Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Daily Show on Appeal to Tradition

In the last The Daily Show episode, there was a faux-report on return to tradition and The America That Used To Be. They show that things were never as golden as we remember them, illustrating this with some great fake interviews in what can be an interesting rebuttal to appeals to tradition. But wait, there more!

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While this is far from the best sketch from The Daily Show, it has inspired Lisa Wade at the Sociological Images blog to think about arguments of nostalgia and to speculate on which nostaliga it is we are talking about, with an example of "traditional marriage".
Sociologist Stephanie Coontz, in her acclaimed, fascinating, and fact-dense book, The Way We Never Were, illustrates the way that what is considered “traditional” must be socially constructed. For example, when people say “traditional marriage,” do they mean marriage between a man and his property? Between a man and more than one woman? Is the idea age for marriage 13, 20 or 27? Is it for love, political maneuvering, survival, babies, or kitchens? How you answer these questions depends on when, exactly, in history you’re talking about. (See here for some humorous takes.)

The point: Since all of history is potentially a source of tradition, identifying any given period of time as The Traditional, and therefore deserving of our nostalgia, is arbitrary.

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