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Tylor, Morgan, and Kroeber walk into a bar

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 11 months ago

 Let's suppose that Tylor, Morgan and Kroeber met in a bar and got into a (gentlemanly) argument. What would each of them reject (or just find uninteresting) in the other's work? On what points might they agree?

 


...And They All Say 'Ouch!'

Abigail Parker

While much of Boas's (and subsequently Kroeber's) work was devoted to rebutting the work of nineteenth-century unilinear evolutionists such as Tylor and Morgan, Kroeber, Morgan, and Tylor would surely have had a significant amount to talk about -- even some basis to agree upon.  All three seem to highlight the importance of a superorganic culture that influences the individual.  Tylor believes in the "fixity of laws" (41) that influence the individual, cementing her into a place in the culturally-evolutionary scheme, and Morgan saw the cultural development of humankind as a sort of video game ('gotta get to the next level').  In Kroeber's third profession, he succinctly states that civilization "is an entity in itself, and of another order of life" (141).  I find it also interesting that Morgan seems to agree with a basic profession of cultural relativism, that is that each culture "has a distinct culture and exhibits a mode of life more or less special and peculiar to itself." (63)  This would have interested Kroeber, who as a student of Boas, subscribed to the notion that cultures need to be understood in their own context.  Another similarity between Morgan and Kroeber revolves around the methodological domain of the anthropologists -- they are both materialists.  Kroeber's second profession, dealing with the proper manner for anthropologists to make analyses, asserts historians (and anthropologists) must study the "results of [humankind's] deeds", while progression in Morgan's "Ethnical periods" is based on acchievements in the materal realm.

 

Despite some similarities, Kroeber would have indubitably found much to disagree about with Morgan and Tylor.  First of all, the place of anthropology within academia would have been a major point of contention.  A proponant of the positivist ideas, Tylor attempted to place anthropology in the social sciences.  Again and again his work searches for broad laws governing human behavior, convinced these can be deduced from repeated analyses of ethnographic reports.  Morgan's scheme can be seen as a physical manifestation of Tylor's positivist ideas; "Ethnical Periods" seeks to be a sort of taxonomy of cultures, venturing into territory once only tread by biologists.  Kroeber, on the other hand, rejects the notion of psychic unity (profession fourteen).  Because civilization (what Tylor and Morgan might have referred to as "culture") is superorganic, it generates itself.  In other words, history is not mechanical, and doesn't respond to outside stimlui (145).  Kroeber's eighteenth Profession warns against applying biological standards and methodology to history.  Instead, they should inhabit a complementary relationship to each other.

 

Finally, I doubt these three scholars would have agreed much on the politics of race and superiority.  While he reasons that culture must dictate much of individual's actions within a population, Morgan believes that there is conclusively a hierarchy of cultural superiority, and therefore supports a racist/ethnist view of humanity.  Tylor’s psychic unity implies that all humans can reach the same conclusions; however people don’t reach these conclusions, ergo some have not yet achieved civilization; Kroeber rejects the idea of biological anthropology and subsequently the assertion that it could effect racism (professions 12-17).  Profession 11 is particularly interesting in  that he exposes what he sees as the major weakness in equating biological/natural evolution and social evolution, that is natural selection was based on different factors completely separate from civilization development.

 

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