The human history has evidenced various systems of hierarchy and power, various manifestations of power and hierarchy relations in different spheres of social life from politics to information networks, from culture to sexual life. A careful study of each particular case of such relations is very important, especially within the context of contemporary multipolar and multicultural world. In the meantime it is very important to see both the general features typical for all or most of the hierarchy and power forms, and their variation. This set of issues has been treated by a series of international conferences titled `Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations' held in 2000--2006. Most articles of this volume were originally presented at the 4th conference of this series (Moscow, 2006). Needless to mention that all those presentations have been substantially re-worked for the publication in this volume.
The relations of hierarchy and power are relevant for all the spheres as they penetrate the whole of social life, establishing a sort of framework for the human agency. Cultural sphere is not an exclusion, although reflection of power relations in culture has its specific traits. First, within the cultural sphere power relations are usually informal, as they are more connected to traditions than to norms. Second, in cultural sphere there are less power institutions which have legal right to the coercion.
These informal aspects are explored in the first section -- `Networked Cultures: Negotiating Cultural Differences in Contested Spaces'
Cordula Gdaniec presents one of the ethnographic case studies within a research project examining urban culture and ethnic representation in Berlin and Moscow, using the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia as an example. She suggests that the campus of this university is emblematic for post-Soviet fragmentation of urban space in Moscow. This situation reflects a continuation of Soviet-style policy of separating `other' cultures from the public arena and token celebrations of the `exotic'.
Peter Moertenboeck argues that recently EU policies led to the situation when the human geography of the Mediterranean is increasingly defined by a logic of exclusion and separation. As a response, current waves of re-ordering and disordering this space of layered ethnicities are characterized by a struggle between diasporic, self-organized digital networks counteracting the governmental network of control.
Helge Mooshammer discusses emerging rhetorics of self-invention by cultural cross-contamination as a future model of social organisation for the global city of the 21st century, drawing upon a case study of the city of Istanbul.
Andreas Kofler's paper is devoted to the so-called `Greenland Problem', or inability to properly compare size of geographic objects on a Mercator projection. He states that maps are never restricted to just (re)present and/or report, but further manipulate, crop, limit, state, define, distort and insist, to validate and create stashed hierarchies.
Marina Butovskaya and her colleagues discuss the problem of modern transformations in sub-Saharan Africa, as concerning the choice of marriage partners in urban communities.
During the 20th century the state became a serious player on the public sphere stage, being sometimes an authoritarian or totalitarian monopolist. Information control can serve as a part and parcel of nation-building. In the contemporary world the public sphere as a zone of modern discourse is distorted by unequal access to information, power and prosperity. At the same time the progress of communications gives new opportunities for people to overcome limitations and deficiencies, even social norms and social control. Various aspects of the role of modern mass media in the public sphere's formation are discussed in the second section -- `Changing in Modern Mass Media and Public Sphere'.
Annekaryn Tiele and Helmut Scherer develop the concept of `nationimages' or the models according to which countries and governments are represented in the mass media. Their analysis indicates that the structure of international news flow is influenced by the economic, linguistic, political and geographical proximity between two countries.
Two following papers are devoted to the role of Internet in public sphere. Gabriella Szabу focuses her research on the formation of European public sphere, and explores the status of the Internet in the interactions between the main actors of European political communication. Anna Trakhtenberg explores how Habermasian ideals of rationality in the `public sphere' are realized in so-called `Runet' or Russian sector of the World Wide Web. It is shown that Runet's discourse still preserves traditional features of the Russian public discourse.
Johannes D.Froneman demonstrates how the change from an authoritarian system with a Christian ethos under a dominant white government, to a secular liberal-democratic system under a dominant black government with a significant Marxist component in Post-Apartheid South Africa was reflected in the mass media. South Africa has shifted from being a two-tier media system (for broadcast and print media, each with its own characteristics) to a more complex system.
Lucie Hribal investigates the differing impacts of mass media, cultural traditions, and kinship politics on the public sphere in post-Communist Kyrgyzstan, that is characterized by such peculiarities as a low threshold of access for unlawful public agitation, the resilience of parts of the population to dissociate themselves from habitual submission under dominant geopolitical interests, and the high status assigned to rumors when compared to the volatile trust in the mass media. She concludes that such interferences with the constitution of an open public sphere, are, in the context of this Central Asia republic, equally or more restrictive than the low freedom and professionalism of postSoviet mass media.
Andrе Bourgeot shows how media use to build information, create the event in the goal of identifiable propaganda. His analysis is displayed in three aspects: semantical, political/institutional, and international.
Asimina Michailidou looks at the EU's public diplomacy strategy from three theoretical aspects: the Habermasian normative approach of the public sphere, the theoretical discussion regarding the democratizing potential of the Internet and key definitions of public diplomacy.
Veronica Usacheva in the study of mass media and development of public sphere in modern Russia underlines the difference of situations in the West and Russia. In the West the questions about the public sphere have turned to questions about the ways in which hegemonic forces (state, corporations .) dictate what discourse is not allowable in the public sphere, and in turn dictate what can and cannot be formulated as a part of one's identity. In Russia the main question is how to limit the hegemony of the state in public sphere and support mass media to be an independent and socially responsible medium.
Leonid Grinin analyses celebrities -- a new social group that appeared in last decades. This is a noticeable and powerful stratum of people having large and even huge earnings, the major part of which results from the high level and wide range of their popularity. The common feature of this heterogeneous public is that they exploit their renown, converting it into appointments, money, links and benefits and sometimes even handing it down.
It is rather clear that the theme of hierarchy and power in the cultural, social and informational aspects of contemporary societies is virtually unbounded, and, as we have already mentioned above, in this edited volume we can naturally present the analysis of just a few (though, we hope, quite interesting and relevant) cases. Unfortunately, in this book we can only preliminarily consider some manifestations of hierarchy and power in some examples of the modern lifestyle of some youth groups and mass media influence on public sphere. On the other hand, we can refer those who are interested in this set of problems to the materials of the previous four `Hierarchy and Power' conferences (see below Hierarchy and Power Conference Proceedings), as well as in the issues of the journal Social Evolution & History 2002--2008 (edited by Dmitri M.Bondarenko, Leonid E.Grinin, and Andrey V.Korotayev).