The Prevalence of Deceit

F. G. Bailey, Author Cornell University Press $35 (143p) ISBN 978-0-8014-2542-4
Taking up some of the threads of his work Humbuggery and Manipulation: The Art of Leadership, anthropologist Bailey explores the manifestations of untruth (error, deceit and fiction), its role in our private and public lives, and its connection to the exercise of power. Although scholarly in tone, his arguments are clear and straightforward. (Not coincidentally, deconstructionists and post-modern anthropologists take their knocks here.) According to Bailey, a culture's ``truths'' are not absolute; they are agreed-upon fabrications essential to individuals and their society. These include ``collusive lying'' (in which two parties agree to ignore a falsity), such as an Indian wedding ceremony that masks the lengthy negotiations that preceded the marriage; as well as lies to adversaries, exemplified by the ethnographer's quandary regarding the reliability of his informants. Concluding that truth and untruth are rhetorical weapons, Bailey finds a spur to action. ``Question every assertion that purports to be ` the truth,' '' he says. If we don't, we're ``sitting ducks'' for anyone who claims to possess it, whether politician, religious fundamentalist or even academician. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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