Freeing Anthropology from Critique
In Chapter 6, we saw the theoretical problems with critique as a method of historical inquiry. The foundational assumptions are such that the observations necessary to establish a master key for interpreting human behavior are just not possible. In Chapters 7 and 8 we saw the way critique’s theoretical problems manifest themselves in actual historical inquiry in such a way as to have concerning moral implications as well as to present a serious obstacle to resolving political conflict. Because critique involves identifying both the victims of false consciousness and the villains responsible for its perpetration, when employed in the attempt to understand the present, logical entailments of critique include taking paternalistic and prosecutorial action. By attributing false consciousness to the subjects of his inquiry, the critic denies the validity of their stories as well as the validity of the language they use to describe their world and their place in it. Thus the critic precludes any understanding of the subjects themselves and therefore removes any possibility of making arguments in terms that might be compelling to these persons.