Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Weapons of the Weak, Annoyed, and Angry

Glad to see anthropologist James Scott quoted in today's NYT article on the small, annoying things in life. But don't think that foot-dragging "weapons of the weak" was popularly accepted among all researchers when it came out in the 1970s. Small daily skirmishes with new power structures make bring some "relief" to the afflicted, but many researchers agree that such resistance without a coordinated political outlet will not structurally change the existing status quo.

Life can involve big hardships, like being fired or smashing up your car. There is only so much you can do about them. But far more prevalent - and perhaps in the long run just as insidious - are life's many little annoyances.

These, you can do something about.

To examine the little weapons people use for everyday survival is to be given a free guidebook on getting by, created by the millions who feel that they must. It is a case study in human inventiveness, with occasional juvenile and petty passages, and the originators of these tips are happy to share them.

"They're an integral part of how people cope," said Prof. James C. Scott, who teaches anthropology and political science at Yale University, and the author of "Weapons of the Weak," about the feigned ignorance, foot-dragging and other techniques Malaysian peasants used to avoid cooperating with the arrival of new technology in the 1970's. "All societies have them, but they're successful only to the extent that they avoid open confrontation."

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