Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali

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Princeton University Press, 1991 - Social Science - 183 pages
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For the Balinese, the whole of nature is a perpetual resource: through centuries of carefully directed labor by generations of farmers, the engineered landscape of the island's rice terraces has taken shape. According to Stephen Lansing, the need for effective cooperation in water management links thousands of farmers together in hierarchies of productive relationships that span entire watersheds. With unusual clarity and style, Lansing describes the network of water temples that once managed the flow of irrigation water in the name of the Goddess of the Crater Lake. Based on a system of power relations so subtle as to be completely overlooked by colonial administrators, the practical role of the temples was unnoticed until the advent of the "Green Revolution" of the 1970s. Lansing shows how the water temples then lost control of cropping patterns, a series of ecological crises developed, and the bureaucratic model of irrigation control was shown to be hopelessly over-simplified. Today the ancient system of water temples is threatened by development plans that assume agriculture to be a purely technical phenomenon. Using the techniques of ecological simulation modeling as well as cultural and historical analysis, Lansing argues that the material and the symbolic form a single complex--a historically evolving system of productive relationships that is the true unit of analysis. The symbolic system of temple rituals is not merely a reflection of utilitarian constraints but also a basic ingredient in the organization of production.


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Page 13 - The simplicity of the organisation for production in these self-sufficing communities that constantly reproduce themselves in the same form, and when accidentally destroyed, spring up again on the same spot and with the same name — this simplicity supplies the key to the secret of the unchangeableness of Asiatic societies, an unchangeableness in such striking contrast with the constant dissolution and refounding of Asiatic States, and the neverceasing changes of dynasty.
Page 10 - Primarily, labour is a process going on between man and nature, a process in which man, through his own activity, initiates, regulates, and controls the material reactions between himself and nature. He confronts nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate nature's productions in a form suitable to his own wants.
Page vii - them," but also become aware of what we have unlearned in the course of this learning, A theory of society that does not close itself off a priori to this possibility of unlearning has to be critical also in relation to the preunderstanding that accrues to it from its own social setting, that is, it has to be open to self-criticism. Processes of unlearning can be gotten at through a...
Page 16 - Habermas's goal of a universal standard of rationality and "limit the sense of the word 'rationalisation' to an instrumental and relative use . . . and to see how forms of rationalisation become embodied in practices, or systems of practices."40 It is this contest with which the book begins.

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About the author (1991)

J. Stephen Lansing is professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and senior research fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He is the author of "Priests and Programmers" and "The Balinese", and writer and codirector of documentary films such as "Three Worlds of Bali" and "The Goddess and the Computer".

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