Elites and Cultural Evolution:
Fernand Braudel in Civilisation Materielle et Capitalisme , and Samuel Huntington in Clash of Civilizations and “Culture, Power, and Democracy” contended that late 20th -century world is immersed in clashes of civilizations. Both Braudel and Huntington maintained that the Chinese, Russians, Africans, Indians, and Muslims feel that historically western civilization had tried to impose its hegemony through the “tools of imperial policies” that include everything from wearing apparel and entertainment to religion and hedonistic-atomistic-oriented value system. Cultures under Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism have historically resisted western cultural traits rooted in materialism, atomism, and pluralism that invariably alienate the individual or set her/him separate and above the community. Owing to globalization (neo-imperialism), there is gradual change in the values system of advanced and semi-developed countries around the world, change prompted by the combination of eco-awareness and modern web-cell technology that is shaping the new generation of CEB.
It seems difficult for some to conceive how cyber-eco-consciousness has pervaded the late 20th- century young bourgeoisie immersed in a cyber-eco world that has been an integral and ubiquitous part of life in all areas from education and business to leisure and entertainment. The convergence occurred largely because the environmental movement was popularized about the same time as cyber tech that disseminated information about global warming, holding the promise of seeking solutions from grass roots level to institutional mainstream. Science and technology for the CEB has a culture of life orientation rather than a culture of death, a phenomenon with which the bourgeoisie and hegemonic elites had been associated in the past century, largely because of mass destruction in two world wars and the nuclear race.
In Culture Against Man Jules Henry argues that in western culture most people associate science with the culture of death, a culture that includes all academic endeavors, corporations, and government. “Thus we have an elite of death that we support in relative luxury… The culture of life resides in all those people who, inarticulate, frightened, and confused, are wondering where will it all end.” Because the “elite forces of death” are institutionalized, while the mass forces of life are scattered and bewildered, where is the hope for society’s salvation in the future? The answer is from within the existing social order the emergence of the CEB that will provide the answer under an evolving ethos already manifesting itself in multifarious institutional and non-institutional settings.
Culture, of course, evolves over time in layers, and one cultural layer rests and absorbs elements of the previous. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, culture is grown not acquired ( Ethics ). Given that culture cuts across class lines despite the dominant class institutionalizing it, it is inevitable that CEB culture will be a reflection of the evolving values and tastes of the bourgeoisie, with inevitable influences from aspects of Oriental cultures. A combination of grass-roots and top-down (superimposed or cultural imperialism) CEB culture will spread much faster than any other in history. Top-down (superimposed by domestic or foreign hegemonic elites) cultural domination does not work, at least not for very long even if they are perfectly rational from a social engineering and political perspective as far as the elites are concerned. On the other hand, hegemonic elites intending to co-opt evolutionary cultural trends afford legitimacy and mainstream value whether as part of native culture as in pluralistic-multiethnic western societies, or as an integral part of cultural imperialism as in the Third World under colonialism and neo-imperialism.
The catalyst to cultural dissemination, as with CEB currently in its nascent phase, is mass acceptance just as in religion; but also there must be a material basis for it. In “Grace, Violence and Self,” Frederick Hoffman argues that “grace may be the essence of culture” in so far as it is linked to goodness, virtue, and to a spiritual, and that people have been willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their culture’s survival. For culture to survive and flourish society must have a degree of shared values it is willing to wholeheartedly embrace–spiritual as Hoffman maintains or material as Marxists argue–but also prosperity even if concentrated within a small group of people, hegemonic elites that foment the growth of the education, the arts, sciences and other cultural endeavors.
At the same time, hegemonic elites that essentially create and propagate the dominant or mainstream culture are invariably successful in convincing the majority of the population to revere the cultural values and aesthetic achievements emanating from it only if there is not only an idealistic ultimate goal but a practical aesthetic aspect to culture. While economic determinism has an impact in cultural trends–in everything from elite to popular culture–economic determinism is by no means alone in shaping culture from ancient to modern times.
Though educational systems of most advanced and semi-advanced countries are consciously or unconsciously preparing young people for a cyber-eco-bourgeois culture, we are still many years away from an education system immersed in CEB values and chief instrument of disseminating CEB ideology. Besides stressing the traditional intellectual development and training for career, CEB education will have at its core the hypothesis that all progress is predicated on ecology-related research, technology and industry combined with emphasis on how next generation cyber-tech with applications in everything from surgery to space exploration will mean the salvation of humanity.
One of the most significant cultural CEB characteristics is the way people choose their partners who share their values. Everything from entertainment and religious worship to the way people choose partners and procreate will be determined by the new CEB-centered value system. CEB cultural trends are manifested in all forms of entertainment from TV and Hollywood motion pictures to magazines, newspapers, books, web blogs and web-related entertainment.
Gradually mainstream public and private institutions are adopting aspects of CEB cultural trends. The catalysts to cultural transformation will be the combination of eco-friendly energy and new high tech industries linked cyber and eco. All countries will be working toward that goal and that will translate into a new ethos that will represent CEB. At this embryonic juncture CEB is still at the “sub-culture” level but in the next half century or so it will be moving into the mainstream as it becomes more widespread and accepted throughout the world. Already there is evidence of CEB subculture in many areas that are obvious. There is very clear evidence of this already not just with cyber-net cafes and bars, but in the eco-friendly foods people choose to produce and consume throughout many advanced countries, and in CEB lifestyles they choose for themselves and their children.
As a reflection of culture, food will change to reflect the values of the CEB. Similarly lyrics in music will increasingly reflect CEB values, as will motion pictures, theater, television and all media. Of course there is already eco-tourism that has been around for time, and expanding very rapidly whether it involves travel to mountains or sea. Institutionalized religion too will change as it must reflect the values of its followers to survive. Already religion has adapted to web-cell technology where people access the faith of their choice on line, pray on line, receive sacraments on line, and contribute on line. Already we have CEB-oriented churches where “ecology is next to Godliness” and the followers are guided to preserve God’s ecosystem.
One of CEB’s principal characteristics is its inherent antithesis to “culturalism,” a phenomenon prevalent in a number of ancient and early modern societies, especially the Ming (1368-1644) and Ch’ing (1644-1911) dynasties when Chinese culture was identified with the state and uninviting to foreign influences of any type.
Unlike Oriental cultures, especially Chinese rooted in socio-political stability, Western culture from the Renaissance to the present has undergone intellectual, religious, commercial, industrial, scientific and technological revolutions, all of which lead to CEB culture. Rapid institutional changes in the West are rooted in cultural changes and socio-political imbalances since the rise of the nation-state that was the core of national culture as opposed to international culture CEB will be creating. If we accept the premise that scientific, technological, and artistic development and progress is both a reflection of the hegemonic elites representing society’s superstructure and an agent of systemic societal change, then it is inevitable (determinist) that the dynamics which have given rise to CEB will eventually propel it to the core of the superstructure.
The mass culture heavily dominated by commercial influences of the sominant institutional maintream evolves very slowly and as a reflection of institutional changes in society. Subcultures are always co-opted, everything from music and art created by the lower strata of society that the maintream then commercializes for profit to religion as practiced at the sub-cultural level. Co-optation of subcultures is the catalyst to imposing social conformity upon society and maintaining the existing social order and institutions that serve the privileged elites. This as true in the 18th century when Voltaire pointed out the obivous about the culture of the aristocracy at odds with the culture of the bourgeoisie fighting against the former for legitimacy. The French Revolution of 1789 was in large measure an attempt not only at political, economic, and social change, but also of cutlural change, and that was the reason so many conservatives and the church - Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox - vehemently opposed the French Revolution, while they had no problem with the American Revolution that did not attempt cultural, social or economic changes in the status quo.
The CEB will have the opportunity to bring about societal change as did the French middle class of the 18th century at the grassroots level, but only if they are not co-opted by the dominant culture that insists all who want reform must work within the existing institutional framework. While I doubt any change will come soon, the continued downward social mobility in the US and Europe, namely, the decline of the middle class in the last four decades, combined with the increasing awareness that the surperstructure no longer serves the vast majority of the population will result in systemic change that will have its seeds in culture.
No matter how much the mainstream media attempts to indoctrinate the public with a constant sense of "crisis peddling" emanating from enemies ranging from Islamic-based 'terrorism' to the small drug dealer and petty criminal in any inner city of the Western Wolrd, people know there is just no comparison between the aforementioned elements and the political and financial elites shaping society and determing what is mainstream culture. Will the Cyber-Eco-Bourgeoisie become the cultural revolutionaries of the 21st century? Absolutely the next time that the capitalist economy experiences another deep recession and the social social safety net leaves behind a substantial percentage of the population. History is against the dominant culture that a mechanismof conformity.