Re: [xmca] The myth of the noble savage

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Sat Mar 31 2007 - 13:12:12 PST

Baudrillard was a great provocateur, and his experience with the CP
in France was not the happiest. Still, there is a certain
holier-than-thou moralism that often takes over in leftist discourse.
Is it because it is so easy to blame the universal capitalist villain
and so escape concerns that we too are part of the problem? No one
moralizes like the one who is certain of his/her own innocence, n'est-ce pas?

I feel noble. I am savage. Am I a myth?

Those old noble savages were the myths of VERY early anthropology
(not Sahlins generation!) which was really just saying, don't judge
them savage by OUR cultural standards, understand them by their own
lights. Perhaps it was also saying, they are pretty successfully
communitarian (because they have to be for survival), while our
modernism has led to wars that kill and maim by the millions (and not
by the handfuls).

So what is the barometer of human violence? How much frustration or
temptation it takes for me to punch, knife, or shoot? I don't suppose
that war casualties are counted in the crime statistics, are they? or
the rapes, or tortures? What's happened to the rate of legalized
violence in the last 200 years? And do we count symbolic violence?
economic violence?

Crime goes down when employment goes up. But do we count forced
unemployment as a crime (committed by the UCV, universal capitalist
villain, of course)?

Are there cultures that support people and inhibit violence within
the community? I think so. Is ours one of them? I think not.


At 09:22 AM 3/30/2007, you wrote:
>I believe Baudrillard had some interesting thoughts about related issues
>(although, he was primarily referring to the cultural and
>historico-political situation in France and Europe):
>"Why has everything moral, orthodox and conformist, which was
>traditionally associated with the right, passed to the left? Painful
>revision. The right once embodied a certain historical and political
>urgency. Today, however, stripped of its political energy, the left has
>become a pure moral injunction, the embodiment of universal values, the
>champion of the reign of Virtue and keeper of the antiquated values of the
>Good and the True, an injunction that calls everyone to account without
>having to answer to anyone. Its political illusions frozen for twenty
>years in the opposition, the left in power proved to be the bearer of a
>morality of history rather than any historical mission. A morality of
>Truth, Rights and good conscience: the zero degree of politics and
>probably the lowest point of a genealogy of morals as well. This
>moralization of values was a historical defeat for the left (and for
>thinking): that the historical truth of any event, the aesthetic quality
>of any work, the scientific pertinence of any hypothesis would necessarily
>have to be judged in terms of morals."
>(J. B. "The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Interviews, Essays", 2005:30-31)
> > I only read a couple of bits of the article Phil, but I do recall reading
> > some of the literature from Britain around moral panics which included
> > convincing arguments that (in Britain of the 80s) ordinary social violence
> > has been in a secular decline for a century or two. I know that here in
> > Melbourne not only does the crime rate continue to decline, but it
> > declines
> > in the face of a continual rise in what counts as crime not to mention
> > perception of crime rising due to ever more comprehensive penetration of
> > the mass media into people's consciousness.
> > I mean, obviously I don't blame 'left anthropologists' - I blame the
> > capitalist media and neo-con politicians.
> > What was the issue with this guy's article?
> > Andy
> > At 09:16 AM 30/03/2007 +1000, you wrote:
> >>Steven Pinker writes a piece claiming the "leftist anthropologists'
> >>celebration of the noble savage" was mistaken and that we are
> >>becoming a much less violent species. Whilst referring to interesting
> >>data, and more "interesting" explanations, Pinker hedges toward
> >>celebrating our current peaceful state...rather a worry.
> >>
> >>Phil
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>xmca mailing list
> >>
> >>
> >
> > Andy Blunden. The Subject -
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
>xmca mailing list

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
Website. <>
xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Apr 01 2007 - 01:00:11 PST