Re: Truth, Power, Knowledge (Read)

Wed, 24 Apr 1996 17:10:00 PDT

Aurin replies like a good native defending his constructed reality, which is
fine except that he used his own constructed reality to provide an
"interpretation" of what I wrote that does not correspond to the written
text. E.g. "He [Read] <plaintively> asks: "Is there any extant theory in
anthropology that is applicable to this very real problem?" " (emphasis
added). I asked a factual question whose purpose was to engender discussion
on a comment made by Calo; namely, studying ourselves. Aurin may dispute
whether there is a "very real problem"--which is where his constructed
reality comes in--but my question simply asked if there is theory relevant
to this matter, not because (as Aurin reads into my text) the topics of the
two articles have "mytho-ideological significance for him [Read]" but because
(a) these are matters of issue to the natives/culture bearers of the society
(U.S.) in question and (b) the two articles seem to come from diametrically
opposed naive beliefs about (1) is there or is there not a problem in
families today in U.S. society and (2) the nature and/or cause of said
problem. In other words, I was using the context of news article to query
about a more general concern: to wit, To what extent has anthropology
developed theory that is applicable or relevant to what the natives/culture
bearers perceive to be problems in their (U.S.) society?

Aurin continues:

"I will therefore assume that by "family values" he [Read] means a social
order premised on a mythical, bilineal, neolocal, patriarchal, "nuclear
family," commonly celebrated in such serials as "Leave it to Beaver," "The
Brady Bunch" and even the radical feminist version portrayed in "The Partridge
Family," popular in the post-war era.""

I made no statement whatsoever about what my personal viewpoint (or lack
thereof) on so-called "family values." I was writing in the capacity of an
anthropologist/scientest about what the natives/culture bearers are saying
about their own (U.S.) society, hence my personal viewpoints were and are
irrelevant to the discussion.

The same comment applies to Aurin's comment:

"Mr. Read's posting can be understood as such action: I suspect he has
internalized the "family values" system, and attendant ramifications of it,
to such a degree that he feels compelled to "do something" or else suffer
cognitive dissonance...or else he is being more wily and simply wants to
see what we make of his behavior...but I doubt it.""

Aurin is quite correct in his doubt, though.

Aurin continues:

"The obvious next line of inquiry would be to examine the genealogies of
value systems based on atomized "nuclear" type family structures. There is
a burgeoning literature that traces the emergence of such systems to the
rise of and consolidation of power and authority within centralized, larger
scale (trans kin-group) governing bodies: centralized administrations
strove to shore up their sovereignty by breaking down existing, local, kin
based social authority hierarchies into tractable and powerless small
(usually bilineal) family units that were dependent on central authority

Other than looking like an ideological manifesto, Aurin's comment misses the
mark by assuming that the topic of concern was the genesis of value systems,
which is a direction that only seems to make sense if one already presumes
that the natives/culture bearers own exegesis of their situation is in error.
I take it that, in effect, Aurin is saying: The folks in ______ may be
passing laws about "parental responsibiilty," but their model that posits a
breakdown in family values is (as Levi-Strauss has commented about native
models in general) not necessarily valid and (as I read
Aurin) they are merely pawns in a larger struggle over the "consolidation of
power and authority within centralized, larger scale (trans kin-group)
governing bodies." Perhaps.

D. Read