GUIA DE ESTUDOS PARA O CONCURSO DE ADMISSÃO À CARREIRA DE DIPLOMATA
Read the following excerpt adapted from Ana Viseu’s “An assessment of McLuhan’s prediction that electronic technologies would lead us back to an oral culture” and, in the light of it and the text by Aidan Mathews in Section 1, comment critically on the role of language and visual imagery in modern electronic culture.
“It is a fact that electronic digital technologies lack a sense of linearity. In fact, they are based on a non-linearity that tends to facilitate a more associative way of organizing information, e.g., hypertext. It is also true that new technologies tend to be global and not focused — that is, they influence more than one sense. A good example of this is the acoustic virtual environments which are much stronger than a visual experience. A visual experience tacitly distances you, places you in a transcendent, removed position, rather than embodying you at the center of a new context. This implies not only that digital technologies offer the possibility of creating new global spaces by using sound, but also that the perspective from the user’s point of view changes. She/he is no longer a mere observer in a detached position, but rather she/he actively constructs this space.
Marshall McLuhan was right in predicting that the change from mechanic technologies to electronic, digital technologies would create a new culture that more resembles ancient oral cultures than the recent visual, print culture.”
In the light of the following quotations, comment on the relations between economics, warfare, and the forging of the modern state.
What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.
(Simone Weil in: W.H. Auden, A Certain World. 1971)
Think of political economy as an historical process rather than some kind of established model. It begins – and this is often forgotten – with war, the father of all things. It was war, time and again pushing up the expenses of governments, that fostered the development of modern systems of taxation. For most of history, men lived in warfare states, not welfare states.
Those who prefer their political history to be finance-free need to remember that it was in large measure the quest for taxation that led to the spread of representative government. ‘No taxation without representation’ was not just a slogan of the American Revolution; it accurately describes a historical process stretching back to medieval England, and indeed to ancient Athens. And as many states have sought to increase the taxation they exact, so they have found it hard to refuse a concomitant widening of political representation. A case in point was the great democratisation that occurred after the First World War, which can be understood as the political price for high wartime sacrifices.
Money does not make the world go round, but it establishes the framework – the cage, if you like – within which we live our lives. To understand this is not to be let out the cage. It does not even tell us who has the key. But at least it shows us where the bars are.
(Niall Ferguson, The Cash Nexus. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001)