MDSC02: Concept Engagement-The Ruling Class Vs. Cultural Appropriation


Concept Engagement Students will create two short Concept Engagements, which can expand on concepts you have engaged in your group (you do not *need* to use a concept you already engaged in, but you *can*). You will engage two concepts from two different readings (this is will uploaded as lecture slides and readings,the uploaded files […]

Concept Engagement: The Ruling Class versus Cultural Appropriation

As civilization continues to take its course, people across the globe develop diverging perceptions concerning the beliefs and practices adopted by other individuals in society who come from other communities. As a result, people tend to use elements or objects of non-dominant culture in ways that fail to honor their original meaning, contributing to societal stereotyping and oppression in the long run. The article “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance” by Bell Hooks investigates the concept of cultural appropriation and how it influences a community’s social, economic, and political organization. Another chapter, “Ruling class and ruling ideas” by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, describes how superior groups in society can control inferior groups’ beliefs, activities, and perceptions to regulate their material production and mental production. In doing so, the chapter presents the idea of the ruling class in which people in high social classes decide upon society and set political and economic agendas within the society. This study investigates the relationship between the concept of the ruling class and the idea of cultural appropriation. The concept of the ruling class and the notion of cultural appropriation demonstrate a close relationship in which they add value to each other.

The concept of the ruling class identifies the ability of a group with the highest economic potential to control other groups. Communities with greater access to economic resources within a society often achieve economic progress earlier than those with limited access to resources. As the group’s economic stability continues to expand, it manages to produce consumer goods available to other members of society. Eventually, such groups control the nature of products consumed by the rest of society, the pricing of such products, and society’s perceptions regarding complementary and substitute products. In addition to economic influence, the group with the means of material production at its disposal assumes control over the methods used to pass knowledge within society to retain control over mental production (Karl and Engels 196). For example, in the feudal medieval society, the wealthy class controlled mental production within society to make peasants believe that a person’s place in the class system was God’s will and that respecting influential members of the community would be rewarded after death (Block 32). Eventually, the gap between the rich and the poor was maintained, allowing the wealthy class to assume control over society.

On the contrary, the idea of cultural appropriation investigates how the inappropriate adoption and recognition of one culture in society leads to the emergence of dominant and minority groups. When one culture gains recognition from other ethnicities, its capacity to advance its belief system to the rest increases. As a result, such a group manages to lessen the value of minority races because it makes them seem like an accessory to the ordinary (Hooks 308). The minority groups are forced to surrender their economic and political influence to the dominant culture in the long run, assuming full control of society. For example, after their settlement in America, they discouraged social organizations of the indigenous communities and advocated for a general way of order that supported their philosophies (Adam 495). Through cultural appropriation, the White people reduced the position of other communities and presented themselves as a superior race, therefore retaining economic and political control. On that account, cultural appropriation allowed the dominant culture to continue exerting its power over everybody else, reinforcing negative societal ideas such as racism, patriarchy, and White supremacy.

The idea of the ruling class is supplemented by cultural appropriation. When an ethnic group gains recognition and appreciation from other cultures, it can regulate economic and political processes that affect society. Through cultural appropriation, the group discourages the cultural practices of others and presents itself as a higher-level race. Therefore, it assimilates other communities into its ways of life, which adds value to its political and economic influence. Consequently, the group attains control over resource extraction, production, and sale of goods and services, which allows it to achieve economic growth faster than other ethnicities to become the wealthy class of society. As the wealthy class, the superior community assumes the role of the ruling class through which it exerts total control over the region’s social, economic, and political structures. It also gains influence over the region’s mental production as other communities continue to look up to the ruling class. For this reason, the concept of the ruling class is observed to have thrived from continuous cultural appropriation practices.

The concept of the ruling class adds the ideas of control and victimization to cultural appropriation. The concept of the ruling class identifies the existence of societal groups that exercise control over other members of society. In the process, the ruling class creates policies that ensure that minority groups do not progress to higher social positions to preserve their influence (Karl and Engels 198). One of the most effective control strategies adopted by the ruling group is cultural appropriation, through which minority groups are disunited. Therefore, they discourage certain practices by minority groups as a control strategy. For example, Black people are often stereotyped as criminals who threaten the peace of other ethnicities in the United States, exposing them to police brutality and resulting in a high incarceration rate among African Americans (Nicolas and Thompson 587). Such a strategy reduced the position of African Americans in the United States society and intensified the idea of cultural appropriation. Similarly, the ruling class victimizes the minority group to keep them at their current economic position and maintain the prevailing social classes. For example, according to David, the United States society depicts disproportionate incarceration rates by race, in which many African American prisoners have been convicted of political crimes. The high incarceration rate among Black people discourages them from engaging in politics, exposing society to racism and further cultural appropriation.

While the concept of cultural appropriation is highly associated with the ruling class idea, the scope and focus of the two concepts are observed to contradict. Cultural appropriation focuses on the social organization of a community in which the cultural practices of marginalized communities are overlooked while those of the superior race are encouraged. The concept insinuates that greater equality and justice could be achieved through cultural globalization, whereby each culture’s ideas, meanings, and values are respected. On the contrary, the concept of the ruling class advocates for economic fairness. The concept considers unfairness in access to resources among different social groups and suggests that equality and fairness could be achieved if policies were developed to hedge income and wealth disparities.

Although the concept of cultural appropriation and the idea of the ruling class are closely related, their focus and scope are observed to contradict. The concept of the ruling class is based on the idea that different groups in society have divergent capacities to control society’s material and mental production. On the contrary, cultural appropriation depicts how superior communities discourage the cultures of minority groups as a control strategy. However, the concept of cultural appropriation draws the ideas of control and victimization from the idea of the ruling class.

Works Cited

Block, Fred. “The Ruling Class Does Not Rule: Notes on the Marxist Theory of the State.” The Political Economy, edited by Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Routledge, 1984, pp. 32-46.

Brown, David. “Mass Incarceration.” Alternative Criminologies, edited by Pat Carlen and Leandro A. França, Routledge, 2017, pp. 364-385.

Croom, Adam M. “Asian Slurs and Stereotypes in the USA: A Context-Sensitive Account of Derogation and Appropriation.” Pragmatics and Society, vol. 9, no. 4, 2018, pp. 495-517.

Hooks, Bell. “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance.” Media and Cultural Studies: Keywords, edited by Meenakshi G. Durham and Douglas M. Kellner, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 308-317.

Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas.” Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 1994, pp. 196-198.

Nicolas, Guerda, and Chalmer EF Thompson. “Racialized violence in the lives of Black people: Illustrations from Haiti (Ayiti) and the United States.” American Psychologist, vol. 74, no. 5, 2019, p. 587.

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Published On: 01-01-1970

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