Binary representations used to describe the international community are a legacy of Western colonialism. These representations include labels such as “the west and the rest” and the “leader and led”. Focussing on two dimensions; the global music industry and Brexit, this article argues that rejecting binary divisions is essential to the meaning of success for global modernity. Conceptualising success on a two dimensional level, this paper applies a holistic approach to what ‘success’ means in a modern society. This article defines the concept of ‘modern society’ as a unified social community that encompasses the contemporary world.
The legacy of western colonialism (1488-1960) fuelled colonial labels, language which still pervades modern societies. The west versus the rest discourse infiltrated UK media representations during the referendum, painting immigration as a threat in an us vs them narrative which ‘othered’ immigrant workers.
This article challenges the us vs them narrative propagated by Brexit, arguing instead that a successful modern society is dependent upon open borders and a healthy balance of immigration. An argument often raised by Brexiteers suggests that the net earnings of ‘a valuable’ immigrant must be at least £30,000. However, such arguments do not apply a holistic approach to how immigration benefits Britain’s economy. Oxford Economics’ (2018) fiscal examination of immigration argues that immigration is key to a successful modern society. Immigrants will contribute more than they take from Britain’s public finances, with the total standing at around £26.9BN net profits from the migrants that arrived in 2016 across their lifetime. Labour shortages are another consequence of exclusionary Post-Brexit movements. This is an example of where transnational migrant residents are of vital benefit to the economy, and therefore key to the success of modern society. In Britain, immigration ensures labour stability across sectors such as social care, farming, and food processing. Immigration therefore provides economic benefits through the productivity of migrants.
Success for a modern society should also be conceptualised by cultural diversity. Here, let’s look at the importance of musical diversity and the importance of access to a diverse range of music.
The concept of the ‘boy band’ revolutionised the global stratosphere of music, with the Beatles often cited as the blueprint for the boyband prototype. Value-laden ideals are at the core of this blueprint, which can be formalised into an intangible rule book. These ‘rules’ are better described as “social facts”, referring to beliefs which can only be ascertained through empirical investigation. Empirical grounds justify the existence of these “social facts’”. Key to one of these rules is underrepresentation of non-white members within boy groups, as too is the “othering” of certain groups. However, for a modern society to be successful, cultural representations must be inclusive and representative, especially given the African-American influence on many Caucasian artists such as Elvis and the Rolling Stones. In fact, excessive investment in Caucasian bands such as NSYNC homogenised mainstream music, with labels investing over $1 million on radio-conglomerates to reach consumers, resulting in investment in an ethnically-homogenous range of sound.
However, correlation does not mean causation. The success of monocultural bands is insufficient evidence for the link between western standards and commercial success. Had the industry embraced transculturalism within radio-conglomerates, this could have meant more promotion for groups outside of the western canon. Therefore, we should learn from our past woes and deem access to a traversable music industry as essential to success within modern society. The global success of Korean band BTS reinforces this. While channels used to hamper cross-cultural musicians, affordable streaming services and the internet revolution caused these structures to become obsolete. Thus, allowing BTS to prove the cross-over potential for non-western musicians. This internet revolution enabled the interconnectedness of the global community, which is a facilitator of the spread of diverse music.
To conclude, the successful modern society is one driven by the borderless and barrierless internet age, based on the principles of inclusivity and openness, whilst also separating itself from colonial narratives and language. Defining success for modern society should apply a holistic approach from numerous angles, which this article has attempted to illustrate.
Featured image: taken by Brittany Hogg