During the month of April (7th to 24th) 2016, Bruce Kapferer and Rolf Scott travelled on a short fieldwork to concretize the beginning of an investigation into what we name Casino cities, or a comparison between Las Vegas, Macau and Monaco. The project originates in Kapfere’s wanting to compare old world European capitalism (Monaco) with new world capitalism as in the USA (Las Vegas), and the new Asian capitalism as manifested in particular in China (Macau). His hypothesis was that the major casino cities are “experimental” centers of global capitalism, as manifest in specific culture-cosmological orientated approaches to gambling, but also as importantly, revealed through the symbolism of specific architectures, innovative technologies of gambling, of desire, and the spectacle.
The 350 foot (107m) pyramid casino resort of Luxor shining its light into the heavens, with the interconnected Las Vegas strip spreading out into the background. Photo taken from the Internet.
Further, how the cities are organized, the particulars of their social life, and how they interrelate with their larger surroundings. In other words, an overall comparison, – would disclose essential aspects on the different types of capitalism, as well as how it manifests it self globally. As such, Casino cities when viewed from afar, can at the very least be seen as future projecting hotspots for certain types of symbolic imagery driven by and reconfirming globally influential powers. That it is so, is further evident in that the investors of these cities are dominated by major global “player” billionaires, of which the most prominent Vegas figures are Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn and their counterpart in Macau is Stanley Ho.
The Egalitarian group led by professor Bruce Kapferer “celebrated” the first year of a full program with a 7 day (8th to the 15th of March) part seminar and conference in Ascona, Switzerland. The location was the beautiful setting of Centro Incontri Umani/ Centre for Studies of Society and Culture. http://www.ciu-ascona.org/index.html
The title of the event was “Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons”. The title reflected some of the issues relating to the complexity of the realities embraced by the concept of egalitarianism. It must here be underlined (as constantly stated by Bruce Kapferer) that the understanding of egalitarianism is dominated by how its European context, is inherently a cosmological issue of Christianity manifested in European ideals on the individual as a value and in utopian egalitarian social forms (ideologies). Our investigation must thereby go beyond the limitations inherent in reducing egalitarianism to a mere issue of equality versus inequality. Egalitarianism is not static and can not be reduced to an ideal. It finds form and can be analysed socially also outside of European influenced contexts, in a processual tug of war with hierarchy. Thus, in simple terms egalitarianism gives birth to hierarchy and hierarchy creates the conditions for egalitarianism.
From the left. Bjørn Bertelsen, Laura Simona, Bruce Kapferer, Jacob Hjortsberg, Alessandro Zagato, Theodoros Rakopoulos, Axel Rudi, and Knut Rio. Photo Rolf Scott