Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homogeneity and exclusion

The tasks of reproduction of meaning systems may be differently layered from one society to the next, but where pressures develop within a society to enforce homogeneity by means of state instrumentalities, it is the task of administrators to do so by means of the redesign of procedures. Pressures to force homogeneity may originate in interest groups, but will usually have an ideological component, an enforced orthodoxy.

Ancient prescriptive texts illustrate exclusory imperatives, for example in Hebrew, “You shall annihilate them –

Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites – as the Lord your God commanded you, so that they may not teach you to imitate all the abominable things that they have done for their gods and so cause you to sin”[1]
In the fifth century CE, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo declared that choice in matters of religion was a threat to the Roman Empire. He famously wrote, “let them not find fault with being compelled.”[2] History abounds with examples of administrative procedures aimed at homogeneity. During the Crusades, when Christians invaded Moslem Jerusalem, Raymond of Aguilers reported:

Wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of the Saracens were beheaded... Others were shot with arrows, or forced to jump from towers; others were tortured for several days, then burned with flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet. One rode about everywhere and amid the corpses of men and horses. In the Temple of Solomon, the horses waded in blood up to their knees, nay, up to their bridle. It was a just and marvellous judgement of God, that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers.[3]

More recently, Joseph Goebbels declared at a mass book-burning in Berlin:
German men and women! The age of arrogant Jewish intellectualism is now at an end! . . You are doing the right thing at this midnight hour—to consign to the flames the unclean spirit of the past. This is a great, powerful, and symbolic act. . . . Out of these ashes the phoenix of a new age will arise. . . . Oh Century! Oh Science! It is a joy to be alive![4]
Exclusion is one possible manifestation of the principle of expressivism, whereby all state imputation, compulsion and constraint must express a universalizing principle. Exclusory procedures, whether manifest as military, criminal, or other methods of annihilating difference, are so widespread in the historical records that their ubiquity is a byword amongst historians, and exceptions sufficiently notable to warrant investigation.

[1] Deuteronomy 20:17-18, The New English Bible with Apocrypha (Great Britain: Oxford University Press & Cambridge University Press, 1961 [1970]).
[2] E. H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1974) p. 27.
[3] J. A. Haught, Holy Horrors (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1990) p. 25-6.
[4] Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, speaking at the Berlin book burning, May 10, 1933.

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