything; farming, industrial work, craftwork etc…; this would give work a self-fulfilling nature. There would be no administration other than the architect himself who would plan the city and settle its affairs (www.mediaarchitecture.at).

Le Corbusier’s Radiant City was a further development of the Contemporary City that he conceptualized in the 1920s. He constructed his model on the basis of a perfectly symmetrical grid of streets, with two right-angled superhighways intersecting at the centre of the city. An elaborate transportation system encompassing subways, access roads, railroads and an airport would also intersect at the city centre. Divided into functionally classified sectors, around this central terminal would be the skyscrapers of the business centre of the whole region. It would cover less than 15 percent of the ground with the rest devoted to parks and gardens. The structure of the residential areas would have the elite leaders of the society in luxurious high rise in the centre, whilst the workers would live in garden apartments on the outskirts. These dwellings would be jointly owned by the residents and run as a cooperative. The satellite towns would be grouped into larger garden units with the surrounding areas left free for lawns, playing fields and gardens. The proletariat’s eight hours of factory labour, essential for the maintenance of living standards, would be overcome by eight hours of leisure in the satellite city’s recreational facilities. The entire city would be run by a dictatorial system directed by the elite industrialists of the city, as in a corporation (Fishman, R., 1982:332)

The differences between these conceptual utopias were many, the first being Wright’s determination of private ownership in Broadacre City. Even though both Wright and Corbusier realised the need for an efficient transport system, Corbusier’s was based upon a vast public network, whilst Wright advocated private car-ownership. Wright’s society was semi-rural and self-sufficient in supply, relying upon the market, whereas Corbusier’s advocated a high-rise, corporate industrialized system. Furthermore, Corbusier envisaged a symmetrical, hierarchical society while Wright’s was individualistic and egalitarian. It seems that Corbusier’s vision was the one to become the model for contemporary 21st century cities. The similarities of both societies lie upon their non-democratic systems of leadership.

Bibliography:

http://www.architecture.ca/planningarchitecture/document/document3.html Retrieved 16.9.08

Fishman, R. 1982, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century, MIT Press

 http://www.mediaarchitecture.at/architekturtheorie/broadacre_city/2007_broadacre_city_en.shtml  Retrieved: 20.9.08

Mumford, L. 2003, The Story of Utopias, Kessinger Publishing

http://www.pbs.org/flw/buildings/usonia/usonia.html

 

 

 

The Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1930) had a very practical attitude toward architecture and a great aversion to the application of falsity through the use of appropriated ornamentation in the buildings of his native Vienna.  One of the major characteristics of his work was a basis in the square and the cube which possibly reflects an influence of the early twentieth century Cubist movement. By exploring the following four examples of Loos’ buildings this case study will attempt to establish the characteristics of his works.

The first example of Loos’ work is the Café Museum (1899). Designed at the peak of the Art Nouveau period, it is an austere embodiment of Loos’ theoretical, and quite preposterous, musings on the renunciation of stylish ornamentation in architecture. The building affirms his aesthetic equation of beauty and utility. The walls are painted a cool green, whilst the Loos-designed chairs are of a dark red timber. These contrasting colours are synonymous with many of Loos’ interiors. They are balanced in theCaféMuseumby a vaulted ceiling that is painted plainly in white whilst a pattern is created by brass strips that, in line with their utilitarian function, also served as electrical conduit to chain-suspended lighting.

One of Loos’ best known buildings and, at the time the most controversial, is the House of Michaelplatz (1911) in Vienna. One of the city’s first modern office buildings, it was both a retrospective and inventive reflection of the city’s historic past and also modernistic future. Its steel concrete construction provided the flexible use of space with the design being characterized by the bare and undecorated façades of the upper floors. The building, with its green Greek marble entrance, occupies a commanding position oppositeVienna’sImperialPalace. Inside, the business floors are made opulent through the use of rich red wood panelling however they are minimalist in form.

Built for Joseph and Marie Rufer, Rufer House (1922) is considered to be the first built house to include Loos’ concept of Raumplan, which is a floorplan made of split levels to extend variety and order into the space. Rufer House is organised within a tight 10 metre x 10 metre space, in the shape of a cube with the external walls forming the structural shell. Inside, a column articulates the spaces under the Raumplan and also conceals the plumbing.

The principles of Loos’ architecture are even more illustrated in Villa Muller (1930). Again the exterior is austere, a white cube structure interrupted by yellow-framed windows. The interior, however, is in stark contrast to the simplicity of the façade. Once again Loos has used luxurious materials to decorate the interior. Slabs of green Greek marble encase some of the walls; parts of the house are panelled with mahogany and laquered wood, Delfttiles, silk prints, floral wallpaper and travertine. Each floor is a classic example of Loos’ Raumplan with split-levels, short staircases and multiple landings. The use of quadrilateral negative spaces along with grid and square motifs echo Loos’ earlier works. These, together with a definitive use of contrasting colours, especially terracotta and green contribute to the house’s aesthetic appeal.

Therefore it can be asserted that the major characteristics of Loos’ work are the use of rich materials chosen for their appropriateness, exceptional craftsmanship, frequent use of marble in the structure of a building, contrasting colours, wooden parquet flooring, chain suspended lighting, stepped floor levels, geometrical design based upon the grid and the cube with cylindrical and rectangular columns, and expressively austere facades with sumptuous interiors.

Bibliography:

http://agram.saariste.nl/scripts/index.asp?dir=loos&pics=lo&tekst=Adolf%A0Loos

http://architecture.about.com/od/greatarchitects/p/loos.htm

http://architect.architecture.sk/adolf-loos-architect/adolf-loos-architect.php

http://www.mullerovavila.cz/english/raum-e.html

Niemra, A. 1998-2203, Rules to Build By: The Path Taken to Understanding Adolf Loos, Anneke.Net

Safran, Yahuda, 1985, The Architecture of Adolf Loos, Arts Council of Great Britain

Van Duzer, L., 1994, Villa Muller: a work of Adolf Loos, Princeton Architectural Press