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Global Obscenities

Global Obscenities: Patriarchy, Capitalism, and the Lure of Cyberfantasy

zillah eisenstein
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Global Obscenities
    Book Description:

    The New York Times devotes the cover of its magazine to America's declining interest in politics and its obsession with money, finance, and the markets. Bill Gates builds a $50 million mansion while food pantries and homeless shelters overflow with the desperate. The explosive expansion of media and cyber conglomerates creates dreamworlds while the ecology of our actual world is jeopardized. Public space and public democracy withers, as is evidenced by the fact that the closest facsimile of a town square is the local Barnes and Noble. New geographies of power are defined by sex scandals, plant closings, cyberporn, sweatshop labor, information webs, and stock market schizophrenia. Global capitalism and its cyberrelations use this chaos to construct modern forms of sexual and racial exploitation. Into this world steps Zillah Eisenstein, with a book of profound despair and yet also great hope, informed by her trademark sharp analysis and her unrelenting passion for a more humane world. Exposing the purported democratic effect of new media for the global mirage it is, Eisenstein shows how transnational capital and its patriarchal obsessions threaten us all, while at the same time creating possibilities for a new democratic society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2928-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Some 800 million people are starving across the globe. Women and girls represent approximately 60 percent of the billion or so people earning one dollar a day or less. However, in countries labeled democratic, a new kind of excessive wealth exists in which billionaires are allowed to amass as much as they can with few limits. New levels of arrogance emerge just as the nation-state is being overshadowed by transnational corporations. Meanwhile, corporations displace countries. Of the world’s largest one hundred economies, fifty-one are corporations, not countries. The two hundred largest corporations hire less than three-fourths of one percent of...

  5. 1 seeing: Virtual Globes and Cyberpublics
    (pp. 5-33)

    I want to talk about creating democracy—for people, especially women and girls—across the globe. In this democracy, no one would be left hungry or without a job. No one could be forced to birth a child. No one would remain illiterate. No one would have to breathe contaminated air. It would be a democracy that recognized the unique individual differences of each person while allowing that person the access needed to develop her or his potential for a creative and sustainable life.

    This means I must reclaim the public realm—as an imagined IDEA that presumes the interconnectedness...

  6. 2 viewing: Media-ted Seeing and Cultural Capitalism
    (pp. 34-69)

    We come to know through a process of viewing. Most of us can only see what we can name. Though remarkably individual, seeing/viewing is a process that is also socially constructed. T.V. news tells us what is happening or has happened. Talk shows create/reflect what their viewers are thinking about. Newspapers choose what is news.

    Media operates in the enlarged domain of language where the visual and spatial count for a lot.¹ The different components of mainstream commercial media—film, t.v., radio, music, theme parks, news, and publishing—simultaneously construct and reflect the corporatist culture that constitutes mass culture. This...

  7. 3 talking: Cyberfantasies and the Relations of Power
    (pp. 70-100)

    I use the term ‘cyber’ to refer to computer-mediated activity¹ AND the discourse that masks the relations of power embodied in and structuring these activities. Cyberspace, with its technological innovations of the internet and e-mail, allows for new interactive and dialogical styles AND the cyber-media-corporate complex utilizes this promissory to mask its role in delimiting much of this democratic capacity.

    Cyberspace creates new possibilities for democratic process: new publics are created across time and space; online access to elected officials develops; access to infinite amounts of information increases. Fresh possibilities now exist for a liberatory politics. Yet, because cyberspace is...

  8. 4 surviving: Transnations, Global Capital, and Families
    (pp. 101-133)

    Now I want to view the globe not only as a media-ted imaginary space of cyberrealism, but as an arena of transnational capitalist exploitation and environmental degradation. This is no easy task because the cyber-media lens through which we inevitably view the world structures our perception of it. Capital accumulation is neutralized by endless advertising that censors imaginings critical of consumer culture.

    The very same information systems that connect parts of the globe also obscure the relations of power I wish to expose. On the one hand, the internet advertises universal connectivity. On the other hand, Paul Virilio sees this...

  9. 5 wishing/hoping: Transnational Capitalist Patriarchy, Beijing, and Virtual Sisterhoods
    (pp. 134-170)

    Global capital thrives because of a racial-patriarchal transnational sexual division of labor. In other words, capitalist transnational corporations orchestrate a division of labor that disproportionately locates women and girls, especially those of color, in low-wage assembly and information jobs and in sexual ghettoes elsewhere in the market. Meanwhile, women are still expected to continue rearing children and performing familial labor.

    Women constitute half of humanity, but they remain the poorest of the poor. They do approximately two-thirds of the world’s work and earn about one-tenth of its income. They own less than s hundredth of its property.¹ Women make up...

  10. notes
    (pp. 171-208)
  11. index
    (pp. 209-213)
  12. about the author
    (pp. 214-214)