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Posted on September 20th, 2012, by

The article “Operation Margarine”¯ by R. Barthes mainly focuses on the controversy of the established order. In fact, the author attempts to show that, today, there exists some reversed logic in the perception of fundamental concepts or institutions. The author argues that “to instill into the Established Order the complacent portrayal of its drawbacks has nowadays become a paradoxical but incontrovertible mean of exalting it”¯ (Barthes 1972, 41). In order to prove his position, the author draws examples of the army and church, which actually both have considerable drawbacks, but the author states that they rather lay emphasis on les important drawbacks to draw the public attention from the larger evil.

In such a way, it is possible to view this article as an attempt of the author to critically evaluate the existing values and social order which are apparently imperfect, but people cannot actually reveal the extent to which the situation may be imperfect. The author argues that the existence of such a reverse logic gets people rid of their prejudices and biases. However, his conclusion sounds a bit paradoxical since he argues that people get rid of biases but, simultaneously, he seems to regret about it, though with certain irony: “Here we are,”¦ rid of a prejudice which cost us dearly, too dearly, which cost us too much in principle, in revolt, in fights and in solitude”¯ (Barthes 1972, 42). Thus, the author probably wants to show the audience that people can get rid of not only biases but also important principles which actually worth standing for.


Another article by R. Barthes “The Great Family of Man”¯ focuses on the existing stereotypes in views on humans and human society. The author points out that people get used to perceive humans as a community, as a society, where all people are closely intertwined. To put it more precisely, he argues that there is a “myth of the human community”¯ (Barthes 1972, 100). However, the author is apparently skeptical about such a view on humans. In fact, he underlines that the view on humans as a community contributes consistently to the formation of such a concept as humanism. In such a way, he implies that people associate the concept of humanism with the concept of human community, including the set of values accepted in the community, models and standards of behavior, etc.

At the same time, Barthes attempts to distinguish two functions of this myth about human community. First of all, he speaks about morphological similarities of humans that makes them similar to each other and, therefore, people feel they belong to one and the same community. Secondly, he speaks about unity of humans which actually emerges from their similarity. On criticizing such a view on humans, the author attempts to debunk another myth which “consists in placing Nature at the bottom of History”¯ (Barthes 1972, 101). At this point, it is necessary to agree with the author in regard to the importance of history for humans, which they often put ahead of nature. On the other hand, the criticism of traditional view on human community seems to be irrelevant to the real life. At any rate, such a criticism is likely to lead to the total denial of the fact that humans are social beings, while, in actuality, people cannot bear seclusion and they cannot survive in the isolation from their community.

In conclusion, it is important to underline that Barthes attempts to reveal the controversy of the modern society and human views on biases and stereotypes which they often take for granted. In actuality, the author is very skeptical about the dominance of the controversial logic which is applied in different fields from army and church to the view on human beings and human society at large. He underlines that it is important to get rid of prejudices but it is equally important to preserve fundamental principles which constitute an essential part of human nature and make human as they are. In such a context, both articles are very important since they give insight to the understanding of contemporary society and people.

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