A list of commonly used terms you’ll encounter here. A constant work-in-progress.
Asian Financial Crisis: [ edit in later ]
Autarky: An economic system focused on state self-sufficiency, usually taking the form of heavy tariffs on imports to foster and develop domestic industries. The state, in many cases, helps subsidize domestic industries as they develop and until they are ready to compete on the global market (a good example of this is Hyundai). In many cases, foreign investment in domestic firms is only allowed up to 49%. South Korea’s economy was autarkic until IMF structural adjustment in 1997 following the Asian Financial Crisis.
Biopower: State power targeting and acting on the populace, focusing on births, death, health, disease, etc. Shift from sovereign power (wherein the king exercises the power to “let live or make die” (controlling death)) to “make live or let die” (controlling life); ultimately, it is a shift toward focusing power over “man-as-living-being; ultimately, if you like, to man-as-species.”1 It, and particularly racism in the biopolitical regime, “operates in the determination of who must live and who must die … It distinguishes between those who will foster the life and welfare of the population, and therefore must be made to live, and those who hinder the life and welfare of the population and must be made to die”2
Capitalism: An economic system in which private persons (lol corporations are people lol) own the means of production and actors exchange their labour for money/commodities. The focus is on capital and profit accumulation.3
IMF Structural Adjustment: In order to receive money from the World Bank and IMF, many countries have had their economic and political systems “readjusted.” In the case of South Korea, this entailed lessening (or entirely doing away with) tariffs on imported goods, allowing foreign direct investment in domestic industries above 49%, reduction in the social safety net, and a readjustment of the labour system (including laying off a great deal of lifetime employees, leading to a new class of “IMF homeless”). tl;dr: shifted the economic system from autarkic to neoliberal. 4
Neoliberalism: An economic system focused on deregulation and free trade. A neoliberal regime fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship between the state and the individual (see: biopower); precarity is built in and ultimately, the individual is responsible for themselves and their successes/failures.
Orientalism: The West uses a set of preconceived notions of the Other (in this case, “the Orient”) to define what the Other is, obscure differences by lumping them all together in a mass known as the “the Orient/the East” and then a) representing to the West what these places/peoples are; b) representing to the East what these places/peoples are; and c) furthering political, economic, etc. agendas and power/knowledge systems, all of which are predicated on the superiority of the West. To quote Said, Orientalism is “a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident’.”5 The “most of the time” in Said’s quote is vital as we understand Japanese Orientalism. In terms of media, this means “Japan’s historically constituted Orientalist trope of an ‘Asia behind the times’ still informs most national media markets. In this conception, Japan is always in and yet always above Asia.”6
Panopticon: A system of surveillance in which the state sets itself up as omnipresent. Like an inmate in a prison being watched from the watchtower, the subject internalizes the presence of the state and feels as if they are always being watched; power, in the panopticon, “should be visible and unverifiable.”7 One knows they are being watched but cannot verify it at any given moment. Ultimately, this ensures the continued successful operation of state power without the state having to actively exercise power over/surveil the individual.
Simulacra and Simulation: A somewhat convoluted and difficult to immediately comprehend postmodern critique theorizing that our contemporary experiences are not “real” because they are so heavily mediated by symbols and signs; in essence, our experiences are simulations of the “real.” The simulation precedes all experience; the simulation is all there is.8 A good way to think about this is to think of how people mistake actors/real people for their roles (Bill Cosby as Dr. Huxtable, Hugh Laurie as Dr. House), or Disneyland and its claims/attempts to represent the essence of America(na) through its use of symbols and signs.
Socialism: An economic system in which the workers control the means of production. It’s really not much more complicated than that (until we get into specific schools of thought (and the execution of them); that’s where it gets complicated). We may not ever talk about it here, but if we’re defining capitalism, we should define socialism.
Well-being Lifestyle: [ edit in later ]
Citations and Notes
01. Foucault, Michel. 2003. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-76
02. Foucault in Fujitani, Takashi. 2011. Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II.
03. For more on capitalist systems, Foucault traces the rise of the different schools of capitalism since the 18th century in The Birth of Biopolitics (also a good primer on biopower and how it integrates with neoliberalism, chyeah!). You can also read Hayek and von Mises of the Austrian School (libertarians love them), Milton Friedman and the Chicago School (heavily influenced current global political economy (see also The Shock Doctrine)), John Maynard Keynes (post-Great Depression through the US postwar period economic policy (also post 2008 Recession)), or Marxists (Marx! and particularly chapters 26 and 2 of Capital. There’s a kickass study guide for it here, and/or you can read it along with Ahab’s boy, David Harvey. Ahab also recommends Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle by Silvia Federici because it puts reproductive labour back into Marx’s equation of value). Whatever you do, don’t read Thomas Friedman. He’s actually the worst, and a dingus at best. But you can have fun with the Thomas Friedman OpEd generator!
04. For more on South Korea’s economic system, read Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans (admittedly, he loves him some developmental state (read: the economic system of the dictatorial Park Chung-hee regime) economics, but it’s a good primer on the history of global capitalism and autarkies throughout history. The first chapter deals largely with SK’s autarky (and is a much better read than Jung-en Woo’s Race to the Swift)) and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine (a book as big as your head. A fantastic look at Chicago School economic policies and its economic, political, and human effects from Chile to Iraq. Part 4 in particular is about the Asian Financial Crisis).
05. Said, Edward. 1979. Orientalism. For another application of the genesis of Orientalism and its implications, see Timothy Mitchell’s Colonising Egypt.
06. Iwabuchi, Koichi. 2002. “Nostalgia for a (Different) Asian Modernity: Media Consumption of ‘Asia’ in Japan.”
07. Foucault, Michel. 1978. Discipline and Punish
08. Baudrillard, Jean. 1988. “Simulacra and Simulation” in Selected Writings.