Somniferum (2453mauri@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU)
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 23:13:16 EDT

On 4/23 when I wrote:

<<"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

I was bluffing. I wrote "burgeoning literature" because I couldn't think of
any actual literature, off the top of my head. Aside from Max Weber and
Jack Goody all that I can think of that remotely suggests my "encroaching
state" scenario is Martine Segalen _Historical Anthropology of the Family_,
who makes the case that the nuclear family is more of an abstract ideal
than anything on the ground. Segalen does point out that state governments
have historically categorized people into nuclear families in order to tax

But I threw the encroaching state sketch out there mostly because it seemed
provocative. I'd been thinking about the Austro-Hungarian empire's naming
of Jews by nuclear family, for tax purposes. And changing land tenure
patterns with the rise of monocultural agriculture. More the rearranging of
extended kin groups than the formation of nuclear families as such. So what
is this late 20th century, core-nation phenomena? Is it a norm by which we
measure social performance? And if so, what does it mean that it is
"breaking down"?

* * *

That "Great synthesis" and "TRUTH for Anthropology" thread is succulent. I
especially appreciated Brad Hume's point:

<<"The point, however, is that the overzealous equation of heredity and
ability which led to eugenics and helped provide a forum for the critique
in culture theory are hardly questions that have been satisfactorily
resolved by the latest generation of sociobiological spinoffs:
evolutionary psychology, the evolutionary theory of culture, etc. We are
engaged in our own set of kulturkampfe. Let's not once again try to
overlook scientific uncertainties in the name of resolving social disputes
or easing our consciences over perceived threats to "THE" scientific
method or revolts against reason. We have not come much further in
setting up Darwinian histories of "warfare" or hard-wired recognition
of "cheaters" and we should still be worried about the dangers of

To Read's comment:

<<"The computer's parts are selected and put together in such a way that an
intended effect (computational power) can be achieved. Even more, the
parts themselves are produced in accordance with the intended effect.
Innovations in CPU chips are the antithesis of mutation; they are
deliberate and purposeful.

If we were to account for the trajectory of the "evolution" of the
computer, we would need (I suggest) two parts: (1) an adaptive scenario
(Why some designs have "survived" and others not) and (2) an intentionality
scenario (what is driving design, hence change in design, such as the RISC
technology for CPU design). If this is valid, then the second part seems
to suggest a necessary divergence from a "natural selection" model as
"intentionality" is excised from evolutionary theory.">>

I don't think the conception of "computational power" of the 1940s and 50s
remotely resembled what we now think of as "computational power." Have MIT
& ARPA scientists single mindedly been striving to produce the Pentium chip
since WWII? Where did Microsoft come from? I think deliberate and
purposeful overarching "drives" only cohere in hindsight. And does it make
a difference if design is being driven by profit motives, defense research
or some altruistic desire for better "computational power"? And (last
question) isn't there a drive to survive? The march of history seems more
pell-mell than goose-stepping if we consider all the drives.

--Marcus Aurin