Saturday, July 05, 2008

Andrex Academics 2

Sometimes it could only be Saturday. The Top Gear boys are tearing their hair out while standing on Mexicans, Great Gapper warns that we can no longer afford chocolate Belgians, 'Yes, it's the moon. Over.' (Or so they say...), John Cage is still banging away on his old Joanna and it's become pretty clear that Iranian peaches cannot be had in Norfolk even for ready money.  But, meanwhile, having been afflicted by a bad case of l'esprit d'escalier, I need to expand on the matter of Andrex Academics. I used extreme cases - Mao's China, Hitler's Germany - to deride Cashmore's all cultures are equal posture. Say we ignore these cases as aberrations; I don't think this is reasonable but let's try it. This would seem to strengthen Cashmore's case which now becomes all cultures are equal when not convulsed by extraordinary circumstances. This feels consolingly liberal until you notice the concealed metaphysic. To whom are all cultures equal? They are not to me - I prefer British, American and European culture to all others. I would guess they're not to Cashmore either. In fact, the individual to whom all cultures are equal is a fiction. He has been invented to satisfy the science envy of the soft sciences. Science works by seeing the world through the eyes of a fictional individual - an objective seer, devoid of all bias. This is how Cashmore aspires to see culture. It is a category error. There can be no scientific view of culture. Back to Saturday.


  1. An objective description doesn't have to be a quantitative, mathematical representation, so whilst the soft sciences, such as anthropology, may not be able to provide a mathematical representation of human culture, they are nevertheless capable of providing an objective, value-independent description of human culture. There are objective facts about each different culture, and there are objective comparisons and contrasts which can be drawn between different cultures.

    The fact that different cultures can be described in an objective, value-independent manner, does not entail, as I take it that Cashmore believes, that all cultures are equally valuable. This latter proposition requires one to ascribe a value to each different culture, and such an ascription is, at least partially, founded upon a subjective perspective.

    One of the facts which is part of the objective content of anthropology is that value ascriptions are not invariant under a change of subjective perspective, hence an assignment of equal value to all human cultures is inconsistent with the objective content of anthropology.

  2. 'There can be no scientific view of culture' -- but can there be a scientific view of scientific culture?

    Sorry to be 'flip'.

  3. I don't agree with your first two pars, Gordon, but I agree with the third. You make too much of the externalities of culture.

  4. Now where would your stair goblin live without the stair. Does he need a stair, I know his brother the shower/bath chap really needs nice warm water with one in it. While the three in the morning b*stard needs one to be fast in a deep and lovely sleep.
    Anyhoos, at the risk of some ire. It seems better to say if you need to say anything on the matter, that cultures are equal rather that one far better than others. A mind set which drove people to all sorts of nastiness.
    But isn't the term a little like purity or piety.

  5. Maybe it's just me, but I think the first three links in your piece may be suffering from cultural equality as they all point to the same article. Perhaps they are meant to, though: sound and fury signifying nothing, etc.

    Too bad about the peaches. but why not try an Isfahani peach in Isfahan. Once you get past the mullahs Iran sounds pretty amazing. Get there before the Israelis do.

  6. That's par for the course, then, Bryan.

  7. John Cage, he daid.