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Two Kinds of Rationality: Kibbutz Democracy and Generational Conflict

T. M. S. Evens
Series: Contradictions
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts5s9
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  • Book Info
    Two Kinds of Rationality
    Book Description:

    Beginning with a discussion of mind-body dualism in social anthropology, Evens presents a profound theory of human conduct that deploys notions of hierarchy and practice. He uses the case study of an Israeli kibbutz to address the central anthropological problem of rationality. Of particular interest is Evens's interpretation of the Genesis myth, along with his reading of Rousseau's revision of this myth, as a paradigm of generational conflict and the kibbutz's logic of moral order.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8665-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    This book has been too long in the making, at least by any reasonably prudential standards. It began in the early 1970s as an article-length, extended case study centering on an attempt to introduce secret balloting into the direct democracy of Timem, an Israeli kibbutz I researched in the mid-1960s. As I proceeded, however, the case study took on a life of its own, obliging me to grapple more generally with the closely associated questions of change and of the conflict between the generations in the kibbutz. The former question took me into an analysis of growth and social differentiation,...

  5. One Dualism and Anthropology
    (pp. 1-16)

    Though this book is firmly rooted in anthropological fieldwork, it is well outside the mold of standard ethnographic monography. The book is more directly preoccupied with the study of human existence in general than with the particular ethnographic problems arising from the field data. In short, the field community is primarily employed as a vehicle for investigating the existential conditions of human being. Therefore, the book is intended as an exercise in social and anthropological theory even more than one in ethnographic empirical research. I am more concerned to run an argument about ontology and identity than I am to...

  6. Two The Kibbutz
    (pp. 17-29)

    This study takes as its ethnographic point of departure a set of two incidents that occurred in Timem, an Israeli kibbutz in which I did intensive field research.¹ Together the incidents composed a formal debate over a move to change the rule of voting in Timem’s General Assembly, from open to secret ballot. The debate took place in two successive meetings (the two incidents) of this democratic body and arose in response to the members’ acknowledgment of serious political apathy and to the question of how best to rectify the problem. Because there was exhibited a propensity to identify the...

  7. Three Democratic Procedure and Secret Ballot
    (pp. 30-50)

    The occasion for my argument is a dispute about democratic procedure that took place in Kibbutz Timem. Like all kibbutzim, Timem is dedicated to direct democracy. Indeed, for understanding the case to follow, it is worth mentioning that the ideal process of arriving at community decisions in Timem may be said to surpass even direct democracy — what is projected ideologically is a unanimity of opinion, an expression of the “general will,” rather than an aggregation of individual preferences. However, if by “direct democracy” we mean the sovereignty of the people, in the sense that the people as a whole regularly...

  8. Four Conflict between the Generations versus Social Differentiation: The Empirical Picture
    (pp. 51-74)

    Generational conflict is a salient theme in the sociology of the kibbutz (see, for example, Talmon-Garber 1972: 32; Spiro 1965: 11ff.; Rosner 1982: chap. 8; Rosner et al. 1978; E. Cohen and Rosner 1983). Judging from my own field data, it is also a common focus of discussion and an oft-cited social problem within the kibbutzim themselves.

    In the debate on secret balloting, two participants defined the problem expressly in terms of generational conflict. One expounded that “the kibbutz is built on different generations [gilim] and therefore on different mentalities.” The other, echoing Gimel, said that there was “a lack...

  9. Five Conflict between the Generations as a Normative Expectation
    (pp. 75-85)

    Although in its focus on public affairs, and as a public affair, the contest on secret balloting was highly political, its politics were distinctly ambiguous. By that I mean, it was not at all clear in whose separate interest was a standing rule of a secret ballot, if indeed anyone stood indubitably to gain by it.

    In the event of a personal issue such as a member’s special request, say, for a loan, secret balloting, as a means of removing inhibitions on negative voting, was likely to be in the interest of the member who wished to vote “no” and...

  10. Six Conflict between the Generations as a Metaphor
    (pp. 86-117)

    I have argued that the debate on secret balloting was assimilated categorically to the contest between the generations in Timem. So far I have identified two of the objective conditions of this turn of events. First, with an eye to who was pro and who contra in the public arena, the debate did indeed simulate a dispute between the generations. Second, and more important, as a situational definition, conflict between the generations was right on hand as an impelling expectation of the community’s basic ethos.

    In fact, though, the representational fit of “conflict between the generations” was far more comprehensive...

  11. Seven Conflict between the Generations as a Primordial Choice: The Paradigm of Genesis
    (pp. 118-147)

    The main ethnographical question at issue in this book is why Timem’s members failed to pursue an explanation in terms of heterogenization, choosing instead to define the debate in the empirically less adequate terms of generational conflict. At this juncture, taking certain standard lines of anthropological inquiry, at least two seemingly compelling answers suggest themselves.

    The controversy about a secret ballot brought near to public consciousness the understanding that the community’s realization had proceeded by putting farther from everyday reach the ideology’s most central goal — the perfect synthesis of the individual person with society. Through the medium of the debate,...

  12. Eight Primordial Choice and “The Universal”: Kibbutz Familism and the Sexual Division of Labor
    (pp. 148-162)

    In the preceding chapter, in conjunction with an intensive reading of the myth of Genesis, I argued that self-identification through the biblical notion of generation is a primordial choice for Timem's members. As such, though it served to define the situation, it did not move the members as if it were a cause or, even, reason of their conduct. According to this understanding, “generation” cannot be exactly distinguished from the members themselves, from who they are. It is a key component of their self-identity. Therefore, the conduct associated with it was, in a certain, critical sense, self-founded — it was in...

  13. Nine The Historical Link between Genesis and Timem’s Story: Rousseau as Biblical Redactor
    (pp. 163-191)

    With the preceding chapter, my ethnographic argument is essentially complete. The crux of the argument is that “conflict between the generations” was selected to define the situation for reasons basically of neither functional nor metaphorical design, but as a primordial choice, an act as creative and self-fashioning as it is determined by choices preceding it.

    However, this critical discursive turn, centering on the idea of primordial choice, raises two problems, both of which are too pressing to ignore here. First, can the striking paradigmatic connection between the myth of Genesis and Timem’s story be accounted for? Second, in view of...

  14. Ten Ten Two Kinds of Rationality
    (pp. 192-217)

    The myth of Genesis is the invisible foundation without which the visible form of life I call Kibbutz Timem would not appear. The profound way in which Timem’s social dynamic expresses the myth is not coincidental butculturallyessential. Or so my study of Timem shows: focused by a debate over the merits of secret balloting, in which the community’s sense of itself as fallen was thematized, the study finds that the members of Timem conduct themselves, comprehensively, in terms of a self-identity given in the logic of Genesis. But what can be said about the “rationality” of this existential...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 218-224)

    Beginning with a discussion of mind-body dualism in social anthropology, and predicating an ontology other than the one received in Western thought, an ontology of basic ambiguity instead of things in themselves, I have set out to forge a nondualist anthropology. As the vehicle of my project I have employed the ethnographic situation of an Israeli kibbutz, a collectivist order whose goal of social transcendence serves to dramatize and highlight the ontological question as a social problem.

    The analysis of the kibbutz targeted two principal empirical problems: (1) the “fallen state” of Kibbutz Timem; and (2) the inclination of Timem’s...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 225-237)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 238-246)
  18. Index
    (pp. 247-252)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)