ANTH 2100 Lesson 9
Here we go again! But now there is a distinctly modern view in the societies we will
watch. But we will be looking at these societies through the institutions and bureaucracies that
shape modern society. In this post industrial age world view continues to change. People and
societies think more globally, are increasingly guided by secular rules and laws, and more and
more are circumscribed as categories.
We will see in these films how the mental health and prison bureaucracy create rules to
keep people in their place; how the methodical bureaucrat and engineer shape the final minutes
of a death penalty inmate; how a modern retail store (Nieman Marcus) creates the American
consumer; how public housing operates and how the social welfare system and bureaucracy
works in the US; and the dilemma of those who argue over the custom of female circumcision.
The modern world is one that is based in bureaucracy, rules, guidelines, degrees,
credentials, and information. In many ways, American society is a perfection of trends toward
modernization: it maximizes specialization of occupation; bureaucratization; centralization;
universalization; technological advance, mobility, and rapidity of change.
This section of the course is interesting because here we begin to critique our own life
style and try to understand our own quirks and issues. As the world becomes a more global
society, as information increases at astronomical proportions, and as the rich become richer and
the poor become poorer we need to better understand our own culture and the place of that
culture in the world at large.
This section will create many questions about how American society works and doesn’t
work. You are in for an interesting several weeks. See you later in the course.
Therefore, since going into what he does as such does not seem to be a fruitful way to get
at the bureaucrat, I will use a different approach.
I believe that, because the sort of bureaucrat with whom we are now concerned is
the product of the generally accepted
and beliefs of the modern system, this man can
not be properly understood away from the system. He does not stand apart and control the
system; he is in and with the system.
In other words, the bureaucrat in the modern system is not merely an abstraction with no
existence, but a real man with specific beliefs. These beliefs are more or less shared—implicitly
or explicitly—by the majority of those who live in the system.
These common beliefs do not, of course, make up the totality of all beliefs within
that system, but they do form a common denominator, and their very wide acceptance
contributes to the very existence of that system as a system.
For a long time in the history of this country, the politically-conscious wanted and got a