Globalization and the Politics of Culture: An Interview with Imre Szeman

Marc James Léger


What is the role of culture in an era of globalization? This is one of the questions that animates the work of Imre Szeman, founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. Szeman's thinking combines a strong appreciation of the critical potential of cultural studies work with an understanding of the importance of Marxist theory, especially at this critical moment in human history. With the end of national culture as a framework for progress in the arts, culture becomes increasingly tied to the new master narrative, he says, of the traumas of globalization. As culture's agenda is increasingly set by the operations of global capital, it becomes imperative, he argues, to create an imaginative vocabulary that can challenge biocapitalism's fantasy of endless accumulation. While globalization democratizes the imagination, creating new identities and new public spheres, for Szeman, it simultaneously shifts our focus away from culture – the predominant aesthetic and representational condition of postmodernism – towards macropolitical issues. In this context, he says, class struggle reasserts itself, political economy returns with a vengeance, and even the immanent aesthetic of workerist theory seems to pale in comparison with the transcendent mediation of radical contestation.


Imre Szeman; communitarianism; globalization; neo-liberalism; Rancière; Bordieu; culture; Badiou; aesthetics; post-post-modernism

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