Russia and Crimea, an anthropologist’s perspective
- Friday, 28 March 2014 11:07
For anthropologists the past couple of months have been especially interesting. We call it Deprivation Theory, but what we mean is that when people feel deprived of something they consider essential in their lives–even something as intangible as a sense of justice–the inevitable result is social upheaval and violence.
There was an intriguing article in the Moscow Times, written by Russian military expert Alexander Golts. Golts wrote, “Unfortunately, the same Western states that so loudly tout their supposed observance of the rule of law at times prefer circumventing those rules for the sake of political expediency. Recall how Washington struggled to make its case for the invasion of Iraq, or how the West granted independence to Kosovo in violation of international law. As Moscow annexes Crimea, it happily reminds the West of those precedents. It is this behavior that reinforces Putin’s conviction that the world is ruled by force, not by law.”
If that is Putin’s conviction, he’s a fool–at least from an anthropologist’s perspective. The world is ruled neither by force nor law. It is ruled by the raw and bleeding passion of the people. People who unite beneath a banner of “deprivation,” the belief that they are being deprived of something essential to their lives, do not care about law or the threat of force. Force may rule for a time. The Rule of Law may rule for a time. But in the end it is the tears of the masses that change the world.