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In answering, this study tells us much about the modern world in which we live. Insiders and outsiders. The intellectual as social critic Antonio Gramsci and Michael Walzer. Between autonomy and responsibility Max Weber on scholars academics and intellectuals. Dilemmas of the intellectual in modern France. Priestly interventions. Algeria and the dual image of the intellectual1.
In Madame Bovary the acts may never have happened; in Morocco they are " represented as actual. The difference between fictional representation and actual representation is not crucial for another reason: the Moroccan events may not have happened. At least Geertz evinces no interest in them as facts. His field report records a story told by a Jewish merchant, who must have been in his eighties, about some events six decades earlier, prior to World War I.
Can this account be fully believed? Even the greenest investigator would raise questions about a story describing murder, robbery, and revenge 60 years ago, but Geertz never inquires whether any other accounts or records confirm these events. Geertz offers no opinion about the trustworthiness of his informant.
For Geertz these questions are immaterial; he has a text, ripe for a thick interpretation. Like Rorty's, his style exudes a reflective bemusement as he moves from thought as insight to thought as art; he is content to juggle perspectives and savor texts. Geertz's forte is describing unique and specific events. But pulled from the larger context, the particular becomes not art, but spectacle, something to gaze upon. His most famous essay, "Deep Play," on cockfighting in Bali, is a small tour de force, but it is as much a dazzling self-display as a penetrating discussion of its subject-matter.
But what does he find? For this diffident observer everything evokes Shakespeare, poetry, and music. The Geertzian anthropologist is an artist who cavorts with perspectives, writes the anthropologist Vincent Crapanzano.get link
In Defense of Truth
To be sure, there is no direct route out of the maze of interpretations; the problem is that Geertz seems happy to wander about. He puts it this way: "The stance of 'well, I, a middle- class, mid-twentieth-century American, more or less standard male, went out to this place, talked to some people I could get to talk to me, and think things are sort of rather this way with them there' is not a retreat, it's an advance.
The advance should not be deprecated. Against a tradition of dreary theorizing, Geertz wandered the byways of Indonesia and Morocco, asking, looking, reflecting. Yet the advance harbored the danger of retreat, the anthropologist content to dabble and amuse, not fathom. Some years after Geertz finished his field work in Bali, an unsuccessful communist coup led to bloody riots in Indonesia with numerous killings. In his piece on Balinese cockfighting only the last footnote alludes to these events; and Geertz's language turns clumsy, as if the grim political facts mangle his aestheticism.
His contorted footnote in the penultimate page of his book referring to the coup, riots, and deaths begins this way: "That what the cockfight has to say about Bali is not altogether without perceptions and the disquiet it expresses about the general pattern of Balinese life is not wholly without reason is attested by the fact that in two weeks of December , during the upheavals following the unsuccessful coup in Djakarta, between forty and eighty thousand Balinese The point is not to wield the hammer of political reality against efforts to look at small chunks of the world.
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Tiny fragments can yield the sharpest insights, and expansive overviews can yield the most banal platitudes. The issue with Geertz or Rorty is not the size of the canvas, but the fact that they use it to express their increasingly aesthetic pose. Nor is this pose uniquely theirs. Literary and aesthetic modes enjoy vast popularity in the social sciences and humanities. In anthropology, history, and English the talk is of tapestries of interpretations, imaginations of texts, the author as subject and poet, dialogic approaches.
James Clifford, an anthropologist, writes that a literary and "dialogical" ethnology removes stability and objectivity. Subjectivity is the name of the game. The anthropologist's voice "pervades and situates the analysis, and objective, distancing rhetoric is renounced. The flight from universals to the aesthetic pose cripples political thinking.
Leftist thinkers monomaniacally extend the truism that power is powerful to the proposition that power is everything, as if this were a subversive notion. Power is at the centre of cultural politics We are either active subjects Scandalous claim? This is the wisdom of executive suites and abandoned streets. If history were only the story of contending power cliques, then every chapter would begin with a struggle and end in blood, which is almost the case.
Those out-of-power offer the same program as those in-power, except listing different individuals to be shot or imprisoned. That this is a recurring tale does not transform a truth into a critique. The search for omnipresent power inspires some original research; it also opens the floodgates to demi-scholarship that endlessly rediscovers power.
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Traditionally political thinking began, not ended, with the recognition of power. Now the fact of power appears as a dazzling insight. The third chapter of Rousseau's Social Contract questioned the "right of the strongest. But what kind of right is that which perishes when force fails? The ability to distinguish what is and what should be, essential to political thinking, dwindles; the reality of a multifarious domination stuns liberal and leftist thinkers into reiterating platitudes that all categories deceive.
A political theorist derides impartiality as a cloak for power. Young, "legitimates hierarchical decision-making and allows the standpoint of the privileged to appear as universal. All universal categories serve as tools of power in history; since they are not uniformly realized, they are false. Banal ideas of history supplement banal ideas of power. Critics claim that global intellectual diversity proves that no idea is truer than any other, as if the fact of slavery justified its practice.
The late bourgeois mind, Adorno proclaimed, is unable to comprehend validity and genesis in their simultaneous unity and difference. To put this more crudely, the reality that all thought originates somewhere genesis does not constitute an argument for its falseness validity. Nor is something invalid because it is not generally recognized-or because it is misused. This may seem obvious, but left-leaning scholars regularly argue that global power and complexity disprove universals.
To the modern academic, empirical diversity signifies multiple truths; imperialism spawns "universal" truths. Human rights, states an anthropologist Ann-Belinda S. Preis, are "culturally constructed. What does this mean? One vigilant anti-imperialistic scholar attacks "Western mathematics" as "the secret weapon of cultural imperialism.
While it claims universalism, Western mathematics is a tool of domination and control. This suggests we should recognize "ethno-mathematics" as a "more localised and specific set of mathematical ideas," outside or against mainstream mathematics. For there is very considerable opposition to conciliatory gestures on the liberal side just as there is on the Muslim side.
If Rushdie were to announce that he wished to withdraw his novel from sale he too would unleash a great deal of hostility against himself from his supporters. The view which received more publicity than any other was that of a former Oxford law lecturer, Francis Bennion, who implicitly portrayed Rushdie as a coward and a traitor to intellectual freedom. When Rushdie made his Christmas Eve statement he showed considerable courage by going ahead in spite of such predictable reactions. There seems very little doubt that if he were now to ask for the withdrawal of his book altogether, he would be criticised in even more unforgiving terms by a significant number of his present supporters.
Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie
In the current cultural climate these words are scarcely an exaggeration. What they suggest is that Rushdie, to some extent at least, has been pinned to a fixed position by the very orthodoxy which is supposedly the guarantee of our individual and collective freedom.
Interestingly, as Mill makes clear in a note, what he specifically had in mind was the tendency of British Christians in India to exclude both Hindus and Muslims from their doctrines of toleration and to treat them as inferior on account of their resistance to the orthodoxies of Christianity. But he went on to discern the same kind of intolerance in the way that all those who dissented from intellectual orthodoxy were treated by the upholders of orthodoxy:.
For it is this — it is the opinions men entertain and the feelings they cherish, respecting those who disown the beliefs they deem important which makes this country not a place of mental freedom.
For a long time past, the chief mischief of the legal penalties is that they strengthen the social stigma. It is that stigma which is really effective, and so effective is it that the profession of opinions which are under the ban of society is much less common in England than is, in many other countries, the avowal of those which incur risk of judicial punishment ….
Those whose bread is already secured, and who desire no favours from men in power, or from bodies of men, or from the public, have nothing to fear from the open avowal of any opinions but to be ill-thought of and ill-spoken of and this it ought not to require a very heroic mould to enable them to bear … But though we do not now inflict so much evil on those who think differently from us as it was formerly our custom to do, it may be that we do ourselves as much evil as ever by our treatment of them ….