Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Will the "West" become the universal modell of mankind?

The following text is going to line out important parts of ´s lecture, the name of whom I will be abbreviating with G. Professor André Gingrich translated G.´s "Wiener Vorlesungen", id est Vienna Lectures, from the French language into German. I attempt to translate the important parts into English. The bibliographic data - for students and librarians - published in the German edition are:

Godelier, Maurice (1991) Wird der Westen das universelle Modell der Menschheit? Wien: Picus Verlag, ISBN 3-85452-304-1

The Vienna Lectures were - and are - a series of events to present research in relation to the future of society, progress and tendencies in social issues, and the opportunities of cultural and social developments. Having started in spring 1997, these series of lectures became an intellectual jour fixe. Opinion leading and innovative texts were furthermore published in print to serve a wider audience.

speaks about his work as an anthropologist, which he conducted from 1967. He observed the transformations to be imposed on the Baruya, a tribe living in Papua - New Guinea. These changes in everyday life and the way of thoughts started 1951, when the Baruya were found on the island. Later, namely 1960, the Australian government colonized them. In 1975, the Baruya were declared independent and UN membership turned them into witness bearers of westly progress in this part of the world. Godelier asks then,

But did not the fall of the Berlin wall initialize a new westernizing progress from November 9, 1989 on?

Godelier argues, that the westernizing process of expansion not only comes from the West, but he also names Japan and four or five little dragons as factors. Japan and these dragons, he mentions, have preserved their political sovereignity and cultural identity; whereas Buddhism has played a decisive role. The westernizing progress goes on and on without transporting all elements that are associated to it. Godelier queries

What is the West in its deeper sense today? What are the underlying elements of it?

Godelier means elements associated with the West, that could be dissociated and combined anew - in social and cultural reality and in other parts of the world. As for Godelier, the West is a mixture of the real and the imaginative, of facts and normative forms, of modes of action and modes of thought; all of which result in an affecting and scuffing pool of energy to move around three axes. These axes are three institutional blocks inheriting their own logic: Capitalism, parlamentary democracy and Christianity. The westly strenghts apply to a combination of three realities, that appeared in different times in history and paired rather late. The West is not a modell without flaws, in contrary, complaints come from all over the world: The West colonizes, conquers, is rich and sucks resources; eyes are closed, when liberties are absent, in case regimes serve or ally with the West; in the West coexist rights and disparity, and some are of the opinion still, that capital accumulation base on the legal exploitation of work. Godelier then focusses on tribal societies by asking

What is a tribe?

He explains, that a tribe is a local society, that comprises of ensembles of kinship groups. These groups of kin feel unified by social organisation, modes of thought, rules of marriage and defense and utilization of rescources in a specified territory. So the tribal identity is a blended identity, compound by social and cultural endowment, as well as by identification of conquered or heritable territory, which has to be given to descendents. Generally, Godelier classifies two criteria in relation to tribal societies: 

a. Tribes, who lived sovereign or were already integrated in a precolonial state under the governance of a predominant tribe.

b. Via the segmentation of power, namely allocated between more or less equivalent groups, or in the hands of some on top of a given society and hereditary.

The Baruya found in 1951 were sovereign rulers on their territory. Ritual and political power was massed in the hands of associations, which traced their descent to conquerer - groups. Godelier focuses his method on the formulation of processes, that describe the westernizing; its stages and forms, which are easily traceable and reproduced somewhere else. The Baruya live in the center of New Guinea, in the mountains 2000m high. 1951 they were 1800 people having lived in approximately 12 little villages. Twelve clans, eight of them belonged to and were descendends of the conquerer group, cultivated their grounds using slash-and-burn. Additionally, irrigations on terraces and pig breeding, as well as trading salt from plants, supported them. Women cared for the pigs, men went hunting to strengthen their predominance. The society was classless, but not egalitarian organised. The westernizing process covered four stages under the influence of several forces.

Already before 1951, the Baruya acquired steel axes from Sheffield and Solingen without knowledge of the industrial Europe and led to economic and material dependence. A plane and some troops led to the imagination of a big fire bird in which divine entities looking like human beings lived. 1951, when Jim Sinclair and his troops entered the woods nearby, the Baruya were subjected to military forces. In 1960, an officer and his troops entered the valley of Wonénara to build trajectories and the local tribes were registered and deprived their right to fight each other. The officer introduced the new order in the name of Her Majesty Queen of England. Many incidents led to the fact, that the Baruya lost their right to apply their own laws on their own territory; they lost their political sovereignty and cultural autonomy. As soon as peace was instituted, they were counted and systematically controled. They were confronted with the state, a sign of civilisation and human evolution.

In 1966, Christianity was established by missionaries, which brought schools and education for the Baruya. In 1965, the administration recruited 30% of the local men to send them to work at the coastal plantations. In 1967, when the troops arrived, an arrived. An academic representing the West; the West was complete, so Godelier states. After modes of power established, there was going to be the power of knowledge.

The Brauya society changed and some of these transformations were accepted positively by the Baruya, like having peace, living in other places than the valleys, travelling by plane or driving trucks. Some women married to live in the cities. Godelier emphasises the change of basic structures of Baruya society in gender relationships: Men fear female impurity little and women the symbols of male predominance, nowadays. To the Baruya white people are no divine entities no more, but they stay predominant. In post-colonial times the Baruya refuse to accept commands or violence.

This transformative processes will go on and change the whole world without implying its three elements, after Godelier. Christianity is not the only intrinsic religion and there is none. Political democracy should be transformed into social democracy. Capitalistic economy and its wealthiness should be distributed more efficiently and juster. The West will triumph first in Europe, later expand to the East. Godelier finishes his argument with some questions:

Do we have to accept the negative, which we recognize in the West? Do we have to applaud or should we steal away on the tips of our toes? Why should we be contented with our situation? Do we know the end of history has come and we live in the best of all worlds?

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