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Michael K. Wilson February 2012
Pre-History of the Culture Concept 1 6 th cent. BC, Pindar: “Nomos is king over all!” Nomos = written + unwritten “law”, incl. customs. Ancient Greeks: Which is primary – phusis (nature) or nomos (convention)? Cultural relativism of Sophists and threat to foundations of Greek morality. Socrates vs. Crito: mustn’t undermine nomos. Greek rhetoric: ethos = “character” + “usage”, “custom”, “way of life”, as per LXX 1 Ki 18:28 + Jn 19:40.1 Ki 18:28 Jn 19:40
1 Kings 18:28 “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom (ethos), until their blood flowed.”
John 19:40 “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs (ethos).”
Pre-History of the Culture Concept 2 Socrates: to be human being = to be a citizen. Heraclitus: defend city’s nomoi as though defending city walls. Socrates: nomos = “soul” or “ordering principle” of city. paideia // “enculturation”, “socialisation.” Examples of incipient ethnography: Herodotus re Persians; Tacitus re Germans
Pre-History of the Culture Concept 3 Marco Polo (AD 1298): Description of the World Roger Bacon ( ): Recognising cultural differences in different localities. QuoteQuote Ibn Khaldun ( ): Culture distinguishing man from animals. Founder of sociology? Gutenberg Printing Press (1450) + Great Voyages of Discovery ( ): printing of exotic tales re other societies. Montaigne ( ): cultural relativism; vs. “barbaric” and “savage”
Roger Bacon Opus Majus And we see that all things vary according to different localities of the world not only in nature, but also men in their customs; since the Ethiopians have one set of customs, the Spaniards another, the Romans still another, and the Greeks yet another. For even the Picards, who are neighbours to the true Gauls, have such a difference in customs and language, but that we cannot but wonder at such diversity in neighbouring localities.
Pre-History of the Culture Concept 4 Giovanni Batista Vico (New Science 1744): father of ethnology: culture = sets of linguistic and physical symbols holding society together. Ann Turgot (1750): transmission of culture. QuoteQuote Matthew Arnold (1870s): articulated concept of culture. QuoteQuote Thomas Hobbes ( ): culture – civilised life vs. state of nature. Edward B. Tylor (1871): foundational definition of culture. QuoteQuote
Anne Turgot “Possessor of a treasure of signs which he has the faculty of multiplying to infinity, he [man] is able to assure the retention of his acquired ideas, to communicate them to other men, and to transmit them to his successors as a constantly expanding heritage.”
Matthew Arnold (“High Culture”) Culture is “a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits, which we now follow staunchly but mechanically, vainly imagining that there is a virtue in following them staunchly which makes up for the mischief of following them mechanically.”
Edward B. Tylor “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
Historical Approaches to Understanding Cultural Differences 1. First Encounters: All Are Sinners (16 th century) 2. Second Thoughts: Romantic Innocence. QuotesQuotes 3. Anthropological Approaches.
Pierre de Ronsard (1555) Indigenous Brazilians: “innocently and completely untamed and nude, as naked in dress as they are stripped of malice, who know neither the names of virtue nor vice...” “Live, happy, you people without pain, without cares. Live joyously: I myself would wish to live so.”
Anthropological Approaches Cultural evolutionism Historical particularism Diffusionism Functionalism Psychological Approaches New Evolutionism /Modernisation Dialectical Materialism Cultural Materialism Structuralism Symbolic (Interpretive) Anthropology
Cultural Evolutionism Auguste Comte ( ): founder of sociology. Friedrich Hegel ( ) E.B. Tylor ( ) David Hume ( ) Lewis Henry Morgan ( ) Social Darwinism (19 th century) Marxism Anthropological Approaches
Auguste Comte Positive Region Stage (scientific principles; pure reasoning) Metaphysical Stage (critical thinking) Theological Stage (primitive religious thought)
Friedrich Hegel All will be free (European constitutional monarchies) Some were free (Greek city states) One man free (Asiatic tyrant)
E.B. Tylor Monotheism Polytheism Animism
David Hume Science Monotheism Primal Polytheism
Lewis Henry Morgan Civilisation Barbarism Savagery
Social Darwinism “Not only were the cultures of modern-day Europe and America seen as the pinnacle of cultural progress, but the white race (especially its male half) was seen as the pinnacle of biological progress” (Harris) Most influential representative = Herbert Spencer.
Herbert Spencer Industrial Societies Dependence on contractual relations, and voluntary cooperation, justice and peace, freedom and individual rights, achieved status, social mobility, and cultural values of mutual respect, independence, individual initiative and truthfulness. Militant Societies Dependence on force (external warfare and internal coercion and regimentation), constraints on liberty (little protection of individual rights), ascribed status, and cultural values of loyalty, obedience, faith in authority and discipline.
Marxism Communism Capitalism Feudalism Slave Society Primitive Communism
Historical Particularism: Franz Boas All cultures different but equal. Promotion of ethnographic fieldwork
Diffusionism Cultures are “a patchwork of elements derived from a haphazard series of borrowings among near and distant peoples” (Harris).
Functionalism all social institutions or structures - family, education system, political system, economy, etc. - cohere to provide a stable, functioning social system. Assumption: value consensus: commonly held beliefs bind society together and provide social stability.
Psychological Approaches: “Culture and Personality” A subset of functionalism which links cultural beliefs and practices with individual personality and seeks to connect individual personality with cultural beliefs and practices. Main proponents: Ruth Benedict: culture is a larger version of the individual personality. Margaret Mead Ruth Benedict Margaret Mead
New Evolutionism/Modernisation The modernising process is due to some form of technological or economic development: Leslie White: capture and application of energy Levy: greater use of inanimate power and tools Smelser: technological advancement, industrialisation and urbanisation Moore: individualistic, future-oriented, secular and achievement-based values, urban lifestyles, a complex division of labour, nuclear family structure, the extension of education, a high degree of social mobility, and achieved status.
Dialectical Materialism In all societies there is fundamental contradiction between the means of production (roughly, the technology) and the relations of production (who owns the means of production). This clash eventually produces a synthesis, i.e. communism.
Cultural Materialism All peculiarities of culture explicable as local variations in man’s adaptation to the physical environment Marvin Harris saw cannibalism as an adaptive response to protein deficiency! Marvin Harris
Structuralism (Claude Lévi-Strauss) Cultural differences of thought and behaviour, no matter how great the range of technological and abstract sophistication, are only apparent differences. Under the surface are psychological uniformities due to the structure of the human brain and unconscious thought processes.
Symbolic (Interpretive) Anthropology (Clifford Geertz) A cultural system of meaning is shared by members of the same society, being made up of the ways in which they understand and interpret both their environment and other members of their society. People’s interpretations of meaning determine all their behaviour.