A central argument of this article is that Isaiah Berlin's notion of cultural pluralism can be described as relativistic, and that he should not have repudiated the relativism, but simply defended it as part of the reality of the global constellation of cultures. Berlin's relativism emerges into a more generous light, in which radical differences among cultures occupy centre stage. Focusing on cultural relativism and its possible sources in Berlin unveils the neglected role that his famed concept of 'negative' liberty plays in assuring the distinctiveness of individual cultures and shared humanity, both of which constitute cultural pluralism. I conclude that Berlin's notion of cultural pluralism is relativistic based not only on substantive evidence, but also on a more realistic definition of the concept. Moreover, his conception of cultural pluralism and in particular its relativism highlight the subjects of cultural identity and autonomy in a world of immense power imbalances among nations and peoples.
Chisanga N. Siame
This paper criticises the concept of culture as deployed within debates on moral relativism, arguing for a greater appreciation of the role of power in the production of a society's purportedly 'moral' norms. The argument is developed in three stages: (1) analysis of the relation between ideology and morality, noting that the concept of morality excludes self-serving moral claims and justifications; (2) analysis of the concept of culture, drawing attention to an ambiguity in its usage and to the hierarchical social structures within which the actual bodies of cultures are produced and reproduced; and (3) contention that (1) and (2) provide the basis for a radical and socially effective species of immanent critique: the exposure of existing norms and institutions purported to be morally justified as masks for the self-interest of elite groups.
The Private, the Public and the Political
Monism, Pluralism and Relativism In this article I want to re-examine the issue of moral conflict and argue that certain explanations of this issue are particularly problematic in relation to the distinction between the concepts of the private, the
Truth and the problems of superstition and 'blood knowledge'
The approbation, in the last few decades, of 'African ways of knowing' and, more recently, the critical emphasis on 'knowledge in the blood'—which refers to 'deeply entrenched' and 'received knowledge', notably of (white) Afrikaners—give rise to all kinds of questions and concerns. What makes certain ways of knowing and kinds of knowledge 'African' and 'Afrikaner', respectively? What do these ideas cover and include, and what falls outside their respective ambits? What functions are served by appealing to these notions? Amongst other things, the idea of 'African ways of knowing' constitutes part of a challenge to occidental belief systems, science, education and ethics. Theorists who single out certain ways of knowing as distinctly and uniquely 'African' or characteristically 'Afrikaner', respectively, not only emphasise their significance in post-colonialist and antiracist discourse but also maintain that the study of these is of profound relevance to educational and socio-political transformation. In this paper, I examine the notions in question, by seeking to understand how those who employ them might see them as plausible, before referring them to a particular epistemological framework. Problems that need to be addressed include relativism about knowledge and truth, as well as elevation of all kinds of beliefs—notably superstitions and racial prejudices—to the status of knowledge, for any real and sustainable transformation to occur.
This is an essay – along with another, by Frank Pearce – on The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim (2005). The collection is heterogeneous, and good in parts. But there are also basic themes, driven by the concerns of the editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Alexander – especially with a 'cultural turn' in how Durkheim is interpreted. Accordingly, a major criticism is that Durkheim's 'culturalism' isn't a relativistic 'culturalism', but looks for universals. His work conjugates the contextual and the universal. It also conjugates the rational and the emotional, in a continuation rather than a radical break with Kant. But it is above all in a commitment to science, and to a search for explanation through intelligible connections in the underlying dynamics of social life. Accordingly, another major criticism is not only the collection's tendency to downplay reason, but a sort of black hole in which it fails to tackle Durkheim's very idea of a social science.
Revisiting 'Primitive Mentality' as a Question of Ontology
T. M. S. Evens
Refuting the rationalist implication that the Nuer statement “twins are birds“ is dumb, Evans-Pritchard held that the statement should be taken as a figure of speech. Against his interpretation, I argue that the Nuer, at the time of Evans-Pritchard's research, understood their statement to be true in an ordinary sense. In effect, my argument continues to suppose that the perception of the world implicit in the Nuer statement differs in a fundamental way from that of moderns. However, instead of having to conclude that the Nuer statement about twins and birds is indeed dumb (or that we have never been modern in any distinguishing sense), my argument develops an ontological thought-experiment that theorizes the relative validity of the Nuer perception.
Entangled Encounters of Europe and Islam in the Age of Enlightenment
The relationship of the European Enlightenment to Islam has usually been analyzed by collating “attitudes” toward a religion conceived as constitutively non-European. Enlightenment thinkers made use of Islam and other major revealed religions to relativize and to mock the claims of the Christian church. However, the notion of Islam as irredeemably “other” to Europe is a modern projection. Many eighteenth-century people passed back and forth between Europe and lands dominated by Islam, changing their identity, language, or religion, seeking refuge or a reversal of fortunes. One such figure was Jean-Jacques Rousseau's father, Isaac. Rousseau was marked in multiple ways by the mobility between Europe and the Muslim world, and by the new ideas these crossings engendered. This study of Rousseau's treatment of Islam and the Islamic world in his life and work proposes another model for thinking about Europe and Islam in the Age of Enlightenment.
A Personal Journey
Starting with a reflection on the experience of his own analysis, conducted in German by a German analyst, the author explores the problems of psychoanalytic work carried out in a cross-cultural context. First, the Hindu world-view and its three major elements, moksha, dharma, and karma, are explained. The cultural belief in a person's inner limitations is contrasted with the Western mind-set of individual achievement. The high value that Hindu society places on connection as opposed to separation and how this affects notions of gender and the sense of one's body is discussed. The article then returns to the author's experiences in analysis and his conclusions about the nature of cultural transference and counter-transference and the optimal approach toward psychoanalysis with regard to differing cultural backgrounds.
The Contribution of Max Gluckman
Gluckman and the Manchester School pioneered approaches in anthropology that are now commonplace. But they were interested in achieving generalizations of both a local and more global kind. Their central methodology was that of situational analysis and extended-case analysis, which are examined here as attempts to make anthropology, via its ethnographic field method, a scientific discipline that opened out to novel ideas and theories concerning the human condition. This essay critically assesses the thinking that underpinned the methodology of situational analysis and suggests some areas of redirection. The overall idea is to impart some sense of the spirit that motivated various aspects of the Manchester innovation, especially the politics that gave it some coherence, and the wider importance of its directions that are occasionally overlooked in reflections on the history of social anthropology.
ground beyond pure relativism in his inductively developed notion of “humanity” (Sikka ( 2011 ) calls this “enlightened relativism”). The skeptical position towards universalism—predominant in current debates in Comparative Political Theory and