A sharp, wide-ranging historical study.

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REDEFINING REASON

THE STORY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY "PRIMITIVE" MENTALITY DEBATE

A history of social anthropology and its pursuit of “reason” through the 20th century.

Neuropsychologist Patterson takes on the daunting task of tracing science’s view of reason as it relates to anthropology, from the time of Darwin to the present day. In doing so, he unveils a number of internecine arguments within the scientific community, as well as the hand-wringing in Western culture that has led to a near abandonment of the study of reason altogether. Patterson’s tale begins with Victorian-era anthropologists in the field who studied “savage” or “primitive” peoples in a race against time—before their cultures would be dramatically changed by encroaching Western ways. Critically influenced by Darwin, Patterson explains that, “At heart, early professional anthropology was a scientific search for human origins and evolutionary history.” In studying indigenous peoples, these scientists took for granted that European-based cultures were superior and that Europeans were more mentally advanced than “primitive” peoples. As the 20th century unfolded, however, various influential scholars and the schools of thought they initiated changed these assumptions. By 1950, some scholars were questioning whether social anthropology could even be considered one of the sciences. Sartre questioned the field’s reliance on reason as a measure of people’s abilities, and by the 1960s and 1970s, the Eurocentric character of traditional anthropology was under severe attack, leaving the whole field with a “crisis of representation” it is still battling to this day. Patterson provides a wealth of information in an approachable but sometimes melodramatic form (“The maw of eternity had simply opened and claimed him within a few blinks of an eye”). Though open to the general reader, Patterson’s work will best lend itself to students of anthropology or sociology, and it will be a worthwhile reference for the often intractable arguments affecting such fields and the sometimes larger-than-life personalities who have shaped them.

A sharp, wide-ranging historical study.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453589397

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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