Reception: February 3, 2017
Acceptance: March 13, 2017
The end of neoliberalism, or at least its frank decline, will it invoke a revival of anthropology? Maybe, but for that to happen, you will have to do more than go out and demonstrate. Although I sympathize with the manifesto of the Polish anthropologists that Gustavo Lins transcribes in his interesting article, there are obstacles that anthropology will have to overcome in order to achieve the relevance it currently deserves.
The first temptation that our discipline would have to avoid is to feel that it was always right, and that everything was said or predicted by past generations. Such an attitude will do little to enhance the political or cultural role of anthropology, however gratifying it may be to adopt such an attitude, especially for the elderly, that many times we feel the need to finally be right about something. On the contrary, it will be necessary to change practices, routines and common places of our field, and especially in its teaching; Only in this way can we once again deserve a worthy place in the public debate.
To understand why, it is worth dwelling on the reasons why the crisis of neoliberalism would favor a revival of anthropology, and especially of ethnography. The main reason is simple: the queen disciplines of neoliberalism, economics and political science, indulged in game theory and theory. rational choice, and that already gave of itself. Finally, the idea that the social world is constructed from micro-decisions, made by actors who seek to maximize its advantages, is contrary to the most fundamental precept of social anthropology, pronounced, for example, by Émile Durkheim when he affirmed that the social is a level of analysis that cannot be reduced to the instincts of individuals. Thus, the queen disciplines of neoliberalism disparaged sociology in its broadest sense, and instead imagined that the world can be explained by the rational (and selfish) acts of its individuals.
Such a precept (or, rather, such a methodological stance) worked well during the rise of globalization and free trade, because the theories derived from this method were also instruments of economic policy. Finally, the neoliberal transition required the state to destroy the social fabric, unseat the "moral economy" and reorder the market. The methodological precepts of economics and political science served to consolidate, justify and increase the autonomy of markets. When you have a moment like this, it is tempting to throw sociological thinking overboard. It may even be necessary to put it aside, because the point is to imagine that social ties are susceptible to manipulation from the market, not only for economic analysis but even for politics.
On the other hand, what Gustavo Lins calls "the rise of the right" has unfortunately coincided with the decline of neoliberalism. Or, rather, it is the most recent stage of the neoliberal decline, and with it the need to recognize, describe and explain the social world is reborn, because it is finally that "irrational" social world, ignored by economists and political scientists, that has promoted the new movements of the right and left that are taking the plunge into the neoliberal formula of globalization. Thus, anthropology today can be reborn because it is necessary to explain the immediate environment.
However, anthropologists need to know how to take advantage of the opportunity. We need to be up to the challenge. I think that for this we will have to reorient to some extent our writing and our publishing practices, as Gustavo suggests. Teaching practices will also have to be reoriented. Specifically, to be successful, in the case of Mexico and most of Latin America, the basic training of the anthropologist must introduce at least three subjects that are practically absent from our curricula, so overloaded with the self-referential teaching of the history of our country. discipline. They are:
Currently, Mexican anthropology degrees have changed little in design since the 1970s or 1980s. In too many cases, the anthropologist's curriculum has become an instrument of self-assertion by teachers. However, as Gustavo points out here, anthropology has already lost a lot of prestige and its situation in public and academic debate is not what it was. Nobody is going to give him what he has lost, and anthropologists will hardly be able to gain it by repeating their old knowledge, even when the decline of neoliberalism opens up, objectively, an urgent space for anthropology. Winning that space will require a strong transformation process.