Landscapes of Global Capital
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We must keep in mind the great disparity in wealth that vanishes with nary a trace in these ads.


Not only are the material conditions of poverty kept out of sight in advertising, even the relationship as such is denied by the ways in which the ads frame their subjects. Ads insulate elites from non-elites, and keep wealthy individuals in safe havens. These elites travel through the space of non-places, spaces which are generally depicted as devoid of social contact. In the social world as it is refracted through the lens of advertising, elite and poor are even more segregated than in everyday life.

If persons in developing countries are shown, they are abstracted from conditions of poverty, or they are sometimes presented as the beneficiaries of investment capital and scientific (medical) research. Meanwhile, the growing disparity in wealth between management and labor, between rich and poor worlds is given increased statistical weight by even the most conservative organizations, such as the World Bank. Ethnographic evidence abounds of the wrenching misery experienced by a billion Third World working people, and then there are those who have even less than that - the world poor.

Globalization, as a metaphor, does little to get at this growing disparity supported by neo-liberalism and its economic practices. As a set of practices, Globalization, though it has made a space for more internationally and culturally diverse capitalist elites, it has done little to address already existing disparities linked to race, class, and gender. In fact, it may be making these disparities worse.

"The latest global numbers on income poverty, based on international poverty lines of $1/day, taken to indicate absolute poverty, and $2/day in 1985 purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars, were first calculated for 1985. They are updated every three years, as updating them requires data on consumption/income and prices, which are available infrequently and with a lag of three-four years. The most recent figures are for 1993. The share of people living on under $1/day (in 1985 PPP dollars) over the developing world's population declined slightly from 30.1 percent to 29.4 percent. But the number of people living on under $1/day rose from 1.2 billion in 1987 to 1.3 billion in 1993. In 1993, 3 billion people worldwide lived on less than $2 per day." (World Bank statistics)

"By 1999, the wealth of the world's 475 billionaires was greater than the combined incomes of the poorest half of humanity." (Anderson and Cavanagh, 2000:53)

"In 1960, the world's 20 richest countries had 30 times more income than the poorest 20%. Now, that wealth gap has grown to 74 times."

"Light modernity let one partner out of the cage. 'Solid' modernity was an era of mutual engagement. 'Fluid' modernity is the epoch of disengagement, elusiveness, facile escape and hopeless chase. In 'liquid' modernity, it is the most elusive, those free to move without notice [and without friction], who rule." (Zygmunt Bauman, 1999: 120)

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© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey