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The two conceptions of value

The two conceptions of value

HAU, Journal of Ethnographic Theory

2013, André Itéanu
HAU, Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 3/1,  [2013]

At present, in Euro-America, value is usually associated with equality and not with hierarchy, which, however, is its natural partner. In this paper, I investigate the status of this proposition. Using the French veil debate as my principal example, I investigate the intricate ways in which the idea of laïcité, a crucial democratic value for the French, is related to the social hierarchy that exists between mainstream French society and the banlieues (marginal neighborhoods) where new immigrants are offered residence. Because this hierarchy is not generally taken into account by the French actors in the headscarf debate (although it is perfectly apparent to foreign observers), I propose that some invisible social mechanism must persuade them that the subordination of the banlieues and the value of laïcité are totally independent. I conclude by arguing that the dominant ideology in Euro-America, which posits that hierarchies are exclusively founded on political power, leads those who are in a position to act to track a mistaken, elusive culprit, instead of trying to strike some kind of bargain with the hierarchy of values.

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