Author Archives: TheAnthroGeek

TheAnthroGeek has a phd in anthropology from Columbia University in NYC. But don’t assume that means he knows anything!

Material Girls and Lumpenproletariat

Materialism

Sometimes I think of myself as a “material girl” but then I remember I’m not young, I’m not a girl and I’m not fond of Marvin Harris. Harris was a material girl, in the sense that he argued, as Madonna said, “we are living in a material world and I am a material girl”. In other words, it all comes down to material culture for Marvin Madonna and Marilyn.

For Madonna, “only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day, ’cause they are living in a material world and I am a material girl”.
The music video for “Material Girl” (left) was inspired byMarilyn Monroe‘s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (right), from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

sacred-cowFor Harris, the lyrics might have gone something like this:

“Only cows that pull and poop (and lactate) make my theory sway” (bonus points to any who can decipher that cryptic line).

.

ON OTHER HAND, Philippe Bourgois is cool, looks cool and has some very good points to make. Maybe his appellation caused this but he seems to be the least bourgois (i.e., in Marxist contexts, “upholding the interests of capitalism; not communist”) Bourgois I can imagine.

I am most impressed by Philippe Bourgois‘ resurrection of the word “Lumpen”. In his Lumpen Abuse: The Human Cost of Righteous Neoliberalism (2011), he states,

This chapter argues for re-framing Marx’s concept of class through a redefinition of the problematic but creative category of “lumpen” to develop a “theory of lumpen abuse under punitive neoliberalism.” To do this, we draw from Foucault’s understanding of subjectivity and biopower, Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic violence and habitus, and Primo Levi’s insights on the invisibility of Holocaust-like gray areas in routine daily life and we re-define the lumpen as those vulnerable populations for whom biopower (the state-mediated forces and discourses of disciplinary modernity that are normally life- enhancing) has become abusive rather than productive. Our era’s economy, its structures of service provision, and the symbolic violence of individual achievement and free market efficiency condemns increasingly large proportions of the transgressive and unemployed poor to processes of lumpenization, which decimate bodies and amplify suffering. (2011:7)

The term “lumpen” comes from lumpenproletariat (lum·pen·pro·le·tar·i·at) or for the linguistically inclined, /ˈləmpənˌprōləˈte(ə)rēət,ˈlo͝om-/ . It is a noun in Marxist terminology and refers to the lowest of the lower classes. Those poor people that are so unorganized and unpolitical that they are unaware of their victimization. Consequently, they are on no use to Marx’s ideas about revolution and in fact, may be an impediment to it. In grad school, they made us read The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. This is the first and likely last time it will be of use to me!

Functionalism

Bronisław Malinowski

(1884-1942)

Malinowski is considered to be one of the “fathers of anthropology” and a leading innovator in what came to be known as “functionalism.” Born in Kraków, Austro-Hungary (now in Poland,) Malinowski spend many of his early years studying theories of exchange at the London School of Economics. Because of his Austro-Hungary citizenship, he was considered an enemy agent of the British when World War I began in 1914.

Initially in British-controlled Papua New Guinea during the outbreak of the war, he was not allowed to return to London. However, Malinowski was allowed to travel to the Trobriand Islands in Melanesia, where he conducted extensive studies of indigenous customs. Malinowski’s interest in exchange theory led him to take particular interest in the Kula Ring ceremony. During a certain time of year, groups from the various islands of the “ring” would travel around and give gifts to show their wealth and strengthen alliances. These observations would later influence French Sociologist Marcel Mauss’ The Gift, which proposed that there was no such thing as a “free gift.”

During his time on the Tobriand Islands, Malinowski lived among the people he studied and took part in their daily lives. Malinowski contributed to the role of participant observation among British anthropologist the same way Franz Boas and his students did here. Malinowski was surprisingly modern in his approach to understanding his subjects, wishing: “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world.” His interest was in understanding the individual and his perception of his society. Malinowski combined this “data” with his own “analysis,” the outsider’s objective understanding of society as a whole. The methods of participant observation described in his introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) remain central to modern ethnographers.

Equally important was Malinowski’s contribution to the theory of functionalism. Functionalism is, by its very simplest definition, the theory that social institutions in any given culture serve some purpose for the betterment of the individual. In essence, it is the idea that everything has a purpose. In the example of the Kula Ring, Malinowski observed natives giving gifts to people on other islands. He postulated that these “presents” served to show the wealth and generosity of the giver as well as cementing bonds between the islands. The functionalist theory has been used to explain the purpose of countless religious, political and social institutions since its foundation by Malinowski.

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown

(1881-1955)

Malinowski’s functionalism must be contrasted with his contemporary, the Englishmen Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. Radcliffe-Brown is considered the father of a powerful competing theory: structural functionalism. Radcliffe-Brown, an admirer of the work of Durkheim, believed that human societies functioned as “organism” through which the individual was the “cell.” This put him at odds with Malinowski, who believed that it was through the satisfaction of individual needs that societies function. Radcliffe-Brown’s beliefs on the matter can be succinctly identified in the following quote:

“Malinowski has explained that he is the inventor of functionalism, to which he gave its name. His definition of it is clear; it is the theory or doctrine that every feature of culture of any people past or present is to be explained by reference to seven biological needs of individual human beings. I cannot speak for the other writers to whom the label functionalist is applied by the authors, though I very much doubt if Redfield or Linton accept this doctrine. As for myself I reject it entirely, regarding it as useless and worse. As a consistent opponent of Malinowski’s functionalism I may be called an anti-functionalist.”

-A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. 1949. ‘Functionalism: A Protest, American Anthropologist 51(2): 320–321.

Like his rival, Radcliffe-Brown was also instrumental in expanding our understanding of anthropological theory. However, Radcliffe-Brown was far more focused on the group than Malinowski. This interest in the “societal organism” led him to focus on patterns of kinship which may be observed cross-culturally. Radcliffe-Brown would also later come to influence Lévi-Strauss through his work in analyzing myth structurally.

Questions

Read the following quote:

“Yet it must be remembered that what appears to us an extensive, complicated, and yet well ordered institution is the outcome of so many doings and pursuits, carried on by savages, who have no laws or aims or charters definitely laid down. They have no knowledge of the total outline of any of their social structure. They know their own motives, know the purpose of individual actions and the rules which apply to them, but how, out of these, the whole collective institution shapes, this is beyond their mental range. Not even the most intelligent native has any clear idea of the Kula as a big, organized social construction, still less of its sociological function and implications….The integration of all the details observed, the achievement of a sociological synthesis of all the various, relevant symptoms, is the task of the Ethnographer… the Ethnographer has to construct the picture of the big institution, very much as the physicist constructs his theory from the experimental data, which always have been within reach of everybody, but needed a consistent interpretation.”

Who said it? 

Read The Introduction to Malinowski’s (1932) Argonauts

Outdated and racist terminology aside, what point is this author trying to make?

Think of instances in your own daily lives, do you ever notice examples of this?

How does this concept of the individual clash with the “super-organic” proposed by other theorists?

Quotes to Ponder

An animal organism is an agglomeration of cells and interstitial fluids arranged in relation to one another not as an aggregate but as an integrated living whole. The system of relations by which these units ate related is the organic structure. As the terms are here used the organism is not itself the structure; it is a collection of unites (cells or molecules) arranged in a structure, i.e., in a set of relations; the organism has a structure. The structure is thus to be defined as a set of relations between entities. Over a period its constituent cells do not remain the same. But the structural arrangement of the constituent units does remain similar.

Who said this?

How can you apply the relevance of this author’s theoretical approach to a contemporary issue or problem?

Historical Particularism

FRANZ BOAS

Franz Boas distinguished American anthropology by challenging the tradition of unilinealism that was the long-standing theoretical model used by European anthropology. He discredited the method of evolutionary theories due their erroneous logic. He also fundamentally disagreed with the use of evolutionism to prove the racial superiority of Northern Europeans because he believed that all humans, regardless of their ethnicity and level of technological achievement, were equal. Boas’ viewpoint on the equality of humanity provided the model for cultural relativism, an attitude to be maintained by a researcher while conducting ethnographic research. In order to explain culture, Boas emphasized the need to examine it in its environmental and historical context. The latter was the most important influence on the development of a culture; it can be understood if we accept that societies could reach the same level of culture development through different paths. Boas was indifferent to theory and thought that it was a premature method of ethnography. Instead, he encouraged the use of inductive reasoning based on large amounts of data gathered from direct observation of a society to draw conclusions, which differed from evolutionists who tended to search for data that would fit their theories.

A Breakdown of “The Methods of Ethnology”

Boas begins by calling out the two forces in Anthropology that he felt needed to be contended with, Diffusion and Social Evolution. The former stating that Culture is not present naturally, but is imported from its root source; the latter, purports that cultures go through a series of classifications before they have reached that of the standard: European Societies. As you may recall, Boas believes in the equality of all persons and therefore all societies. It is important to note that Boas’ primary concern is the methods by which Ethnographic studies are conducted, not the theories behind them. As Boas would have it, ethnographers would collect data and interpret the data to form a conclusion, in direct contrast to the scientific method which calls for a theory or hypothesis that is to be tested, the text simplifies by calling Boas’ an inductive approach. The study of the Zuñi serve as a prime example of his concept of the supremacy of historical connections as the mold from which culture is formed.

A.L KROEBER
A.L Kroeber was a student of Boas’ and expressed many of the same beliefs, like the necessity to have a historical perspective to understand culture and the equality of humanity. However, he differed from Boas in his assessment of the influence that the individual has on culture. For Kroeber, individuals did not play a significant role in cultural development and change; rather, historical trends and culture in society determined individual action. His concepts argued that culture cannot be reduced to individual psychology and that culture is a pattern that exceeds and control individuals which determines their human behavior.

A Breakdown of “Eighteen Professions”

In this reading, Kroeber outlined the items of belief that he believed should form the bedrock of anthropology.

1.) History is concerned with how social facts and society come together.

2.)Anthropology is not to  be concerned with the man, but rather what he has accomplished.

3.) Civilization, though a product of humanity, remains a superorganic, apart from humankind.

4.) Each subject has his own mind, but it should not be viewed as the source of his actions.

5.)History studies what an individual or group has done, its purpose is not to speculate as to the underlying causes.

6.) The individual serves no purpose to historical studies, not to say that they are invaluable, but they hold no truths for historical research.

7.) Civilization is not caused by geographic location. Kroeber uses agriculture to support this claim, agriculture is demanded by society, society decides how it is to be performed based on the specific environment, the environment did not spawn agriculture.

8-14.) In the intervening professions Kroeber states and restates the notion that despite their appearances, all societies have equal propensity for civilization, and each individual has the propensity to as educated or wise as the next. Therefore, there can be no stages of civilization, social standards, “ethnic minds”, or hereditary influence. This is an egalitarian perspective that is reminiscent of his teacher, Boas. The position that all

15.) Unlike the various sciences, there are no strict rules by which history must follow, the Illiad being a prime example of the age-old adage, ” all’s fair in love and war”, i.e. there are no rules. Paris can steal away a Grecian king’s wife for love, and countless men can lay down their lives and those that they laid low in the intervening conflict for the honor of “king/queen and country”, etcetera; Operation Iraqi Freedom, various other conflicts in the mid and far-East, and the “War on Terror” are no exceptions to this overarching theme.

16.) History is concerned, strictly, with what actually occurred with no interest given to what may have been the underlying causes of any specific event.

17.)From the 16th profession, it is apparent that what history lacks, as it should per Kroeber, is a study of the ultimate causes of any specific event.

18.) Kroeber ultimately rended a gap between History and the other sciences, saying that we could not be more different at a basic level of methodology and determination.

Discussion Questions

Contrast Boas’ approach to anthropology through historical particularism with the approach of cultural evolutionists, like L.H. Morgan. If the similar development of societies cannot be attributed to the existence of a universal, predetermined evolutionary pattern, then why, according to Boas, do these parallelisms appear?

What is Kroeber’s attitude toward the role and influence of an individual within a culture? How does it differ from Boas? What does it mean that society is “superorganic”?

Founders Dread

What is the differentiation of social fact vs. social current? And how did Durkheim come up with them? How did Suicide create Sociology? How is it different than Anthropology?

see also PAST DISCUSSIONS

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism

This was a period in science and human thought that affected great changes in how people understand the world and human development.

Notable people of this era include:
Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace,
Herbert Spencer,
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor,
Lewis Henry Morgan,
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Notable publications include:
-Herbert Spencer, The Social Organism (1860)
-Lewis Henry Morgan, Ethnical Periods (1877)
-Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook (1845-1846)
-Edward Burnett Tylor, Science of Culture (1871)

THE READINGS:

1. Herbert Spencer The Social Organism (1860)

2. -Lewis Henry Morgan, Ethnical Periods (1877)

The readings from this section share some similar tendencies, one among these is the idea of human interaction as an evolutionary process.  Spenser’s theory is very unilateral in suggesting that civilization progress, or evolve.  His writing gives an analogous view of civilization and human interaction as a biological organism, suggesting that the social factors of human interaction have evolved from simplistic to more complicated.  This is also intertwined with  authors such as Taylor, who also compare anthropology with the natural sciences, echoing the sentiments of Darwinian theory by applying the idea to human civilization.  Feuerbach takes this idea a step further with the productions of intercourse, adding more specific elements of human interaction into what is basically the same idea presented by Spencer and Taylor.   It is important here to focus on material and its role as a driving force in this evolutionary theory.

Based on this idea, and the more in-depth literature that supports it, we would like to discuss the following:

In the spirit of 19th Century Evolutionism:  Explain the evolution of culture in the terms of the evolution of life, or as an analogy of a living organism or body, or a progressive process of change, or as the development of mental capacities.  You may want to consider: the evolution of simple to complex societies, interdependency, class structure, religion, materialism, technology innovation or art, knowledge/ education, subsistence, roles and structure of the family, government,  division of labor, or speech.  How are all these ideas related, or how are all societies related to one another?  Is there a progression of society, and if there is, what is the ultimate goal of society?

Slides on Unilneal evolution(Mullooly)

Pomo

Discussion on Pomo
1. If what you observe and the conclusions you draw from it depend on your positionality, is objective knowledge possible?
2. Do rituals always reveal cultural depth?
3. What are some of your rituals and do you consider them “culturally deep?”

Quotes to Ponder; Ponderous Quotes

“In attempting to grasp the cultural force of rage and other powerful emotional states, both formal ritual and the informal practices of everyday life provide crucial insight.  Thus, cultural descriptions should seek out force as well as thickness, and they should extend from well defined rituals to myriad less circumscribed practices.”

Who said this?

 

 

quotes to ponder; ponderous quotes?

“operators in the social process, things that, when put together in certain arrangements in certain contexts, produce essentially social transformations.”

Who wrote this?

more importantly, for this subject, What would you be able to interpret from the quote?

Questions

1. If you have 7. something billion people on the rock called Earth, are there going to be 7 billion different interpretations of culture?

2.Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Clifford Geertz all have different interpretations on symbolism from each other. Would other anthropologists have different interpretation on symbolism and each other’s work? Why?

3. Give an example of a symbolic interpretation that differs between your own personal view and how others will perceive it. Explain why.

Example: You see a cop rolling in a your neighborhood. Some people may see it as a problem because they are afraid to get in trouble and others may feel safe when the police are present.

Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology

Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology Summary

            To summarize the week’s reading on symbolic and interpretive anthropology, I believed it would have been important to include a short description of the fore mentioned subject. Defining the subject as a methodology to studying symbols or symbolic actions; a field of study that takes an interpretive perspective to cultures using psychology, history, and literature rather than the use of mathematics and logic. However, since the field of study does not use logistics per say on cultural studies, it has been the duty of the anthropologist to interpret their studies that could be understood to their peers and colleagues. Thusly the subject is up to criticism because it is only up to the skill of literary interpretation that the anthropologist has in order to display their studies. Since that explanation is complete I will transition to the first reading that focuses on Mary Douglas.

To start the new topic, will be a short biography about Mary Douglas. Born in 1921 and passed away in 2007, Mary Douglas was a social anthropologist. She went to school at the University of Oxford in the years of 1939-1943. She later went to school in the early 1950’s to receive her doctorate. She later went on to teach at the University of England for 25 years. Her work Purity and Danger is well known and also featured in the book.

Mary Douglas focused on symbolic actions of purity that was associated with the human body. She sought to find universal patterns of such purity and used two examples to prove her theory in her chapter of External Boundaries. The first example is the Coorgs fear of impurities, and their fear of anything that has left the body and reenters is repulsive, Douglas shares a myth about their fears. The second example focuses on the Caste system, of the idea as the Coorgs, anything that leaves the body is repulsive, and thus the lowest members of the caste society are tasked to clean up the human impurities, such as poop. The symbolic natures of impurities create a sense of reality to culture.

Victor Turner born in 1920 and died in 1983. Attended University College of London in 1938-1941 for English and Literature. He went back to school to receive a B.A. in Anthropology; hence he was trained with British structural functionalism.

Turner’s work was based on how symbols are used to create a social action. He uses the Ndembu tribe and their symbol of the Mudyi tree to represent his ideas of how a symbol can create social transformations. The Mudyi tree is viewed as a motherly figure to the tribe, as such a figure, girls who are about to embark on the journey to be a mother are placed under the tree. This rite of passage is shared amongst women and young girls. This represents a linkage in their society however it separates the women from the men because the tree is more towards women of the society.

Clifford Geertz was born August 23, 1926 and died on October 30, 2006. He joined the US navy prior to receiving his degree in Philosophy. He earned his degree in Antioch College in 1950 and after went to Harvard University as a student in Social Relations. His first wife Hildred Geertz trained him as an anthropologist. He taught at many schools before becoming a faculty in the Department of Anthropology in University of Chicago. Here, Geertz started to expand his research on culture anthropology on cultures such as Java and Bali to name a few examples. In his Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight, he talked about how the culture interprets symbolic meaning with cockfights. Geertz believed that “symbols operate as vehicles of culture.” He uses the cockfights in Bali as an example because cockfights in their culture symbolisms a lifestyle. It is compared to the men of Bali and who he is as a person. They are compared to their cocks and their cocks represent them.

Slides on the Subjsect

Quotes to Ponder

Quotes to Ponder

In a way,
culture substitutes itself to life,
in another way
culture uses and transforms life
to realize a synthesis of a higher order.

Who said this quote and why?

Another way to look at this:

In a way,
[NUrture] substitutes itself to [nAture],
in another way
[NUrture] uses and transforms [nAture]
to realize a synthesis of a higher order.

The full context is here (thanks to Herve Varenne):

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1949):

Man is a biological being as well as a social individual. Among the responses which he gives to external stimuli, some are the full product of his nature, and others of his condition… But it is not always easy to distinguish between the two… Culture is neither simply juxtaposed to nor simply superposed over life. In a way, culture substitutes itself to life, in another way culture uses and transforms life to realise a synthesis of a higher order. (1969 [1949]: 4 )

 scissors-clip-art-5_jpg__1200×1200_

Another illustration of the nature/nurture conundrum is as two blades of a scissors. But I do not recall who thought this one up.

Sociobiology

Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, and Behavioral Ecology

[Hillary,Simara]

-Edward O. Wilson, “The Morality of the Gene” (1975)
-Jerome Barkow, “The Elastic Between Genes and Culture” (1989)
-Rebecca Bliege Bird, Eric Alden Smith, and Douglas -W. Bird, “The hunting handicap: costly signaling in human foraging strategies” (2001)

Presentation slides for Sociobiology 

Discussion Items based on -Edward O. Wilson, “The Morality of the Gene” (1975)

In what ways do you think that Wilson’s quote, “A chicken is only an eggs way of making another egg” is accurate? In what ways does it seem inaccurate? Provide examples.

What do you think the purpose of forming religious groups and tribes is relating to gene flow? Do you think Wilson is correct, in that we cooperate in these groups in order to pass on our genes?

Discussion Items based on -Jerome Barkow, “The Elastic Between Genes and Culture” (1989)

Central to this article’s arguments is a conception of culture transmission and of biological evolution as intimately linked yet conceptually distinct. I view culture transmission and biological evolution as the two ends of an elastic band. Each pulls on the other. Processes at one end tend to generate fitness-reducing, socially transmitted information; processes at the other tend to eliminate such information. Because both the “stretching” and the “pulling back” take place continually, at no time is any culture likely to be entirely fitness enhancing for all of its participants, nor is any culture likely to be entirely genetically maladaptive. I will refer to culture’s tendency to move in fitness-reducing directions as culture stretch. Processes tending to alter culture in fitness-enhancing ways will be termed culture revision.

 

Do you think that genes and culture is like an elastic band as Barkow claims?

Is culture dependent on genes?

Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology

Powerpoint on the subject

Mercedes & Arturo

1. Is “thinking like a native” an achievable goal? Would this way of seeing a culture truly create more accurate ethnographic descriptions?

2.  Is it valid to claim that data collection by ethnoscientists is “more scientific?”

3. Conklin’s research with the Hanunoo set out to prove that color vocabularies influence color classification and they way people define color, contrary to the implication of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis which implies that color vocabularies determine color perception. To what extent was he able to prove his theory?

4. “Color terms are a part of the vocabulary of particular languages and only the intracultural analysis of such lexical sets and their correlates can provide the key to their  understanding and range of applicability. The study of isolated and assumed translations in other languages can only lead to confusion.” What does Conklin mean by this?

5. Would the “psychic unity of mankind” be correctly hypothesized if cognitive anthropology refuses the belief of a unitary theory of culture?

6. Is studying language and its connection to thought processes useful in correctly understanding a culture? Can it be done without it?

Structuralism

In Sherry B Ortner’s article, Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? , the main topic presented is the universal fact of culturally attributed second-class status of women. To help support her claim of universal female subordination Ortner uses techniques of Structuralism to develop arguments. She starts by defining the data types that would suffice in proving her claim which include: 1) cultural elements that devalue women 2) symbolic devices making women appear inferior 3) social structural arrangements that exclude women. At the begging of her paper Ortner takes the universal secondary status of women as a fact and leaves the opposition to disprove her claim. Through the paper the use of structural relations between man and woman compared to nature and culture are used to support the idea of her universal constant. Ortner views culture as being universally of greater importance than nature in the human mind. She then relates women being connected to some level closer to nature than man. This in turn leads to her claim that if man is closer connected to culture, which is dominant over nature then women will be universally at a lower status than man.

Quote:

We must attempt to interpret female subordination in light of other universals, factors built into the structure of the most generalized situation in which all human beings, in whatever culture, find themselves. For example, every human being has a physical body and a sense of nonphysical mind, is part of a society of other individuals and an inheritor of a cultural tradition, and must engage in some relationship, however mediated, with “nature,” or the nonhuman realm, in order to survive. Every human being is born (to a mother) and ultimately dies, all are assumed to have an interest in personal survival, and society/culture has its own interest in (or at least momentum toward) continuity and survival, which transcends the lives and deaths of particular individuals. And so forth. It is in the realm of such universals of the human condition that we must seek an explanation for the universal fact of female devaluation. Pg 349

Returning now to the issue of women, their pan-cultural second-class status could be accounted for, quite simply, by postulating that women are being identified or symbolically associated with nature, as opposed to men, who are identified with culture. Since it is always culture’s project to subsume and transcend nature, if women were considered part of nature, then culture would find it “natural” to subordinate, not to say oppress, them. Pg 351

Questions:

One can easily imagine political action designed to improve the conditions of women in a society, but how can one ever change a culturally universal pattern of thought?

If the categories of “nature” and “culture” are conceptual categories in which no boundary in the actual world can be drawn, should they be used in a Structuralism view to define an argument?

Structuralists believe that cultural phenomena are the products of universal logical processes that organize human thought. According to structuralists, a fundamental characteristic of human thought is to sort data into binary oppositions. What are some examples in which this methodology succeeds and fails?

In the article, Four Winnebago Myths: A Structural Sketch created by Claude Levi-Strauss, Levi-Strauss structural analyzes myths. He tries to understand the unconscious structure of the human mind and thought process. Levi-Strauss examines the logical relationships between the elements of the myths trying to find the unconscious message the myth conveys. Levi-Strauss takes the myths presented by Radin and finds what he believes to be the underlying theme in all four of the myths. He concludes that there are ordinary people that live their full life and die a full death. There are those that are “positive extraordinary” people that die early but live more through reincarnation. Lastly, there are “negative extraordinary” people that can neither live nor die.

Quote:

“To uncover the unconscious meaning of myth, the structuralist must break myth into its constituent elements and examine the rules that govern their relationships. This hidden structural core will reveal the essential patterns and processes of human thought” (321).

“Language is not a function of the speaker, it is a product that is passively assimilated by the individual. It never requires premeditation, and reflects enters in only for the purpose of classification. Speaking, on the contrary, is an individual act. It is willful and intellectual” (Ferdinand de Saussure).

Questions:

What exactly is structuralism?

Can structuralism be utilize in the analysis of modern day cultural problems?

Is there any evidence of Marxism or Darwinism or any other previous theories?

Materialism

Bonus Question:
What’s the deal with this picture?
sacred-cow
Other Questions to ponder:
Fried believes that the force that drives political evolution is the control over production and distribution of resources. He proposes an evolutionary model Stage A (Egalitarian Organization) -> Stage B (Rank Society) -> State C (Stratification society)-> State D (State Society).

His observations have been made but no one has been able to follow the model as it says in all stages. Instead a variety of unrelated societies are selected and each represent one or another of the several transitions. Why has his observation not been able to be proven as a theory. What elements or considerations did he miss?

Bourgois is considered Neo-Marxist in his writing he covers conflict and tensions between classes topics found in Neo-Marxism.

In comparison of Marx study of subjects and their relation to work is demonstrated in Bourgois’ analysis of street level crack dealers.

Is the environment and lack of acceptance a excuse or turn out of certain individuals who seek drugs and illegal activities to survive ends meet?

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