2017年1月22日 星期日

A history of Anthropological Theory

Recently I have read the following book. Its main points are:

Book title: Paul Erickson and Liam Murphy.2003. A history of Anthropological Theory. Peterborough, Ont.; Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, c1998.

Main points:
- part III – the later 20th century and beyond -  early 20th century was under the sway of Emile Durkheim and his intellectual progeny (Mauss, Levi-strauss and Radeliffe-Brown). (113) In North America anthropological knowledge was shaped by Franz Boas. (113)
- in the later decades of the 20th century, a tension between the particular and general emerged as a central problem on both side of the Atlantic. Boas’ descriptive approach suffered from a need for explanatory theory. In filling the blank, one school that came out was from sociologist Max Weber. In part III we studied his work and thought and others. (114)
- in the latter half of the 20th century, Durkheimean-based structuralism and structural-functionalism had showed signs of strain. Meanwhile in American, Boasian-inspired framework was found inadequate. These concerns surfaced in the 1970’s with the discovery of the theories of Max Weber and Michel Foucault, known as interpretive anthropology. (131)
- in the 19th century Durkheim employ an organic analogy to understand how social group cohere, and Marx understood the control of material conditions of life to be the engine driving human history. Both theorists believed that forces exited outside the individual acted to condition cultural meaning and structured social relations. (132) Such a formulation left little room for the creative agency of individuals. (132)
- in contrast Max Weber was credited with viewing the holistic individual – acting, thinking and feeling, all were as central to the social and cultural forms. His work was thought as idealistic, contrasted with materialism of Marx. Weber had been influential with the rise of political economy and postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s. (132) In his work “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” his ideas were evolutionist, different from the unilineal theories (from primitive to civilized) of his contemporaries. (131)
- Weber sought a theory that placed existing beliefs and structures in particulars historical context (i.e. a particular period). Therefore he was often thought as multilinear evolutionist whose theory accounted for the great diversity of human life. (133)
- his schema was that: Complex society gave rise to stratified hierarchy of social. The urban artisan experienced alienation and economic marginalization (including the merchant class). Their expectations was embodied and expressed through an explicitly religious framework. (133) (c/f the rise of Buddhism - human worldly suffering) Weber view religion as the engine that drove social transformation through time. (133) (i.e. idea led to changes)
- for Weber, the most significant example was Calvinist Protestantism, an urban merchant religion that rationalized a new relationship between human being and god. (134) Under a new covenant ‘revealed’ to Calvin, individuals were direct to recreate heaven on earth through hard work. Through this, merchant and artisans now were elevated to a position of ethical superiority, no longer dominated by ruling elicits. Material prosperity was a sign of god’s grace. This new system ultimately resulted in the global triumph of industrial capitalism. (134)
- Weber’s idea about social evolution (new idea, new system) was useful to anthropologists who were reluctant to view society and culture as static organisms as suggested in the Durkheimian theory. (134)
- the essential premise of structuralist theory (in its various guises) was that culture constrained, or controlled people more than it served, or enabled them. It was as if people were simply the vehicle for social and psychical structures. (135)
- in Britain, the most influential and respected symbolic anthropologist was Victor Turner. Whereas Turner derived his insight from Durkheim, Geertz’s intellectual linage originated with Weber, who emphasized on meaning, as opposed to structure. Weber had given Geertz’s work a very different orientation. Geertz’s theory incorporated the idea that culture was a set of moral values. For Geertz, epistemology was grounded in the assumption that ‘man is an animal suspended in webs of significant that he themselves has spun’. The study of culture was ‘an interpretive one in search of meaning’. (140)
- for many anthropologist working in the 1960s and 1970s the most influential social theory were development and underdevelopment theory, and the world-system theory (I. Wallerstein). They became the foundation for the generally called (anthropological) political economy. (148)
- in the 20th century, the political and economic disparity between the ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ world growing apace since the break of colonialism following WWII.(149) Andre Gundar Frank began to criticize modernization. He believed that global capital agenda was the systematically extracting surplus good and labor. Under-development in many nations was the result of progressive capitalist exploitation. (149) The most detailed exposition of this kind emerged in the work of Immanuel Wallerstein. He identified the bourgeois capitalist in the core nation of Europe and America who appropriated the profits in the periphery.  Euro –American economically exploited the external population and their produce, in a world-system of unequal exchange. (149)
- the precise meaning of the terms ‘postmodern’ and ‘postmodernity’ were still further obscured by another adjective ‘post-structural’. Strictly speaking, the term post-structural and poststructuralism referred to the growing malaise and increasing uneasiness with structuralism that erupted in the 1970s. (157)
- the initial flood of interest in deconstructing mental, cultural, and social structures, as manifested in literary and philosophical discourse, was notably the work of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu.(156)
- writing in the 1970s, Foucault viewed social institution and relationship as being grounded in discourse of power that shape relation between people at all levels in a society. (158)
- the different roles played by the individual bore the stamp of certain kinds of people’s relation (dominate/dominated). Whoever dominated these relations would control the economic and ideological conditions under which ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ was defined. (158) In this way, beginning with the enlightenment and the rise of the nation-state, discourse of science, sexuality, and humanism preserved their power through mechanism of control such as prison, hospital, asylum. Foucault’s contribution to postmodern social theory had been in showing how power determined different social forms through history.  (159)
- “Foucauldian theory redefines the concept of ‘knowledge’ itself. No longer is a reference to real or objective understanding, knowledge is primarily a way of naming and ordering the world that favors the powerful and seek to maintain the status quo.”(161)
- addressing similar issue relating to power and domination form another angle was Pierre Bourdieu. (161) For Bourdieu, social structures and cultures were not to be compared to machines or organism, because culture and society were ultimately not things but system of relationship – or fields.
- within fields, the total imposition of one group’s set of taxonomies (hierarchy, good and bad taste) upon another’s results in the production of a ‘natural’ order, or doxa.(162)
- throughout 1980s and 1990s, Foucault’s and Bourdieu’s ideas had a dramatic impact on anthropological theory. Suddenly there seemed no center, no firm ground from which student of human life could gaze objectively at their subject matter. Henceforth, no ‘truth’ would be taken for granted. Deconstruction became a new watchword for anthropologist. Positivism to explain the world was no longer seen as a possible. (163)
- a latter-day heir to world –system theory and anthropological political economy was the study of globalization, or the ‘globalization theory’. (168) Among the better know text were Arjun Appadurai’s “Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization, and Modernity”, and Roland Robertson’s “Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture”. (168)

- it was the emphasis on the production of the wholly new social and cultural form and “systems” that distinguished globalization-oriented anthropology from their predecessor in the world-system theory. The globalization perspective insisted that, local culture were not passively overwritten by the unstoppable, global steam roller known as western industrial capitalism (i.e. individual nation’s people had the agency). (171) The formerly peripherals themselves becoming the base for global cultural practices. (c/f Japanese pop music, sushi cuisine etc.)(171)

(to be continued)