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NOTES ON THE FAMILY / Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer 1977)

Arien Mack, Editor

Examines the instrumental role of the public welfare caseworker in encouraging changing attitudes toward the family in Sierra Leone; through these means, social change in Africa led to the introduction of Western institutions during the colonial era, 18th–20th centuries.

Like language, the family appears to be a universal characteristic of human societies. And like language, the expression of its exigent grammar of relationships is almost infinitely varied. So varied is its expression that it has given validity to a current polemic that would cast the entire institution of the family and biologically determined imperatives toward human bonding into a relativistic social and historical mold. The structure of the family in these formulations is rarely benign or nutrient or necessary for personal development, but fundamentally a hindrance to the development of personal autonomy. The nuclear family in particular is, in these arguments, a product and agent of nineteenth-century capitalism, a nursery for the production of subservient personalities capable of functioning in an oppressive political and economic system. There is a reluctance to accept that the family is perennial and ineluctable.

Based on evidence from the North American Montagnais, Cherokee, and Iroquois, during the 17th–19th centuries, disputes Claude Lévi-Strauss's formulations of woman-exchange and incest prohibitions as "unwarranted teleology reminiscent of eighteenth-century social-contract theorizing.

Analyzes the political and social history of the phenomenon of ideology, showing the relationship of ideology to intellectuals and social organization, especially as that relationship became increasingly pronounced in late 18th-century and early 19th-century Europe.

The political catchword of the world is equality. Clearly, there is a sense in which to favor the unequal is to favor the unfair. But that is so for purely verbal reasons, since it is difficult to say what "genuine" equality would entail. Also, the emphasis on equality is easily misconstrued. One can well imagine that, with the radical impoverishment of the world in any of a great variety of conceivable ways may well reject equality (in some sense) as a substantive political commodity or good. There is reason to think, therefore, that the advocacy of political equality is an ellipsis of some sort. In fact, the notion of equality is so shrouded in ideological mystery that a naive beginning to analysis may well be the best beginning.

Traces the development of sociology as a scientific discipline in the USSR since 1954; such analysis aids understanding of the Soviet political leadership, the decisionmaking process, and trends in the nation's social development.

Examines "commodity fetishism" in capitalist society as analyzed by Karl Marx and satirized by Thorstein Veblen; capitalist society can be understood more clearly through its cultural consumption than its economic production.

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