• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss the relationship between ethnicity and naturalism.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the relationship between ethnicity and naturalism. 'Naturalism', the attempt to explain social phenomena by reference to 'natural' causes, themselves seen as empirically self-evident, is a trend which assumes a wider significance in proportion to the prevailing level of pessimism in society about the human potential to transcend and dominate nature. 'Naturalism' underwent a qualitative transformation with Social Darwinism, a monist trend which appropriated the positivist rationality of nineteenth century scientific progress and gave it a political content in the service of anti-democratic reaction. To do this it had increasingly to abandon any 'scientific' logic to its advocacy of elitism, and instead promote a mystical assertion of the historical inevitability of inequality. This abandonment of any hard faith in the scientifically calculable basis for denying democratic rights to one portion of humanity came at a fairly early stage. Lukacs shows the parallel logic which on the one hand sought to prove that "Inequality is . . the natural condition, equality is unnatural and impossible"1, whilst on the other hand simultaneously recognising the futility of proving this scientifically. Thus, from Gumplowicz, who admitted in 1883 that with regards The Racial Struggle (the title of his famous book of the time) "everything is arbitrary, subjective appearance and opinion", through to Hitler, who said "I know very well . . that there is no such thing as a race in the scientific sense"2, there is little faith in the scientific justification for inequality. ...read more.


Somewhere in the middle are figures like Gellner and Hobsbawm, coming from different positions, but both alighting at the sphere of 'culture', always a fertile field from which to burrow into the mind of the 'masses'. Hobsbawm's essay is most revealing4. 'Ethnicity' is clearly a term he is uncomfortable with, and at every opportunity he seeks to qualify his support by adding the rejoinder, ". . whatever it may be". He is more certain however to state that it is not a political concept, and therefore, unlike nationalism which "belongs with political theory", ethnicity belongs "with sociology or social anthropology". At no point can he clearly state what makes an ethnic group, only that it defines itself against 'the other' - "how do men and women know that they belong to this community ? Because they can define the others who do not belong, who should not belong, who can never belong. In other words by xenophobia". This he concludes after having made the observation that he has found Eugene Roosen's book Creating Ethnicity "particularly helpful", and from which he approvingly quotes the following; "After all, nobody can change 'the past' from which one descends, and nobody can undo what one is" ! Then, to confuse matters further still, Hobsbawm adds the patronising addendum to Roosens fatalism, that, "Well, of course you can change, or at least invent a past - but they don't know it". This hall of mirrors, in which 'they', the 'ethnics', are trapped in a mythical past, expressing their group identity at the expense of 'the other', allows Hobsbawm to conclude that "xenophobia looks like becoming the mass ideology of the 20th century fin de si�cle". ...read more.


'Ethnicity', as operationalised by theorists such as Gellner and Hobsbawm, implies precisely this line of causality, which is why they embrace an anthropological perspective and reject 'politics'. 'Ethnicity' though is a profoundly political concept, that is applied to the poor and the marginalised, not the Peerage or the propertied elite, and implicitly contrasts the narrow, atavistic concerns of ethnicity to a broader, more modern liberalism of the major powers. As such it is very much a concept of the nineties, which on the one hand reflects the sense of disarray and drift across the globe, whilst on the other hand seeking to instil some order in an otherwise chaotic vista, by distinguishing between 'us' and 'them'. The quest for a credible mechanism by which inequality is excused will always be irrational, but this, in the absence of anything better, will not be a barrier to its articulation. sbowler@onetel.net.uk 1 Lukacs,G. 1980 The Destruction of Reason , quoting Ratzenhofer p.690. Lukacs says that "Gumplowicz was the typical trend-setting representative of Social Darwinism in the German speaking realm. He - and, even more markedly, his pupil Ratzenhofer - proceeded from the absolute identity of and lack of qualitative distinction between natural and social processes", p.687. 2 ibid., p.722 3 15th Edition, Vol.3, p980. 4 Hobsbawm,E. 1992 Ethnicity and nationalism in Europe today in Anthropology Today Vol. 8:1, pp.3-13 5 Gellner,E. 1993 What do we need now ? Social anthropology and its new global context in Times Literary Supplement July 16th, pp.3-4 2 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Briefly outline one major inequality which exists in the UK today. Analyse and discuss ...

    Additionally girls experience covert discrimination through the language used in textbooks. Scientific textbooks still refer to students as 'he', with the masculinity of these subjects being reinforced by the predominate use of boys in illustrations. (Taylor et al 1998:30). However, research by Tessa Blackstone and Helen Weinrich-Haste (cited O'Donnell 1987:120-2)

  2. Social inequality

    It is composed of implicit messages of how society expects men and women to act and the purpose and function of each gender within society.(www.parentingteens.com 24.03.02). It cannot be seen, but can be detected in attitudes and language used in the schooling system.

  1. Crime - 'The media portrays ethnic minorities in negative ways', Discuss.

    through video games, news papers, TV etc. My primary research helped my get an idea of what the public thought and whether they agreed with what I thought, and the public did agree with me which made me think that I could prove my hypothesis, and my secondary research helped

  2. Determining the Elite within Politics and the Judiciary.

    decline in the number of Old Etonians...A fifth and final change - in some ways the obverse of Eton's decline - is the rise of those with only elementary and secondary education." (Burch & Moran 1985 p5-6) In the Labour Party, the most striking change has been the decline of

  1. Diary Tuesday 23rd July.

    economics: it was based on the exchange of property" The Change in women roles * Wilmott & Young (1975) "Husband now do their fair share of the domestic chores" * Gittens (1993) "Traditionally a man's place was at work, however it is slowly becoming more acceptable for men to be house husbands..."

  2. Environmental Lessons From History.

    The Maya were not just swiddeners their tropical environment offered them a wide range of techniques for gaining them a livelihood, some of these highly efficient in the terms of the number of people a given plot of land could support, and some capable of producing massive surpluses with the minimum input of labour (Harrison &Turner.

  1. Solitude @ net: relationship in the Internet

    often prevent potentially rewarding relationships from getting off the ground' (McKenna, Green and Gleason, 2002). The anonymity of Internet interactions greatly reduces the risk of disclosure, especially about intimate aspects, thus one can share one's beliefs and emotional reactions with much less fear of disapproval.

  2. Sociology Content and Analisis

    would never consider divorce as they have their children and religion to think about, they also need each other economically. "Why divorce if we're fine as we are, it's a big effort and me and the children wouldn't be able to survive without James's help, and he wouldn't be able

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work