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Navigating through contradictory rationalities

Experiences of development in Mexico

Martin J. Larsson

English Abstract:

This article discusses the idea of policy coherence for development, and its relation to the experience of development along the Grijalva River in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Through an analysis of different understandings of the garbage in the river, and of the attempts to deal with the garbage, I highlight tensions between different generations of policies, between different levels of government, and between implementing the goals of governmental representatives and a meaningful participation by citizens. To understand these tensions, the article draws attention to the coexistence of experience-based rationalities, which are important to take into account when formulating policies, and when moving from policies to concrete projects.

Spanish Abstract:

Este artículo discute la idea de la coherencia en las políticas públicas para el desarrollo, y su relación con la experiencia de desarrollo sobre el Río Grijalva, en el estado de Chiapas, México. A través de un análisis de diversos entendimientos de la basura en el Río, subrayo las tensiones entre diferentes generaciones de políticas públicas; entre diferentes niveles de gobierno; y las tensiones entre la implementación de metas de los representantes gubernamentales y una participación significativa por parte de los ciudadanos. Para entender estas tensiones, el artículo enfatiza la co-existencia de racionalidades basadas en la experiencia práctica, que son importantes considerar al formular políticas públicas, y al moverse de las políticas públicas a proyectos concretos.

French Abstract:

Cet article examine l’idée de cohérence dans les stratégies politiques pour le développement et sa relation avec l’expérience du développement autour du fleuve Grijalva, dans l’état du Chiapas, au Mexique. À travers l’analyse des multiples significations des déchets dans le fleuve, je souligne les tensions entre différentes générations de politiques publiques, entre différents niveaux de gouvernement, et entre la mise en oeuvre des objectifs par les représentants gouvernementaux et la participation significative des citoyens. Pour comprendre ces tensions, l’article insiste sur la coexistence de rationalités fondées sur l’expérience pratique, qu’il est important de prendre en compte dans l’élaboration des politiques publiques, et lors du passage de ces politiques publiques aux projets concrets.

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The Logic of Welfare

Religious and Sociological Foundations of Social Policy Rationality

Elmar Rieger

The article aims to contribute to the sociological theory of the welfare state by addressing a fundamental puzzle of social policy, namely, the weakness of its claim to be a rational effort of society dealing with problems of social integration. Drawing on the work of Franz-Xaver Kaufmann, I distinguish between the cultural or ideational side of the welfare state and the social engineering or outcome side, arguing to take the rhetoric and symbolism of social policy more seriously. The integration of society is more due to the communicative action of social policy than to its organizational quality. As early as the axial age civilizations, symbolism and ideology emerged as an autonomous field of social conflict and societal union. Taking ancient Israel as an example, I argue that societal integration may take place even in the absence of strong institutional correlates of social politics. This can help to explain why the welfare state in modern society is compatible with ever-increasing economic and social inequality.

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The historical anthropology of thought

Jean-Pierre Vernant and intellectual innovation in ancient Greece

S. C. Humphreys

This article illustrates the need for a historical anthropology of the longue durée, dealing with pre-modern societies, by analyzing the work of Jean-Pierre Vernant on the development of thought in ancient Greece. Vernant's anthropologies began with Marx and the historical psychologist Ignace Meyerson; he was influenced by the Durkheimian Louis Gernet and later by Lévi-Strauss. His early interest in relating Greek rationality to social organization led him increasingly into work on Greek religion and tragedy. This article builds on his work by studying the social contexts of communication that facilitated the proposal and elaboration of unconventional ideas.

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Bernard Matolino

The disagreement over what was responsible for arriving at consensual positions, in traditional African polities, is best captured in the classic debate between Kwasi Wiredu and Emmanuel Eze. The former holds that rational persuasion was the sole informant of decision-making while the latter argues that non-rational factors played a crucial role in securing a consensual decision. If Wiredu is correct then consensus could work in modern society as it can be argued that it does not rely on traditionalistic scaffoldings. If, on the other hand, Eze is correct, then consensus cannot work in modern largely urbanised Africa as its traditional underpinnings have largely disappeared. While Emmanuel Ani’s intervention in this debate is welcome for its earnest search for a system that could work, his support for Eze is not bold enough to undermine Wiredu’s rationalistic orientation in consensus.

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The Rational Stage

John Dover Wilson and Hamlet Criticism Between the Wars

Mark Gauntlett

After the First World War, critical interest in Hamlet was particularly intense. The War had precipitated a crisis of rationality, and now, along with a wide range of conventional positions and assumptions, the rationality of Shakespeare’s play came into question. On one side of a protracted debate, John Dover Wilson marched at the head of those critics who argued and defended the rationality of Hamlet. For Wilson, approaches which threatened the traditional understanding of the play also threatened good sense. In particular, he set himself against those views which, by undermining the coherence and authority of Shakespeare and his play, served to undermine their rationality. Yet it was W.W. Greg – the most ‘rational’ of critics, and in other respects Wilson’s powerful ally – who supplied the most pressing challenge to articulate the full defence not only of the rational Hamlet, but also of the rational Elizabethan stage.

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Paul Clough

This article argues that the moral dimensions of the term 'culture' have been under-theorized in anthropology. The argument stems from a particular reading of the Western philosophy of ethics. Based in economic anthropology, I explore how an understanding of the moral imperative can illuminate differences in processes of accumulation. After a discussion of the concept of morality in philosophy and in recent anthropology, I go on to examine the principles of altruism and reciprocal utility in the light of theories of kinship and of rational choice. I then outline an argument concerning the general form of moral reasoning. According to this argument, kinship classifications function logically to synthesize variable distributions in different societies of two interconnected principles—altruism and reciprocal utility.

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The Rational Actor Reform Paradigm

Delivering the Goods but Destroying Public Trust?

Peter Taylor-Gooby

This paper discusses the impact of an important trend in service delivery in response to the substantial pressures that now face European welfare states: the New Public Management, combining centrally imposed targets and the promotion of market systems within state services. It traces the logic underlying the reform back to the rational self-regarding actor theories of human behaviour of the Enlightenment. Using the example of the UK NHS, recently reformed in a way that follows the rational actor paradigm, it considers the impact on long-term public trust.

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Receiving the Gift of Cognitive Disability

Recognizing Agency in the Limits of the Rational Subject

Patrick McKearney

How valuable can people with mental disabilities be to others? In this article I present ethnographic material on L’Arche, a Christian charity that provides care. I describe how carers there are trained to see cognitive disability as producing not simply an absence of rational agency, but also the presence of a quite different way of actively inhabiting the world. I argue that, by learning to recognize and value this unusual kind of agency, carers in L’Arche subvert the terms of a recent philosophical debate about the worth of people with cognitive disabilities. They demonstrate that people can value others not just as rational moral subjects, or simply as passive objects of care, but also as charismatic and intuitive agents who actively depart from standard norms of personhood.

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The Politics of Faith and the Limits of Scientific Reason

Tracking the Anthropology of Human Rights and Religion

Kamari Maxine Clarke

This article explores the reality of translating or vernacularizing practices in relation to the politics of religion and the realities of faith. Taking violence as endemic to the processes of vernacularization and translation, the article articulates an analytic theory of religious faith—the way it is violated, often in the interest of making it legible within neo-liberal universalizing trends. Thinking about these realities involves understanding translations both as productive of cultural change and as manifestations of struggles over power. Many of these struggles are in the interstices among particular principles of individualism, secularism, legal rationality, and evidence. This article seeks to review the assumptions that emerge with these concepts and show their limits.

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Henning Best

This article aims to empirically test the so called low-cost hypothesis. The hypothesis posits that cost moderates the strength of the relationship between environmental concern and behavior. The effects of the behavioral cost and environmental concern on household waste recycling were evaluated, using empirical data collected from 2,695 respondents in Cologne, Germany. Empirically, a clear effect of both behavioral cost and environmental concern can be identified. Recycling rates are higher when a curbside scheme is implemented or the distance to collection containers is low. In addition, the probability of recycling participation rises when the actor has a pronounced environmental concern. This effect of environmental attitudes does not vary with behavioral cost and opportunities. Therefore, the low-cost hypothesis is not supported by the study.