Louis Dumont and Hierarchical Opposition

Louis Dumont and Hierarchical Opposition

Robert Parkin
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcknb
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  • Book Info
    Louis Dumont and Hierarchical Opposition
    Book Description:

    The work of Louis Dumont, who died in 1998, on India and modern individualism represented certain theoretical advances on the earlier structuralism of Claude Levi-Strauss. One such advance is Dumont's idea of hierarchical opposition, which he proposed as a truer representation of indigenous ideologies than Levi-Strauss's binary opposition. In this book the author argues that, although structuralism is often thought to have gone out of fashion, Dumont's greater concern with praxis and agency makes his own version of structuralism more contemporary. The work of his followers and fellow travelers, as well as his own, indicates that hierarchical opposition is capable of taking structuralism in new and more realistic directions, reminding us that it has never been the preserve of Levi-Strauss alone.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-552-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
    R.J.P.
  4. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    The long career of Louis Dumont, spanning over half a century till his death in 1998, simultaneously represented forward-looking innovation, continuity with the past, and parallelism with the work of his contemporaries. In his analyses of Indian and later European ideologies, he developed and exploited the notion of hierarchical opposition as a clear departure from the essentially neo-Aristotelian and neo-Kantian tradition of dichotomy pursued by his Durkheimian forebears (most explicitly Robert Hertz) and his near contemporary Rodney Needham. However, continuity was also present in the form of an interest in the phenomenon of opposition. Also, Dumont’s comparisons between India and...

  5. Chapter 2 NEEDHAM’S DEVELOPMENT OF HERTZ
    (pp. 15-40)

    Although there was considerable reaction to Hertz’s text in France, especially during Mauss’s dominance of French anthropology in the 1920s and 1930s, fifty years were to pass before it had a similar impact in English-speaking anthropology. It was Needham’s translation of it (aided by his wife Claudia) in 1960, and his later reissue of this translation, slightly revised, as the banner article of a collection of subsequent papers by other authors on this same theme (Needham 1973d), that really brought it worldwide attention. Another important stimulus was Needham’s own development of Hertz’s basic insights in what he called ‘total’ structural...

  6. Chapter 3 THE DUMONTIAN REACTION: UNDERSTANDING HIERARCHICAL OPPOSITION
    (pp. 41-67)

    One solution to the problem of different contexts is simply to have a separate table for each (e.g. Middleton 1973). This, however, amounts to no more than an attempt to refine the diagrammatic representation of what remains the same theoretical approach. For Dumont and his followers, the problem is more than the simple neglect of contexts (or ‘situations’) that a tabular representation implies: their relation to the ideology as a whole is also ignored. The prime reason for this is that the relation of opposition necessarily involves hierarchy. In fact, Dumont grounds this neglect in the very egalitarianism and individualism...

  7. Chapter 4 THE BACKGROUND TO DUMONT’S REVISION IN INDIA AND ELSEWHERE
    (pp. 68-101)

    There were a number of inputs into the aspects of Dumont’s work discussed in the foregoing chapter. He himself acknowledges several precursors in respect of particular aspects of his model: Leibniz, Fichte, Herder, Albert Koestler, and, among sociologists and anthropologists, Parsons, Simmel, Kluckhohn, Bateson and Evans-Pritchard. In a more general sense, he is heir to that aspect of the Durkheimian tradition that sees all social processes as the expression of ideals and values. In addition, Kluckhohn showed him how the distinction between fact and value can be elided even in relation to science: ‘When the scientist says, “This is valid,”...

  8. Chapter 5 THE RECEPTION OF HIERARCHICAL OPPOSITION
    (pp. 102-129)

    Just how significant is Dumont’s shift from the mere discrimination of contexts to the notion of a unitary ideology divided into levels? First, it should presumably be treated not as a theory but as a method, in accordance with Lévi-Strauss’s view of his own work: in Daniel de Coppet’s words (personal communication), a hierarchical opposition is propositional, not theoretical. According to Tcherkézoff (1985a: 61-2; 1986b: 92; 1987: 8, 125) the shift also means that reversal need no longer be seen as denoting rituals of rebellion, catharsis, the presence of ‘outsiders’ within the society (as Beck proposed of ‘left-hand’ castes in...

  9. Chapter 6 THE SCHOOL OF DUMONT: FROM CLASSIFICATION TO RITUAL ANALYSIS
    (pp. 130-157)

    In the 1980s, a group of Dumont’s supporters became involved in the CNRS-funded Equipe de Recherche en Anthropologie Sociale—Morphologie, Echanges (ERASME), formed in 1981 (though now much changed). Its members have included, at times or more or less permanently, Cécile Barraud, Dominique Casajus, Daniel de Coppet, André Iteanu, Raymond Jamous, Denis Monnerie, Simonne Pauwels and Serge Tcherkézoff. Over the years theéquipehas attracted a number of more temporary visitors from outside France, including Signe Howell, Christian McDonaugh, Jos Platenkamp and Masao Yamaguchi. In addition to numerous articles, there have appeared five major monographs utilizing these ideas in a...

  10. Chapter 7 RESIDUE, COSMOS AND ECONOMICS
    (pp. 158-182)

    The differences between Tcherkézoff and the one hand and de Coppet and Barraud on the other regarding some aspects of the Dumontian innovation have already been alluded to in the previous chapter. We shall take the discussion further here, principally with reference to a joint text already referred to (Barraud et al. 1994) and Tcherkézoff’s reactions to it. Afterwards, slightly later work promoted (though not wholly written) by this group, which focuses on cosmologies, will be discussed.

    A basic difference between the two camps concerns the notion of ‘residue’ as used particularly by Barraud et al. This term was used...

  11. Chapter 8 INNOCENCE AND POSSIBILITY
    (pp. 183-213)

    So far, the adoption of Dumont’s model in analysis outside France has been piecemeal and often partial, many writers being reluctant to adopt it in its entirety. I started to document this in the previous chapter. In the present one, I shall chart a few more of these developments before going on to suggest one other possible but so far largely unexploited application, in the field of ethnicity. The focus in this and the next section is more on the influence of Dumont’s ideas on those outside, or on the edge of, the core group.

    As we saw (Chapter 6),...

  12. Chapter 9 LEGACIES AND LESSONS
    (pp. 214-221)

    It can be seen that something of a contest has arisen over the custody of Hertz’s work on right and left, between Dumont and Tcherkézoff on the one hand and Needham on the other, and also between Tcherkézoff on the one hand and de Coppet and Barraud on the other, regarding Dumont’s own orientation in respect of the phenomenon of opposition. Despite this later fragmentation, something of both the spirit and the method of theAnnée sociologiqueschool clearly survives in all of Dumont’s followers with regard of the particular ideas they draw on and are seeking to develop further....

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 222-244)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 245-254)