The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life

The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life

by Eviatar Zerubavel
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0195332601

ISBN-13: 9780195332605

Pub. Date: 10/31/2007

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

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

Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195332605
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
10/31/2007
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
364,296
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.30(d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1. A Conspiracy of Silence
Open Secrets - See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil - Fear and Embarrassment - The Heavy Hand of Silence
2. The Rules of Denial
Attention and Culture - Learning to Ignore - The Rules of Irrelevance - Taboo - Tact
3. The Politics of Denial
Attention and Power - Mind Your Own Business - Button Your Lip
4. The Social Structure of Denial
The Double Wall of Silence - Denying the Denial - Bystanders and Enablers - Silence Like a Cancer Grows
5. Breaking the Silence
From Awareness to Acknowledgment - Unveiling the Elephant - Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears
6. Some Things are Better Left Unsaid
Saving Face - Don't Rock the Boat
7. The Trouble with Elephants
The Ostrich and the Elephant
Notes
Bibliography
Author Index
Subject Index

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