Books by Lionel Tiger

Released: April 1, 1999

The mad social scientist of biological reductionism is up to his old tricks again. Tiger, the anthropologist who 30 years ago brought us the notion of "male bonding" (in Men in Groups, 1969) returns once again to a biological argument to explain the "declining" influence of men in modern society. Tiger's theoretical premise is egregiously essentialist to those with a background in cultural theory (he likens these social scientists to Christian Scientists in relation to medicine)—we must "understand basic human nature" before we can talk about economic, political, psychiatric, or feminist theories. In this particular instance, he wishes to relate the declining role of men in society to the advent of birth control, which puts reproductive power in the hands of women. His argument is stringently antifeminist—he calls feminism "female-ism" and implies that we are caught up in the midst of a shift from male production to female reproduction. The basic implication is that if women stayed home and had babies, they would maintain the support and comfort of their husbands, they would continue to vote in the same manner as their husbands, and men and women would be less at polar extremes in the productive marketplace. Men are seen as cut out of the reproductive agreement due to the rise of hidden contraception, and thus they are rendered redundant and out of control. Tiger actually praises "welfare queens," whom he sees as rising up and revolting by staying home and out of the economy—to raise their children (conveniently ignoring the messy social, historical, and economic ramifications involved). One of the more annoying aspects of Tiger's style is that he constantly employs cultural examples in an attempt to support his biological arguments—he goes as far as employing the religious story of Jesus" birth to explain the biological "foundations of human emotionality." If you didn't buy the notion that male patterns of behavior are imprinted on a genetic level, then you probably won't buy this one either. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 24, 1992

Here, Tiger (Anthropology/Rutgers; The Manufacture of Evil, 1987, etc.) offers observations on our seeking of pleasure and its prehistoric roots. ``Pleasure matters,'' Tiger asserts. ``The subject is hot.'' Aiming to catch the drift of the 90's, he contends that ``pleasure is an evolutionary entitlement.'' Food, sex, drugs, power, and, more interestingly, bearing children ``are as much related to our history as a species and products of it as they are products of our invention,'' he convincingly argues. The taste for sugar, for instance, was critical to primitive gatherers in sorting out what and what not to eat. But today the craving for sweets has outlived its function, and the pleasure derived from refined sugar carries a price. On the other hand, Tiger explains, power gives humans and primates chemically measurable physiological ``benefits.'' The author advocates ``a balance sheet of fun as well as an agenda of function,'' and claims that generally governmental ``censors are in fact violating a law of nature.'' Yet, he's against legalizing drugs because ``the human central pleasure system is too avid, too frail.'' Tiger's attempt to speak to a broad audience means that what information he provides comes in the form of cutely titled (``That Old Gang Rape of Mine,'' ``Ear, Ear''), rambling passages. Moreover, his countless personal references offer little more than a series of dropped names (Avignon, Bordeaux, and Siena as ``midsize ambitious dining towns''). Nor does the slapdash writing style help (``The bounteous body seems more desirable to men, and not only in industrial societies, either''). Certainly, Tiger's stated ambition ``to assert and establish the moral, scientific, and political authority of pleasure'' proves far too broad and too complex. Pleasure? Look elsewhere for thoughts grounded in the ice-cold wake of a decade during which there seemed no shortage of those pursuing their ``entitlement'' of pleasure. Read full book review >