Functional Analysis in Anthropology and Sociology: An Interpretative Essay
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 19: 243-260 (Volume publication date October 1990)
S N Eisenstadt
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to my Tutor….

My dearest Simone,

I’ve read enough in anthropology to be frustrated by my lack of basic knowledge of the discipline. I don’t know why exactly I haven’t been able to focus more on enjoying what I am learning no matter how little it feels or how confused I may be at times. I study anthropology because I enjoy it, because I think it will make me a better fiction writer, because I think it will make me a better a thinker, a better person. Maybe my American self demands that I tie study to some concrete and not-too-distant money-making goal? I think a bit of your commentary on American culture is on point. In “An Existentialist Looks at Americans” you write on the American obsession with concrete results, the lack of joy in doing a thing. You write also of how concrete results are often measured in dollar signs for Americans:

“…to cut the result from the human movement which engendered it, to deny it the dimension of time, is also to empty it of every sort of quality: only dry bones remain. With quality lacking, the only measure that remains with which to estimate the work and achievement of man is a quantitative one–money.”

Chris Rock spoke of this American obsession with money in a comedy routine. I believe it speaks directly to your writing on Americans:

As copied from Wikiquote (with edits) (Link):
The number one reason people hate America… the number one reason is because of our religion. Americans worship money; we worship money. Separate God from school; separate God from work; separate God from government; but on your money it says, “In God we trust.” All my life I’ve been looking for God, and he’s right in my pocket. Americans worship money, and we all go to the same church, the church of ATM. Everywhere you look there’s a new branch popping up … remind you about how much money you got and how much money you don’t got. And if you got less than twenty dollars, the machine won’t even talk to you.

OK, so that’s that. What do I have to say about “Functional Analysis in Anthropology and Sociology: An Interpretative Essay?” Eisenstadt writes about his analysis of bureaucratic empires. One thing in particular coincides with some of my recent thoughts on politics. He writes:

The rulers…attempted to limit the influence of the very aristocratic system of stratification and legitimation that made them rulers; meanwhile the lower strata of the population, to whom the rulers attempted to appeal, began to “aristocratize” themselves. Such contradictions generated struggle, change, and the eventual demise of these systems.

I’ve been thinking more of the second part of that statement, of how attempts to appeal to the “lower strata” can lead to demise. There’s this whole fiction of the “middle class” that’s grown up in the politics. As near as I can figure, the term “middle class” can only properly be applied to the children of nobles who aren’t in line to inherit a title. But these new middle class are repackaged peasantry desperate to identify as something else, desperate to “aristocratize” themselves; they seem to believe that they can somehow use existing social structures to limit or in some small way control the behavior of the ruling class, you know, democracy and all that. I do not believe it a sustainable thing for governments, for rulers, to appeal to this sentiment, at least not in the current fashion. I would be curious to read Eisenstadt’s work with a mind to how it speaks to more recent “democracy” movements. I believe this current cult of the middle class to be one of the more insidious movements against freedom and intellectual advancement. I believe you write about this very thing as well… the complacency and such of the petit bourgeois.

Perhaps we will pick this up later? I am constantly saying this, I know.

With all my heart,