Tag Archives: Julian Steward

Julian Steward – “The Patrilineal Band”

All quotes are taken from the reading unless otherwise noted.

After “the ‘mid-century collapse’ of Historical Particularism” a resurrection of the dearly departed “cross-cultural comparison” or evolutionary perspectives on culture, began to crop up. A good example of this is the following reading, where the author states that societies that occur in similar environments develop in the same ways. Defining cultural types as those sharing cultural features forming a “core” of practices associated with subsistence, ranging in complexity from family to multi-family and finally state, hi students later “refined” this series to the “now familiar classifications of band, tribe, chiefdom, and state.” Contrary to unilineal evolutionists, Stewart believed that “cultures could evolve in any number of distinct patterns depending on their environmental circumstances.” Despite being a student of Kroeber, he butted heads with his mentor by his interest in the causes of cultural traits, Krober being the author or “The Eighteen Professions” said many times that anthropology should not be concerned with teleology, in fact anthropologists should not be concerned with causation at all, needless to say the relationship was contentious. Steward’s text is a prime example of how he shows culture to be an adaptation to the environment.

A few definitions to get us started…

Patrilineality - “is a system in which one belongs to one’s father’s lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, names or titles through the male line as well.” -Wikipedia

Patrilocality – “is a term referring to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband’s parents.” – Wikipedia
It is important to note that patrilocality is more readily visible through the examination of marriage practices.

Exogamy – In this context, “exogamy is the marrying outside of a specific group.” Particularly, avoiding incest by marrying outside of the immediate family, potentially cross or parallel cousins may be preferred marriage partners.

 A Breakdown of the Reading

It is important to note that a recurring theme that permeates Steward’s writings are far from the Historical Particularists of his day in that he is almost consumed with an interest in discovering “general laws of culture.” In this instance Steward is attempting to find a correlation between environment and the subsequent cultural construction. The result of this study is the notion of, as so termed by Dr. Mullooly, Environmental Determinism.


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