1st Edition

The Social Production of Indifference Exploring the Symbolic Roots of Western Bureaucracy

By Michael Herzfeld Copyright 1992
    220 Pages
    by Routledge

    424 Pages
    by Routledge

    In this fascinating book, Michael Herzfeld argues that 'modern' bureaucratically regulated societies are no more 'rational' or less 'symbolic' than the societies traditionally studied by anthropologists. Drawing primarily on the example of modern Greece and utilizing other European materials, he suggests that we cannot understand national bureaucracies divorced from local-level ideas about chance, personal character, social relationships and responsibility. He points out that both formal regulations and day-to-day bureaucratic practices rely heavily on the symbols and language of the moral boundaries between insiders and outsiders; a ready means of expressing prejudice and of justifying neglect. It therefore happens that societies with proud traditions of generous hospitality may paradoxically produce at the official level some of the most calculated indifference one can find anywhere.

    The social production of indifference; one world or two?; the roots of indifference; the creativity of stereotypes; the language fetish; retrospective fatalities; declassifications.


    Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University