"The three worlds theory is perhaps still the basis for our dominant assumptions about geopolitical and geocultural order," writes Frederick Buell, "but its hold on our imagination and faith is passing fast. In its place, a startlingly different model—the notion that the world is somehow interconnected into a single system—has emerged, expressing the perception that global relationships constitute not three separate worlds but a single network."
In the wake of disillusionment with anticolonial nationalism, and in response to a wide variety of economic, political, demographic, and technological changes, Buell argues, we have come increasingly to view the world as complexly interconnected. In National Culture and the New Global System he considers how the notion of national culture has been conceived—and reconceived—in the postwar period. For much of the period, the "three world" theory provided economic, political, and cultural models for mapping a world of nation-states. More recently, new notions of interconnectedness have been developed, ones that have had profound—and sometimes startling—effects on cultural production and theory. Surveying recent cultural history and theory, Buell shows how our understanding of cultural production relates closely to transformations in models of the world order.
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