George Walford: Editorial Notes (48)

Now Available: Beyond Politics; An Outline of Systematic Ideology by George Walford.

IC has long admired the courage of the journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; it holds firmly to its title, and is now issuing T-shirts bearing it in bold letters: MAN. Four-letter words are bad enough, but a three-letter one!

“NEW York is the largest city in the world, exceeded only by London in physical area and Tokyo’s population.” (Easy Guide to New York, 1963. NY: Manhattan Postcard Publishing Co.)

EXPLOITATION: G. K. Zipf distinguishes between two uses of the word, the first meaning merely to get the good out of something, the other a near equivalent of extortion. He points out that “An organization can be beneficial both to the exploiting organizers and to the exploited organized.” (Zipf G.K. 1949 Human Behaviour and the Principle of Least Effort Cambridge, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Press Inc. Footnote to 445).

MANY nasty things have been said about the study claiming to be the science of society, including: “Father, forgive me, for I have committed sociology.” Stefan Collini seems to win the prize (so far) with the remark that although it might be over-dramatic to announce its death there is ground for holding that “reports of its birth have been greatly exaggerated.” (TLS 26 May 90)

“It is impossible to conceive of a concept of Central Europe which does not contain Germany” (G. M. Tamas in TLS 10 Aug.)

ENDING a heated discussion the minister said to the priest: “After all, Father, we both serve the same Lord; you in your way and I in His.”

FORAGERS are more wonderful than we always realise. The Amazonian Indians of Ecuador not only “live on the natural diet of the forest,” but also grow crops and – wait for it, wait for it – have a landing strip. (Sunday Times 9 Sept 90)

SOTHEBY’S are auctioneers pretending to be gentlemen, Christies gentlemen pretending to be auctioneers. Or so it used to be said; in recent years gentlemanliness, or any serious pretence at it, has been getting hard to find. A Christie auctioneer in New York admitted having declared paintings sold when in fact they had failed to reach their reserve – he was trying to keep prices up. Alfred Taubman, major shareholder in Sotheby’s, is quoted: “Selling art is like selling root beer.” (Sunday Times 5 Aug)

THEME song for Lenin: I was born under a squandering Tsar.

TIANANMEN Square seems to have been less exceptional than most of us had thought. At the time it was almost universally presented as unprecedented, and as tension built up it even seemed likely that the People’s Liberation Army might refuse to fire on its own people. Past behaviour of the Army had done little to support such expectations. The Tibetans may not count as its own people, but during the Cultural Revolution the PIA killed thousands of radical students and workers, and wounded greater numbers. Reviewing Jonathan D.Spence’s The Search for Modern China (Hutchinson) Linda Jaivin notes that in calling attention to this he is “merely restating a well-documented fact.” (TLS 27 July) IC adds that we have no reason to think the PIA was less composed of working-class people than any other army.

from Ideological Commentary 48, November 1990.