Globalization is associated to the idea that advanced capitalism, aided by digital and electronic technologies, will ultimately obliterate local traditions and creates a homogenized, world culture. Critics of globalization argue that human experience everywhere is becoming fundamentally the same.
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Appadurai claims that modern Diasporas are not simply transnational but “post national” meaning that people who work in these spheres are unaware to national borders and socialize in a social world that has several home bases.
In the Jewish cultural complex, Diaspora, are persistent ideological tropes through which the experience of being Jewish is mediated (Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, 1993). As Sander Gilman has pointed out, ‘the overarching model for Jewish history has been that of the center and the fringe.’ (1996). For Immanuel Wallerstein, who first theorised the core-periphery model, it was a approach of understanding the economic organisation of the present world system (Immanuel Wallerstein, 1974). This is surely not to suggest that Jews were modern avant la lettre but, rather, that the Jewish understanding of Diaspora intersects in complex ways with the organization of the modern ‘western’ world. Until 1948 there was nowhere for Jews to return to, the Return was a fable set in a utopian future. With the founding of Israel the mythic core-periphery structure of Diaspora and Return was basically altered, at least in the ideological claims of Zionists and of the Israeli state. The significant point here is that the materialization of Israel took the shape of a modern state.
The core-periphery model is essential to modernity as of the way spatial relationships tended to be organized in capitalist modernity. In global terms this meant the ‘west’ and the rest, within each state it destined the capital and the provinces. When the Jewish core was set in a semi-mythic past and an imaginary future, the Diasporic present operated as a temporary’s periphery which was, simultaneously, always already a representation of the core-that-is-to-come. To put it simply, the Diaspora had to be lived as home because the real home was incredibly positioned in the future. As the modern states took shape around them the Jews became, factually, displaced; people out of place. Unlike the great Diasporas of modernity, most notably the African, the Jewish diaspora preceded modernity but was, yet, reconstituted by it. Within the modern states the pre-existing Jewish presence, with no Jewish state to give referential meaning to the ‘Jews’—the problem, if you like, of whether ‘Jews’ are a nation or a sacred group—placed the Jews in an anomolous situation. Zionism offered one Jewish solution to this anomaly.
The realization of Israel—albeit with a concretization of precisely the same problem: whether Israel is a secular state composed generally of Jews or a religious state composed solely of Jews—altered, the Jewish experience of the core-periphery problem. One aspect of that alteration was an upsetting of the Diaspora. As Israel passed the Law of Return and Zionists and Israelis argued for Jewish allegiance, if not aliyah, to Israel, so there was an attempt to change the Diaspora into a diaspora; that is, to strip the Diaspora of its metaphysical form and reconstitute Diasporic Jewry as the diasporic periphery to Israel.
Like globalization, social class and culture can be understood as the defining term for the dialectical relationship between cultural and material forces. In its cultural sense, it is an idea, associated with a set of codes and values; an abstract source of shared identity and social belonging. Thus, in the construction of a world-view, locality and self-identity, the Jewish individual draws upon collectivist concepts-in this case, the concept of Jewish diasporas which carries with it a set of associated values; a milieu.
Adopting a viewpoint that Jewish culture is not static, but is socially constructed by individuals drawing from the options and values available to them, which then act back on the individual through external processes, it is possible to see both globalization and Jewish culture as originating as relatively autonomous social constructions which depend on the individual’s own life experience, and the climate of the world in which s/he lives.
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Under global conditions, networks become dispersed, and cultural influences become more diverse. Yet the attraction of the ‘local’, particularly when it affirms a set of cultural codes and ‛values’, remains as strong as ever.
Appadurai, A. (1997). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, ‘Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity’, Critical Inquiry, vol. 19(4), 1993, pp. 693-725.
Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, New York, Academic Press, 1974.
Sander Gilman, The Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, August, 1996.