Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Roger Sandall

Bauman’s point of departure

Dear Editor,

Boris Frankel bursts in through open doors. He gives Zygmunt Bauman and me stick for speaking our truths (ABR, October 2001). Viewed in its own terms, what remains of the Left in Australia is in a bad way because it has failed (1) to clarify its ethics, norms and values and (2) to develop alternative visions and policies upon them; because (3) there is no popular bearer or social movement available to carry these invisible ends; and (4) because there is no evidence of popular support for a new society, present unhappiness and misery notwithstanding. If this is not modern, what is it? (If the Soviet and Nazi experiences were not modern, what were they?)

... (read more)

There has been so much media hoopla about Roger Sandall’s The Culture Cult that its broad features are already well known. Sandall claims that a relativist mafia, whom he dubs the Culture Cult, holds unchallenged sway over contemporary anthropological discourse. As a result, academic anthropology is shot through with romantic primitivism, a bohemian vice that the cult inherits from Rousseau and Herder. Romantic primitivism is infatuated with difference, championing the irreducible idiosyncrasy of traditional cultures (the plural is emphatic) over the oppressive singularity of rational-progressive bourgeois Civilisation. In keeping with romantic-primitivist dictates, anthropology celebrates tradition over reason, stasis over development, gerontocracy over equality, the collective over the individual, and so on – the litany is a familiar one. As if this weren’t enough, romantic primitivism is also contagious. Anthropologists transmit it to their tribal objects of study, who fall over themselves to fit into the hidebound traditionalist cap that romantic primitivism has fashioned for them. Alarmingly for Sandall, this contagion can lead to land rights.

... (read more)