A Musing on Dynamics

In this week’s reflection I wanted to mention a topic that’s been floating around my mind over the last week or two. I want to type up some of the ideas, even if they’re not all solidified or based on strict scholarly work. It will help me in further thinking about them, maybe it will start some interesting conversations that can bring depth, and they’re definitely a part of my thoughts over the last weeks and thus a perfect fit for a weekly reflection.

A lot has been going on. Culture is rapidly creating itself around the new political climate we find ourselves. Everyone is commenting on or criticizing some part of the system, the people, their actions, policies, anything.

I think it’s really important to pay attention to those conversations that are happening on small scales because it informs you about how a large percentage of the population are feeling, not just academics and scholars, not just journalists and media representation. Even if the conversations you’re paying attention to still fall into a relatively small social circle, or couple or social circles, say Facebook or other social media circles, there can still be quite a broad spectrum of opinions flowing.

It’s also interesting to pay attention to the memes that are passed around through culture. To analyze memes themselves, and their role in the creation of culture, community, identity, and the spread of knowledge is a very high caliber task, and to do it properly requires a much greater access to communities and ability to look at statistics of sharing and types and content and all that lovely data. I am not in a position to take on that burden.

But I am interested by certain trends and ideas that I am exposed too in different way through the spread of memes, screenshotted tweets, etc. Usually they are not ideas I am entirely unfamiliar with, and to see a little slice of what many people are relating to an identifying with is really interesting, especially if there is a deeper theory that can be applied to the conversations that are happening over this media.

The conversation I want to think about with this piece is the connection between capitalistic gain from social justice alliances and trends. And then conversely, capitalistic loss from social justice movements.

Of course there has already been discussion, demonstration, and study of how protests like boycotting and strikes creates change. Protest, strikes, and disruption of economic activity are examples of loss of capital.

But in the last couple weeks have brought up conversations about the dynamics of how corporations can positively benefit from social justice movements.

I’ve seen a lot of headlines about how this company or that has created ‘heartbreaking’ ‘important’ ‘progressive’ ad that includes a same sex couple or family or a positive supportive message about refugees and creating change. And while it’s great that it’s happening, there’s also an aspect of it that feels . . . opportunistic.

There’s a good incentive right now to take various political standpoints. It might lose the company some customers, but it might also gain a whole lot.

Over the last few weeks memes have popped up about Starbucks suddenly becoming everybody’s favorite coffee place because of their support of, I think it was refugees and veterans. And sure, it’s good when a company with resources pledges to support marginalized communities, even in very particular ways.

But it’s interesting to consider the incentive pathways for various companies and industries. Advertising and capital becomes a very tangled beast when trying to differentiate between truly and deeply held values and acting in particular ways to gain profit. Examining monetary incentives and funding decisions for big corporations, government subsidies, and scientific research can lead to some interesting conflict of interests.

This is something I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks. I don’t have anything really specific, and I haven’t really gathered any particular cases or studies to talk about, and I don’t seem to be having a real easy time making the right words come out in this piece.

But it’s an interesting dynamic to think about, and I think it’s worth discussion and study.

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