Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

x (
Wed, 28 Jun 1995 12:01:24 -0500

In article <>, (Gerold
Firl) wrote:

> I'm afraid we're getting into politics here, rather than anthropology. And
> again, I must say the comprehensive sweep of your misunderstanding is vast.
> You don't understand the causes of third world problems, nor do you see the
> solutions for any of them. What you do is project all blame on a distant,
> abstract enemy for all the problems you perceive. This is a very common
> method for avoiding the difficult task of dealing with your problems; but now
> we're getting into psychology, rather than anthropology.

'The comprehensive sweep of your misunderstanding is vast' says little
of what exactly you think I 'misunderstand.' The 'abstract distant enemy'
is neither distant nor abstract. This enemy speaks through the
ideological warfare of the capitalist system. With regard to the
separation of anthropology from politics, it might be instructive to look
at an important event in the history of the social sciences; in the early
19th century European intellectuals interested in a science of society,
established the field of political economy. The fundamental issue at hand
was how wealth was distributed in society. Many of these intellectuals
had egalitarian interests at heart. With the growth of the field however,
the capitalists got a little worried, and a dismantling of political
economy was engineered. Political economy split up into three 'fields:'
political science, the 'science of governance by the capitalist state,'
'economics,' or 'the science of profits,' and sociology, the 'structure of
capitalist society.' Since European capitalists engaged in global
aggression on an increasing scale at the time, anthropology had to arise,
in order to give legitimacy to their actions.

Late 19th century saw some of the most demented forms of European
thought arise, particularly with respect to non-white peoples of the
world. Theories of racial supremacy gained the favor of those intent upon
the destruction of peoples around the world. Peek at the historical
record. The traditions of this time still persist in various forms,
inspite of the bloodbaths that scar this century. There is a close
relationship between what is considered 'legitimate knowledge' and the
prerogatives of power. Note how certain forms of 'knowledge' become
'legitimate' in certain historical contexts. Race theories in the 30's, a
period of collapse in the capitalist system, when the basis of fascism
became the ascendant logic in Europe and America. Liberalism responded
rather weakly at first, and when contradictions manifested in the
collision of competing hegemonies (U.S. and Germany), you had a serious
bloodbath. be continued..