"by the book"

Judith M S Pine (jmsp@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Fri, 10 May 1996 13:23:57 -0700

Holly Swyers wrote, in an aside:

> Just a curious question a little off the topic - in how
> many cultures is there a disparity between "by the book" and "the way we
> actually do things"?

... and caught my attention (which is wandering from the right path a bit
o'er frequently of late). So, in lieu of the writing I'm supposed to be
doing, I'd like to expand on this question a bit.

First, how often is the existance of the "book" simply a way to
discriminate "green horns" from "old hands", such that the new folks will
attempt to follow the book, earning contempt and ridicule from those who
know how things "really" work. There seems to be a fairly complex
relationship here, and I'm not certain how to sort it out. In situations
such as the one I've described, or at least in those of which I have
personal knowledge, there are definitely "book" rules which hold true even
for the old timers. So, some writing "counts" and other writing "doesn't
count". Taking Bourdieu's concept of "linguistic capital" beyond the
discussion of code switching or language choice, we can argue that the
value of various sorts of writing is being negotiated in these settings.
So, what are the forces behind this negotiation? What is being
produced/reproduced? Is it about membership in a given group, or is it
something else?

Second question, hopefully no sillier than the first: How might
fundamentalist religious discourse today fit into this complex negotiation
of value and power? Is the conflict between the written and the "real" in
secular discourse a significant source of the tension behind this zeal?

Finally, is there any case (given the existance of written regulations)
where there is *not* a distinction between what is written and actual

- Judy Pine
Anth grad, etc.