Beyond anthropology: Society and the other

Tags: Europe, knowledge, Hofstede, the Renaissance, autopoietic system, conceptions, Anthropology, causal relations, culture, distinction, human nature, institutions, business world, European Self, Bernard McGrane Columbia University Press New York, Eastern Europe, homogeneous entity, European eyes, trade routes, contemporary, causal relation, Marco Polo, partitioning, social institutions, Renaissance, Robinson Crusoe, non-Christian religion, THE ENLIGHTENMENT, Charles Darwin, sixteenth century, Christian religion, David Hume, Christian Devil, Christianity, Ancient Greek customs, heliocentric universe, geographical space, Orbis Terrarum, alien cultures
Content: SYSTEMS PRACTICE 5 (1) 102-114, 1992. Beyond Anthropology: Society and the Other Bernard McGrane COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Press New York. 1989. 150 pp. ISBN 0-231-06684-8 1. INTRODUCTION Because in a sense "we are all anthropologists now", I make no apology for offering a review of this book. Systems people, soft or hard, theoreticians or practicioners, are floundering in a welter of cultures, viewpoints, Weltanschauun, mental models and conceptual frameworks, and all these are in the domain of anthropology. It is a curiosity of our own discipline that although we do owe much origins to anthropology, we rarely see it mentioned in systems literature. With this essay I hope to stimulate some renewed interest. Despite its eclecticism, to the Systems Mind all else than system thinking is the "Other", and so this book may offer some insights into that difference by elucidating how the more general distinction between Self and Other has been perceived over time. This book is a short, but provocative, Foucauldian essay into the history of different conceptions of "difference" from the Renaissance to the present. The "difference" to which the author addresses himself is that with which the European conceptualizations of the world have become distinguished from the "Other", the non-European, world views, and, even more importantly, how the concept of "difference" has changed. The central claim of the thesis is that the discovery, or creation, of such a distinction actually tells us as much about how the European world thinks about itself. The author's deconstruction of the history of the period attempts to
2 substantiate that thesis. But, like its inspiration, the Order of Things (Foucault, 1970) there is no easy passage before us. It is as if we were looking at Boring's (1942) object-ambiguous wife/mistress image, the message flickers into and out of focus. Always the question about how European "man" (himself a recent invention) can boot-strap himself to view himself is posed, and begged, and posed again. Always we are asking and being asked to step outside ourselves, our contemporary taken-for-granted constructions of the world, our language and its structures to criticise ourselves and the differences we see, and have seen in history, between ourselves and the Other. (The paradox involved was well articulated by Rosen (1969) We are to read a "history of the different conceptions of `alien cultures'", yet even the notions of "history", and "historical time", "conceptions", "alien" and "culture" have to be admitted as contemporary fabrications. Our own, anthropocentric (our author would have it "Eurocentric") viewpoint has been illuminated by our Renaissance consciousness of the demonic, by our Enlightenment-inherited scientific "understandings" of unknown causes, by our nineteenth century heritage of notions of time, progress and evolution, and by our contemporary ideas about cultural relativism. When we contemplate this story we seem to be like Escher's (1961) ants travelling around a finite yet boundless Mцbius ring, seeing ourselves through its matrix travelling in two directions at once. We are to become sensitized to the perpetual identity crisis of the European tradition in relation to the Other and to the successive changes which have been taking place to explain or rationalize the difference. Yet there is a curious sense of ultra-stability about the scene - the images change, but Europe and its Other seem immutable. It would seem a little unfair to apply to this text Russell's (1946) cutting remark about Hegel, Marx and Spengler, that to be plausible, historical theorizing requires "some distortion of facts and considerable ignorance". The final target is more familiar; it is to explain the emergence of institutionalized anthropology, not the facts revealed by anthropology, but the
3 fact of anthropology itself. Anthropology is seen as the central paradigm of our time and lies at the kernel of what we (in the European tradition) take to be the case about the world. Yet, although it is disintegrating, it is still a "stubborn obstacle standing in the way of an immanent new form of thought". This should be a stimulating venture. I shall try to summarise the cardinal points in McGrane's story, and then consider how far I feel it fulfils the ambition of revealing where we stand and where we may be going. I must admit in advance, that my synopsis of the work is far from adequate. The work is at once eclectic, imaginative, assertive and at times repetitive, and I found myself frequently confounded by the many differently coloured versions of the evidence offered to substantiate the case. Of one thing I am certain in retrospect, it is that I have yet to do justice to it. 2. WHAT IS ANTHROPOLOGY? The "positivistic faith" that the prior existence of other cultures was a necessary and sufficient condition for the possibility, emergence, rise and history of anthropology, the belief that the truth and perfection of scientific theories lies in their ever closer approximation to an autonomous reality, is seen as only one side of the coin, a side not to be examined further. On the other side is the view that anthropology creates the conditions and possibility of its own speech; anthropology does not simply describe its subject matter, it systematically constructs and reproduces it. Its interest is itself, its being and the conditions of its possibility. Anthropology is institutionalized and as an institution is involved in reproduction of Western society. Anthropology is ". . . the supreme manifestation of the Western tradition. It manifests and highlights that egocentric tendency of our Western mind to identify itself as separate to what it perceives as external to itself". The unity of anthropological thought is here taken for granted. This may be a fertile hypothesis as we shall later appreciate.
4 Anthropology is portrayed as being concerned with boundary construction: by distinguishing and holding in view the Other as different, it is ensuring that it preserves its own identity, and at the same time it contributes to the creation of the Self of Western culture. Let me intrude here to say that here may be yet another example of an "autopoietic social system" (Robb, 1991) and one at the very heart of the process of maintaining the distinction between a (selfdesignated as "superior") Western tradition and all other modes of thought and behaviour. Although we are led to believe that the changes we are invited to consider are manifestations of continual revolution in thought, we are presented with three discrete periods labelled "the Renaissance", "the Enlightenment" and "the Nineteenth Century". The "Conclusion" is devoted to examining the contemporary situation. This is a comforting partition of periods which helps us to find our way, with familiar direction posts, but sometimes we arrive at very unfamiliar destinations. 3. THE RENAISSANCE It is the "empirical" voyages of discovery made in the Renaissance which are seen to provide the genesis of an "anthropology" which soon overwhelmed the traditional views of the World and its inhabitants. The discoveries falsified the geography of the Ancients in which the Ocean bounded the World. The Ocean was now a part of the terrestrial world and the terrestrial-aquatic difference was homogenized. The voyages, made in search of gold and spices, discovered people; people of strange appearance, people not altogether sane nor intelligent, people as objects of curiosity, people free of avarice for worldly riches (the Other-as-Saint), or unequal in their desires for riches (the Other-as-Child) and, possibly, people with souls to be saved (the Other-as-potential-Christian). The concurrently growing
5 knowledge of Ancient Greek customs was used as a resource to "explain" the customs of the inhabitants of the New World. European thinking became for the first time preoccupied with its difference to the Other and in so doing concerned itself, for the first time, with itself. The Cartesian cogito was born. The Others were perceived not as "primitives" with "different customs", but as barbarians practicing idolatrous rites, living in a darkness yet to be illuminated by Christianity. The sixteenth century Other cannot be understood apart from the Christian Devil. The central preoccupation was whether or not the Other is, or is not, within the threshold of Salvation. By deciding that the Others were in fact human and equal in the eyes of the Church, there was an obligation to try to convert them to the Faith and to expunge the diabolical influences which controlled them. In the sixteenth century there is Christianity but no "religion". The Other so held in thrall by diabolical forces could in no way be "religious". The crucial "anthropological" distinction lay in the fact that the Other was notChristian. Along with the changes in geography emanating from the "discovery" of the New World by the Columbian explorers, there was a similar change in astronomy; the "discovery" of the heliocentric universe by Copernicus. But neither was a "factual `discovery' within an existing framework of ideas, but rather the radical and constitutive `invention' of a new and different framework", a paradigm revolution in short. The Earth which had been the centre of the Created Universe, a place of change and decay, quite distinct from the changeless world of the heavens, now became a planet and but one of many circling the Sun; at a stroke, the theological heavens were converted into into astronomical space. The secure Ocean-bounded Jerusalem-centred Orbis Terrarum was transformed into geographical space; Europe became a continent, just one of several on a globe. Astronomical and cosmographical space became, for the first time, self-evidently uniform and
6 homogeneous. The Ancient plurality of worlds was destroyed once and for all. The same Laws were to be seen to govern all. 4. THE ENLIGHTENMENT Here there is a lengthy discourse on Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, which, later, Rousseau called "the only book that teaches all that books can teach". This illustrates the "methodology of absence, the detachment of the observer, the "instrumentalization of otherness" and the perception of nature as Other. Crusoe names Friday, teaches him to speak English (European), gives him a place to live, but discovers that Friday could be about to worship him and his gun, because he thinks that the power to kill others is Divinely given. Now both European man and the Other "worship", and it is religion which stands between them. It is the absence of the Christian religion which distinguishes the Other as manifesting, not what is primitive, or culturally different, but the faith in what is false. Whereas in the Renaissance in Europe, the Self was discovered, it is in the Enlightenment that Europe became civilized. Religion becomes constituted as a category, a genus of which Christianity is but a species. The Other becomes a member of a non-Christian religion. But later in the Enlightenment religion itself was soon to become grounded in "nature" and in "human nature". The problems of the origins of pagan religions and about the place of the Bible in relation to its authority gave rise to a broad European enterprise, in which Newton and many others were deeply engaged, of establishing a world chronology. This was recognised as a necessary precursor for a single World History with which to compare and evaluate and from which to predict events. The unique authority of successful prophesy resting on Biblical truth was to be replaced by successful prediction resting on secular truth. The origins of pagan gods were now to be found in the deification of rulers. The demonic powers thought earlier to have energised the false beliefs of the Other were
7 replaced by human intention and action. Kings and priests, not the forces of evil, kept people in darkness to strengthen and sustain their rulers' political power and political order. Error and ignorance distinguished the Other from enlightened European people. The nature of that ignorance is important. It is with Hume's assertion that causes are unknown that the cardinal distinction is made. Whereas no one knew of unknown causes enlightened people knew about their ignorance of causes. This distinction is now between the Enlightened, who recognise their ignorance, and those ignorant of their ignorance of causes. Enlightened people will set about making the unknown causes known (a possibility which McGrane, I think quite erroneously, attributes to Hume). Here there is a telling point, but made merely in parenthesis; this same distinction authorized the categorisation of European peasants and children with pagans and other unenlightened non-Europeans. Little is said about the consequences of this (I shall return to this point in the discussion later). The Enlightenment belief in unknown causes is said to presuppose a belief in an ordered and orderly World in which causes known and unknown operate.with regularity. But while there was a belief in the progressive character of human nature which would in time convert the unknown into the known, we are told that the "progress" of the Enlightenment is in no way commensurable with or anticipating the nineteenth century notion of "evolutionary progress" or "organic development". "Progress" in that period was relatable only to the order of knowledge (to transforming "unknowns" into "knowns") and "not to the order of being". It was knowledge of the world, and not the world itself which was changing. This point is certainly difficult to take bearing in mind the vitality of the Enlightenment in Paris and Edinburgh, David Hume and Adam Smith both of whose notions of social and economic evolution inspired Charles Darwin, and the insights into historical progress in Hume's History of England so applauded by: but those who do not accept this point are said to be subject to the "illusion of
8 retrospective historicizing" (a fault from which our author feels he has freed himself). The errors of the Other, apparent in its myths and polytheistic religions, were therefore the errors of ignorance,and the erroneous valuations of "unknown causes". The Enlightenment was engaged in "naturalizing" phenomena and liberating explanation from the actions of the gods. Nature is no longer intentional or anthropomorphic, but mechanical and statistical. So it was not "ignorance" but "ignorance of causes" which accounted for the difference with the Other, who held to myths and superstitions to provide explanations, whereas Enlightened Europeans saw the Other as residing at, or beyond, the boundary of mechanical-mathematical reasoning. 5. THE NINETEENTH CENTURY The new discovery (or "creation") which the nineteenth century brought was the notion of time, evolutionary time, and it was the understanding of this which then came between the European and the Other. Whereas earlier "anthropology" had been concerned with the contrast between ignorance and knowledge, it now took its final positive and positivist form, that of a comparison between past and present, between the Other, like the animals, determined by nature and Western man, the positive form of evolution. After Darwin, kinship and genealogical descent became the foundation of all true classifications of the species. Geology now gave us the time for evolution to take place (and even this time was short compared with the emerging understanding of astronomical time). Difference can now be understood only in terms of history. The gross differences in the species were the outcome of Natural selection operating over long periods of time on the many infinitesimally small and continuous variations.
9 Man is (re)asserted to be a rational animal who has emerged not so much out of nature as, directly, out of evolution. The Other is now distinguished, not as beyond Europe, but as before Europe, as "life then" compared with "life now". Societies other than ours were actually primitive expressions of the history of ours. The Other was a concrete memory of the Past, but not so much an exact precursor as a representation of what had gone before in European evolution. The sense and reason of our culture are now to be known through the "development" of the Other. Anthropology is no longer not just the study of the Other and the "explanation" of their customs and laws, it has become the vehicle for the study of ourselves. The nineteenth century anthropologist was concerned to explain to European man the differences of development which had made him and his behaviour, and which made them appear different from the Other. The labelling of the Other as "primitive" (and, we may add, in more recent time the notions of the "undeveloped countries" and the "Third World") signals an interpretation grounded in a concept of "progress" and "development", not a fact. The anthropology of human history, in nineteenth century terms, is about different peoples at different stages of parallel development in the same homogeneous time. Time came to be seen as a kind of space which could support travel, and anthropologists were in this sense time-travellers (or social archeologists). Savages were also seen by some as living in a more "natural" state. There were romantic accounts of societies free of laws, yet socially ordered and harmonious, of people who controlled their passions in everyday life, of communities still uncivilized, yet enjoying a quality of life far beyond European achievements. Such Others are different from us because they are the same as Nature. But theirs was a fragile world exposed to be easily "corrupted" by exploration and colonisation.
10 The period is summarized in the following terms; "In this context nineteenth-century anthropology in the double movement of its quest to historicize the present and to resurrect the past may be seen, precisely, as a necrology practiced on the living". 6. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY It is in the twentieth century that "culture" and "anthropology" can be recognised as inescapable parts of our world. It is not the "demonical and infernal", as in the Renaissance, nor "ignorance and superstition" as in the Enlightenment, nor "development and progress", as in the last century, but "cultural difference" which now holds the scene in focus. The Other is now contemporary with us. "Time", "history" and "values" are now interiorized in the broader universal horizon of "culture". The catalyst for this change is seen to be "ethnographic travel", achieved through both geographical and social mobility, both physically and through the media of communication. The methodology is now that of travel-as-a-means-ofacquiring-knowledge. Travel presupposes, rather than discovers, difference, and it implies a "democratic" awareness that one's own culture is relative. As the resource of "progress" authorized the transformation of the "different" into the "primitive" or "natural", so the resources of ethnographical travel and anthropological "culture" authorize the transformation of difference into relativity. "The Other becomes an occasion for seeing the strength of custom" (pace dear Hume!). Anthropology can see the alien imprisoned within his own culture, but the alien Other is Different only in so far as he is unaware of "difference". The Other's ignorance lies now in its naпve, narrow-viewed, cultural absoluteness. But, we are warned, even sophisticated [scientific] thinking while it sees in the Other a
11 naпve belief in universals, is itself such a believer, in that it believes in the truth of its own universals. Ethnography, as field-work, legitimates what counts for us as anthropology. But the "participant-observer" is anomalous. Its commitment is to the sovereignty of observation and its monologue about the Other, rather than the "democracy of genuine participation and dialogue with the Other". If the fieldworker becomes committed as a member of the Other, he goes native and ceases to be an anthropologist. If he does not, then the conditions of exact and complete observation cannot be met. It is asserted that modern anthropology exempts itself from the category "culture". Whereas a sociology of sociology might make sense, an anthropology of anthropology doesn't. The discipline is made possible by a protective lack of reflection. It is "essentially grounded in on a structural incapacity to account for itself. Structural incompleteness lies at its very foundation." The ritually repetitive confrontations with the Other, these simulated memberships of the Other, can be seen now as special instances of the general struggle between the West and its Other and part of a sustained effort to maintain and renew a certain type of power and/or knowledge relationship legitimating its domination over the Other. Anthropology by trying to make sense out of alien cultures, by studying them, by making a "science" about them has been the modern method of not listening, of avoiding listening, to them. The moment an alien culture is allowed to speak its own language the monologue-based language of anthropology "bursts". Then the Other assumes an objective sovereignty and becomes an absolute category existing in, of and by its own right: and thus not answerable to, nor subsumable to, the West's "deeper categories" of explanations. [The Others become] "morally, legally and philosophically, Neighbours, not Minors, and Teachers, not Subjects".
12 The work concludes with the warning that to see difference as "only" or "merely" difference is to trivialize the encounter with the Other, to reaffirm the Eurocentric vision and to reduce this work itself "from being an archaeology of the different conceptions of difference into being, once again, a history of the progress of anthropological knowledge and an affirmation and celebration of the teleology of truth." 7. DISCUSSION (ON THE VERANDAH) If this work did nothing else it questioned much of what I have taken-forgranted about the periods under review, but to discuss such matters may seem to miss the point in the whole thing. This is not portrayed as a history of anthropology, it is a deconstruction of history intended to demonstrate how anthropology has emerged to take centre stage in the creation and preservation of the European Self, and how it has preserved itself by creating and holding in constant view distinctions between the European Self and the Other. It discusses not the subject matter of anthropology, but anthropology as a subject. Despite this I feel bound to raise some questions which seem to lie at the kernel of the thesis. The "Europe" being discussed is far from well-defined. It is my understanding that far from being anything like a singular entity presented to the sixteenth century, to be reborn by the Renaissance, Europe was far from homogeneous. On the political front, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans were about to become part of the Ottoman Empire. The Hapsburg Netherlands and France were about to make inroads into the mess of "German" states. France herself was freeing herself from English domination and re-unifying as a kingdom. Spain had already occupied the Southern half of Italy. What remained of Italy, the Papal States, Siena, Florence and Venice were in almost total disarray. On the religious front, the Roman and Greek churches had divided Europe
13 between them with a frontier drawn through Lithuania and Poland, but nearly two fifths of Europe was to become "Reformed" in one way or another following Luther, Calvin and many other "protesting" leaders. Whereas Catholic worship was prohibited in Eastern Europe, Calvinism flourished there under official Muslim protection. On the economic front, Europe distinguished itself by its use of the plough, and urbanisation was yet to develop, only four cities (Paris, Milan, Venice and Naples) could muster more than 100,000 inhabitants. Eurasian trade routes had been open since the days of Marco Polo, and ran overland deep into North Africa, Persia, Turkestan and East as far as Nanking and Hangchow. There was a growing trade by sea beyond the Mediterranean, down the African coasts, and East to India, Malaya and as far as the Moluccas. It was in this context that the sixteenth century scene is set. The point I am making is that not only was "Europe" highly fragmented politically and culturally, many of its inhabitants were already familiar with various Others, their different customs, practices, and religions by way of encounters through warfare, occupation and trade. That the Church followed the sword in the early subjugation of the Americas, was no more nor less than what had been going on in the European, African and Asian continents for several centuries. Of what "Europe" do we then speak, and what special significance is to be attached to the discovery of the Other in the Americas? But here we are told of a homogeneous European Self regarding the Other with an single-mindedness as yet very unfamiliar to my European eyes. At one point in discussion of the distinction of the Other during the Enlightenment (noted above) I did see a hint that Europe was not a homogeneous entity: where "peasants and children" were almost, but not quite, categorized as Other. Surely here lurk some of the most important distinctions within Europe: between naпve, uncultured and simple "folk" and what have come to be known today as the "chattering classes" of the urban markets, seminaries, drawing rooms and courts, between political and economic power derived from mysticism,
14 physical strength and familial or spiritual tradition, and that derived from "rational" knowledge.and understanding of the causal relations in a society in which credence is said to be given to the strength of argument. It seems to me that it was the rise of a vigorously patronised "intelligentsia" to positions of power and influence during the Enlightenment which was so important. Surely this set the scene for an accelerating partitioning of the people within Europe (and elsewhere) into ever more categories, and for the emergence of self-sustaining social institutions which maintain these distinctions and constrain people to act within their prescriptions of what is "good", "useful" or "valuable". This internal partitioning of viewpoints inside Europe is not exposed by our author at all, yet it seems to me to lie at the heart of most, if not all of the distinctions which have come to colour all social activities, political, economic, educational, scientific, philosophical and anthropological. And it is this continual process of institutionalized partitioning, aggregating and partitioning again which has enabled the minds of men still to be shaped as easily by fictions, fabrications, myths and legends as by (to use old-fashioned terms) "empirically determined true facts". If deconstruction is to shed light on the European consciousness, then surely these are the phenomena to be "explained"? There is none of this here and this leads me to question (unfairly, I agree) the value of this contribution. It is significant to me that it is in the penultimate End-Note to the Conclusion that there appears a reference to Collingwood's famous remark that "All history is contemporary history". Our author here admits to using "culture" retrospectively in his account. I would press a more serious charge, that he has drawn much else from his own contemporary "culture", without attempting to become aware of his own preconceptions and assumptions, while he swings his bat at others for making the same errors. Despite all this niggle, I agree that the fabrication of a Europe" and an "Other" does contribute to the telling of an interesting parable about the changing
15 views of people about peoples and the emergence of anthropology, but can it be more than that? I cannot conceive what tests (of rationality or of any other criterion of plausibility) to apply to discover whether or not we ought to give credence to accounts of this kind. I fear that I am sceptical of this kind of "uncovering and deconstruction" of history and in contemporary systems research, of "case situations". It is no novel insight that records and reports (including case studies), are fabricated with some purposes in mind and that such purposes are rarely explicated in the record. For an observer to try to guess, or even out-guess, the reasons for a record containing what it does, seems to me to be an attempt to tell a fairy tale to fulfil an objective held in view by the observer, and not to throw any more clear light on the record. Perhaps all I am doing here is restating Henry Ford's (1919) informed and memorable definition ("history is bunk") and pointing to the consequences of "deconstructing" it. Concepts and their expression are much too ambiguously expressed and context-dependent, and much too fragile to survive translation from one situation to another. What counts as a "causal relation" in the eyes of one involved in a situation may be seen as incomprehensible to an "observer" not involved in an exactly similar way. For an "observer" to attribute other causal relations to the situation, to purport alternative "explanations" as being in some way "superior", to value, interpret or criticise the actor's viewpoint as misled, inadequate or false, seems to me to demand a some superior information, rigour, observation or argument as to the legitimacy of that alternative interpretation. Simply to say that one is "informed" by some other writer is not to provide legitimation, it is only to hint that one is about to make the same errors. Every (sub-)culture, every institution, (including the institutions of anthropology) has the potential to dominate individuals and impose on them its distinctions and values. Individuals realise such institutions by their use of these distinctions and by taking actions; actions in the name of such distinctions and
16 valuations. Individual enactments in turn reinforce the influence of the institutions. Such systemic insights are to be found in the anthropological literature (e.g. Douglas, 1987). "Institutionalised anthropology" is perhaps not the special case our author suggests. The interactions of individuals and of institutions are forever forming new distinctions and categorises, prescribing new beliefs and actions and forever expending the energies of human lifetime in doing so. The aims are not the acquisition of new knowledge, New Technology, new forms of peace, domination, happiness, law, safety, accountability or whatever. Those may be the aims of the conversations of the component conversations between people. The "aims" of (or more properly, the "outcomes of the processes in") such institutions themselves are simply and solely the acceleration of the rate of absorption of human lifetime to sustain and amplify themselves. I submit that there are other more direct ways of reaching these conclusions than by reaching into the darkness and deconstructing history (e.g Robb, 1991). In more positive vein, I am led to consider how a Systems Other may be regarded. If systems people are to converse with the Systems Other, say in the world of business, there must be some common allow social interaction, feature of the relationship of Self and Other notably missing from the account above. Fortunately there are already many systemic notions held in common view although the language of expression may appear different. Such notions as feedback, control, systemic hierarchy, and goal-seeking are roughly (from the systems viewpoint) expressed in the business world as variance monitoring, exception reporting, organizational structure and corporate planning. Notions such as complexity, Ashby-variety, rich pictures, dominant world-views and the like have still to cross the divide. What is perhaps most prominently absent from this common ground are notions about the properties of systemic processes, about the intrinsic drives which systemic relationships create, and which take control out of human hands: that there are some systemic conditions in which human intervention is at best
17 ineffective and at worst results in exacerbation of problems. The cultures of the business world are patently anthropocentric. They attribute to human agency most, if not all, causal relationships in the business world (Hofstede, 1978). But if inappropriate cultures abound in certain situations, we may have to look beyond the people involved to the institutions, the systems of belief which condition thinking and which provide their distinctions and values, the culture-imposed limits to their thoughts and actions. This book has pointed up the increasing appreciation of the relativity of different cultures and the growing respect for those differences. Despite the fact that there are still some occupying lofty positions and more concerned with fashioning problems to enable application of their own pet systemic solutions, systems people generally are to be found less on the detached critics and more directly involved in the object culture with their sleeves rolled up than was the case in earlier years. Many systems people are even coming to share some business concepts such as the "rationality (or logic) of the situation" and to understand the significance of power and coercion in organization and of contrived corporate culture and mores. 8. CONCLUSION I hope that I will be forgiven for criticising this book because it was not written about another subject or from another viewpoint of the uses of history to help us in our present condition. I suppose that there are moments when, bored with pedantry, we enjoy, even though we may not agree with, very broad brushes such as those wielded by a Sorokin, Toynbee or Spengler. Although there is mention of none of these, I feel that McGrane has some affinity with at least one of them. Whatever else, he provided me with stimulation, and made me question my own notions more deeply than I would do otherwise, and that certainly was on his agenda. It occurs to me that what I perceived as an error here, the
18 entification of "Europe" as a cultural whole, may be an anticipation of things to come; the moment when Europe emerges as an institutionalized entity, a social autopoietic system in its own right. This was, for me at least, an interesting read,and I now think I know a little more about why I am so out of sympathy with generalized inferences drawn from applying this method to organizational case studies and, indeed, with historical deconstruction generally. REFERENCES Boring, E.G. (1942). Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology, New York. Douglas, M. (1987). How Institutions Think, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. Escher, M. C. (1961). `Band van Mцbius II'. In Brigham, J. E. (tr.), The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher, Oldbourne, London. 1961, Plate 40. Ford, H. (1919). In Cohen, J. M. and Cohen, M.J. (eds.), The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, p. 161:8. Foucault, M. (1970). The Order of Things. Pantheon, New York. Hofstede, G. (1978). The poverty of management control philosophy. The Academy of Management Journal, 450-461. Robb, F. F. (1991). Are institutions entities of a natural kind? A consideration of the outlook for Mankind. In C. Negoita (ed.),The Handbook of Systems and Cybernetics, Marcel Dekker, New York, (forthcoming). Robb, F. F.(1991). Accounting: a virtual autopoietic system? Systems Practice, 4, 3, 215-235. Rosen, S. (1969). Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay, Yale University, New Haven, p. 225. Russell, B.(9146), A History of Western Philosophy, Allan & Unwin, London. p. 762. Fenton F. Robb The Department of Accounting and Business Method The University of Edinburgh
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