Home > Uncategorized > There is no separation between culture and economy.

There is no separation between culture and economy.

from Ken Zimmerman

There is no separation between culture and economy. They are one another. Historian Richard Hofstadter notes, as have many others that American culture is “…diverse and contradictory” … “visionary and down-to-earth, deeply radical and solidly conservative, coldly prudent and· unexpectedly wild.” As American culture changes, so does American economy. America is Puritanism with its omnipotent God, souls predestined to heaven or hell before birth, and certainty that Christians could do nothing to change their fate. One of their primary duties as Christians, though, was to assess the state of their own souls through devoted self-examination and Bible study. America is also the “natural rights of man” philosophy. The common-law rights of freeborn Englishmen were, for example, closely identified with the natural rights of men. And these legal rights were sustained by two English authorities who were immensely influential in America: Sir William Blackstone, known through his Commentaries on the Laws of England (17 65-17 69), and Sir Edward Coke, an eminent seventeenth-century English lawyer. And one of the most widely read on “the rights of man” was John Locke. Locke’s ideas are in his “Two Treatises of Government,” Published in 1690, and taken as an ideological buttress for the Revolution of 1688 and for the supremacy of Parliament, Locke’s essays were used in the colonies after the 1760’s to support resistance to Parliament. More importantly Locke and the common-law rights of freeborn Englishmen are embedded in both the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Next, America, like Great Britain is an ethnocentric nation. Americans believe firmly in the superiority of their values and civilization, especially when compared with the native cultures of Africa and North America. Furthermore, Americans and British believed fair-skinned peoples like themselves were superior to the darker-skinned races. Those beliefs alone did not cause them to enslave Indians and Africans, but the idea that other races were inferior to whites helped to justify slavery. Enslavement in Europe of African Muslims and other “heathen” peoples was common when the American colonies were established. Christian doctrine could even be interpreted as allowing enslavement as a means of converting such people to the true faith. But enslavement reflected economic needs as much as spiritual for first Europeans and then Americans. Needing bound laborers, then, Americans and Europeans sought them chiefly in the ranks of dark-skinned non-Christians. Now American employers seek “bound workers” through shipping production offshore and destroying unions. Besides all this Americans view themselves as a new nation. Hans Kohn writes in “The Idea of Nationalism,” “The American National Consciousness is not a voice crying out of the depth of the dark past, but is proudly a product of the enlightened present, setting its face resolutely toward the future.” And American nationalism embodied a universal idea, with implications for all the world. And this is but a glimpse of American culture.

Changing culture means a changing economy. And vice versa, changing economy reflects a changing culture.


  1. Maria Alejandra Madi
    July 11, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Dear Ken,

    Thanks for your interesting post. As well as an ” ontological turn” there has been a ” cultural turn” in social sciences. Considering the cultural turn, Bob Jessop highlights the role of a semiotic approach to further develop the relationship between culture and economy. What do you think about this attempt?



  2. Helen Sakho
    July 12, 2019 at 1:31 am

    All are valid comments dear colleagues. The final frontier is indeed culture. To quote the New York Times (yesterday) Trump is both Corrupt and Cruel. And his cronies always win. He is single-handedly responsible for so much misery within the US and everywhere else.

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