'cultural heritage'

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Aug 23 23:30:45 MDT 1999

I guess my brief comment on 'cultural heritage' rather left me open to the
criticisms that have been made.

So let me make clear that when I reject 'British culture', 'German culture'
etc, I am not being nihilistic and rejecting Shakespeare and Goethe.  The
point, which I am remiss for not spelling out in my initial post, is that
culture is not national or 'racial' or ethnic or intrinsic at all; it is a
product of modes of production.  There is no such thing as a national
culture, in terms of being a unique product of a particular people.

Shakespeare may be claimed as 'British culture' by British Tories and
liberals alike, but from a Marxist viewpoint this would be entirely
superficial.  Shakespeare's work is written in the context of, and
reflects, the transition from feudalism to capitalism not any inherent

As far as Jim Monaghan's point about my lack of support for 'Maori national
rights' is concerned: well, 'national rights' belong to nations. Jim, you
must come to New Zealand, and try to persuade Maori that they are a nation,
I think you would have a very hard time doing this.  For instance you would
have to explain to me why my (Maori) great granny and I belong to two
different nations.  Or maybe why I (since I have some Maori ancestry thanks
to great granny) belong to a different nation from all my cousins on my
mother's side, who have no Maori ancestry.  Most people here would be most
amused to learn that Maori and their closest blood relatives and in-laws
actually belong to two separate nations.

(By the way, Jim, when there was briefly an intelligent USec section in NZ
for a few years in the late 80s/early 90s, they were confronted with this
situation too.  To their credit - and unlike much of the rest of the left -
they actually recognised that the notion of Maori as a separate nation
makes little sense in the concrete circumstances of New Zealand.)

Finally, on cultural heritage: a truly human culture is a global culture,
which fuses everything that is best, not that tries to artifically preserve
cultures, like some kind of human zoo.  It is in finding out what we have
in common, not what we have that sets us apart, that we find our humanity
and develop a realisable road to freedom.

Philip Ferguson

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