Type: Narrative Essays
Sample donated: Annie Buchanan
Last updated: July 17, 2019
At the outset, it becomes important to understand what exactly generalizations are. Wherein we also need to analyse the inherent connotations attached to this term.
Generalisations, by definition are broad statements or categories covering groups of people or ideas and presenting one commonality amidst all, nullifying experiences of others as exceptions or worse, leading to their otherization. Generalizations therefore lead to several divisions in society, declaring one group as the majority and the other as the minority, this majoritarianism leads to tensions.Generalizations are dangerousIn the world we live in today, our goals, lifestyle choices, opinions and aspirations are defined by a certain set of predetermined norms. For instance, we accept definitions(western ideas of a good life) on face value simply because they are deemed legitimate by (western)majorities, the past two decades in modern world history have shown how there exists a Mcdonaldization of the world. Euro-Centric models of development are applied to all countries across the world, regardless of their social, political, historical and economic climate. This leads to the ignorance of these other countries and therefore, a cultural homogenization.
Another instance is that of movements. The feminist movement has garnered in the recent past, a considerable amount of opposition for categorizing all women across different cultures, ages, ethnicities, races and classes, as one woman. This creates a narrative that the feminist movement is fighting for one woman thereby eliminating the internal difference and plethora of needs of different women.
Multiculturalism in this respect, therefore argues for inclusion and an attempt to individually study different “minority” groups.The problem with generalization therefore is the extension of prototypes, archetypes and generalized models to all society. It leads to conditions like Eurocentrism, Majoritarianism and nullification. This in turn, leads to a situation of discrimination and an inherent assumption that there are certain ideals or goals towards which all of society is working.Moving away from StereotypesWhat becomes important to clarify at this point is the distinction between the terms generalization and general laws. While the former refers to the legitimacy of a single narrative by means of popular opinion, the latter refers to universal rules and laws that have been derived after concrete experimentation and proof.
Generalizations are guidelines but they are always inclusive of exceptions. In the absence of these exceptions, these generalizations take shape of rules and laws. The question therefore arises, how do generalizations help? How do they fulfill the goals of society? And if at all, how do they lead to any progress?The absence of generalizations is dangerousThe society in which we live presupposes the vengencance and self-serving nature of men, and therefore generates a need for a certain standardisation and declaration of good and bad. This prevents situations of exploitation. It is hence important to understand certain generalisations without which society would cease to exist.
As Arthur Williams wrote “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” this assumes and presents the need for morality in society. There exists a moral compass which defines liberty, equality, justice, freedom and rights. These generalized notions save man from the commission of crime and from invading another’s liberty, hence, harmonizing differences, equalising diversities and inter twining society with a common thread.
Another reason why generalizations are important, or rather the absence of generalizations is dangerous is that larger goals, arguments of the greater good, the need for ‘ends’ would get ignored in its absence. Generalizations lead to the creation of common motives that bring society together and weave movements using a single needle, called the end goal. The feminist movement has gained the traction that it has simply because it put on a center stage the common goal on gender equality, this however, does not mean the exclusion of other goals, it simply means the centrality of a more urgent and associatable need.ConclusionWhat Dumas perhaps inferred was precisely this centrality.
He warned us of the dangers of generalizations, the dangers of all inclusive practices and the dangers of only considering the union in say, a Venn Diagram of society. He, however, also warned us of not having these generalizations at all. He spoke about the dangers of no standards, no morals, no values and no norms. The absence of considering both these arguments together, leads to a situation of passing assertive value judgements, except taken together they explain perhaps the functioning of society at large.