Haille Mariam-Lemar on Polylogism


One of the best things about Human Action is its absolutely devastating criticism of polylogism or the denial of the rational unity of humankind.

In psychology the refutation of sapir-whorf more or less finished its appeal.

Unsurprisingly (and because of its natural appeal to class (ultimately race) analysis) polylogism found its way into philosophy and through philosophy to the sociology of knowledge.

And here is why: it permitted socialists to (1) dismiss their critics as hopelesly trapped in total ideologies and thus incapable of seing the truth of socialist theory, theory, that as they argued, is by necessity revolutionary; (2), it permitted the socialists to invoke Gramsci’s “power function” argument (this argument later found systematic expression in Karl Manheims philosophy wherein it is argued that all scientific theory serves to reproduce structural relationships of one kind or the other).

At this point, it is quite easy to understand why the Africanists beginning with Dubios (who was a socialist) latched onto “structural analysis” despite the plain conflict that results: it is a powerful tool for critising American institutional racism; and yet one cannot tacitly accept polylogism and still be a systematic humanitarian rationalist. (To his credit, Marcus Garvey, Dubios’ great rival – and a grade A racialist – saw this conflict and mocked Dubios badly). (Realising this conflict, afrocentrists, since the 1960s, have embraced the racialism of Anta Diop).

(At this point and although it is just a digression, I will like to note that the anthropological outlook of Boas was influenced by Dubios empirical sociology not the other way round. That Dubios scientific sociology was irreparably damanged by his socialism is no surprise to me, but that is a different matter)

Anyway, recently I have had the misfortune and honor to interact with a few racial chauvinists of “African” extraction and I must say I have been shocked by the intensity of their malady. These chauvinists (whom I shall call afrocentrists) have embraced polylogism to the T. (See my other post below for the difference between africanists and afrocentrists).

What is scary is that they think this embrace of irrationalism is helpful to their cause.

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