Steward thus argued that many features of culture

Steward thus argued that many features of culture -...

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Steward thus argued that many features of culture (outside the "core") change little and are not closely adapted to environment, while others change tremendously in response to changes in "technology and productive arrangements" (see previous quote) Thus, CE gives priority to technology and other material forces (what Marx termed "infrastructure") Steward offers no clear justification for this materialist bias; however, others (Marx, Marvin Harris) have, essentially arguing that material factors cannot be changed at will the way other factors (kinship, religion, etc.) purportedly can This has been a very controversial aspect of materialist theories of s/c variation or history In any case, Steward's basic argument is that with a given technology, the local environment presents a series of problems and opportunities that elicit adaptive cultural responses Fact that Steward was trained in evolutionary biology (as undergrad at Cornell) probably explains why he approached problem of ecological determinism using concept of mutual
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Unformatted text preview: interaction and adaptation -- a sophisticated position for his time (1930s through 1950s) By taking this interactive point of view, Steward side-stepped the increasingly sterile debate between determinism and possibilism that had dominated views on human-environment interactions in anthro and other social sciences during previous decades Given the importance of this move, it's fair to say that Steward's CE = beginnings of modern ecological anthropology But CE remains vulnerable on a number of grounds: 1) justification for privileging material forces is inadequately explained (as noted above) 2) focus on subsistence overlooks other adaptive domains (health/disease, reproduction, politics, etc.) 3) vague re adaptive mechanism -- is it decision-making, natural selection, or what? [This last issue will be addressed directly in next lecture and associated readings: What is adaptation, and what roles does it play in biological ecology and ecological anthropology?]...
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