Radcliffe-Brown and Equilibrium


Moberg writes that Radcliffe-Brown “assumed that societies had a tendency toward equilibrium” (2013:182). The first thing I thought of when I read this little section was about the movie Equilibrium. In the movie, society is strictly controlled by the government. All art is forbidden and emotions are shunned. When I first thought about this, I thought maybe my connection had just been triggered by the same word used in the book and for the title of the movie. But the more I thought about it, the more it applies to Radcliffe-Brown’s theory and, ultimately, how it disproves his theory.

In the movie, there is an organization comparative to a high-ranking police force. Their job is to arrest those who have committed crimes involving art and emotion. By making these things illegal, the government believed that society would remain stable and peaceful. The main character, John Preston, is one of the best men within this organization. Radcliffe-Brown assumed that society corrected itself in order to maintain itself. In the movie, these policemen were the tool in which society would be maintained. In the beginning of the movie, John was excellent at taking out his targets without thinking twice. As the movie continues on, he begins to question the rules of society and stops taking the drug that suppresses emotions. Radcliffe-Brown thought that all people followed all of the rules of society and he never took human emotion or thought into it, just like the government in the movie. John then realizes how amazing everything is when he can feel emotion and look at beautiful art and hear classical music. He realizes how wrong the government is and that those things shouldn’t be hidden because they are beautiful and not dangerous.

The picture shows John before and after. Before, he willingly followed the government’s orders and maintained society by suppressing everything deemed illegal. After, he realizes that these things are not bad and people should be allowed to feel emotion and make art. John disproves Radcliff-Brown’s theory because he finally takes into account human thought and emotion. People are not always going to follow the rules and society is unable to keep people in line by itself. Equilibrium will not be kept if the human element is involved because people always change and new ideas are constantly being created.

Boas & Faulkner

Moberg writes that Boas collected data with no guidelines and would publish his findings in “unedited form with minimal commentary” (148-149). After reading this, it dawned on me that it sounded very much like stream-of-conscious writing. The first thing that popped into my head was The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Faulkner’s writing rambles on with very little explanation from the author of what is happening. He switches between characters and it is quite difficult to get a grip on what is going on because by the time you start to understand what one character is doing, it switches and you have to start the whole process of understanding over.

This sounds a lot like Boas’ writings by the way Moberg describes it. Boas strongly opposed generalization of any kind when related to culture. Because of this, he just wanted to collect every single fact that he could. Boas was so concerned with collecting all of the data that he could, he just went around taking down notes and then smashed them all together to publish them. In this way, his notes wouldn’t have a specific point to them and they would be difficult to try and fit together. His writing style probably wasn’t in the stream-of-conscious category, but the ways in which he formatted his data collection sounds like he would just flow from one topic to another. This form of writing can be interesting, albeit sometimes difficult, when applied to fictional literature; however, I would think that when applied to a factual document or research, the reader would just be completely lost to the point that the author was trying to make through all of the data.

People usually think in stream-of-conscious because they have their own inner monologue going almost all of the time. It isn’t correctly punctuated and rarely does someone go back to critique what they just thought about if they aren’t going to say it out loud. When I write, my inner monologue is constantly going but I have to pick and choose what is most appropriate to put down on the page and what should just stay in my head. When I do think of something to say, I have to edit it in order for it to make sense if someone else were to read it. This whole process can be generalizing our own thoughts or working off a theme so our writing makes sense to the reader. Boas just seems to skip this process. It is understandable that he came after the popular theorists who just wanted to generalize everything even if they knew next to nothing about the culture. The problem is that it makes it difficult for others to then go back over his data and try to make sense of it when he skips around so much without a theme to follow.

I guess my whole point is that Boas seemed to write in a stream-of-conscious structure and it probably wasn’t the best idea for him to not follow a theme for his data collections. Without editing and some generalizations, it can be hard to follow or make sense of something, especially if it is in regards to another culture. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Boas, but I think if he had tried to organize his data a little bit it could have been even more useful to the field of anthropology.

Dream World

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In chapter 3 of Sears and Cairns, they write about perceptions. One of the sections of the chapter talks about dreams and how they impact reality. On pages 100-101, Sears and Cairns talk about Walter Benjamin and his idea of a “collective dream-world.” My first thought was of the Matrix where reality is just a dream and the real reality deals with an underground society trying to fight the government, or something along those lines. However, the more I thought about it, the more it actually began to make sense and I could understand how it applies to the real world. People can go through life just expecting things to get better in the world, or for change to happen, without them having to do anything. This would be the “dream-world” that Benjamin talks about. After they “wake up,” they finally see how they have to be the ones to step up and do something about the state of things. If they want a better world, they have to be the ones to work for it.

The picture I drew is pretty straightforward. The girl is dreaming about normal life as she knows it, nothing too exciting going on. When she opens her eyes, she realizes that she had believed it was okay to just go through life doing nothing, but now she must take action. By being active in the world, she is able to see how things really are and she can fight for what she believes in. The cape, for me, is a symbol for taking action, like superheroes do.

Benjamin describes the dream as being a collective one, so everyone is in the same dream and they will wake up at the same time. However, I think people can have their own “dream-world.” Making personal decisions to finally step out of routine and doing something, even if it is just a small decision, is like waking up to the real world. Life as a student can be like living in a dream sometimes. Get up, go to class, go to work, and go to bed so the same thing can happen the very next day. By doing something as small as even deciding on a major or going for a new job interview can wake someone up to reality and see how they can change their own life for the better.