In the United States, the ideology of individualism predominates. The individual, as opposed to the family, community, tribe, or hierarchy, is seen as the central social agent. This individualism allows for greater individual freedom — people have the ability to create and then to recreate themselves. Indeed, there are even some very basic narratives of recreation: the young Midwesterner goes to New York or Los Angeles to pursue the arts and experience freedom; families in overcrowded cities head West where the land is cheap and the air is clean; immigrants from all over the world come to the US with nothing and become…Americans!
[...] The Internet is now a site of mass production and mass consumption, the way television and other mass media before it are. There is a certain amount of reinvention allowed, but this reinvention is no more than the reinvention of the frontier, or of the big city. One can make one's self a star (appropriate for celebrity culture), or a businessperson (late capitalism), or a blogger-intellectual, or switch genders (to act out stereotyped and heavily mediated sex fantasies), but there is no qualitative change underway. [...]
[...] The other possibility the other choice is to claim the status of a diligent worker as opposed to the welfare recipients and beggars that are a common sight on the site of these McJobs. (Brooks-Gunn et al 1996, p. 334) This is the marketplace at work. Free markets transcend regulation and social stigma in market ideology individual actors make rational choices that lead to greatest social goods. Bans on the sale of drugs and guns, for example, are interventions in the marketplace. [...]
[...] But when speaking of the immense economic power of the corporate producers and marketers, and how their power relates to identity, the question of choice must arise. How much choice do we, as Americans, have to form our own identities? Certainly, the guiding ethos of American democracy is that we have near-infinite choices; we can do whatever we like, as long as it is within our means (or our credit), without any authority telling us that we cannot. In some other nations, for example, parents must even chose their child's name from a list of approved and ethnically appropriate ones. [...]
[...] Parent explains: " the social upheaval associated with the war and the emancipation allowed ex-slaves to act upon their beliefs in a changed setting and even--for some--to try to reverse sexual and social practices that violated prevalent slave moral and social norms." (p. 401) But the white power structure was too married to slavery to make any major changes on its own, thus reconstruction. The truncating of choice can be seen easily in Mark Twain's Puddin'head Wilson, the story of two men of mixed race who were switched at birth one was raised as a slave, the other as free. [...]
[...] There was little to actually do the Northern economy was booming, and different ethnic enclaves had developed in the major cities. In the South, however, society had stratified and ossified. There were strict codes of honor, significant conspicuous consumption, and a white underclass with much in common with black slaves, but with no ability to cross the "racial line". Roles were very tightly constrained along racial lines, and even when races did mix or cross, as in historically Catholic (and somewhat "freer") New Orleans, this simply led to the creation of a mixed-race case of "Creoles." Indeed, light-skinned African-Americans to this day are referred to as Creoles in New Orleans, and have a distinct political and economic and social role to play in the city. [...]
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