The Social Life of Fighting Words

The Case of Political Correctness

in Conflict and Society
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ABSTRACT

Political correctness has become a fighting word used to dismiss and discredit political opponents. The article traces the conceptual history of this fighting word. In anthropological terms, it describes the social life of the concept of political correctness and its negation, political incorrectness. It does so by adopting a concept-inmotion methodology, which involves tracking the concept through various cultural and political regimes. It represents an attempt to synthesize well-established historiographic and anthropological approaches. A Swedish case is introduced that reveals the kind of large-scale historical movements and deep-seated political conflicts that provide the contemporary context for political correctness and its negation. Thereupon follows an account of the conceptual history of political correctness from the eighteenth century up to the present. Instead of a conventional conclusion, the article ends with a political analysis of the current rise of fascism around the world and how the denunciation of political correctness is both indicative of and instrumental in this process.

Contributor Notes

RONALD S. STADE is Professor of peace and conflict studies with specialization in anthropology at Malmö University, Sweden. He is the founding editor Conflict and Society and has conducted anthropological fieldwork in Guam, Washington, DC, and, most recently, Lebanon. His research has focused on global-local cultural change, cosmopolitanism, and ethical theory.

Conflict and Society

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