Culture of Prejudice: Arguments in Critical Social Science
Published: September 2008© 2003
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 368 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
368 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.80 in
Contesting the putative "even-handedness" of many introductory social science texts, this innovative book presents strong and provocative arguments on contemporary social issues that will stimulate readers to think critically. The principal theme of the book is that social science is at its best, and most exciting, when it confronts and refutes "cultures of prejudice"—intricate systems of beliefs and attitudes that sustain many forms of social oppression and that are, themselves, sustained by ignorance and fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. Such a critical social science, it is argued, can make an important contribution to promoting human freedom and extending human capacities.
Discussions range from the personal to the political, the national to the global, encompassing social policy analysis (law, health, and welfare), the status of women, and animal liberation, as well as nationalism, racism, political ideology, the global economy, and terrorism. This passionately argued book is an excellent supplementary text for undergraduate social science students, as well as a stimulating read for all those open to hard-hitting confrontations with conventional wisdom. Beginning each chapter with an aphorism, anecdote, or quotation that reflects, illustrates, or challenges particular prejudices, the authors offer concise critical discussions of the issues, informed by some of the best research and thought in the social scientific literature.
Part One: Introduction to the Book and its Authors
Part Two: Nationalism, Racism, Fundamentalism, and Terrorism
1. "My country, right or wrong"
Notorious motto of nationalistic jingoism
2. "Everybody is a racist; it’s part of human nature"
Fatalistic belief condoning the perpetuation of racial oppression
3. "I’m not a racist, and nobody I know is either"
A worthy statement which invites discussion of "colour-blindness"
4. "Immigrants are threatening our way of life"
Centuries-old fear expressed about every new wave of immigration, even by members of the last wave of immigration
5. "God is on our side"
Common belief, usually held by "both" sides in armed conflict
6. "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists"
A mind-numbingly ridiculous Hobson's choice offered up by US President G.W. Bush, September 20, 2001
Part Three: Colonialism and Globalization
7. "Third World poverty is the result of traditional values"
First World conceits about "backward" societies
8. "The USA promotes freedom throughout the world"
America as saviour of the global community
9. "Free markets pave the way for social development"
The World Trade Organization as benign force for social good
Part Four: Poverty and Social Dispossession
10. "The Welfare State Rewards Laziness"
The poor are different from "the rest of us" prejudice
11. "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop"
More myths about poverty
12. "Indians shouldn’t have any special rights"
Belief that aboriginal peoples are "just another minority group"
13. "If unemployed people can’t find jobs, they should start their own businesses"
Anachronistic view concerning "individual responsibility," work, and the sanctity of small business enterprise
14. "Recent trends toward falling living standards show that there are 'natural limits' to the expansion of human prosperity"
Naturalistic explanation for why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer
15. "The real culprit for the poverty gap (between rich and poor countries) is not uneven trade, but excessive population growth"
Part Five: Social Class
16. "Class inequality is an inevitable feature of the human condition"
Misanthropic belief that "There will always be a ruling class"
17. "As a rule, the rich deserve their wealth"
Corollary to the absurd notion that the poor deserve to be poor
18. "A classless society in a complex and economically developed society is impossible; it is an unrealistic utopia"
Excuse for gross social inequality amidst tremendous wealth and productive capacity
19. "Most people belong to the middle class"
Myth of the "Middle Class Society"
Part Six: Feminism and the Women's Movement
20. "Feminists are just 'male bashers'"
Misogynist notion representing a step up from "bra burners." Better not to be thought of only for denouncing one's underwear
21. "Feminism is no longer relevant"
Delusional statement by people who think women "have it all"
Part Seven: Health, Sexuality, and Reproduction
22. "Doctor Knows Best"
Dubious homespun advice encouraged by medical professionals everywhere
23. "Modesty and virtue are the essence of femininity"
Who needs genital mutilation, when ideology can cripple sexual fulfillment just as effectively?
24. "Homosexuality is unnatural"
Or, why my orgasm is better than yours
25. "Abortion is murder"
Anti-woman hysterical rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement
26. "The family is a haven in a heartless world"
The "family values" myth
Part Eight: Policing the Culture of Prejudice
27. "Lock 'em up and throw away the key!"
Expensive, inefficient, inhumane, and remarkably simple-minded solution to the modern "crime problem"
28. "Just say 'no' to drugs"
Or, why my drugs are okay and yours aren't, as propounded by Nancy Reagan, Leading Lady to former actor and US President Ronald, c. 1980s
29. "Support Your Local Police"
Popular propaganda of dubious value to protesters of the Culture of Prejudice
30. "In America, Justice is Blind"
Myth of "Equality Before the Law"
Part Nine: Ecology and Animal Liberation
31. "People come first"
Conceits of anthropocentrism
32. "Eating meat is natural"
Preference defined as inevitability
33. "Hunting is part of human nature"
"Human nature" as a rationalization for the inhumane
Part Ten: The Economy
34. "When Corporations Win, Everyone Wins"
Or, why big business is our saviour, as explained in a letter to the editor, The St. Catharines Standard, August 9, 1997
35. "Unions are too powerful; they are detrimental to the economy"
Anti-labour sentiment in a world dominated by big capital
Part Eleven: Politics and Ideology
36. "He who says organization says oligarchy"
The anti-democratic prejudices of Robert Michels
37. "Radicalism of the Left and Right are Equally Deplorable"
The "golden mean" prejudice
38. "Vote for the candidate of your choice, but vote"
The "democratic" prejudice
Epilogue: "Black September" and the Culture of Prejudice
Prejudice is playing its part in bringing humanity to the abyss. Culture of Prejudice does the important and necessary job of helping to bring us back to our potential senses. Judith Blackwell, Murray Smith, and John Sorenson provide an enlightening dissection of how ideas of prejudice are sustained and promoted. Their arguments against prejudice, drawing on the best traditions of critical social science, speak to the possibilities of human emancipation.Bryan D. Palmer, Canada Research Chair, Trent University