Chapter 3: The Search for Social Order at Home and Abroad

Patterson, Thomas C. (2001). A Social History of Anthropology in the United States. Oxford: Berg.

Chapter 3: Anthropology and the Search For Social Order 1929-1945, Pp. 71 to 102.

Patterson’s third chapter surveys the professionalization of anthropology during the tumultuous decades starting with the 1929 stock market crash and concluding with the end of World War II. During this period, anthropology transitioned from a privately funded, university centered discipline to one intimately incorporated to the needs of the US government. The chapter’s title, the Search for Social Order, seems to minimize the harrowing practices of American anthropology during this time in which cultural knowledge was explicitly produced and utilized to further the interests of the dominant class. Social order in this sense is the status quo and this period highlights the ways in which the minds and societies of the ‘other’ became strategic concerns. 

Three key initiatives that shaped the direction of anthropological research in the US. The first was Rockefeller money channeled through charitable foundations: the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Laura Spleman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM). The SSRC and LSRM invested approximately $50 million dollars into the advancements of the social sciences in the United States including founding the University of Chicago and supporting programs at numerous well known schools. These ‘centeres of excellence’ would help foster a more scientifically legitimate approach to the study of the social and would emphasize a practical approach to promoting economic and civil stability.

The second organization was the National Research Council (NRC) formed in 1916 and during this period focused on the so-called Negro Problem. Much like the powder keg of class war, a series of riots sparked by racism, labor competition, and segregation led black workers to self-organize through groups such as the NAACP and by charismatic individuals such as the Pan-African nationalist Marcus Garvey. Anthropologists spearheaded a series of groundbreaking community studies into African American life to challenge biological determinist views on race and to highlight the continuing effects of slavery and segregation on communities.

The third initiative was the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee (ACLSC) on Research in American Native Languages. This group continued the the work of cataloguing indigenous language and cultural intelligence from seventy five Native American peoples. In the ACLSC culture became viewed as shared elements of a collective conscience that could be understood to better incorporate Native Americans into the cultural hegemony of the United States.

These programs were of great interest to the federal government before and during World War II as culture emerged a key front to stabilize decades of unrest. Industrial relations during this period were characterized by extreme levels of violence, not only in Rockefeller owned sites as noted in a previous post regarding the Ludlow massacre, but also during the spectacular Battle for Blair Mountain in 1921 and the Harlan County War during the early 1930s. Presumably seeking a way to resolve labour grievances without the use of machine guns, the social sciences drew upon the colonial experiences of the applied anthropological model of the British social school to provide data on working conditions across industrial America. Succinctly noted in seminar discussions was how formalized these practices have become in contemporary industrial relations to convince workers that their interests are aligned with management and owners. While this strategy avoids much of the direct violence characteristic of industrial relations in the 19th and early 20th centuries the end result of minimizing labour’s power is still achieved.  

Also reflective of the strategic importance of culture were the interest to the SSRC and the LSRM of the ways in which cultural contact changed groups. To this end, a series of studies commissioned in South America in the late 1930s sought to understand how acculturation took place between cities and rural indigenous communities. The process of which was challenged by several other anthropologists including Malinowski who noted that rarely, if ever, did acculturation take place as the term implies an exchange between two equally considered parties (Patterson; Pp. 88). In the United States, colonial capitalism dictated both the form and function of cultural exchange between white hegemony and both indigenous peoples and communities of colour. This, as noted in the seminar discussion, resembled an early iteration of the counterinsurgency logic that would become Project Camelot and later the Human Terrain System.

The Great Depression saw increased interest in anthropology from the federal government which funded several labour intensive archaeological programs through the Work Projects Administration. In the buildup to World War II language and cultural studies became strategically important to the US government to understand emerging threats abroad; notably understanding differences between ethnic and national identity with the intent of securing a population’s loyalty, or at least complicity, in the event of military occupation.

On the home front, the insight anthropology provided in the search for social order culminated with the War Relocation Authority to forcibly intern tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans in prison camps. The American Anthropological Association was not only silent of these endeavors, they actively encouraged participation in the war effort. Price notes: “In this war social scientists were harnessed at new levels as intelligence analysts, propagandists, guerrilla insurgents, language instructors, jungle survival specialists, saboteurs, foot soldiers, officers, and spies” (2011; Pp. 20). By the end of World War II the search for social order went global as the same tools used to mitigate class and race conflict in the US were employed abroad by the needs of American imperialism. This point marks a long period of explicit exchange between the military and anthropology that would see strategies of weaponized culture employed at home and abroad.

Price, David H. (2011). Weaponizing Anthropology. Oakland: CounterPunch and AK Press.


The Expansive Moment: Existential Issues in British Social Anthropology

Goody, Jack. (1995). The Expansive Moment: Anthropology in Britain and Africa 1918-1970. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Jack Goody takes on the charge that British social anthropology was the child of colonialism by highlighting the personal politics of many of the individual anthropologists involved, by the diverse and independent financial base of the discipline, and by the diversity of methodological approaches practiced. Drawing on archives of personal correspondence from the architects of British social anthropology, Goody attempts to refute claims of the discipline’s complicity in colonial rule. His defense, while nuanced, is deeply personal as Goody is both a well respected product of this particular school and a confidant of many of the anthropologists he draws upon. This insight, though a unique view into the development of the discipline, is not enough to support Goody’s claims in the end.

British social anthropology emerged from the colonial corps in the University of Cambridge evolving from a training ground for colonial functionaries and missionaries into a robust academic discipline. Dissatisfied with the historical, armchair approach of his predecessors, Malinowski built a program at the London School of Economics that focused on the ‘ethnographic present’, a practical anthropology that concerned itself with contemporary social systems and emphasized long periods of fieldwork (p.9). This practical approach enabled Malinowski to draw on the support of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, a vast American philanthropic foundation interested in addressing ‘the more dangerous social concerns’ (p.11). As an aside; this particular foundation came into existence in the wake of a previous iteration that failed to properly investigate the Ludlow Massacre, at which dozens of striking coal miners and their families were shot to death by the Colorado National Guard at a Rockefeller owned mine in 1914 (Craver, p.205). Goody sees this agency as independent of the British empire, but does not sufficiently address the motivations behind Rockefeller money or the foundation’s interested in Africa. 

Through the International African Institute (IAI), administered by the missionary-academic Dr J. H. Oldham, Rockefeller money was granted to Malinowski to promote practical anthropology, which is as Malinowski writes “…a thoroughgoing study of several tribes from the point of view of contact with European culture, the ensuing changes and the possibilities of controlling these changes” (p.21). Having secured funding for the LSE in 1931 and a friendship with Dr Oldham, Malinowski laid the foundation for his approach attracting a comparatively large number of students who would become key figures in British social anthropology and go to form influential groups at Oxford and Cambridge (p.81). This school would use long term fieldwork to attain a level of practical cultural understanding elusive to earlier approaches.

If anthropologists were romantically attached to the notion of indigenous governance and ‘ordered anarchy’ as Goody suggests (p.193) and held similarly progressive views on the independence of African territories, why does he remain quiet in relation to how the knowledge produced by British cultural anthropologists was either explicitly or implicitly intended to support liberation? “To help the independence movement was more important for Fallers in East Africa, for R.T. Smith in British Guiana, for many in West Africa, than to assist the colonial regime” (p.195). As careful as Goody is to highlight the independent and multifaceted views of anthropologists his conception of ‘the independence movement’ remains quite undefined. This reduction of human solidarity to its expression through the colonialist skeleton of the capitalist nation state is dangerous. The danger is in concealing that liberation is more complicated than the formation of a post-colonial state that British social anthropologists sought to assist. This calls into question the very notion of this scheme of liberation, considering the politically repressive nature of post-colonial states and the submissive position young states in the Global South face in the broader political economy of international relations. On the basis of intent and good faith, one could assume anthropologists did not wish to see the exchange of an external elite for an internal one. Yet intent only matters so much given the spectrum of possibilities presented for fieldwork. Were the desire among some to study the exotic ‘ordered anarchy’ in Africa redirected towards the study of their own nation’s social transformation, perhaps they could have shared with the world the pitfalls of transitioning to financial capitalism.

Anthropology often questions the objectivity of observation given the inherent power relationship between the anthropologist and the subject. Perhaps Goody would have considered that in the first place: the Maxim gun, in a way, was the anthropologist’s passport to the field of the colonized in Africa during the expansive moment. Given his frustrations with his American counterparts (p.199) keeping in line with the metaphor we could say the Winchester rifle was the means by which the Department of Indian Affairs anthropologists in the United States could access their site; these fields would not exist in the way they were encountered in which colonialism and violence were the foundation of interaction in ethnographic fieldwork during this period.

With such systemic power imbalances in place, the politics of a handful of individuals seems less relevant than Goody suggests.

“It is true that new nations (like older ones, such as Yugoslavia and the USSR) are plagued with ethnic tensions. That was bound to be the case in Africa where some 4,000 linguistic groups were forcibly brought together by conquest into some fifty colonies which then became nation states. Any efforts made by anthropologists, colonial administrators and politicians could only have a minimal effect on this basic problem.” (p.207).

This basic problem Goody highlights is however quite large: the imposition of a form of governance created the political and economic schema after which later post-colonial governments would be based. After more than a century of external rule at the twilight of British colonialism, local elites in what would become the new nation states of an independent Africa were likely familiar with some of the early and current forms of effective social control in Western democracies; notably the use of police against popular assembly, censorship, and the suppression of political opposition.

Goody’s desire to defend British social anthropology in response to critics from the Soviet Union and the United States where the voices of colonized peoples are largely absent save brief reference towards African-born anthropologists; some of whom studied in Britain, but were also silent the cited correspondences. Several future heads of state for post-colonial countries came from the discipline such as Jomo Kenyatta and Kofi Busia (p.84); leaders less known for their progressive values in the ensuing political contests new states tend to go through.

As further evidence, Goody’s defense cites the personal politics of several anthropologists, which is intended to reflect the discipline’s progressive nature. Malinowski defended suspected communists (p.43-45), and while A.R. Radcliffe-Brown’s nickname at Cambridge was Anarchy (Fortes, p.153)–  this seemed to have more do with his personality than with his politics. This was Goody’s most troubled argument given the field studied was occupied territory. Something that would support his defense would be an account of the agency that the subjects of British social anthropology exerted in even desiring such attention, but this is lacking. The knowledge produced by anthropologists continues to be useful for occupation and dispossession today, so it does not require much imagination to consider what use anthropological research has had to the historical colonial regime. As a historical example,one can consider Radcliffe-Brown’s obituary which cites his invaluable contribution to explain a rebellion that had occurred due to the implementation of a poll tax in colonial Zululand (Fortes, p. 151).

Ultimately Goody’s defense is absent of a strong explanation of the colonial situation in which fieldwork during the expansive movement took place. He uses personal correspondence to try and prove the progressive politics of the discipline but the history of British social anthropology falls short of explaining how exactly they supported the colonized in struggles of self determination. Goody seems to have taken many of the critiques levied against the discipline quite personally, which is not a problem inherently. However, the personal is political, and this reading of the Expansive Moment calls to question Goody’s own views regarding colonialism given his committed defense of British social anthropology.

Additional Works Cited

Craver, Earlene. (1986). “Patronage and the Directions of Research in Economics: The Rockefeller Foundation in Europe 1924-1938.” Minerva, 24;2/3. (pp. 205-22).

Fortes, Meyer. (1956). “Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, F. B. A, 1881-1955: A Memoir.” Man, 56. (pp.149-153).

Bourdieu Chapter 3

Bourdieu, Pierre. (1988). Homo Academicus. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. [Chapter 3, Types of Capital and Forms of Power pp. 73-127]

Bourdieu’s chapter 3 concerns the ways in which power and capital are created and sustained in academic settings. While surveying several forms of power related to renown and social condition the most attention is paid towards institutionalized relationships among faculty, students and staff in the university which he identifies as academic power. Fundamental is the notion that capital breeds capital; social position strongly correlates to one’s ability to navigate powerful tracts of mobility within the administration and other bodies of university. What follows is a survey of power forms, analysis of how they are acquired, and that time is the fuel for this machine.

The predominant concern of the chapter is the notion of academic power. Academic power arrives int two forms. The first stems from one’s ability to navigate and dominate systems of professional reproduction (78); the notion that through sitting on selection committees, departmental associations, executive bodies, and other institutionalized replicatory bodies one can influence their own trajectory within the hierarchy of the university as well as influence others’ paths. This then leads to a tacit understanding of reciprocity among individuals: you write a reference for my student here and I’ll recommend your work in a column or review there (86). Exchange breeds obligation. The second from is merit, however there is less social weight given by the institution to the ability of producing innovative work. Instead, much like many bureaucracies, mobility within the system is influenced by a complicated intersection of patronage, politicking, and the maintenance of rivals.

Adding to this dynamic, universities are in a reciprocal relationship with their own students. The more graduates produced, the more renown the institution may carry. The better quality of graduates the better the renown of the institution and the more renown the institution has the more social capital is produced for said graduates. One can consider the amount of resources spent by schools on recruitment as evidence to the lengths at which some universities will strive for top students while in the midst of still establishing the respectability of their brand.

Fuelling this system is time. Students see their education as an investment requiring time to do degrees and publish works. Patron academics exercise their power in the influence of the careers of their student-clients through the management of dependent’s expectations of socio-academic mobility and the “objective probabilities” of advancement (89). The balance involves managing the advancement stream of students who can bring their patron academic power while ensuring those students do not usurp the position. Students then conform to the requirements of the institution as long as their own advancement seems likely.

As a result there is a willingness to play the game and stay loyal; in so far as one’s own mobility does not take too long. Students, much like their masters, have a tendency towards mercenary intellectualism within the temporal economy of knowledge production. Like the Landsknechte, if the costs prove too high (in terms of time) a new master may be readily available; however should the student’s loyalties come into question too often the student can become ostracized or worse, seen as a threat to be mitigated by wasting their time, i.e several years of their lives, by blocking their institutional advancement. Noted during the class discussion was that in the United States the average length of a PHD was fourteen years which almost requires the promise of employment at the end of such a tract lest there be a failure on the return of investment.

The student understands that their own potential renown depends upon the institution and academic ‘head’ to which they pledge their allegiance; effectively seeing themselves as an inheritor of an intellectual order of self replicating legitimization (102). In effect there exists a circular tendency of reproduction of a cultural status quo exemplified by this notion: I study what matters and what matters does so because I study it. Academia in this sense then creates its own justifications for existence and that institutional rationale is deeply entrenched in an individual’s social privilege based heavily on membership in the petit-bourgeoisie exercised through what schools one attended and what professor one is able attach themselves to.

Power within the university is not static. Representative of the ability to innovate one’s own place within the institution is the figure of the lector; a figure Bourdieu identifies as a heretic to the regime of academic power whose social significance comes from their deviation from the standard schema of capital production (105). By carving out a specialized niche, often in an insurgent faculty, the lector is able to slightly circumvent time-economy by developing a parallel social power outside of the university. Even within academia and the time economy the lector can advance on their own merit, however heresy does not permit one much access to canonical chambers so their mobility is less dependable. What is more dependable is the lector’s access to external social capital through private publishing, journalism, and more direct engagement with social authorities (112). This notion of socially useful knowledge is reflective of broader shifts in societal relations with academia and elicits a salient question brought up during discussion; as universities are more or less publicly funded, how can they be justified to those who lack the social capital to attend, but are still compelled to pay taxes for their upkeep?

Starting to shake the foundations of academia and discussed in Bourdieu’s closing of the chapter is the competition posed by external bodies that can claim the title of cultural legitimiser (122-125). Independent research institutions and the ability to publish in popular publication poses a sort of existential threat to the power order of academia. These alternative career paths and forms of capital production beyond that of university professor emerge for both prospective students and current staff. In class, we discussed the case of Jared Diamond who has quite effectively navigated this emergent tendency of using popular literature of questionable academic merit, in his case books such as Guns Germs and Steel, to access societal renown that he could then use to secure a position within the university. While lacking the traditional forms of academic power in terms of administrative orchestrating or independent scholarly research of some merit Diamond is none the less able to ‘win’ the game of securing a stable and well paying position that enhances the societal weight of the institution but bucked the order of succession. I would hazard a guess this to the chagrin of some of his colleagues who followed the traditionalist tract but still find their own social capital enhanced through their institutional allegiance to the same school as the insurgent Diamond.

A key conclusion from  this chapter is that knowledge production does not occur in a vacuum. The adage of ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake’ is quite dead in my view, if it ever did indeed exist. There is an intent that guides the trajectory of careers and the kind of knowledge that is produced is reflective of that system. Hardly a conspiracy hidden behind oak panel doors I feel now more than ever before both students and their professors, and by extension universities as whole are quite transparent of their desire to accumulate capital, social and otherwise. What is unique to contemporary times is the departure from the aristocratic tradition of the French university system; already in decline at the time of Bourdieu’s writing. As noted during our discussion academic patrons are rarely training their direct replacements from a cadre of socially similar clients. Instead the democratization of academics through more varied opportunities for potential students from a variety of backgrounds means a diversity of interest, capabilities, and thought. That said, democracy like any other social system is a means of distributing power and capital.