Culture of Prejudice

Culture of Prejudice: Arguments in Critical Social Science

Judith C. Blackwell
Murray e.g. Smith
John S. Sorenson
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 2
Pages: 359
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttwcm
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  • Book Info
    Culture of Prejudice
    Book Description:

    The principal theme of the book is that social science is at its best, and most exciting, when it confronts and refutes "cultures of prejudice"-intricate systems of beliefs and attitudes that sustain many forms of social oppression and that are, themselves, sustained by ignorance and fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0210-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-10)
  4. PART ONE INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK AND ITS AUTHORS

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 13-26)

      The great majority of people in the Western world have every reason to be grateful that they are alive today rather than in some long-past historical era. An obvious reason is that average living standards in the West are much higher than they were in feudal Europe, ancient Rome, or Victorian England. However, an equally important and perhaps even more compelling reason is that those alive today are the beneficiaries of titanic social struggles that succeeded both in expanding the scope of human freedom and thereby also succeeded, in some measure, in dismantling some aspects of what we call the...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 27-28)
  5. PART TWO NATIONALISM, RACISM, FUNDAMENTALISM, & TERRORISM

    • CHAPTER 1 “My country, right or wrong” Notorious motto of nationalistic jingoism
      (pp. 31-36)
      John S. Sorenson

      The end of the twentieth century was characterized by two dominant phenomena: the triumphalism of corporate globalization and the resurgence of ethnic nationalism. Despite the apparent contradiction, much of the idealization of traditional cultures often came as a response to the disruptions brought by the spread of the free market. Previously existing hierarchies became destabilized and many people experienced changes to traditional patterns of behaviour while facing economic futures that seemed uncertain or bleak. In these circumstances, nationalism provided some with a sense of community and identity while promising to pave the way for a better future.

      Nationalism is necessarily...

    • CHAPTER 2 “Everybody is a racist; it’s part of human nature” Fatalistic belief condoning the perpetuation of racial oppression
      (pp. 37-46)
      John S. Sorenson

      The final decades of the millennium constituted a New Dark Age, a period of barbarism, ignorance, and bizarre superstition that grew from one of the most violent centuries in human history. Globalized inequality and social decline promoted cultures of prejudice in supposedly sophisticated Western metropolitan centres. Diverting attention from how the world is structured in political and economic terms, the culture industries created a steady flow of propaganda and entertainment promoting simplistic interpretations, celebrating greed and aggression, and creating desire for luxury goods. As unemployment soars and social programs are eviscerated, people feel that they have been cheated out of...

    • CHAPTER 3 “I’m not a racist, and nobody I know is either” A worthy statement which invites discussion of “colour-blindness”
      (pp. 47-52)
      John S. Sorenson

      We will misunderstand the culture of prejudice if we think its racist dimensions are limited to the activities of the extreme right-wing groups discussed in the previous chapter. Analyzing our contemporary culture of prejudice requires an examination of the social construction of whiteness. Like other racialized identities, whiteness has been invented and its meaning has varied over time. Over the last 500 years, a system of white supremacy developed and spread throughout the world. All white people benefit from this system, although not all to the same extent. Prejudices of class, gender, ethnicity, and religion limit opportunities among white people;...

    • CHAPTER 4 “Immigrants are threatening our way of life” Centuries-old fear expressed about every new wave of immigration, even by members of the last wave of immigration
      (pp. 53-58)
      John S. Sorenson

      After the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, anti-immigrant prejudices experienced a resurgence across North America as “suspicious-looking foreigners” came under the scrutiny of governments and of their neighbours. These prejudices, however, have never been far from the surface in normal times and have been intensifying under the impact of corporate globalization. Right-wing groups have flourished all across Canada and all of them produce anti-immigrant propaganda, almost all of it selective and dedicated to the goal of “keeping Canada white”; therefore, calls to limit immigration are almost always based on racism.

      Apart from indigenous...

    • CHAPTER 5 “God is on our side” Common belief, usually held by “both” sides in armed conflict
      (pp. 59-66)
      John S. Sorenson

      Religion is often viewed in a benign way, as a belief system that unites people spiritually and allows them to form moral communities. By establishing standards of behaviour, offering a sense of purpose and meaning to life, and giving explanations for unsettling events, religions provide cohesion and stability and help people to live without despair. However, religion involves not only beliefs but also social actions shaped by those beliefs, actions that acquire particular force because they are assumed to reflect supernatural authority. These actions and beliefs always involve issues of power. Some individuals and institutions are thought to have special...

    • CHAPTER 6 “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” A mind-numbingly ridiculous Hobson’s choice offered up by US President G.W. Bush, September 20, 2001
      (pp. 67-73)
      John S. Sorenson

      Cultures of prejudice are characterized by a lack of introspection and aversion to self-criticism. They divide the world into good (us) and evil (them). The terms of this stark binary are often reinforced by appeals to supernatural sanctions; within this fundamentalist logic our own actions are good by definition, and any opposition to them is satanic. This is the logic behind the terrorist attacks on the United States on September, 2001. The attacks were a major atrocity; however, the reaction to that atrocity has followed the same fundamentalistic logic, and the result has been to compound the suffering of millions...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 74-76)
  6. PART THREE COLONIALISM AND GLOBALIZATION

    • CHAPTER 7 “Third World poverty is the result of traditional values” First World conceits about “backward” societies
      (pp. 79-86)
      John S. Sorenson

      Cultures of prejudice interpret Third World poverty as the result of internal factors such as absence of a work ethic or lack of morals: people are poor because they are “undeveloped,” indicating technological retardation linked to cultural flaws. It is suggested that something in their culture holds them back from being as modern as we are. They are prisoners of “outdated traditional values.” These “traditional values” are vaguely defined but they seem to include such things as local orientation, more emphasis on kinship and family than on individual success, less-sophisticated technology and, in some cases, less emphasis on acquisition of...

    • CHAPTER 8 “The USA promotes freedom throughout the world” America as saviour of the global community
      (pp. 87-94)
      John S. Sorenson

      Among the after-effects of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the constraint on dissent and the characterization of opposition to the bombing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan as “anti-Americanism.” A prime example is the reaction to an October 2001 speech by University of British Columbia professor Sunera Thobani at a conference in Ottawa.¹ Corporate media seized on her characterization of US policy as “soaked in blood” and presented her as a heartless ideologue and hate-monger. AGlobe and Maileditorial denounced her “poisonous diatribe” as “just another chance to berate the Americans,”²...

    • CHAPTER 9 “Free markets pave the way for social development” The World Trade Organization as benign force for social good
      (pp. 95-101)
      John S. Sorenson

      Advocates of “free markets” (or what used to be called capitalism) insist that these will benefit social development and increase everyone’s happiness. This seems highly unlikely, given that in fact free markets do not exist and that all of the so-called “developed” nations have attained their prosperity through vigorous intervention from powerful states. What the advocates of “free markets” are actually demanding is that they should be freed from any intervention from the state that might interfere with their profits. Of course, intervention by the state and the provision of subsidies from public funds will still be welcomed in the...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 102-104)
  7. PART FOUR POVERTY AND SOCIAL DISPOSSESSION

    • CHAPTER 10 “The Welfare State Rewards Laziness” The poor are different from “the rest of us” prejudice
      (pp. 107-112)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      One of the most terrible pillars of the culture of prejudice is the one that is supported by attitudes, ideologies, social policies, and social constructions which lead ordinary people to believe that the economically disadvantaged are inferior, and that their misery is all a fault of their own. Animosity and suspicion are especially aimed at the recipients of social assistance, who are said to be lazy “freeloaders” with their hands in the public purse, whether they need it or not. In any group, there always seems to be at least one person willing to expound at length about “welfare queens”...

    • CHAPTER 11 “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” More myths about poverty
      (pp. 113-120)
      John S. Sorenson

      Cultures of prejudice are characterized by class bigotry and hatred. In societies where the acquisition of money and material goods is extolled as the very pinnacle of human achievement, those who fail to amass money or do not display suitable single-mindedness toward its acquisition are not only reviled as lazy losers but are considered a threat to the entire value system. Unsurprisingly, the poor are often considered less than human, as this makes it easier to exploit them. In Canada, a moral panic was created around the issue of workfare, based on hatred of the undeserving poor.

      Hatred of the...

    • CHAPTER 12 “Indians shouldn’t have any special rights” Belief that aboriginal peoples are “just another minority group”
      (pp. 121-126)
      John S. Sorenson

      Many Canadians seem to believe that, while some unfortunate events may have happened in the past, indigenous people in Canada should not receive any “special” treatment and should now adjust themselves to “mainstream” society. These arguments overlook the impact of history and decontextualize the situation of indigenous people.

      For the last five hundred years, all across the globe indigenous societies have been under attack. The impact of colonialism on these societies was unparalleled in history. Millions of people died, some exterminated through direct attacks, others from imported diseases. Indigenous cultures were smashed. In Canada, the European conquerors pursued a deliberate...

    • CHAPTER 13 “If unemployed people can’t find jobs, they should start their own businesses” Anachronistic view concerning “individual responsibility,” work, and the sanctity of small business enterprise
      (pp. 127-132)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      From an early age, most of us born in the capitalist West are encouraged to believe that one of the pillars of our way of life is the free enterprise system. “Free markets” are celebrated as the most rational means to organize economic activity, and few things are held more sacred than the right of individuals to start up businesses with the aim of enriching themselves. The mutual competition of tens of thousands of privately-owned and profit-oriented businesses is claimed to be the real engine of economic growth—and a guarantee that people’s needs for a wide array of goods...

    • CHAPTER 14 “Recent trends toward falling living standards show that there are ‘natural limits’ to the expansion of human prosperity” Naturalistic explanation for why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer
      (pp. 133-136)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Productivity levels throughout the world are higher today than they have ever been in history. Human beings can produce more material goods and services with the performance of a given amount of labour than at any point in the past. Our scientific knowledge and advanced techniques of production mean that we are able to produce a volume of material wealth unimaginable even a century ago. Why then are living standards for the great majority of humankind either stagnating or falling? There are really only two possible broad explanations for this phenomenon. Either improvements in human prosperity are running up against...

    • CHAPTER 15 “The real culprit for the poverty gap (between rich and poor countries) is not uneven trade, but excessive population growth” Neo-Malthusian prejudice
      (pp. 137-140)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      The corollary to the idea that the world’s most pressing social and economic problems are the result of natural limits on the production of material wealth is the widespread view that the specific problems facing the impoverished regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are due largely to excessively high rates of population growth. While the notion of natural limits to growth deflects attention away from the failures of capitalism and the “free market” in meeting human needs, the “population explosion” thesis blames the plight of the Third World on the reproductive behaviour of its inhabitants. Overlaying the theme of...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 141-142)
  8. PART FIVE SOCIAL CLASS

    • CHAPTER 16 “Class inequality is an inevitable feature of the human condition” Misanthropic belief that “There will always be a ruling class”
      (pp. 145-150)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Confronted with the facts about the extent and nature of the class inequalities existing in contemporary capitalist societies, most people will agree that they are outrageous and unjustifiable. At perhaps no point in modern history, however, has the will to do something about it been so weak as it is today.¹ This state of affairs is due not so much to the success of world capitalism in “delivering the goods” as to the historic discrediting of the socialist/communist alternative in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Indeed, for many, the whole experience of Soviet-style socialism seems to...

    • CHAPTER 17 “As a rule, the rich deserve their wealth” Corollary to the absurd notion that the poor deserve to be poor
      (pp. 151-158)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      In 2000, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, was the owner of corporate and personal assets valued at over $70 billion. He had amassed this fortune in less than twenty years, making him the greatest entrepreneurial success story of the late twentieth century. Gates’ personal wealth exceeded the value of the Gross National Product of dozens of countries around the world, including that of Ireland, a nation of 3.56 million people. Did he “deserve” to be this wealthy?

      Many people think that Gates deserves every penny he has acquired, so long as he did so legally. Many others feel quite...

    • CHAPTER 18 “A classless society in a complex and economically developed society is impossible; it is an unrealistic utopia” Excuse for gross social inequality amidst tremendous wealth and productive capacity
      (pp. 159-164)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Every ruling class in human history has sought to convince those over whom it rules of the naturalness and the inevitability of the prevailing social order. The ancients believed that the institution of chattel slavery had always existed and always would. The feudal aristocracy of medieval Europe upheld, with the indispensable assistance of the Roman Catholic Church, the idea that the rigid hierarchy of the feudal social order was divinely sanctioned—that a privileged few were “born to rule” while others (the great majority) were destined only to toil.

      Today we know better. Today the dominant ideology (or conventional wisdom)...

    • CHAPTER 19 “Most people belong to the middle class” Myth of the “Middle-Class Society”
      (pp. 165-174)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      If asked how they would locate themselves within a class structure divided into upper, middle, and lower classes, most people living in the advanced capitalist world would probably answer that they are members of the middle class.¹ According to the popular view, the upper class is composed of the rich, while the lower class consists of economically disadvantaged to very poor people. The middle class is typically conceived as the societal majority, encompassing its own upper, middle, and lower sub-categories. This conventional understanding of class structure is closely connected to the notion of a “middle-class society”—a society in which...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 175-176)
  9. PART SIX FEMINISM AND THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

    • CHAPTER 20 “Feminists are just ‘male bashers’” Misogynist notion representing a step up from “bra burners.” Better not to be thought of only for denouncing one’s underwear
      (pp. 179-186)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      Identifying oneself as a “feminist” is a difficult decision, even for some of the students who enthusiastically participate in Women’s Studies courses in colleges and universities. This is curious. You would think women would be very proud to identify themselves with such an important social movement devoted to tearing down one of the central bulwarks of the culture of prejudice. In the sweep of the twentieth century, the gradual increments achieved toward the equality of women are remarkable and represent historically significant social change. If it were not for feminists, none of this would have happened.

      If it were not...

    • CHAPTER 21 “Feminism is no longer relevant” Delusional statement by people who think women “have it all”
      (pp. 187-193)
      John S. Sorenson

      In the first decade of the twenty-first century, many young university students regard the issue of women’s rights as an artifact of the 1960s. They assume that women now have all the same rights and opportunities as men do. This view may reflect their own insulated views and limited experience. While many achievements have been won, the emancipation of women globally remains a matter of struggle and, as Susan Faludi¹ has pointed out, many of the achievements of feminists in North America are threatened by a sexist and right-wing counter-attack.

      Throughout the world, women consistently work more, earn less, suffer...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 194-194)
  10. PART SEVEN HEALTH, SEXUALITY, AND REPRODUCTION

    • CHAPTER 22 “Doctor Knows Best” Dubious homespun advice encouraged by medical professionals everywhere
      (pp. 197-202)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      North Americans and Europeans are happy to be living in an age when biological and medical sciences have made remarkable advances. The media regularly report discoveries in medical technology, surgical procedures, and “miracle” drugs. We are gratified to hear that life expectancy is rising and infant mortality rates are falling and that infectious diseases are being controlled or even possibly eradicated. We are encouraged to believe that the medical profession and its related scientific disciplines should be thanked for our good fortune and our good health compared to the generations before us. It is considered regrettable that most of the...

    • CHAPTER 23 “Modesty and virtue are the essence of femininity” Who needs genital mutilation, when ideology can cripple sexual fulfillment just as effectively?
      (pp. 203-206)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      It has been argued that the greatest tragedy of patriarchy is the way in which it has robbed women of awareness of their sexuality and the full realization of their desire. Three French feminist thinkers—Luce Irigaray, Héléne Cixous, and Julia Kristeva—have written much about the understanding, liberation, and actualization of women’s eroticism. They are confident that women and men differ greatly in this regard. As Luce Irigaray has argued, men’s sexuality is phallocentric—focused on and radiating from the penis. On the other hand, “...woman has sex organs just about everywhere. She experiences pleasure almost everywhere.”¹

      Under...

    • CHAPTER 24 “Homosexuality is unnatural” Or, why my orgasm is better than yours
      (pp. 207-214)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      Some years ago, three women hailed a taxi in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. They had just left a bar widely known to be frequented by lesbians. The taxi driver was directed to a Village residence where two of the women lived and then to take the third to her apartment in the Upper West Side. During that lengthy leg of the trip, the taxi driver subjected his passenger to a barrage about how “lezzies” were the “scum of the earth,” the lowest of the low and so on. According to him, they were all foul-mouthed drunks...

    • CHAPTER 25 “Abortion is murder” Anti-woman hysterical rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement
      (pp. 215-222)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      Before modern birth-control techniques became widely available, a married woman could look her husband in the eye and say, “I’ve already made eight children for you, and only three of them have died. You have sons and daughters. I want no more.” Thereafter, if he were an understanding man and agreed not to force sexual intercourse on her, the wife could at least trust that she had some degree of control over her own body. She had no more worries about acquiring life-threatening infections, dying in childbirth, or watching another child die in her arms. If her husband were not...

    • CHAPTER 26 “The family is a haven in a heartless world” The “family values” myth
      (pp. 223-229)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      In the early 1960s, Betty Friedan wrote a book which was to generate an electrical connection to a certain class of women.¹ Her readers lived in industrialized societies and were largely well-educated (i.e., sent to post-secondary education so at least they could get the degree of “mrs”—married to someone who had “good prospects”). Aside from the economic potential of the men who became their husbands, they did not know what they were getting into. After several years of married life, many of them found themselves feeling depressed and unfulfilled, lacking in intellectual stimulation and prey to self-blame and fears...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 230-230)
  11. PART EIGHT POLICING THE CULTURE OF PREJUDICE

    • CHAPTER 27 “Lock ’em up and throw away the key!” Expensive, inefficient, inhumane, and remarkably simple-minded solution to the modern “crime problem”
      (pp. 233-240)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      The logic of this approach to crime control is simple. There are those among us who break the laws, and the law-abiding are put at risk or directly suffer as a consequence. To reduce this threat, generous resources should be provided to identify the evil-doers. The best way to ensure that those identified do not continue to do harm is to isolate them in secure facilities and hope they will have learned their lesson by the time the system is prepared to release them.

      What makes this simple approach complicated? Depriving someone of freedom and citizenship rights is a heavy...

    • CHAPTER 28 “Just say ‘no’ to Drugs” Or, why my drugs are okay and yours aren’t, as propounded by Nancy Reagan, Leading Lady to former actor and US President Ronald, c. 1980s
      (pp. 241-250)
      Judith C. Blackwell

      We all know a lot about drug use, whether we buy psychoactive substances over the counter in drug stores, have them prescribed by our doctors, furtively smoke them with friends, puff them outdoors in chilly climates where tobacco use is forbidden inside buildings, drink them down in the form of beer at sporting events or swallow them and dance the night away at raves. Wherever there are people there will be drugs. Around the world, untold numbers earn their livelihoods in drug manufacture and distribution, hunting down and meting out punishments to drug offenders, or trying to help users who...

    • CHAPTER 29 “Support Your Local Police” Popular propaganda of dubious value to protesters of the Culture of Prejudice
      (pp. 251-256)
      John S. Sorenson

      Sociologists agree that hegemony is maintained through a combination of force and consent. The Summit of the Americas meetings in Quebec City in April 2001 provide a demonstration of how dissent is controlled and managed in Canadian society. The Summit was designed to extend theNorth America Free Trade Agreementand, in compliance with World Trade Organization dictates, to impose the rule of the “free market” over health care, education, environmental regulation, and labour standards by creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas (ftaa). The outcome of the Summit would have a negative effect on millions of people while...

    • CHAPTER 30 “In America, Justice is Blind” Myth of “Equality Before the Law”
      (pp. 257-263)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      In recent years, the campaign to prevent the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and either to secure a new trial for him or to free him outright was in the forefront of the broader struggle to abolish America’s death penalty and to expose the injustice at the heart of its judicial system. Mumia’s case was cutting-edge because it revealed that “American justice” was anything but “blind” to questions of race, class, and political ideology, and that US courts are frequently used to railroad African Americans, lock up political dissidents, and dispatch innocent people to death row. For years, the known facts...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 264-264)
  12. PART NINE ECOLOGY AND ANIMAL LIBERATION

    • CHAPTER 31 “People come first” Conceits of anthropocentrism
      (pp. 267-270)
      John S. Sorenson

      Anthropocentrism is the most fundamental form of prejudice. The assumption that human beings occupy the centre of the universe and that they should take precedence over all other forms of life is not only a self-congratulatory excess but a dangerous delusion that ignores critical findings of scientists and environmentalists who stress the interdependence of all life forms. From this basic assumption of superiority over nature comes an associated complex of other prejudiced attitudes and practices. For example, ideas about dominion over plants and animals are readily applied to other humans, who are seen to be closer to nature, more primitive,...

    • CHAPTER 32 “Eating meat is natural” Preference defined as inevitability
      (pp. 271-278)
      John S. Sorenson

      Most North Americans regularly encounter non-human animals as corpses on their dinner plates. Since eating these corpses is considered natural, challenging such ghoulish practices is difficult. Corpse-eaters are defensive or hostile about their diet, dismissing objections as foolish or refusing even to discuss the topic. However, eating flesh is not “natural”; even at the most obvious level, we do not tear off bloody hunks of flesh and swallow them raw as carnivores do, but instead we process flesh in various culturally accepted ways. Eating flesh is a practice overlaid with symbolic meanings, codes, and obfuscations, part of a highly–mechanized,...

    • CHAPTER 33 “Hunting is part of human nature” “Human nature” as a rationalization for the inhumane
      (pp. 279-283)
      John S. Sorenson

      While some flesh-eaters seek to conceal from themselves the implications of their actions, others revel in pain and gore. They regard killing non-human animals as sport, a recreational activity. Historically, we find many examples of animals tortured and killed for entertainment. The ancient Romans killed thousands of animals in public spectacles; in the Middle Ages people amused themselves by impaling cats or setting them on fire; today, bullfights continue to draw crowds in Spain. Some people spend huge amounts of money to hunt non-human animals, especially large, rare ones, justifying this as an expression of primal human nature.

      Such ideas...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 284-284)
  13. PART TEN THE ECONOMY

    • CHAPTER 34 “When corporations win, Everyone wins” Or, why big business is our saviour, as explained in a letter to the editor, The St. Catharines Standard, August 9, 1997
      (pp. 287-294)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Let us begin by defining the key terms of this upbeat aphorism, something our letter-writer did not bother to do. What are “corporations” and who, exactly, is “everyone”?

      A corporation may be defined as a formal organization whose activity is directed toward the production of goods and services with the aim of realizing a profit. Most business enterprises of consequence in a capitalist economy are legally incorporated and therefore qualify as corporations, but the term “corporation” is usually reserved for large-scale companies that sell stock to the public. Such companies embrace a variety of constituents: corporate executive officers and high-level...

    • CHAPTER 35 “Unions are too powerful; they are detrimental to the economy” Anti-labour sentiment in a world dominated by big capital
      (pp. 295-301)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Union “density”—the proportion of the labour force that belongs to trade unions—has fallen precipitously in the United States in recent years. From a post-war high of over 30 per cent in the 1950s, it has plummeted to less than 15 per cent. Union density in the private sector has fallen still more sharply, with manufacturing seeing a decline from 38.9 per cent in 1973 to 17.6 per cent in 1995.¹ In the private sector as a whole, union density stood at a mere 10 per cent in 1998. Probably at no time since the 1920s has the influence...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 302-302)
  14. PART ELEVEN POLITICS AND IDEOLOGY

    • CHAPTER 36 “He who says organization says oligarchy” The anti-democratic prejudices of Robert Michels
      (pp. 305-310)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Robert Michels’ thesis is a favourite of those who wish to believe that complex industrial or post-industrial societies can only be administered from the top down and that the direct rule of the majority is an unrealizable utopia. To be sure, oligarchy—the rule of the few over the many—is a ubiquitous phenomenon in even the most ostensibly democratic of contemporary capitalist societies. In the realm of mainstream politics, it is a particularly apparent fact of life—expressed through the dominance of big business interests over governmental policy and the centralization of decision-making powers in the hands of the...

    • CHAPTER 37 “Radicalism of the Left and Right are Equally Deplorable” The “golden mean” prejudice
      (pp. 311-320)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      “Radicalism” is the target of routine and almost ritualistic condemnation by those who fancy themselves to be part of the political centre—the so-called “mainstream.” Whether conservative, liberal or social-democratic in their political sympathies, centrist critics of radicalism (a concept often mistakenly confused with “extremism”) pride themselves on their moderation, pragmatism, and good sense in resisting the slogans and nostrums of political creeds, whether of the “radical left” or the “radical right,” that they consider irrational and even downright evil. For such centrists, radicalism of any sort is a pathological and wholly illegitimate departure from a “golden mean” that has...

    • CHAPTER 38 “Vote for the candidate of your choice, but vote” The “democratic” prejudice
      (pp. 321-327)
      Murray E. G. Smith

      Here is a slogan that is frequently repeated during election campaigns in Western democratic countries, one often accompanied by the message, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about government policy.”

      Why are politicians, mass media pundits, educators, and other purveyors of conventional wisdom so eager to convince everyone—including large numbers of people who have little knowledge of or interest in politics—that they must “exercise their franchise”? At some level, no doubt, the eagerness is motivated by a sincere belief that every citizen has a sacred civicdutyto vote. We are brought up to...

    • suggested readings
      (pp. 328-328)
  15. EPILOGUE “Black September” and the culture of prejudice
    (pp. 329-336)

    The greater part of this book was completed in the fall of 2001, a few months following what has been described as the “defining event” of a new global era. That event was the September 11thterrorist attack on the United States, which claimed an estimated 3,000 lives. For many the attack was traumatic, signifying as it did an end to a longstanding and widespread belief that the inhabitants of North America were shielded from the wider conflicts of a persistently troubled world. For those who held an uncritical view of the “North American way of life,” secure in the...

  16. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 337-344)
  17. Index
    (pp. 345-359)