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Unformatted text preview: chapter three: the later twentieth century Early in the twentieth century, then, we can note that both the British and French schools of social research fell heavily under the sway of Emile Durkheim and his intellectual progeny, especially Mauss, Levi-Strauss, and Radcliffe-Brown. In North America, mean- while, an altogether different configuration of anthropological knowledge was taking shape under the careful tutelage of Franz Boas. Unlike the structuralist and functionalist perspectives espoused by the Europeans, American anthropologists cultivated an avowedly histori- cal approach that emphasized the radical diversity of cultural form, rather than its psychosocial solidarity. Despite its emphases on change through time and empiricism, this epistemology of culture histori- cism often sacrificed breadth of analysis for the sake of precision. As a result, even those innovations made by Mead and Kroeber have been seen by subsequent generations as impoverished theoretically. The perceived central weakness of historical particularism, then, was pre- cisely its inability to grasp with broader, cross-cultural historical pat- terns and processes. In the later decades of the twentieth century, this tension between the particular and the general was to emerge as a central problem on both sides of the Atlantic for the newly professionalized discipline of anthropology. While the nineteenth-century evolutionist schemes developed by Morgan and Tylor no longer seemed tenable to the increasingly sophisticated student of culture, the largely descriptive approach championed by Boas also seemed inadequate, in that it suffered from a dearth of explanatory theory. What was needed was a THE LATER TWENTIETH CENTURY IO'] r Durkheim employed an organic analogy to understand how social groups cohere, and Marx understood control of the material condi- tions of life to be the engine driving human history. Both theorists therefore believed that forces existing outside the individual (psy- chosocial on the one hand, dialectical on the other) act to condition cultural meaning and structure social relations. In neither formulation agency is much room left for the creative agency of individuals, and, in fact, both Durkheim and Marx are often criticized for treating the subjects of their theories as homogenous drones, mindlessly obeying the relentless forces that shape and control every facet of their existence. In contrast, and alone of these three great social theorists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German Ma w e r (1864- 1920) is credited with viewing active thinking individuals as censal to the creation, maintenance, and innovation of social an d cultural idealistic perspective that charted a middle course between these extremes: an approach that united historical change and variation with social structure and integration, all within an analytically powerful body of theory. In addressing this need, the work of several anthropologists, including Leslie White and Julian Steward (who will be discussed...
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2011 for the course ANTH 152 taught by Professor Cooper,n during the Spring '08 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.
- Spring '08