What anthropologist Mary Douglas's work can tell us about the purity conflicts roiling our culture.
Do read the Astral Codex Ten subscriber book review for Dawn of Everything, right to the end. https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/your-book-review-the-dawn-of-everything?s=r
Claire Berlinski's 2006 book Menace in Europe has a chapter titled 'Black-Market Religion', in which she identifies the activist Jose Bove as merely one in a long line of historical 'Boves' who hawked similar ideologies. They range from a man of unknown name born in Bourges circa AD 560, to Talchem of Antwerp in 1112, through Hans the Piper of Niklashausen in the late 1400s, and on to the “dreamy, gentle, and lunatic Cathars” of Languedoc and finally to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Berlinski sees all these people as being basically Christian heretics, with multiple factors in common. They tend appeal to those whose status or economic position is threatened, and to link the economic anxieties of their followers with spiritual ones. Quite a few of them have been hermits at some stage in their lives. Most of them have been strongly anti-Semitic.
And many of the “Boves” have been concerned deeply with purity…Bove coined the neologism malbouffe, which according to Google Translate means “junk food,” but Berlinski says that translation “does not capture the full horror of bad bouffe, with its intimation of contamination, pollution, poison.” She observes that “the passionate terror of malbouffe–well founded or not–is also no accident; it recalls the fanatic religious and ritualistic search for purity of the Middle Ages, ethnic purity included. The fear of poisoning was widespread among the millenarians…”
See also this interesting piece on environmentalist ritualism as a means of coping with anxiety and perceived disorder:
What would Douglas say about “non-core” or “tangential” purity binges? Why do groups who gather for special purposes (knitting, gaming, running, Happy-Meal collectibles etc) suddenly drag in these unrelated purity demands (diet, PRIDE, BLM, climate etc) and make them existential requirements?
that feels new to me versus 10-15 yrs ago.
I read a lot about how groups of people do this or that in response to anxieties over their social status, yet I imagine that individuals are unaware of doing so. In seeking “purity,” are groups unknowingly looking for a strong leader at the same time they are eliminating virtually all comers?
My favorite psychiatrist Lisa Mistler told me to start reading you years ago and now Chicago Boyz is linking to you. Excellent! I also noted right off the bat about Haidt's work that liberals also have purity concerns, not only in food but in environmantalism and petroleum/carbon products. His original questions for his UPenn students, such as "would you use an American flag to clean the toilet bowl if you had nothing else," and "would you eat the family dog if it had been killed by a passing car" could be matched by such questions as "would you use a newspaper with a photo of MLK (or Gandhi) as toilet paper if you had nothing else" and similar. Morality stemming from authority and loyalty are also easily found among liberals. Not necessarily wrong, just that they aren't above that or free of it.
My more recent take on the matter, albeit more conceptual than empirical https://www.liberalcurrents.com/rationalism-pluralism-and-fear-in-the-speech-debate/
I"m pre-ordering the book right now. Thanks: I found this extremely interesting, and also from a professional point of view.
Informative and book will be welcome.
Is there another element at work? Unchecked ego. I suspect that a few individuals not attached to a group have delusional views about the superiority of their imaginings.
Cultural appropriation! Replacement Theory! GMOs! RINOs! And “Don’t say, ‘Don’t Say Gay’!” As opposed to, ‘You got peanut butter in my chocolate!’; ‘You got chocolate in my peanut butter!’
Yes, a book on purity and its discontents would be enjoyable, instructive, and probably embarrassing on occasion.
If you can do something that isn't just a justification for some contemporary politics, it could be interesting. I thought it was interesting that the Nazi's "bad" purity concerns, e.g., get rid of the Jews went along with "good" purity concerns. e.g., anti-smoking and pro-nature.