Yin/Yang: Duets and Opposites

By Fogarty, Robert S. | The Antioch Review, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Yin/Yang: Duets and Opposites


Fogarty, Robert S., The Antioch Review


One of my favorite objects at home is a small antique pewter dish in the shape of the yin/yang symbol. I bought it in China because it reminded me of the historic North/South divide with the Yangtze River separating the two kingdoms. It may, in fact, have been an incense burner or a dish used for soy and vinegar, staples in every Chinese home; however, we use it as a container for salt and pepper. It is the contrast of white and black against the pewter that gives it a certain simple domestic charm. I mention this only to highlight the fact that in a number of our essays I found an implicit dualism at work, or at least, a positing of opposites to raise questions about important issues: war and peace, myth and reality, Jews and Arabs, mothers and sons, visitors and natives, sentiment and sense, insiders and outsiders, and old books and modern readers.

Claude Levi-Straus, the father of structuralism and the author of The Savage Mind (1966) and The Raw and the Cooked (1964) once wrote that structuralism was "the search for unsuspected harmonies. It is the discovery of a system of relations latent in a series of objects." While Levi-Strauss was primarily concerned about static (primitive) societies, our authors are concerned about the dynamic nature of change and how people interact with one another whether in Ohio, California, or Lapland. Running throughout these essays is a duet of opposites, if you will. Some of our authors are also interested in the third rail that often separates two forces because it can be both deadly and electrifying.

We lead off with a splendid examination of our post-modern and post-9/11 world by the distinguished sociologist and the author of The End of Ideology, Daniel Bell. He suggests--as a framework for the twenty-first century--that we should consider the twin concepts of evil and ethics as a way of understanding the major issues facing the new century. In so doing he offers up some recent books that might help us understand the perils ahead. …

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