9780195332605

The Elephant in the Room Silence and Denial in Everyday Life

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780195332605

  • ISBN10:

    0195332601

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2007-10-31
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Summary

The fable of the Emperor's New Clothes is a classic example of a conspiracy of silence, a situation where everyone refuses to acknowledge an obvious truth. But the denial of social realities--whether incest, alcoholism, corruption, or even genocide-is no fairy tale. In The Elephant in the Room, Eviatar Zerubavel sheds new light on the social and political underpinnings of silence and denial-the keeping of "open secrets." The author shows that conspiracies of silence exist at every level of society, ranging from small groups to large corporations, from personal friendships to politics. Zerubavel shows how such conspiracies evolve, illuminating the social pressures that cause people to deny what is right before their eyes. We see how each conspirator's denial is symbiotically complemented by the others', and we learn that silence is usually more intense when there are more people conspiring-and especially when there are significant power differences among them. He concludes by showing that the longer we ignore "elephants," the larger they loom in our minds, as each avoidance triggers an even greater spiral of denial. Drawing on examples from newspapers and comedy shows to novels, children's stories, and film, the book travels back and forth across different levels of social life, and from everyday moments to large-scale historical events. At its core, The Elephant in the Room helps us understand why we ignore truths that are known to all of us. "Eviatar Zerubavelgathers intriguing ideas for books the way ace foreign correspondents acquire great stories: by reflecting on the obvious, then probing as well as reporting."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

Author Biography


Eviatar Zerubavel is a Board of Governors Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. His books include The Seven-Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week, The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life, and Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past.

Table of Contents

Preface
A Conspiracy of SilenceOpen Secrets
Fear and Embarrassment
The Heavy Hand of Silence
The Rules of DenialAttention and Culture
Learning to Ignore
The Rules of Irrelevance
Taboo
Tact
The Politics of Denial
Attention and Power
Mind Your Own Business
Button Your Lip
The Social Structure of Denial
The Double Wall of Silence
Denying the Denial
Bystanders and Enablers
Silence Like a Cancer Grows
Breaking the Silence
From Awareness to Acknowledgment
Unveiling the Elephant
Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears
Some Things are Better Left Unsaid
Saving Face
Don't Rock the Boat
The Trouble with Elephants
The Ostrich and the Elephant
Notes
Bibliography
Author Index
Subject Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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