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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 19 access to cultural and economic capital is the assumption that socioeconomic inequalities result from the ways that labor and capital are organized so as to maximize wealth for the few. This critique is at some distance from the discourse of individualism, which suggests that one’s socioeconomic circumstances may be primarily related to individual motivation or lack thereof. Discussion: Discourses of the Digital Divide Individualism, as we have noted, plays an important role in structuring the way in which people think and talk about the digital divide. Yet as we have demonstrated, while individualism factored into each conversation about the digital divide, not all narratives we analyzed were neatly contained within it. What are we to make of these contradictions? For our analysis, we return to Jameson. Jameson (1987) notes that while Bellah et. al. (1985) insightfully identified the importance of individualism in American expression, they failed to address themselves to the questions of legitimacy that have been central to the studies of discourse within the cultural studies tradition (see e.g. Stuart Hall’s, [1980] analysis of the declining legitimacy of welfare-state discourse under Thatcherism). Jameson recognizes that within the dominant discourse of individualism there may exist several secondary narrative themes that, for the most part, reinforce the legitimacy of the primary discourse or may be reformed (or deformed) to serve its interests. He proposes, however, that what is missing from the critique of individualist discourse offered by Bellah et. al. is what he suggests is a “third language:” that of Marxist or socialist critique. This discourse is silenced in U.S. society for a variety of historical and material reasons. As an inheritance of the Cold War, the label of Marxism is itself considered anathema to national loyalties in the United States. Yet in an era of

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 19
access to cultural and economic capital is the assumption that socioeconomic inequalities
result from the ways that labor and capital are organized so as to maximize wealth for the
few. This critique is at some distance from the discourse of individualism, which
suggests that one’s socioeconomic circumstances may be primarily related to individual
motivation or lack thereof.
Discussion: Discourses of the Digital Divide
Individualism, as we have noted, plays an important role in structuring the way in
which people think and talk about the digital divide. Yet as we have demonstrated, while
individualism factored into each conversation about the digital divide, not all narratives
we analyzed were neatly contained within it. What are we to make of these
contradictions? For our analysis, we return to Jameson. Jameson (1987) notes that while
Bellah et. al. (1985) insightfully identified the importance of individualism in American
expression, they failed to address themselves to the questions of legitimacy that have
been central to the studies of discourse within the cultural studies tradition (see e.g. Stuart
Hall’s, [1980] analysis of the declining legitimacy of welfare-state discourse under
Thatcherism). Jameson recognizes that within the dominant discourse of individualism
there may exist several secondary narrative themes that, for the most part, reinforce the
legitimacy of the primary discourse or may be reformed (or deformed) to serve its
interests. He proposes, however, that what is missing from the critique of individualist
discourse offered by Bellah et. al. is what he suggests is a “third language:” that of
Marxist or socialist critique. This discourse is silenced in U.S. society for a variety of
historical and material reasons. As an inheritance of the Cold War, the label of Marxism
is itself considered anathema to national loyalties in the United States. Yet in an era of


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