Ernesto Laclau and Gayatri Spivak
Ernesto Laclau writes about the need to make the victim aware and/or make the public aware of the victim’s situation. He proposes that the problem cannot be solved until the problem is recognized. He questions who has the authority to declare that a problem exists. Can a person in one culture decide that a person in another culture is a victim if that person does not agree?
Gayatri Spivak asks a similar question in “Can the Subaltern Speak”? She seems to ask if the victim has the power to speak for herself/himself. But also she is asking if someone else can speak for the victim. Also the question can be seen as applying to both the individual and the group. Spivak talks about women in India specifically. Does a woman in India have the power to speak for herself when she is the victim of oppression? Does she have the power to speak not only for herself but for others like her? And does Spivak have the power, or authority to speak for them, if they cannot speak for themselves?
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These questions are important in connection to my research/writing. Is poverty in the US seen as a problem that can or should be overcome? Of course, individuals recognize the problems present in their lives because of their poverty, but do they have the voice or the power to work for change. (In the US poverty is seen most exclusively as an individual problem. The individual can seek to make changes to his/her life to get themselves out of poverty, but can the individual recognize that poverty can or should be solved on a national level, not only individual.)
My dissertation suggests that poverty in the US is not seen as a structural social problem. The poor are not seen as victims of systematic oppression. The poor are seen as individuals who must work to improve their private situations. This mindset must be changed in order to really improve the quality of people’s lives.
Poverty today is like slavery in the past. It is a manufactured part of the cultural economic situation. It does not need to continue to exist. It continues only because it is accepted as natural or even good.
The present political, economic, cultural situation perpetuates the continuation of poverty. Poverty will continue as a substantial part of the national and global situation until people recognize that it is a problem that can be and should be solved/ended.
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Music: The Velvet Underground/All Tomorrow’s Parties