Sapir-Whorf Redux! (was Re: Max Weber's Genteel Racism)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Dec 6 17:59:22 MST 2000


>I am absolutely determined that this mailing list NOT look or sound like
>PEN-L or LBO-Talk despite Yoshie's desire that it do so.

Actually, what's interesting about these three lists is that
oftentimes the same topics spontaneously show up (sometimes at the
same time, at other times with some time lags), be they about
politics, philosophy, or culture in general, with no cross-posting on
my or anyone's part.  For instance, on both LBO-talk & your list,
folks discussed _Fight Club_, of all things!

And please don't worry -- this list doesn't & won't exactly sound
like the other two.  I make same arguments on all three (though
perhaps with a little less Marxist shorthand on the other two),
whether or not I post the same posts on them.  Still, I get different
responses to them.

>I would also like to think that any post here would
>be self-explanatory and not assume that a subscriber was up to speed on
>Sapir-Whorf. I try to keep up with academic bullshit, but this is a new one
>on me I have to admit.

The Sapir-Whorf thesis is a strong version of linguistic determinism.
"[I]n the words of [Edward] Sapir: 'Human beings...are very much at
the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of
expression for their society....The fact of the matter is that the
"real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the
language habits of the group'" (at

Just as in Max Weber's theory, culture determines social relations
according to Sapir & Whorf, except that the ideological world of the
Sapir-Whorf thesis is more static than that of Max Weber.
Culturalism & ahistoricism are closely tied up with each other -- an
effect of commodity fetishism as Marx explains.


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