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Sadomasochism in Everyday Life


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In this engaging but not wholly persuasive book, Chancer argues that skewed societal structures like patriarchy and capitalism provoke nonsexual sadomasochistic relationships at work, in families and between groups. Alternately accessible and abstruse, Chancer, who teaches sociology at Barnard College in New York City, ranges from critiquing popular culture and reflecting on her experience as a secretary to delving into psychoanalysis and existentialism. She claims that writers of pop psychology books ignore the role society plays in pushing relationships toward sadomasochism. In a bureaucratically stratified society, Chancer argues, people can be both victim and victimizer, venting feelings of racism, sexism or homophobia to compensate for their own class oppression. But Chancer paints with too broad a brush; it makes little sense for her to toss in a half-baked examination of South African repression. She says Sartre's analysis of how the anti-Semite needs the Jew reflects a sadomasochistic dynamic; however, masochism implies that the victim also gains some benefit, and in too many of her examples, Chancer does not address this issue. (July)

Mention the term ``sadomasochism,'' and most people will envision whips and chains and lots of leather. Chancer (sociology, Barnard Coll.) offers a much more subtle and pervasive vision of sadomasochism. She asks that the reader regard sadomasochism as a ``distinctive dynamic between self and other'' brought on in part by societal conventions which currently exist in the United States. While this dynamic may indeed still possess some of the sexual overtones normally associated with sadomasochism, it is at its core a relationship based on subordination and domination. This dynamic exists everywhere from the workplace to the way in which we raise our children. Chancer's book is indeed thought- provoking and well documented; its scholarly nature makes it an appropriate addition to academic and large research libraries.--Jennifer Amador, Central State Hosp . Medical Lib., Petersburg, Va.

Ruth Sidel, Hunter College, and author of On Her Own: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream:

"A brilliant, highly orginal analysis of contemporary U.S. society. Chancer illuminates fundamental issues in American culture, in the workplace, in gender relationships, and the minefield of race."

"An important contribution to that most pressing of cultural projects -- uncovering the psychic roots of authoritarianism."

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