Re: seeking refs on comparative work

John Cole. (jrc@TEI.UMASS.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 19:16:23 -0400

Snower writes:
>The battle has to be fought on all levels. The member of the sports team
renounces competition between members of the team, obviously, opting for
competition between teams. But this does not provide an alternative to his
making that same choice (of competition on the individual level or the group
level) on yet a different plane. For him, the battle on the ethnic level
still remains. He must choose: compete with the members of his ethnic
group, or subordinate his self-interest to the interest of the group, and
thereby throw the competition to that level.

>You are right the ethnic game is not the only game in town. You are wrong
in saying the other games are alternatives. The battle has to be fought at
each plane. And at some planes, e.g., the corporation level, there is no
reason to fight at all: the group competition is socially meritorious.

>It is not impossible to strike a compomise. E.g. the man who capitulates to
his congregation on Sunday, and competes with the members like heck every
other day of the week. Or the man who competes with these individuals in
the economic sphere, and, in the political sphere, subordinates all to the
collective interest. These dilutions of the total subordination of
individual interest to the ethnic group are all to the good, but I do not
think they change the general truth of my statement, that the choice must be
made, at every different point in the decision making process.

>However, I do want to emphasize that I am not condemning ALL decisions in
favor of ethnic collective interest, against one's individual interest. FOR
MANY SUCH DECISIONS ARE MADE DEFENSIVELY: to protect against hostile intent
from others, on the level of ethnic collectivism. Group attacks can only be
staved off by groups. The individual is at a loss. That's what makes
groupism so dangerous. And so powerful.

>Best wishes. R. Snower

This "rugged capitalist individualist" argument seems to merge misunderstood
sociobiology with a rather american view of capitalism to formulate a world
most of anthropology would seem to negate. As McCreery has noted, anthropology
has demonstrated an extremely diverse range of human cultures--yet with
patterns and themes which can be analyzed. One can oppose "groupism" easily
enough when it involves "ethnic cleansing" or whatever, but it is simplistic
to deny that there are group interests. For example, workers in unions attempt
to counterbalance the power of management via "groupism," I suppose, but even
with a union a worker does not have the power of "management." Snower seems to
adopt a conceipt to the contrary--that everyone has equal power. Nothing in
anthropology or social science suggests this is true. As a college prez once
said to me, "Let's just consider each other totally equal," so I responded
"Then I can fire you with a stroke of my pen?" (He had just terminated my
contract for financial reasons, supposedly)

--John Cole