Cap Against Race Affs—UMich 2013

Download 0.96 Mb.
Date conversion16.05.2016
Size0.96 Mb.
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30

AT: Personal Narrative/ “Insiders Only”

“Insider-only” identity politics regresses to an infinitely segmented society that accomplishes nothing

Merton 72 (Robert, former University Professor at Columbia University (since deceased), “Insiders and Outsiders: A Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge”, American Journal of Sociology 78:1, July 1972, JSTOR)//AS

In contrast to this de facto form of Insiderism, an explicitly doctrinal form has in recent years been put forward most clearly and emphatically by some black intellectuals. In its strong version, the argument holds that, as a matter of social epistemology, only black historians can truly under- stand black history, only black ethnologists can understand black culture, only black sociologists can understand the social life of blacks, and so on. In the weaker form of the doctrine, some practical concessions are made. With regard to programs of Black Studies, for example, it is proposed that some white professors of the relevant subjects might be brought in since there are not yet enough black scholars to staff all the proliferating programs of study. But as Nathan Hare, the founding publisher of the Black Scholar, stated several years ago, this is only on temporary and conditional sufferance: "Any white professors involved in the program would have to be black in spirit in order to last. The same is true for 'Negro' professors."6 Apart from this kind of limited concession, the Insider doctrine maintains that there is a body of black history, black psychology, black ethnology, and black sociology which can be significantly advanced only by black scholars and social scientists. In its fundamental character, this represents a major claim in the sociology of knowledge that implies the balkanization of social science, with separate baronies kept exclusively in the hands of Insiders bearing their credentials in the shape of one or another ascribed status. Generaliz- ing the specific claim, it would appear to follow that if only black scholars can understand blacks, then only white scholars can understand whites. Generalizing further from race to nation, it would then appear, for example, that only French scholars can understand French society and, of course, that only Americans, not their external critics, can truly understand Amer- ican society. Once the basic principle is adopted, the list of Insider claims to a monopoly of knowledge becomes indefinitely expansible to all manner of social formations based on ascribed (and, by extension, on some achieved) statuses. It would thus seem to follow that only women can understand women-and men, men. On the same principle, youth alone iscapable of understanding youth just as, presumably, only the middle aged are able to understand their age peers.7 Furthermore, as we shift to the hybrid cases of ascribed and acquired statuses in varying mix, on the Insider principle, proletarians alone can understand proletarians and presumably capitalists, capitalists; only Catholics, Catholics; Jews, Jews, and to halt the inventory of socially atomized claims to knowledge with a limiting case that on its face would seem to have some merit, it would then plainly follow that only sociologists are able to understand their fellow sociologists.8 In all these applications, the doctrine of extreme Insiderism represents a new credentialism.9 This is the credentialism of ascribed status, in which understanding becomes accessible only to the fortunate few or many who are to the manner born. In this respect, it contrasts with the creden- tialism of achieved status that is characteristic of meritocratic systems.10 Extreme Insiderism moves toward a doctrine of group methodological solipsism.1" In this form of solipsism, each group must in the end have a monopoly of knowledge about itself just as according to the doctrine ofindividual methodological solipsism each individual has absolute privacy of knowledge about him- or her-self. The Insider doctrine can be put in the vernacular with no great loss in meaning: you have to be one in order to understand one. In somewhat less idiomatic language, the doctrine holds that one has monopolistic or privileged access to knowledge, or is wholly excluded from it, by virtue of one's group membership or social position. For some, the notion appears in the form of a question-begging pun: Insider as Insighter, one endowed with special insight into matters necessarily obscure to others, thus possessed of penetrating discernment. Once adopted, the pun provides a specious solution but the serious In- sider doctrine has its own rationale.

Insider-only doctrine leads to extreme ethnocentrism and total dismissal of any other viewpoint

Merton 72 (Robert, former University Professor at Columbia University (since deceased), “Insiders and Outsiders: A Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge”, American Journal of Sociology 78:1, July 1972, JSTOR)//AS

Clearly, the social epistemological doctrine of the Insider links up with what Sumner (1907, p. 13) long ago defined as ethnocentrism: "the tech- nical name for [the] view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it." Sumner then goes on to include as a component of ethnocentrism, rather than as a frequent correlate of it (thus robbing his idea of some of its potential analytical power), the belief that one's group is superior to all cognate groups: "each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with contempt on out- siders" (p. 13). For although the practice of seeing one's own group as the center of things is empirically correlated with a belief in its superiority, centrality and superiority need to be kept analytically distinct in order to deal with patterns of alienation from one's membership group and contempt for it.13 Supplementing the abundance of historical and ethnological evidence of the empirical tendency for belief in one's group or collectivity as superior to all cognate groups or collectivities-whether nation, class, race, region, or organization-is a recent batch of studies of what Theodore Caplow (1964, pp. 213-16) has called the aggrandizement effect: the distortion upward of the prestige of an organization by its members. Caplow ex- amined 33 different kinds of organizations-ranging from dance studios to Protestant and Catholic churches, from skid row missions to big banks, and from advertising agencies to university departments-and found that members overestimated the prestige of their organization some "eight times as often as they underestimated it" (when compared with judgments by Outsiders). More in point for us, while members tended to disagree with Outsiders about the standing of their own organization, they tended to agree with them about the prestige of the other organizations in the sameset. These findings can be taken as something of a sociological parable. In these matters at least, the judgments of "Insiders" are best trusted when they assess groups other than their own; that is, when members of groups judge as Outsiders rather than as Insiders. Findings of this sort do not testify, of course, that ethnocentrism and its frequent spiritual correlate, xenophobia, fear and hatred of the alien, are incorrigible. They do, however, remind us of the widespread tendency to glorify the ingroup, sometimes to that degree in which it qualifies as chauvinism: the extreme, blind, and often bellicose extolling of one's group, status, or collectivity. We need not abandon "chauvinism" as a concept useful to us here merely because it has lately become adopted as a vogue word, blunted in meaning through indiscriminate use as a rhetorical weapon in intergroup conflict. Nor need we continue to confine the scope of the concept, as it was in its origins and later by Lasswell (1937, p. 361) in his short, incisive discussion of it, to the special case of the state or nation. The concept can be usefully, not tendentiously, extended to desig- nate the extreme glorification of any social formation

1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page