ETHNIC CHAUVINISM: The Reactionary Impulse by Orlando Patterson

ETHNIC CHAUVINISM: The Reactionary Impulse

Email this review


Patterson's investigation into the moral and historical roots of ethnicity is a work of overreaching ambition which seems light years removed from the current battles of Italians, Irish, and others for neighborhood integrity to which he alludes. Patterson's assertion that ethnicity is a pernicious and fraudulent doctrine propounded by romantic conservatives (including such as Lewis Mumford, Theodore Roszak, and Charles Reich) and authoritarian traditionalists is considerably less problematic, however, than its theoretical elaboration which is at once summary, global, and pan-historic. Patterson glides through the various permutations of ethnic principle among the Celts, the Polynesians, the Ancient Greeks, and the modern Germans. En passant he inquires into the origins and character of the centralized state, differentiating between ""kin-hegemonic,"" ""theocratic,"" and ""juridico-legal"" political configurations. By this construct, the geniuses and rebels of humanity--Patterson calls them the sorcerers--have always pushed toward universalism; it is the fearful conformists who have clung to tribal or ethnic solidarity and the hatred and bloodshed it abetted. A man of tendentious opinions, Patterson dismisses Nietzsche as a ""dangerous maniac,"" scorns ""romanticism"" as the chief modern bulwark of ethnicity, and traces a narrow path from Herder to Nietzsche to the Nazis. Though Patterson is a sociologist at Harvard, this perfervid exhortation to modern man to accept a permanent state of spiritual diaspora never takes account of social costs.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1977
Publisher: Stein & Day