By definition, involvement in the globalisation of culture, in the sense of importing and diffusing it, is something we should expect of the new middle-class. Of central interest in this project is the way that the new middle-class performs this task, to what ends, and with what consequences. Taking ISPs and Chinese medicine as fields in Bourdieu’s sense, that is as “space[s] of conflict and competition”, as sites of struggles over meaning and capital, I can ask the socio-historical question of how the new middle-class establishes its dominance in them (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, p. 17). Further, seeing them as part of the larger field that is Israeli society, I can ask what this dominance means in terms of the use of globalisation by the new middle-class in Israel’s vicious culture wars, and to what extent the two fields I shall research can teach us about the formation of a global new middle-class, or at least Israeli membership in it.
Put another way, what do the fields of ISPs and Chinese medicine tell us about how the Israeli new middle-class tries to control processes of globalisation? What are the consequences of new middle-class involvement? In what ways do the fields reflect new middle-class values? Armed with answers to these questions, I shall be able to ask what it means to talk about the new middle-class in Israel as part of a global class. What can Israeli new middle-class membership in a global middle-class tell us about globalisation in Israeli society? Can we really talk about the Israeli new middle-class as part of a global class, or does the Israeli milieu exert a greater claim on identity than more transnational “habitats of meaning” (Hannerz, 1992)? Alternatively, is the dichotomy between “Israeli identity” and “transnational identity” a false one, and is the new middle-class trying to turn its transnational identity into a new kind of cosmopolitan, more global Israeliness, as part of its ongoing Kulturkampf with “localists” of different kinds?
The questions I shall hope to answer require research in three main directions, which I propose to tackle in the following order:
Firstly, I shall carry out historical research into the development of ISPs and Chinese medicine in Israel during the nineties. This historical work is essential if I am to understand how various groups (attempt to) exercise control over the processes at hand. Particularly important to this research will be identifying what fell by the wayside and for what reasons. In other words, I shall not be taking hi-tech and alternative medicine in Israel as unproblematised finished products with predetermined trajectories, but rather shall examine the way that each became as it is today whilst paying special attention to conflicts of interest and their resolutions. In relating the stories of hi-tech and alternative medicine I shall be relying on a number of sources: firstly, data of the sort quoted above with regard the growth of hi-tech and alternative medicine, which will be gleaned from various governmental and non-governmental sources: such sources include the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Bank of Israel, government ministries such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Communications, industrial and alternative health organisations in Israel and abroad, and other such sources as were quoted on page Error: Reference source not found above; secondly, I shall collect a selection of newspaper articles and features throughout the 1990s dealing with the two cases: I shall search the three main Israeli dailies for features on ISPs and Chinese medicine, as well as reviewing publications specific for each field (Globes and Chaim Acherim); and thirdly, I shall conduct interviews with leading figures in both fields (founders of the alternative medicine colleges, for instance, or senior managers in established ISPs), with the aim of extracting information.
Secondly, I shall be interested in characterising both fields as they appear today and as they themselves put across their different agendas. To this end I shall be interested in brochures, pamphlets, internet sites and marketing material distributed by actors in both fields. Interviews given to the media also fall into this category of presentation of self.25 In such sites I shall be able to see which messages each field is attempting to put across, what it emphasizes, and conversely, what is left out or de-emphasised. The findings here should resonate with those of the historical research, for in both cases I will be trying to point to the ways in which the fields are actively shaped by certain interested parties.
Thirdly, I shall conduct in-depth interviews with leading figures from both fields. Here I shall be interested in learning about some of the people at the forefront of the processes of hybridisation that this research aims to problematise. I shall hope to compile a socio-economic profile of the interviewees, as well as asking them questions about their lifestyle (in terms of taste, leisure and cultural activities, vacations, and so on), and educational and military backgrounds.26 I shall also specifically ask them about their work in relation to America/the Far East, as part of an attempt to gauge the presence and extent of a possible transnational identity. The interviewees will be asked to characterise their field within the context of Israeli society, and to account for certain local features. By this stage of the research I shall be familiar with the respective histories of hi-tech and alternative medicine, and, in the interviews, I will be able to refer to specific examples of the successful or unsuccessful use of power on the part of the new middle-class.
By problematising the way that cultural imports are moulded to fit their new surroundings in terms of the interests of a particular group, I hope to elucidate the connection between the new middle-class and globalisation. Doing so within the Israeli context has the potential to offer a new perspective on Israel’s infamous trio of deep divides – secular/religious, Ashkenazi/Mizrachi, and Jewish/Arab – by showing how globalisation serves as a resource for influencing the shape of Israeli society, a resource which lies, I hypothesise, mostly in the hands of people in the first half of those three dichotomous relationships. My research will offer an interesting approach to Israel’s process of globalisation from a viewpoint less often adopted in Israeli sociology – that of the middle class, understood in terms of its culture – rather than taking an institutional or elite perspective.
In addition – and I think that here lies my strongest possible contribution – by directly linking the new middle-class with globalisation I might be able to suggest a new definition of the new middle-class which will specifically refer to its role in the globalisation of culture, and which will take into account the long-recognised divisions within that class.
Finally, research on globalisation processes that spread out from the east are much less researched than those that begin in the west, and this despite the fact that claims for the multi-directionality of global cultural flows are very commonly made. By researching alternative medicine, I shall be contributing to a relatively unstudied area in terms of globalisation. Further, this study will provide a novel way of studying phenomena held to be illustrative of contradictory trends. In particular, by researching fields which can be variously described as modern, postmodern, or even anti-modern, I shall contribute to the discussion on the relationship between modernity and globalisation.
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