Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited- Entrepreneurship, Consumerism and Global Capital

Jessica Slade- 110232060

For the purposes of this week’s blog post, I will be responding to the work of Thomas, Teppo & Houssay-Holzshuch as and Lee. The theme of this week is neoliberalism in Africa. As a global studies class we know neoliberalism to be rooted in the “liberal ideas of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, both of whom view the market as a self-regulating mechanism tending toward equilibrium, of supply and demand, thus securing the most efficient allocation of resources, (Steger, 2009, pg. 40). In knowing this basic definition we are able to see how entrepreneurship, consumerism and global capital play out in this weeks selected readings.

Lynn M. Thomas wrote the work, “Skin Lighteners, Black Consumers and Jewish Entrepreneurs in South Africa,” which speaks to the growing marked of skin lightening products in South Africa. The Krok bothers have capitalized off the growing consumer-based market, since the end of the Second World War. In studying this ‘transnational history of skin lighteners’ we become exposed to political landscapes influenced by gender and race that have come out of this movement. In an attempt to physically demonstrate the internalized pressures of ‘white’ colonizers, the movement towards skin lightening creams and their harmful uses shows just how distorted the image of skin-color as a power symbol has become. The social location of the brothers (white Jewish males), was used to further their place in the market. After the fall of the apartheid, the business venture was under much scrutiny and the brothers sponsored many local movements in hopes of strengthening their place in the community. While there are many justifications around arguments which suggest westernization has benefited various societies, we are also now becoming exposed to the harmful effects felt long after the colonization has slowed. This work has brought to my attention just how influential people in positions of power can be. Outside of Africa, do we see this movement towards an ‘ideal’ state of being here in Canada? What about the influence that the cosmetic industry has had in creating a stereotypical image of what a man or woman should look like? Does plastic surgery and artificial enhancement/ reduction procedures fall under this category of exploitation used for economic gain? Do we make informed choices, or is the neoliberal market base created in a way distorts the type of decisions that we can make- based on how value is allocated? (Thomas 2012)

Rebekah Lee wrote the work “Death ‘On the Move’: Funerals, Entrepreneurs and the Rural-Urban Nexus in South Africa” which speaks to the growing sector associated with burial and funeral practices in South Africa. As innovations change and new technological methods are being introduced, it makes sense that this would begin to influence the space of ‘death’ in society. In this work we begin to see how people do not necessarily fear death, but fear dying away from home. While I had never considered how methods of burials could be enhanced or altered through processes of urbanization. It is interesting to see how Lee explains these people in a way that brings justification to their work, and not as a means of exploitation, as they are working to help aid in the process of mourning and burials- even for those who are on the move (including the folding coffins, transportation- through trucks and trailers etc.). Often these entrepreneurs travel from the rural to the urban centers, thus creating this cultural nexus and mixing; in order to meet the needs of their client base. What other aspects of society do we see innovation and economic gain being created through medium of technological advancement? What makes this type of capitalization exploitative or not?

Annika Teppo and Myriam Houssay-Holzshuch wrote the last article read this week entitled, “Gugulethu: revolution for neoliberalism in a South African Township.” This work speaks to the inherent center of economic gain- the shopping mall found in Guglethu Square. Examined from two levels, the work fully explained the layers that are present within the historical and neo-liberal narrative present in Cape Town. In reflecting on what a shopping mall represents, we can understand what the authors are saying when they speak to the ever growing and diversified consumerist population who would shop at the center. In working to create an environment that appeals to all of the consumers, the social, economic and cultural based planning are all instrumental in achieving a population who receive the structure positively. All moves need to be calculated in a way that localizes and ‘grounds’ a movement towards a neoliberal ‘revolution’. Top-down decision have worked against the local populations and created a space for opposition of development. How do you think businesses structures like those mentioned in this work directly and indirectly affect the lives of local individuals? What types of generational shifts do you think will be felt by the changing neoliberal business models?

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