Binary oppositions

By Joanna Chojnicka

Over the last few months, I have been thinking a lot about… binary thinking. Seeing and understanding the world in black-and-white. How the whole intricacy and complicatedness of a problem gets reduced to two apparently contradictory options that may have actually little to do with the original issue. We saw it with Brexit, where the social, cultural, and environmental change, the influence of neoliberal capitalism and globalisation, emancipatory movements, various shades and aspects of migration, racism, and lots of other issues suddenly became the simple choice between Leave or Exit.

Binary thinking is not new, of course. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss claimed that some basic binary pairs, such as ‘life’ vs. ‘death’, ‘maternal’ vs. ‘paternal’, ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’, or ‘raw’ vs. ‘cooked’, constituted the building blocks of myths, out of which we, humans, developed the ability to think conceptually.

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