bell hooks’ Where We Stand

In order for propaganda to be effective, it must contain an element of perceived truth.  Goebbels understood this, Karl Rove understands this, and bell hooks understands this as she abundantly explains in Where We Stand:  Class Matters.  The intent is to help us understand how and why we live in a class society.  Analyzing every aspect of her book is impossible in such a small space, but three areas stand out:  The dynamics of family and its relationship to money, the dynamics of technology and mass media and its relationship to greed, and the dynamics of class and mass media and its relationship to being rich.

In chapter 4, she discusses the family and cultural dynamics of living in a household where the father worked and controlled all of the monies coming in, providing the mother with an allowance to keep her subservient to him.  This is exactly the same subservience that he is subjected to by the State.  It is no different.  However this is older than this country.  In Caliban and the Witch, Sylvia Federici explains that that the exploitation of the individual began in Medieval Europe when the State/Church decided that women (and a few men) were deemed a threat to the power of the state as strong community leaders.  They were labeled as witches and executed.1 Control manifests itself in many forms and the state has found more subtle ways to accomplish its exploitation.  It is how they control the populace and keep it in its place.  This is precisely the father’s way to exert the same control over the mother and feel the same superiority that the state feels over him.

In the Politics of Greed, hooks explains that while children are taught not to be greedy, this has lost currency in today’s hedonistic culture.  While her point is valid, while she further explains that worship of technological advancement has practically eliminated concern for religious ethics, while low-income communities have become war zones for material luxury greed, she fails to understand what is uncontrollable technological advancement.2  The evolution of technology has probably contributed to this culture of individualistic greed.  While one would hope that we all would have more altruistic goals and intentions, and know better, besides, public education is not the place where most of us are encouraged to ask uncomfortable questions.

In Being Rich, she explains the ways in which television propaganda altered the attitudes of the poor and working class as well as the privileged towards the rich through the myth of a classless society, while class has always played a role in most societies, the founders of the United States of America were specifically aware of the nobility of the United Kingdom.  Mistakenly, prohibiting a monarchy and titles of nobility in deed was thought to be enough to perpetuate a desired classless society.3 That has not been the case since the beginning and state and media propaganda have ever perpetuated that illusion.

hooks’ scope is thorough, sweeping and warrants further analysis and discussion, though she glosses over certain topics that would have probably warranted deeper discussion, including the deeper role of media reinforcement of a classless society, the “non-existence of the poor” and the role of technology in the reinforcement of greed in high and low.  However, she opens the floodgates to further discussion of an issue that will not go away and government cannot help us because it is in the same position as the state of Texas:  Either it is too big to care or too overwhelmed to bother.

Source:  Hooks, B. (2000). Where We Stand: Class Matters. New York: Routledge.

  1. Federici, S. (2004). Caliban and the Witch. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.
  2. Ellul, J. (1976). The Technological Society. New York: Alfred A Knopf.
  3. Hamilton, A. (2001). Writings (pp. 468-469). New York: The Library Of America.