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The anthropology of human-environment relations

Materialism with and without Marxism

Penny McCall Howard

What are Marxists to make of the new wave of materialism that has become influential in anthropology and across the social sciences and humanities? An ethnography of fishing in coastal Scotland and an analysis of Tim Ingold’s ecological anthropology demonstrates both the usefulness and gaps in contemporary ecological and materialist anthropology. It finds that the reduced role for political economy, human intentionality, and material results in this literature significantly reduces their explanatory power. Efforts to unite analysis of humans and nonhumans have led to a lack of attention to the divisions within human societies, particularly the alienation of labor and therefore of ecological relations in capitalism. Understanding these dynamics is essential to contending with the current planetary ecological crisis.

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The Continent Behind

Alienation and the American Scene in George William Curtis’s Lotus-Eating: A Summer Book

James Weaver

George William Curtis was a popular travel essayist and lecturer during the mid-nineteenth century, but his work has seen limited critical attention. This article examines Curtis’s 1852 book Lotus-Eating, an account of his summer trip visiting numerous tourist destinations throughout New York and New England. Situating Curtis’s narrative against the literary nationalism of his contemporaries, the article examines how Curtis’s prior four-year tour of Europe intrudes upon his experiences of the American scene, resulting in a sense of alienation and melancholic yearning for Europe. Curtis’s text engages central questions of national identity as it intersects with the emergence of nature tourism, but contrary to the dominant rhetoric of his time, during his tour Curtis articulates not a triumphal belief in American manifest destiny but a mournful nostalgia for the scenes and sensations of Europe.

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Christopher Turner

What is counter-finality? Who, or what, is the agent of counter-finality? In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre employs a complicated and multivalent notion of counter-finality, the reversal of the finality intended by an agent in different contexts and at different levels of complexity. Sartre's concept of counter-finality is read here as an attempt to rethink and broaden the traditional Marxist notion of commodity fetishism as a tragic dialectic of human history whose final act has yet to play out. The article analyses and explicates Sartre's complex concept of counter-finality, focusing on material antipraxis.

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Paul Gyllenhammer, Bruce Baugh and Thomas R. Flynn

The articles in this section deal with two concepts from Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason analyzed in the work of Tom Flynn. The first is the practico-inert, the materialized result of human activity that can turn that activity against itself, but which can also take on a positive and progressive role in history. It is this progressive role that Paul Gyllenhammer analyzes. Bruce Baugh’s article looks at Flynn’s analyses of how, in the Critique, the “third” mediates group praxis in such a way that it moves from passivity to activity but without fusing into a hyperorganism, and how this decisive shift accounts for “the revolutionary moment.”

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‘Love Merchandized’

Money in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Manfred Pfister

Although analysing Shakespeare’s sonnets in the context of ‘Shakespeare and money’ is not an obvious choice, I believe that Karl Marx’s ‘The Power of Money’ in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts are as relevant to the sonnets as they are to plays such as Timon of Athens. My reading of them will foreground their dialogue with terms and developments in early modern banking and focus on metaphors of economic transaction that run through the whole cycle; indeed, a third of them figure love, its wealth and truth, use and abuse, in terms of investment in order to project an alternative economy beyond the self-alienating world of banking/financial gain. This imbrication of the erotic with the economic comprises also the writing of love sonnets, a competitive game-like economic transaction. Soneteering is a way of ‘merchandizing love’ that inevitably casts a capitalist shadow across the supposedly most sincere expression of love.

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David Nachmias, Maoz Rosenthal and Hani Zubida

While national government elections are perceived as first order institutions that result in relatively high turnout rates, local elections are viewed as second-order institutions and are usually characterized by low turnout rates. We claim that this behavior is conditioned by the stakes that voters associate with elections as well as the voters' relative position in the socio-ethnic stratification structure. In this article we show that such conditions may yield an inversion in voters' perspectives. In other words, voters who are alienated from national government institutions and who are effectively mobilized by leaders of their socio-ethnic groups, which have high stakes in second-order institutions, tend to invert their preference with regard to the significance of elections. In such instances, national elections become second-order elections, and local elections become first-order elections. We use ballot-box level data from two national and two local elections in Israel to test this theory.

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Khaled Furani

another. But this grounding was, in Radin’s view, the basis for an understanding of his own alienation from the prevailing values, without which ‘the task of understanding the primitive could not be accomplished’ … He emerges then as a kind of self

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Karsten Harries

The phrase ‘Spirit of Revenge’ is taken from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where it names the deepest source of human self-alienation. In Sartre – but perhaps I should be more precise and say in Being and Nothingness – as I will try to show, the spirit of revenge finds paradigmatic expression.

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Benjamin Hutchens

This article explores Sartre's approach to the phenomenon and praxis of boxing in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. It examines two aspects of Sartre's approach to the 'sweet science': first, it analyses the claim that a single boxing match (and each punch thrown within it) 'incarnates' all the violence of boxing itself, which in turn 'incarnates' all socio-economic violence, so that, by extension, all such violence is concretely particularized in the boxing match; and second, it attempts to link the phenomenology of transcending/transcended subjectivities degraded by the fight-relation to the praxiology of alienation and the deterioration of praxis.

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Penny Welch and Susan Wright

Welcome to this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences. Important social aspects of contemporary higher education are addressed in this issue by authors from a number of countries and social science disciplines. These range from learning and teaching concepts of capitalism and alienation, to the impacts of computerised university administration, the systematic ways certain categories of students fall through cracks in the academic pipeline, and how to reintroduce social activism into a ‘professionalised’ curriculum and teach social justice through international study visits.