The Great Man Theory of History as evidenced in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance

Applying the Great Man theory of History as a subtext to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay Self-Reliance makes for an interesting synthesis. The Great Man theory was brought into public discourse by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840s. But most of the later commentators pointed out to some of the misassumptions and flaws in the theory. Chief among them was Herbert Spencer who viewed that great individuals were products of their culture, history and environment and the inverse is seldom true. Yet the idea of the Great Man holds an intuitive appeal to readers. As people sharing a sense of community we are all looking for leaders and role models to provide us guidance. It is this intuitive appeal for leadership that sustains the value of the Great Man Theory, although it had somewhat become unfashionable in the last century.

Great men are thought to be path-breakers and independent thinkers. (James, p.114) In Emerson’s text, we find a powerful invocation of individuality. He . . . Read More

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Literary theoretical analysis of Virginia Woolf’s To the Light House

Woolf’s novel was a ground breaking work at the time of its publication in 1927.  It broke away from the literary tradition of narrative, plot based story-telling. Instead the work experimented with impressionistic and modernist methods of art, borrowing from their successful implementation in the visual arts. In his insightful essay, Jonathan Culler enlists five observations on the nature of literature. It makes for an interesting scholarly exercise to examine which of these points apply to Virginia Woolf’s novel.  This essay will argue that the presence of both the properties and consequences of the language of Woolf make it a characteristically literary.

Woolf’s novel was a ground breaking work at the time of its publication in 1927.  It broke away from the literary tradition of narrative, plot based story-telling. Instead the work experimented with impressionistic and modernist methods of art, borrowing from their successful implementation in the visual arts. In . . . Read More

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Compare and Contrast: The Crips and the Neo-Nazis

All gangs and mafias have their own initiation rituals and modes of operations. The same is true of the two different gang cultures being studied here – the Crips and the neo-Nazis. In the autobiographical account of Monster – one of the leaders of the gang – we learn about the initiation rites, organizational structure, modus operandi, economic targets, treatment of rivalries, etc. The Crips is a predominantly black gang that hogged headlines during the post-war decades of the 1950s and 60s. In some ways the Crips represented a militant underground movement parallel to that of the Black Nationalist movement. While the Crips adopted some of the violent methods of the movement headed by Malcolm-X, it is not political in nature. So, despite its racial affiliation, the means and ends of the gang are largely anti-social. Likewise, in the film American History X, we are exposed to a dark underground cult of American society. Commonly referred to as ‘skin-heads’, the . . . Read More

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The Origin Story of a Transformative Idea

The late Steve Jobs is one of the prominent inventors and pioneers in the field of information technology.  Some of his creations such as the iPhone speak highly of his vision in recognizing technologies of the future.  By introducing products such as the iPhone, he took Apple Computers to new heights through its exceptional performance and features. It is interesting to study the origin and development of a mass phenomenon like the iPhone in the backdrop of Malcolm Gladwell’s and Steven Johnson’s ideas on the subject. The rest of the essay attempts to tie in the ideas of these two scholars into how Apple products came into being and how their appeal spreads among consumers.

The late Steve Jobs is one of the prominent inventors and pioneers in the field of information technology.  Some of his creations such as the iPhone speak highly of his vision in recognizing technologies of the future.  By introducing products such as the iPhone, he took Apple Computers to new . . . Read More

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Imperialism in the film Apocalypse Now

Imperialism enables a state or country to increase its sphere of influence by seizing control of foreign territories. The film Apocalypse Now, based on the story Heart of Darkness, was produced in 1979 during the Vietnam War era and explores the role imperialism played in US foreign policy. The film highlights the drawbacks of imperialism by revealing the atrocities committed by the US Military, allegedly, in the name of freedom. The most tragic aspect of the Vietnam War was the huge numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children. Indeed, the chemical warfare exercised by American troops in the form of deploying Agent Orange (napalm) for deforesting the region is a major disaster for the local population. As a result of contamination of these heavy toxins, a whole generation of children was born with deformities and genetic mutations. Hence those who are apologists for imperialism are on the side of the unjust.

Military intervention in Vietnam was a part of a . . . Read More

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Differences between Bretton Woods world trade regime and the current world trade system governed by the World Trade Organization

The Bretton Woods system was the result of a grand financial conference at the culmination of the Second World War. The participants were delegates drawn from 44 Allied countries that were in coalition against the defeated Axis powers. The main purpose of the conference was to organize and regulate the international monetary and financial systems, which were thrown into disarray during the war. The chief outcome of the event was the signing of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The conference laid the foundation for the later emergence of World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The priorities and economic models adopted by the WTO are a marked contrast to that of the Bretton Woods regime. The mantra of WTO since 1972 has been international trade liberalization. The Marrakech Agreement of 1995 officially replaced the other GATT regime. Although free trade is paid lip service, the arrangements are more favorable to countries and business corporations with bigger . . . Read More

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According to Rodrik, why is national democracy incompatible with deep globalization?

There are several contradictions between the concepts of democracy and unfettered globalization. Professor Dani Rodrik’s work on the subject is about elucidating these contradictions which is at the centre of many political debates today. One of main reasons why deep globalization is antagonistic to national democracy is the undue power wielded by international capital. For most part what appear to be foreign investments into a local economy is actually fluid speculative capital. If the investment firm perceives the return on their investment to be unimpressive then it would not hesitate to pull out capital from the financial markets. This would lead to a fall in share prices and huge nominal losses to the other stakeholders – local partners, local firms and the national government. So the power of international capital gives its wielders the power to dictate terms to local governments, which in turn undermines democracy and nation-oriented policy making. There are numerous . . . Read More

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The conceptual dichotomy of civilization and the wilderness in African systems of thought w.r.t. Mande art and Kongo minkisi

Discuss the conceptual dichotomy of civilization and the wilderness in African systems of thought, and the significance of civilization and/or wilderness for Mande art and artistic practice. Discuss Kongo views of supernatural power, and the embodiment of this power in the ‘personhood’ of Kongo minkisi.

Anderson and Kreamer capture the essence of the African idea of the wilderness in their article titled Wild Spirits: Strong Medicine, African Art and the Wilderness. They identify the Kponyugo masquerade as one essential artifact representing the idea o the wilderness. Practiced by the Senufo community in Ivory Coast, the masquerade is quite a spectacle that accompanies annual ceremonies or special occasions. It is a mélange of composite features, snarling snout, projecting horns and tusks, etc, which epitomize the dangers of life in the African ‘bush’. It is equally a statement on the perceived tranquility and safety of the village communal life. . . . Read More

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The arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples

Discuss the significance of the form and meanings of the arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples. Discuss the different types of historic interactions and power relationships with Europeans as expressed in Afro-Portuguese ivories and the royal arts of the Benin Kingdom.

In the exhibition titled Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, we learn how Ife art tried to juxtapose misery and glory, deformity and beauty, master and slave, disease and health. Made of copper alloys and terra cottas, the royal arts of the Yoruba people were informed by the myth of Obatala, whose legend is the art of deformity or sin or illness. Royal personages were commonly immortalized through art. Ooni, the ruler of Ife, wore elaborate textiles in the fourteenth century. The buffalo horn filled with medicines is a symbol of his authority. The staff on his hand also signifies authority. He also wears a beaded collar which usually holds a pair of . . . Read More

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Ken Loach’s articulation of social concerns in Kes

Ken Loach’s 1969 masterpiece Kes is rich in social narratives. The 1960s was a decade of cultural and political upheaval in Europe and America. Some of these changes were captured in the film within the structures of narrative story telling. The late 1960s witnessed an end of an era in British economics, for it marked a turning point (arguably a turn for the worse) in British history. From that point onwards Britain, following suit American economic policy, had opened up its economy for global investiture. What is now called the global neo-liberal regime was adopted then and continues till date. It is undoubtedly a momentous occasion for not just the British economy but for British politics, culture and social life as well. In many ways the old bastion of solidarity and nationalism was coming to an end. The coal mining communities that are portrayed in Kes were perhaps that of the last generation of miners. In a span of a decade the complexion of British industry would change from . . . Read More

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