Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 13–31 | Cite as

Why accept submission? Rethinking asymmetrical ideology and power

  • Paul van der Grijp


People not always do what they say that they do, nor do they always say what they really do, an opaqueness that seems to be a necessary condition for the production and reproduction of their mutual relations in society. This lesson about the discrepancy between people’s words and their deeds, between verbally expressing social norms for the well-being of everybody while simultaneously striving for individual or group interests, was already taught by Malinowski (Argonauts of the western Pacific: an account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. Routledge, London, 1922). He may have learned it himself during his own lengthy fieldwork in New Guinea, but it may also have been an anthropological operationalization of the dictum of Freud, with whom Malinowski was struggling intellectually (at least from his side), that people are not always conscious of the motives of their own words and behavior. It also happens, however, that politicians, business, and church people alike consciously create stories or myths in which they hide their own personal our group intentions. These stories or myths are not only works of art of the human mind, but when they are successfully told within the context of, or directly concern power relationships, the narrator may be attributed mana. At least, this is what many Polynesians would do. In this paper, I will give several ethnographic examples from Polynesia, where I have been working for the last 28 years, in order to defend my theoretical stance concerning asymmetrical ideology and power.


Anthropology Ideology Power Inequality Polynesia 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Lumière LyonLyonFrance

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