By Michael Herzfeld

ISBN-10: 0226329089

ISBN-13: 9780226329086

Herzfeld argues that "modern" bureaucratically regulated societies are not any extra "rational" or much less "symbolic" than the societies usually studied through anthropologists. He means that we won't comprehend nationwide bureaucracies divorced from local-level rules approximately likelihood, own personality, social relationships and responsibility."Herzfeld's publication is very bold and may be of curiosity to any anthropologist keen on the examine of paperwork, organizational and institutional keep an eye on, symbols and their strength, and social clash. . . . considerate and challenging."—Helen B. Schwartzman, American Ethnologist

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Even to a philosophically alert feminist, the androcentric rhetoric turned out to be dangerously seductive (Cohn 1987: 690, 716-717). Men she actually liked, and was willing to view as decent and interesting human beings, were already inextricably engaged in the same rhetoric. It would be hard to better her account of the personal process through which "mere" symbolism is made to perform the labor of persuasion for unseen managers of power. One consequence of the relegation of symbolism to the realm of the "mere" is that the role of actors in actually shaping its meanings becomes highly inaccessible.

They are the key. to understanding the nation-state's capacity to evince destructIve passion despite its dauntingly impersonal and grandi~se order of magnitude - an extraordinary phenomenon that easily L'1kes on lhe appearance of the merely self-evident. What I suggest here does not contradict Kapferer's explanations of violence and intolerance. On the conttary. my argument, like his, seeks the culturally specific models that make such things possible. The present focus, however, may complement his mode of analysis by showing how, through the rhetOrIC of stereotypes, state functionaries manage the common places of everyday lIfe, and how social actors similarly use the logic of state for self-interested ends.

He fails, in short. to address the problem of political theodicy. This observation allows us to pinpoint one of the main problems with the concept of bureaucratic rationality as it is so often misunderstood. Weber apparently recognized that its claims were inevitably tied to particular social formations. In this sense, it is a rhetorical phenomenon: it announces the grounds on which it will be seen to "work" and proceeds in circular fashion to include or exclude all actions on the basis of their alleged conformity to those grounds.

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The Social Production of Indifference by Michael Herzfeld


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