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RE: re cultural essentialism

Hi, Andrew and everybody.
I would like to add to this wide explanation of essentialism that Marx also 
sustained an essentialist perspective in relationship to the working class as 
the classe essencially responsible for change towards a better society.

Quoting Andrew Babson <ababson@umich.edu>:

> Short answer:
> Referring to human indentity, essentialism entails that what makes one
> person, and by extension, a group of people different than another can
> be
> distilled into its "-ness," a unique, fixed, eternal and clearly
> understood
> quality or cohesive set of qualities.
> Medium answer:
> It's controversial because, like the Leviathan or the fasces, uniformity
> is
> a dangerously seductive idea. One only see the examples of essentialism
> in
> action- Rwanda, or the history of blacks in the US- to understand its
> destructive power. Hirschfeld is mentioned below- he's done work on the
> cognitive development of racial categorizations...
> Long answer:
> I think it's useful to go over some Plato for a second...
> Plato's ideal world constituted the essential or "true" form of
> everything-
> chairs, trees, whatever. The word phenonmenon relates directly to this
> principal- "the thing appearing"- as a replica of the real, ideal thing.
> So
> when we see a chair, it's a copy of what is in our minds as the ideal
> form
> of chair. How did that ideal form get in our minds? Reason (don't ask).
> The
> closer the copy to the ideal, the better.
> Kant countered by saying the ideal was impossible to know. Would that I
> had
> time to delve into how categorizations of natural kinds are made
> (Aristotle,
> Darwin and lately Medin & Atran)...
> One question to take from all of this might be, can we pinpoint the
> essence
> of a culture, perhaps through an ideal individual or experience? Some
> might
> say yes- this guy is quintessentially English or that was a classic
> Italian
> reaction.
> But I think all of us here would be of the mind that culture and
> identity
> are continually made and reshaped, as history- there is no one answer
> to
> what is ______ culture. Each person at least in part making themselves
> and
> made by the intersection of their own experience and their version of
> cultural knowledge.
> But the nagging, and compelling question remains (as I mentioned in an
> earlier post)- how do we account for continuity in identity, culturally
> and
> historically? And how do we do it without falling into reductionisms
> like
> essentialism or overly evolutionary theories?
> I know I'm talking around a lot of stuff so please make some
> comments...
> Andrew

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