geertzimpact - chr’is cirga‘rdl-0175 E Chapter 2 The...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–12. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 6
Image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 8
Image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 10
Image of page 11

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 12
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: chr’is cirga‘rdl-0175 E Chapter 2 / The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man with toward the end of his recent studv of the ideas used by tribal peoples, in Pmséc Siiiivcigo the French anthropologist LéV-i Strauss ren [1ka that scientific explanation does not consist, us we have been led to imag- ine. in the reduction of the complex to the simple. Rather. it. consists. he says, in a substitution of a complexity more intelligible for one which is less. So far as the study of man is concerned, one may go even further, I think, and argue thatcxplanution often consists of substituting complex pictures for simple ones while striving somehow to retain the persuasive clarity that went with the simple ones Elegance remains I suppose a general scientihc ide ii; but in the so— cial sci—chasiflitflis very often in departures from that ideal that truly creative __t_i‘ 'elopincnts occur Scientific advancement commonl) consists in a progressive complication of what once seemed a beautitulty simple set of notions but now seems an unbtarablv simplistic one. it is utter this sort of disenchantment occurs that intelligibility and thus explana— tory power, comes to rest on the possibility of substituting the involved but comprehensible for the involved but incomprehensible to which 34 THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES; Levi—Strauss refers. Whitehead once offered to the natural sciences the maxim “Seek simplicity and distrust it“; to the social sciences he might ‘- well have offered "Seek complexity and order it." Certainly the study of culture has developed as though this maxim Z were being followed. The rise of a scientific concept of culture amounted to, or at least was connected with, the overthrow of the view of human nature dominant in the Enlightenmentfia view that, whatever . else may be said for or against it, was both clear and sintplefiaiiti its replacement by a view not only more complicated but enormously less clear. The attempt 'to clarify it. to reconstruct an intelligible account of ' what man is, has underlain scientific thinking about culture ever since. Having sought complexity and, on a scale grander than they ever imag- ined, found it, anthropologists became entangled in a tortuous effort to . order it. And the end is not yet in sight. The Enlightenment view of man was, of course, that he was wholly of a piece with nature and shared in the general uniformity of composition which natural science, under Bacon's urging and Newton‘s guidance, had discovered there. There is, in brief, a human nature as regularly or- ganized, as thoroughly invariant, and as marvelously simple as Newton’s universe. Perhaps some of its law are different, but there are laws; per— haps some of its immutability is obscured by the trappings of local fash- ion, but it is immutable. A quotation that Lovejoy (whose magisterial analysis I am following here) gives from an Enlightenment historian, Mascou, presents the posi- tion with the useful bluntness one often finds in a minor writer: 'l he stage setting [in different times and places} is. indeed. altered, the ac- tors change their garb and their appearance: but their inward motions arise from the same desires and passions of men. and produce their effc vicissitudes of kingdoms and peoples.1 ets in the Now. this view is hardly one to be despised; nor, despite my easy ref- erences a moment ago to “overthrow," can it be said to have disap— peared from contemporary anthropological thought. The notion that men are men under whatever guise and against whatever backdrop has not been replaced by “other mores, othcr beasts.“ Yet, cast as it was, the Enlightenment concept ofthe nature of human nature had some much less acceptable implications. the main one being that, to quote Lovejoy himself this time, "anything of which the intelli- 1 A, O. Lovejtiy, Essays in the History ufhieus (New York, 1960), D, 173. The. Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Matt 35 Etbility, veriliability, or actual affirmation islimited to men of a special Egg race, temperament, tradition or condition 15 [in and of itself] without truth or value, or at all events without importance to a reason— able man." 2 The great, vast variety of differences among men. in be- linS and values, in customs and institutions, both over time and from place [0 place, is essentially without significance in defining his nature. It consists of mere accretions, distortions even, overlaying and obscur— ing what is truly human—the constant, the general, the universal—in man. Thus, in a passage now notorious, Dr. Johnson saw Shakespeare’s ge~ nius to lie in the fact that "his characters are not modified by the cus- toms of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the World; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate upon but small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions." 1‘ And Racine regarded the success of his plays on classical themes as proof that "the taste of Paris . . conforms to that of Ath- ens; my spectators have been moved by the same things which, in other times, brought tears to the eyes of the most cultivated classes of Greece.” 4 The trouble with this kind of view, aside front the fact that it sounds comic coming from someone as profoundly English as Johnson or as 5‘ French as Racine, is that the image of a constant human nature inde—~ pendent of time, place, and-citeumstance, of studies ztttgptgoles‘sions, transientffashions and temporary opinions, may be an illusionhthat what man is maybeso entangled with where he is, who he is, and what he believes "iiilii"a is inseparable from them. it is precisely the consider-_ ation of such a possibility that led to the rise of the concept of culture and the decline of the uniformitarian view of man. Whatever else mod~ ern anthropology asserts—and it seems to have asserted almost every- thing at one time or another-—it is firm in the conviction that men un- modified by the customs of particular places do not in fact exist, have never existed, and most important, could not in the very nature of the case exist. There is, there can be. no backstage where we can go to catch a glimpse of Mascou’s actors as “real persons” lounging about in street clothes, disengaged from their prol‘essiont displaying with artless candor their spontaneous desires and unprompted passions. They may '3 livid, p. 80. ” “Preface to Shakespeare,“ Johnson on .Sluikmpeure (London, l93 l), pp, 1 l—lB. i From the Preface to lpliigénic. 36 THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURESE change their roles, their styles of acting. We” the dramas in Which they play; but as Shakespeare himself of course remarked——they are a]. ways performing, This-"‘circumfiist’ance makes the drawing of a line between What is natu. ral, universal, and constant in man and what is conventional. local. and variable extraordinarily difficult. In fact, it suggests that to draw such a line is to falsify the human situation. or at least to misrender it seri- ously. Consider Balinese trance. The Balinese fall into extreme dissociated states in which they perform all sorts of spectacular activitieS—biting off the heads of living chickens. stabbing themselves with daggers. throwing themselves wildly about, speaking with tongues, performing miraculous feats of equilibration. mimicking sexual intercourse. eating feces, and so on-—rather more easily and much more suddenly than most of us fall asleep. Trance states are a crucial part of every cere- mony. In some, fifty or sixty people may fall, one after the other (“like a string of firecrackers going off.” as one observer puts it). emerging anywhere from five minutes to several hours later. totally unaware of what they have been doing and convinced, despite the amnesia. that they have had the most extraordinary and deeply satisfying experience a man can have. What does one learn about human nature from this sort of thing and from the thousand similarly peculiar things anthropologists discover. investigate. and describe? That the Balinese are peculiar sorts of beings, South Sea Martians? That they are just the same as We at base. but with some peculiar. but really incidental, customs we do not happen to have gone in for? That they are innately gifted or even in— stinctively driven in certain directions rather than others? Or that human nature does not exist and men are pure and simply what their culture makes them? It is among such interpretations as these. all unsatisfactory. that an“ thropology has attempted to find its way to a more viable concept of man. one in which culture. and the variability of culture. would be taken into account rather than written off as capriec and prejudice. and yet. at the same time, one in which the governing principle of the field. “the basic unity of mankind." would not be turned into an empty phrase, To take the giant step away from the uniformitarian view of human nature is. so far as the study of man is concerned. to leave the Garden. To entertain the. idea that the diversity of custom across time and over space is not a mere matter of garb and appearance. of stage settings and comedic masques. is to entertain also the idea that human— Tl Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man 37 re s . * c, various in its essence as it is in its expression. And with that lWficljxiaon some well-fastened philosophical moorings are loosed and an re ‘ ' ' o erilous waters be ins. unpaiyillgiilsfulgfcililsepif one discards ti: notion that Man with a capital spin: is to, be looked for “behind," “under,“ or “beyond” his customs and, replaces it with the notion that man, .unca'pitalized. is to be lookEed for “in” them, one is in some danger of losmg Sight of him altogether. d i- thcr he dissolves, without residue, into his time and place, a.Chl.1d an a feet captive of his age, or he becomes a conscripted soldier in a vast Tolstoian army, engulfed in one or another of the terrible historical de‘ icrminisms with which we have been plagued from Hegel forward. We have had, and to some extent still have, both of these aberrations in the social sciences—one marching under the banner of cultural relativism, in“: other under that of cultural evolution. But we also have had, and more commonly, attempts to avoid them by seeking in culture patterns themselves the defining elements of a human existence which, although not constant in expression, are yet distinctive in character. pflf II Attempts to locate man amid the body of his customs have taken sevv era] directions, adopted diverse tactics; but they have all, or Virtually all, proceeded in terms of a single overall intellectual strategyr what I will call. so as to have a stick to beat it with, the “stratigraphic con- ception of the relations between biological, psychological. seeial, and cultural factors in human life. In this conception, man is a composue of “levels." each superimposed upon those beneath it and underpinning those above it. As one analyzes man, one peels off layer after layer, each such layer being complete and irreducible in itself, revealing an- other, quite different sort of layer underneath. Strip off the motley forms of culture and one finds the structural and functional regularities of social organization. Peel off these in turn and one finds the underly- ing psychological factors—"basic needs“ or what-have—you—that sup. port and make them possible. Peel off psychological tactors and one is left with the biological foundations—anatomical. physmlogical, neurol- ogical—of the whole edifice of human life. The attraction of this sort of conceptualization. aside from the fact 38 THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES that it guaranteed the established academic disciplines their indepen- dence and sovereignty, was that it seemed to make it possible to have -‘ one‘s cake and eat it. One did not have to assert that man’s culture was '" all there was to him in order to claim that it was, nonetheless, an essen- ‘ tial and irreducible, even a paramount ingredient in his nature. Cultural facts could be interpreted against the background of noncultural facts without dissolving them into that background or dissolving that back. ‘ ground into them. Man was a hierarchically stratified animal, a sort of ; evolutionary deposit, in whose definition each level—organic, psycho- logical, social, and cultural—had an assigned and inCOntestable place. j To see what he really was, we had to superimpose findings from the 3 various relevant sciencesmanthropology. sociology, psychology, biology j mupon one another like so many patterns in a moire; and when that was done, the cardinal importance of the cultural level, the only one distinctive to man, would naturally appear, as would what it had to tell us, in its oWn right, about what he really was. For the eighteenth cen~ tury image of man as the naked reasoner that appeared when he took his cultural costumes off, the anthropology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries substituted the image of man as the transfigured ani- mal that appeared when he put them on. At the level of concrete research and specific analysis, this grand strategy came dowu, first, to a hunt for universals in culture, for empiri— cal uniformities that, in the face of the diversity of customs around the world and over time, could be found everywhere in about the same form, and, second, to an effort to relate such universals, once found, to the established constants of human biology, psychology, and social orgae nization. If Some customs could be ferreted out of the cluttered cata— logue of world culture as common to all local variants of it, and if these could then be connected in a determinate manner with certain invariant points of reference on the subcultural levels, then at least some progress might be made toward specifying which cultural traits are essential to human existence and which merely adventitious, peripheral. or orna— mental. In such a way, anthropology could determine cultural dimen- sions of a concept of man commensurate with the dimensions provided, in a similar way, by biology, psychology, or sociology. In essence, this is not altogether a new idea. The notion of a consen— 5m genrimn (a consensus of all mankind)—wthe notion that there are some things that all men will be found to agree upon as right, real. just, or attractive and that these things are, therefore, in fact right, real, just, I Pact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man 39 The m cove—“’35 present in the Enlightenment and probably has been or attra form or another in all ages and climes. It is one of sent in some Pm 'deas that occur to almost anyone sooner or later. lts development 6 l ‘ _ . . r 9 thus odern anthrOPOlOgy’ howeverfibegmning With Clark Wissler s in m ‘ i in the l9205 of what he called “the universal cultural-pat- CMbcfiaum h Bronislaw Malinowski's presentation of a list of “univer- tern. t'hrctr'ugnaltypes” in the early forties, up to G. P. Murdoch‘s elabo- sal‘instlt“ l0 er of “common-denominators of culture" during and since ration Oil/3 Sll—added something new. It added the notion that, to World Zdr Kluckhohn, perhaps the most persuasive of the consensus quote Clyheorists “some aspects of culture take their specific forms gt’flflllm tacresiilt’of historical accidents; others are tailored by forces fliilh :Zn properly beldesignated as universal," 3 \lVith this, mass c211: 1 life is split in two: part of it is, like Mascous actors gar ,‘ln [Ufa if men‘s Newtonian “inward motions ', part is an emanation of Eggicngldtions themselves. The question that then arises is: .Can illqlis halfWay house between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries rea y “we: ther it can or not depends on whether the dualism between em~ piritally universal aspects of culture rooted in subcultuglalhreéilitieds :21: empirically variable aspects not so rooted can be Iesta” !is e anS d be taincd. And this, in turn. demands (i) that the universa s prowl; H substantial ones and not empty categories; (fill that they belsp‘ecil ca 0y grounded in particular biological. psychological. or socio o‘gic'a dpp‘; cesses, not just vaguely associated wnh --underlying realities d afin 11;“ that they can convincingly be defended as core elements in a e hi im— of humanity in comparison with which the much more guniileirotus :Of tural particularities are of clearly secondary importance. , n a , ,hriails, these counts it seems to me that the warms-us gt‘llllltnl approac ‘ -t rather than moving toward the essentials oi the human situation i ”10;:2211232 [giTof these rcquirenientsmthut the proposed univ:r- sals be substantial ones and not empty or near-empty categoriesfl as not been met is that it cannot be. There is a logical con'll-ict between-:3; serting that. say, "religion." “marriage. or property ”are empltrlfa universals and giving them very much in the way oi sperm; coiirten , “:1— to say that they are empirical tinivcrsals is to say that t ey ave e iie content and to say they have the same content is to fly in the lace sai ~ ~ 5 A L Kroebcr. ed.. Anthropdlflx.“ Tiiilriy ((‘hlcngo. I953). p. 516. 40 of the undeniable fact that they do not. If one defines religion generally and indeterminatelyhas man‘s most fundamental orientation to reality] for example—“then one cannot at the same time assign to that orienta- tion a highly circumstantial content; for clearly what composes the most fundamental orientation to reality among the transported Aztecs, lifting pulsing hearts torn live from the chests of human sacrifices toward the f heavens. is not what comprises it among the stolid Zuni, dancing their f' great mass supplications to the benevolent gods of rain. The obsessive ritualisni and tinbuttoned polytheism of the Hindus express a rather . is really like from the unconi- j promising monotheism and austere legalism of Sunni Islam. 13an if one : different view of what the ”really real“ does try to get down to less abstract levels and assert, as Kluckhohn did, that a concept of the afterlife is universal, or as Malinowski did, that a sense of Providence is universal, the same contradiction haunts one. To make the generalization about an afterlife stand up alike for the Confucians and the Calvinists, the Zen Buddhists and the Tibetan Buddhists. one has to define it in most general terms, indeed—so gen era], in fact. that whatever force it seems to have virtually evaporates. So, too. with any notion of a sense of Providence, which can include under its wing both Navajo notions about the relations of gods to men and Trobriand ones. And as with religion, so with “marriage," "trade,” and all the rest of what A. L. Kroeber aptly called “fake universals,” dowu to so seemingly tangible a matter as “shelter." That everywhere people mate and produce children, have some sense of mine and thine, and protect themselves in one fashion or another from rain and sun are neither false nor. from some points of view, unimportant; but they are hardly very much help in drawing a portrait of man that will be a true and honest likeness and not an unteneted “John Q. Public" sort of cars toon. My point, which should be clear and I hope will become even clearer in a moment. is not that there are no generalizations that can be made about man as man, save that he is a most various animal, or that the study of culture has nothing to contribute toward the uncovering of such generalizations. My point is that such generalizations are not to be dis- covered through a Baconian search for cultural universals, a kind of public-opinion polling of the world‘s peoples in search of a consensus gr'iiiiimi that does not in fact exist, and, further, that the attempt to do so leads to precisely the Sort of relativism the whole approach was ex- pressly designed to avoid, “Zuni culture prizes restraint.“ Kluckhohn THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES , Concept of Cult...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern