Philosophical anthropologist Richard Swartzbaugh breaks a five-year silence in a magisterial study that presents an entirely new concept of race
UTOPIA OF THE INSTINCTS (I)
INSTAURATiON .. NOVEMBER 1984 -PAGE 7-8
The family and the familial bond begin in the intimate relation of parent and child. The purpose of the present study is to understand how this fundame'1tal relationship reaches beyond these two persons. First, the family can be extended by what anthropologists call the “fictive" tie. Persons addressing one another by such terms as brother, sister, father or mother may invent the illusion or fiction of famiIy even where there is no blood or sexual tie.
Some primitive groups classify a person as father, mother or chi Id according to generation with the result that, in language if not in reality, everyone in the group belongs to the same parental family. This is called classificatory or generational kinship and is a special case of fictive kinship. The strategy of building "false" families by using terms of kinship is not limited to primitive groups, however, but has been adopted in advanced societies in their fraternal groups and sodalities. Finally, religious and political leaders can carry this fiction to its logical conclusion by speaking of a "family of man," an ideal which although distant from reality does from time to time actually unite large and zealous masses of men. Fictive kinship is one form of the family, modeled on the parental family but, although free of its requirement of demonstrable blood ties, extending in numbers far beyond the primary family. But it should be pointed our that even where all members of a group call each other by terms of kinship, they do know who is actually the child of a given parent.
The fictive family is created by abstracting certain features of the families of consanguinity, parenthood and sexual intimacy --these being "true" families --and applying such concepts to persons not so related. What father, son, mother, daughter, husband, wife and other such terms truly mean is a biological relationship, even in societies where such words are emphatically used in a non-biological context. What the word father means is that a child is the father's own child, a relation always thought of as genetic or, where genetics is not fully understood, the result of a sexual relation between a particular man and woman. Thus even where these familial ties are applied throughout a society it is understood by the group's members that their relation is not truly what it is called but is fictitious, the opposite of real. This sense of unreality is accurately reflected in the standard scientific term IIfictive kinship." Returning then to the original question, regarding whether or not the limited or parental family can t>e extended, it appears that there is obviously a "false" sense in which this is possible. The question must therefore be qualified to specify a true sense in which the primal group can be extended in a way consistent with its essential features. Can the parental family, which is normally thought of as very small in numbers and influence compared to the larger society in which it is found, in fact become larger and more imposing, yet preserve the qualities of life which made it a family in the first place?
The view taken here is that the parental family (sometimes called the nuclear family) is the product not of culture but of biology and instinct. Furthermore, in so far as instinct is an inherited mechanism that serves the individual organism in the struggle for life, and in many cases also serves the individual group, it is proper to speak of the instinctive family no less than of the individual being as self-affirming, self-contained, self-centered and, in the language of sociology, IIclosed." In these terms the family may be referred to as an ego group, and through it the individual ego may extend itself from the parent's generation to that of the child. Conversely, in passing from one lifespan to the next the ego creates the parental family.
But the ego has not only the dimension of time, it can also project itself into much larger groups. Such associations may share with the person and family the feature that they are productions of instinct and ego. As indicated, such an expanded family is not artificial or cultural but appears out of timeless and uncontrollable life, so that it may develop in defiance of human values and customs. Among the first such ideals to fall in the face of the ego may be the artificial, fictive family based on the ideal of universal brotherhood. Such an extended and amplified family egoism is called racism.
In thinking about race the usual approach is to ask what makes a given race different or unique. We will begin by posing a different question: what makes a race a group? This is to ask, not what sets the group apart for outside observers concerned with taxonomy, but what gives a group its cohesion so that its own members feel a sense of belonging? It is to the human reproductive group, the family, that we must look to understand race. Strangely, this fact is comprehended better by those who refuse to accept the concept of race than by those who accept it.
Most of the public argument over race concerns itself with the question of what makes a given race different than, or the same as, another race. But this argument is largely a diversion while serious research goes on quietly, without reference to race, on the subject of what makes large groups into families or, in the language of this essay, ego groups. A central insight in this connection was provided by Charles Fourier, the nineteenth-century French utopian, namely, that the source of the ego, the primary adversary of the planned society, is in the parental family. Sociological followers of Fourier contemplate the intractable ego power in human reproduction and the awesome prospect that it may spill over into society as a whole. Boldly, although usually without explicit reference to race, these psychological sociologists and educators push their research toward the precise moment --that of the birth of a human being --where new life is generated. Do the unalterable circumstances and features of this birth determine the final destiny of society in a way callous and indifferent to human hopes, morals and ideals?
What is a binding of male and female genes on a physiological level becomes on the social level a bonding. In human life, in particular, the genetic events cannot be fulfilled without corresponding ties between parents and between parents and children. Particularly the human child demands special attention, which calls for strong i nsti ncts on the part of parents. Now the perception of Fourierist psychologists and sociologists at this point is that the parental bond is in some mysterious and ominous sense anarchistically rebellious toward formal technical and cultural institutions. Biology and formal culture clash as human breeding carries over in social groupings that establish themselves by the side of other, artificial groups. Under consideration here are the two radically different and even contradictory social forms of biology and culture.
An outright conspiracy, one which rejects every Fourierist, aspiration, is hatched against the established social order in the instant a mother takes her newborn baby in her arms. In this momentthe child becomes a particular person not only with an individual personality but with personal and exclusive ties --with the result that it is no longer a generic human being so much as an ego. In this connection it is accurate to say that the generic human essence of so-called humanity was decisively expunged from the child the moment the mother possessed it. The "family of mankind" in the child had no more permanence than the tiny gills on the side of the embryo'S neck that passed away as the organism grew. The priests of society, try as they will, fail to reach this universal humanity before it is extirpated by bonds of ego and egoistic covetousness.
So long as the family minds its own business and exhibits humility it is tolerated and recognized with the deprecating title of official "breeding unit" of society. Since society has no other way of getting citizens, it reluctantly calls on the family to produce them. But suspicion of familial ism turns into overt hostility when "unauthorized" groups larger than the family begin to take on family attributes loyalty, sexual fidelity and, what is the same, the jealous and possessive insistence of the male that children born to his wife are his own.
Since society needs this parent to generate future children, it will tolerate his selfish wish and even write it into law in the concept of "legitimacy." On the other hand, this small egoism already exposes society to the danger that it will extend itself beyond the bounds of the parental family to infect larger groups capable of challenging society. Parental egoism suggests in outline a disposition which, spilling from the small family into a larger one, would be called tribalism or racism. What was not condemned when connected exclusively with the tiny breeding unit is called evil as soon as such behavior is assumed by a whole population. For instance, whatsociologists attack in fascism was the fact that it incorporated into society the idea of group egoism. No real distortion of the idea of legitimacy of children was necessary to transform it into the fascist doctrine of racial purity. As for the rest of fascism, its oppressive hierarchy and bureaucracy, even its militarism, this is what these same sociologists cherish for their own social order.
The critical moment for social reform is when the mother first holds her infant. Yet, for all their concern, and although they may surround childbirth with magic, ritual and printed documents, sociologists cannot penetrate the moment when the ego miracu lously appears in their midst. An unshakable tie and one not to be exorcised is formed at that instant between mother and child, a tie that resists all reduction to forms and symbols of culture and yet constitutes the most formidable adversary of the social order. Fourier astutely reasoned that the moment of contact would be enough to establish an unshakable bond which would put an end to social reform even before it could be initiated. Radical as he seems, perhaps Fourier did not go far enough. The woman bearing a child expects to have it in her arms shortly after birth, an instinctive expectation set off at or very near the moment of conception. Once the child is in the mother she is already possessive toward it. It may be surmised with some probability of truth that social reform theory would have to intercede in biology not at birth, which would already be too late, but somewhere between sexual intercourse and conception, so that society would have to literally reach into the uterus.
The new mother lies helplessly on her bed while the husband at her side is meek, afraid and incapable of preventing any physical act of society that would wrest the child away. But at that decisive moment it is theorists and their agents who seem to be powerless, as though the infant emits a magical repellant to drive them away. If a wizened priestly hand reaches toward the infant, it withdraws just as quickly. All the powers of society assembled atthe bedside cannot rally themselves to take that child, even though to fail to do so is to default at the most important moment of the contest.
The instinct of motherhood thus counterbalances and even surpasses all the fanatical priestly strategies directed toward her bedside. One need only look at the record of history to be impressed with the great energy and dedication ofthe social engineers, who inspire bloody war upon war and revolution upon revolution and yet fail to accomplish this one simple but necessary act: the taking of the child from the mother. Sacrificing millions of men on the altar of a "higher humanity" and in the name of a new social order, they fail to make the first small step toward that social order and give up in their contest with a tired mother and a timid father. They affirm by this default the inevitability of instinct and ego, thus severely limiting their leadership role.
A common mistake by philosophers has been to equate the ego with the solitary person, while egoism is confused with individualism. This is far from the truth. Where the ego must pass from one human lifespan to the succeeding one, it necessarily creates in the process the primary ego group, the parental or nuclear family. This is a group with an entirely different basis of cohesion and organization than the formal society, with which it is inevitably competitive and hostile. But more than this, where provoked-and this provocation will be the topic of further study --the ego may break out of the confines of the original family to form a greater ego group which is altogether "unauthorized" by formal society.
The name of this greater ego group is a four-letter word -race.
(To be continued)