Recently anthropology has experienced an intellectual crisis of confidence, a sense that the discipline has lost its way, and an institutional crisis, a loss of resources following the financial crisis. Together, these crises provide a perspective that helps us to make sense of what preceded them. This article argues that both crises are signs of the failure of the neoliberalism that rose to prominence in the 1980s, both as a foundation for public policy and as an important, though unrecognized, influence on elements in anthropological thought. It focuses on that influence. It does so by describing some of the changes in anthropological orientation since the 1980s. Prime among these are the loss of disciplinary authority, the solidification of the focus on culture at the expense of a focus on society, and the rejection of systemic theories of social and cultural order. It is argued that, together, these changes have left anthropologists with no critical perspective on the world, just as the ascendance of neoclassical economics left economists with no such critical perspective.
James G. Carrier
The international social democratic movement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Socialist International (SI), the worldwide forum of the socialist, social democratic, and labor parties, actively looked for a solution to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict in the 1980s. At that time, the Israeli Labour Party still was the leading political force in Israel, as it had been historically since the foundation of the country. The Labour Party was also an active member of the SI. The Party’s leader, Shimon Peres, was one of its vice-presidents. At the same time, the social democratic parties were the leading political force in Western Europe. Several important European leaders, many of them presidents and prime ministers, were involved in the SI’s work. They included personalities such as Willy Brandt of Germany; former president of the SI, Francois Mitterrand of France; James Callaghan of Great Britain; Bruno Kreisky of Austria; Bettini Craxi of Italy; Felipe Gonzalez of Spain; Mario Soares of Portugal; Joop de Uyl of the Netherlands; Olof Palme of Sweden; Kalevi Sorsa of Finland; Anker Jörgensen of Denmark; and Gro Harlem Brudtland of Norway—all of whom are former vice-presidents of the SI. As a result, in the 1980s, the SI in many ways represented Europe in global affairs, despite the existence of the European Community (which did not yet have well-defined common foreign policy objectives).
This article uses the biography of the activist and Green Party co-founder Petra Kelly in order to rethink the Greens' founding process and to articulate a new conception of charismatic political leadership. It shows how Kelly used her activism in the new social movements as the basis for her leadership role in the Greens, and how her ongoing work in the peace movement provided her a means of maintaining power within the nascent party during the early 1980s. By examining Kelly's contributions to the Greens' approach to politics, the article shows that she was more than just a figurehead for the new party. Most importantly, the article shows that throughout her career as an activist and politician, Kelly used her biography to establish credibility and to support her unique style of charismatic leadership. The German public's response to Kelly reveals the influence of this charismatic leadership and shows how her movement-driven and biographically informed approach, which brought personal experiences and emotions into politics, was part of a larger transformation of the political in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.
This article responds to Michael Herzfeld's call for anthropologists to develop a new form of 'reflexive comparison' by imaginatively casting the peoples of the African Great Lakes as part of Melanesia. Specifically, it explores how notions of personhood and sociality in this African setting might be understood through interpretative approaches developed in the New Melanesian Ethnography of the 1970s and 1980s. It finds that this sort of thought experiment yields key insights by focusing analytical attention upon concepts of shared vital substances, upon practices intended to control the flow of these substances, and upon the agency of non-human actors (especially cattle) in shaping these processes. An examination of these features suggests new perspectives on a range of ethnographic 'problems', from condom use to Rwanda's ubuhake cattle exchange.
Triumph of culture, troubles of anthropology
Culture has always been the defining feature and disciplinary asset of anthropology. Before the reflective conversations of the 1980s, anthropology had owned culture. In the aftermath of the "crisis of anthropology" came the expansion and augmentation of culture to disciplines, domains, and settings beyond anthropology. Culture is now present in every aspect of social life and it is possible to buy, sell, design, invent, market, perform, and circulate culture(s) individually or collectively in (in)tangible forms. With the expansion, "culture talk"—not always in benign variety—has also become the predominant mode of addressing citizenship, security, and even economy, which were conventionally considered to be distinct from culture. This article elucidates this expansive venture of culture from being a disciplinary analytical artifact to an authoritative arbiter of rights, difference, heritage, and style, and suggests "projects of culture" as an analytical tool to enter into the burdensome territory of culture today, without getting trapped in culture talk.
Looking at Five Israeli Dystopias
This article analyzes different images of Judaism presented in dystopic (anti-utopian) Israeli novels written in two different decades. In the earlier novels, written during the 1980s, Judaism was portrayed as an ancient religion revived by zealots who terrorize Israeli society, Taliban-style. Then I look at the thorough changes that Israeli dystopias have gone through in the last decade: for the first time in this genre, Judaism is imagined in new ways. It is presented as a religion that is not 'frozen' or 'radical'. Its followers are not stereotypical Diaspora Jews, but, rather, representatives of new Jewish identities that are taking shape in current Israeli society. This is emblematic of the deep changes now taking place in Israeli Judaism, particularly the weakening of the traditionally sharp secular-religious dichotomy.
Policy Convergence and Partisanship in France, 1981-2002
Policy convergence between the political parties and the perception among voters that there is little to choose between left and right may be factors in the declining levels of partisanship observed in many advanced industrial democracies, including France, where these conditions emerged in the 1980s. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data, this article analyzes changes in the actual and perceived level of convergence between the mainstream parties in France from 1981 to 2002. It finds evidence of increasing policy convergence over the period as a result of a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors. It concludes that left-right ideological labels are still important to voters, even though they too have moved to the center, and that many of them want to see a clear dividing-line between the parties. The blurring of the boundaries between left and right and the “reversibility” of the mainstream parties has also enhanced the appeal of alternative and extremist parties.
Politicians and civil servants charged with the task of helping a “French Islam” emerge in late twentieth-century France faced a vast, transnational network of more than 1600 Muslim associations and mosques in dozens of French towns and cities. During the colonial era, Islam in French Algeria was exempted from the 1905 separation of church and state, and no one at the time imagined that one century later, 5 million Muslims would inhabit metropolitan France. The legacy of French and later, Algerian, state oversight of the Muslim religion is still felt within Islam in France today. In the post-colonial period up until the 1980s, French authorities relied on immigrants’ home governments for the accommodation of religious requirements, from the salaries of imams to the creation of prayer spaces.
This article is based on anthropological fieldwork undertaken at two elite universities in Beijing. It addresses the paradoxical situation of the many instances of suicide among Chinese elite university students in Beijing, which constitute a public secret. The pressure of education weighs heavily on the shoulders of China's only child in each family, known as the generation of little emperors and little empresses. Since the 1980s, the suzhi jiaoyu reforms (education for quality) have involved various attempts to reduce the pressure of education. However, simultaneously the aim is to increase the competitiveness of individuals. Drawing on existential and phenomenological thought, I suggest that the discourse seems to objectify and quantify a concern for well-being, rather than recognising its intersubjective character. Finally, I argue that the suicides are controversial since they are seen as a form of social criticism.
Asbestos, Aids and Genetically Modified Agriculture
David Vogel and Jabril Bensedrine
This article compares three health, safety and environmental policies in France and the United States: the regulation of asbestos, the regulatory impact of the health crisis associated with AIDS, and the regulation of genetically modified foods and seeds. These cases illustrate the evolution of regulatory policies and politics in France and the United States over the last three decades. In brief, risk management policies have become less politicized and risk averse in the United States, while they have become more politicized and risk averse in France. In many respects, regulatory politics and policies in France during the 1990s resemble those of the United States from the 1960s and through the late 1980s.