Archaeology of Criticism



"We become so tied to routines, so compliant in our membership in a neighborhood, an occupation, a fraternity or club, that we stop having any but the most predictable of words with ourselves or anyone else." [Robert Coles, Walker Percy: An American Search 111 (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1978)]

"[M]ost of the time we do not even attempt to act in ways different from our fellow men, even when it would be possible, even when it would be creative or enjoyable." [Donald A. Hansen, An Invitation to Critical Sociology: Involvement, Criticism, Exploration 86 (New York: Free Press, 1976)]

"[T]he human mind, generally speaking, does not just think: it thinks with ideas, most of which it simply adopts and takes over from its surrounding society." [E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed 45 (New York: Harper & Row, 1977)]

"Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinions as the result of their own thinking--and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as those of the majority." [Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving 14 (New York: Harper Colophon, 1962)]

"A large part of the evil that man unleashes on himself and his world stems not from a wickedness in his heart, but from the way he was conditioned to see the world and to seek satisfaction in it. He blindly follows out his unconscious urges in the frantic activity of daily life, and gets his satisfaction and his self-esteem. He fits himself into the bureaucratic-industrial machines of our day and gives his uncritical allegiance to the nation states that run these machines. He is part of an objectified structure, an ant doing his small part reflexively in a huge anthill of delegated power and authority. He follows orders, keeps his nose clean, and gets whatever satisfactions his character structure has equipped him to seek." [Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning 185 (New York: MacMillan, 2nd ed., 1971)]

"The tragedy is simply this: that new meanings can only come from the creative depths of the life force within each individual; but the individual is the last one who believes in his right to develop unique meanings. He takes everything he needs uncritically from the society at large. As a result, man's meanings, instead of being free and open, are in fact 'instinctivized'--hardened into the mold of a standard social pattern." [Ernest Becker, Beyond Alienation 198 (New York: George Braziller, 1967)]

"We hold on to the continuity we have, however profoundly it is flawed. If change were less frightening, if the risks did not seem so great, far more could be lived. One of the striking facts of most lives is the recurrence of threads of continuity, the re-echoing of earlier themes, even across rifts of change, but when you watch people damaged by their dependence on continuity, you wonder about the nature of commitment, about the need for a new and more fluid way to imagine the future." [Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life 8 (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989)]

"As long as you confine your choices to the alternatives that are presented to you in a given framework and do not think of questioning the framework itself, considering alternatives to that, you are not liberated." [Walter Kaufmann, Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy 231 (New York: P.H. Wyden, 1973)]

"In the history of man the overwhelming tendency has been for men to be told and to do what is expected of them. It is only at rare periods in history that sporadic curiosity and uneasiness about what is generally accepted have become embedded in a critical tradition." [R.S. Peters, Psychology and Ethical Development 424 (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1974]

"We do not challenge the unpleasant things done to us by people who have power. . . . In short, we become obedient. . . . It takes more energy, skill, and courage than most of us have to challenge, ask questions, doubt authoritative statements, refuse to go along, openly criticize what everyone else is doing and defend our rights. We don't want to risk what we have by angering powerful people. To be obnoxious, disruptive, and stubborn is difficult and frightening. Instead, we go along quietly and we 'cooperate,' which, in this case, really means we obey. We live in a dream within a dream . . . where we have been hypnotized into accepting our oppression and then hypnotized again into forgetting that we were hypnotized in the first place." [Claude M. Steiner, The Other Side of Power 50 (New York: Grove Press, 1981)]


  Contents: Archaeology of Criticism