Foucault and “brainwashing by the state”.

Foucault’s work builds upon the ideas of Louis Althusser (a French structural Marxist), who observed that states govern using force and an “ideological state apparatus,” or the institutions (education, law, and politics) by which the state promoted its version of the “truth”. Foucault also thought that power did not simply involve physical or economic coercion, but is exercised through discourse and knowledge, so that power relations pervaded in all the institutions of society. Institutions, bureaucracies, and individuals can all use claims of knowledge and the truth to dominate. In modern society, it takes the form of a command of the language of science, which is employed by powerful corporations, institutions, and the state to control those who don’t understand this language. When the state undertakes a policy that is could threaten the well-being of some segment of its population, it uses the language of science to justify that policy and to overcome the resistance of the citizen(s). Additionally, asylums, hospitals, prisons, and other total institutions control and coerce their residents through their “expert” ability to diagnose, “treat,” and “rehabilitate” those under their control, as well as to punish those who resist that bureaucratic control. [1] Who determines what the truth is? According to Moberg, it is white males who have typically controlled this power in Western Civilization by using the language of science to disempower minorities and women. Basically, it is power, wealth, and a privileged status, rather than “evidence,” that determines what is “true.” [2]

I can “hear” you asking though, “Ok, so what does that mean exactly?” So let me give you an example by using something that permeates United States politics right now and has done so since roughly 1973. That’s right, Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court’s ruling making abortion legal in the U.S. Are you aware that when the first Europeans came over to the “new country” abortion was legal here? It was also legal when the Constitution was written and ratified in the 1770’s (it took awhile). It was also legal during the Civil war. Abortion became illegal in the United states around 1880. Now ask yourself why? The short and simple answer is NOT because it is murder and goes against God’s “laws” like most pro-lifers today will answer, but because of white males, more to the point; powerful white males in charge.

The long answer is, by 1880 most states had already banned it except for incases where the mother’s life was in danger. It was a back-lash to the growing suffrage movement and the use of birth control. in an effort to keep women in a traditional child rearing role. It was also a way to control midwives who performed these abortions by the white male medical profession who felt threatened by them. Lastly, it was seen as a preventative to being “outnumbered” by the immigrants coming in from Eastern and Southern Europe during this time. The declining birth rate among women of Western and Northern European descent was seen as “race suicide” and was not taken kindly by the U.S. government or the eugenics movement of the time. so they wanted white U.S. born women to continue to reproduce. Kind of flies in the face of today’s argument that it is un-Christian and/or murder right? However, during the 90 some odd years between the time abortion became illegal and it becoming legal, this is what the government convinced people to think.[3]

Would you be surprised to know that in the 1960’s the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, run by concerned pastors and rabbis, tried to help women in need find a safe place to receive an abortion? Does that sound like it goes against God’s word?[4]

Thanks to the women’s movement during the 1960’s 14 states reformed their abortion laws and 4 states repealed their restrictive laws between 1967 and 1973.[5]

The pro-life movement doesn’t tell you that though, my guess is most of them might not even know about any of that. I know I didn’t, but even with knowing this, I have to say, I’m still not sure I’m for abortion but that’s ok, I don’t have to be. Every woman has the right to make an informed decision about what she feels is right and the Constitution of the U.S. does not allow for laws to be passed that affect only a portion of the population, allegedly. But I suppose my “brainwashing” is going to kick in and say what about the dad’s rights? Oh, well, progress takes time, right?

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[1][2] (Moberg, 2013 316-317)

[3][4][5] (History of Abortion in the U.S. 2016, website)

Moberg, Mark. 2013. Engaging Anthropological Theory. New York: Routledge.

Obos Abortion Contributors. “History of Abortion in the U.S.” ourbodiesourselves.org https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/u-s-abortion-history/ (accessed May 6, 2018).



Social Structure; does it work or not?

Radcliffe-Brown’s main focus was on social structure and not “culture”, and that by studying this would create universal laws that would apply to all societies. (Moberg p. 180) While describing Radcliffe-Brown’s views, Moberg talks about the hierarchy of the University and how the people working there (or other institutions) have job descriptions which should insure that if one person leaves somebody else can be hired to fill that spot and everything continues to function right on course. This may or may not be correct, it depends on a variety of variables.

My first interpretation of this will take place in a department in any sized corporation. Let’s say there are 5 people working in the finance department and they have all worked together for 5 or more years and they all get along perfectly fine. Everyone knows what their role in this group is. Now let’s pretend that for whatever reason one of the 5 leaves the company, the manager now must find a replacement for that person. If this department had been full of extroverts and the new hire is an introvert, they will have a hard time fitting in the existing employees could find them standoffish, even rude, the reverse is also true, if the department was full of introverts and the new hire is extroverted they may find themselves feeling like they are not wanted/liked because they can not get anybody to talk or hang out at lunch. Or it could be that the new hire is not a fast learner but since the last person was able to do the job with little to no issue, the existing co-workers have no patience for teaching them how to the job. But what if it was the manager of the department that left? They may have been the perfect manager and morale was high all the time, but the new manager doesn’t know how to do their job or for whatever other reason just doesn’t mesh with the employees, after a time morale starts to go down and the department does not run as efficiently as it once did. So, as you can see there is more to this social structure then just sliding a body into a vacancy and everything works just as it always has.

You can apply this to sports teams too. Take the Chicago Bulls, in 1991-1993 they one the world championship for basketball using the combined talents of Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippin and Coach Phil Jackson. When Michael Jordan left in 1994 they did not win the championship in 1994 or 1995. Pippin and Jackson were still on the team, the only thing different was Jordan was gone. However, since every basketball team needs to have five people on the court, Jordan was replaced. In 1996, Jordan came back to the team and they won two more back to back championships. This replacement of bodies did not work for the Bulls. However, when Brett Favre left the Packers and was replaced by Aaron Rogers, they continued to have winning seasons and even made it back to the Super bowl.

You can also look at T.V. shows or movie franchises that for whatever reason have had to replace characters. Two T.V. shows that switched out actors in main roles that did not bother the audience or hurt the shows are The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Roseanne. On the Fresh Prince that character of Aunt Viv was replaced after the third season and Roseanne’s daughter Becky was replaced after the fourth season. There are more shows and movies that have made replacements that did not fair as well: Richie on Happy Days being replaced by Ted McGinley, who was Richie’s cousin. Suzanne Somers left Three’s Company and her character was replaced by two more actresses, and you always hear about who the best James Bond, Spiderman, Batman, or which Star Trek series was was better.

While on paper, you can look at the positions available and which need to be filled and possibly make the replacement work out just fine, there is always the possibility that it won’t.

So, who were some of your favorite/least favorite recasts or replacements on t.v. shows/movies/sports?
Do you have any anecdotes of replaced co-workers? Did the replacements fit in or not?

Engaging Anthropological Theory, Moberg, Mark


Marxism in the Walking Dead.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is the author of The Communist Manifesto (1848). He is known as a political philosopher and “the father of communism”.  In his philosophy he aims to better understand the social basis of the grievances of the workers and in so doing provide a theory of capitalism that could guide worker’s movements.

In the beginning of the Walking Dead series the main character, Rick Grimes, wakes up from a coma to find himself in a totally different world. While he was sleeping a virus has overwhelmed the world and caused the dead to reawaken as zombies, known in the show as walkers. In trying to find his family he ends up  in Atlanta, GA where he finally meets up with his wife, son, and partner from the Sheriffs department. They form a close knit group with other survivors and then do their best to survive. To quote Marx: “Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed…”

Since Marx’s theory is based on capitalism and its running amok, the walkers can be used to symbolize capitalism in the show. They walk around doing nothing more then consuming any living thing that gets in their way. Since any human that dies in this world will turn into a walker, whether it is from a walker bite or natural causes, the hoards of walkers is continually growing and doing everything it can to sustain itself. In theory they have limited resources, living animals, so the ability to sustain itself will eventually be depleted. The same can be argued about capitalism, there are only so many trees and other raw materials to upkeep a continually growing human race.

Another principle of Marxism is the ownership of private property. The survivor’s in this world are continually moving trying to find a safe place to live and have very limited ability to have any material things other then those needed to survive. What they do manage to keep are things for the greater good of their new “community”. Any shelter, food or other resources are treated as group property.

Marx also has a vision of a society that has a classless social order. In the Walking Dead the group has no specific leader, most of the time. At certain times during the shows progression Rick has been looked to as the leader and has even grown to be dictator like, but most of the time the group progresses by using the strengths of the different members within the group. All, or at least most, of the main group are able to fight off the Walkers when needed. They take turns caring for the baby, going on supply runs, and taking diplomatic roles when faced with other groups of survivors. They come to a collective agreement on taking in new members or casting out current members, most of the time. A good example was when a flu like virus went around the group while they were staying at the abandoned prison. One of the members took it upon herself to kill a couple members who were showing signs of the sickness in order to keep it from spreading. While she thought she was acting in the best interest of the group she did it without talking to the other members and was cast out.  She ended up saving the rest of the core group when they were captured by cannibals and was let back in and forgiven for her previous actions.