THEORETICAL PROBLEMS IN CONTEMPORARY ANTHROPOLOGY / Vol. 32, No. 4 (Winter 1965)
Kurt Goldstein died on September 19, 1965 at the age of eigthy-six. The Graduate Faculty of The New School is proud to count this great physician-scholar and teacher among its past members.
A European observer is impressed by the ubiquity of biological thinking, of thinking in terms of the natural sciences, of evolutionary theory in American anthropology. Keiter, as a scientist, is delighted by the more “scientific” climate of anthropology in the United States. Be this as it may, if it understood that physical anthropology remains in union with broader anthropology, and if the new interest in animal behavior as a model of human behavior is granted, the concern of most cultural anthropologists with biology is much less than the outsider observe first inclined to think.
In a field as important as anthropology it is surprising that so few attempts have been made critically to analyze its ideological and perspectivistic presuppositions. There is no doubt that the vastness and eclecticism of the field have made this a particularly difficult task. It is perhaps also true that those who are deeply committed are least likely to have a propensity for stepping aside to view themselves and their work from a point of view other than the one in which they owe their allegiance. In Paul Radin we find the unique combination of a highly developed critical sense and none of the disadvantages usually associated with being an academic and professional insider.
The question of what “social structure” is, or what the term refers to, has occupied the attention of anthropologists for a long time. The prevailing orthodoxy is that socieites have a structure, and that structure is part of the facts to be investigated. However, the structuralists have not been without their critics, the most serious threat has come from the enigmatic Professor of Social Anthropology at the College de France, Claude Levi-Strauss. In the past 15 years, he has single-handedly effected a revolution in anthropological thinking about structuralism.
Galton’s problem is one of the most important problems of scientific method which face social scientists today. It is the problem of discriminating so-called “historical” from “functional” associations in cross-cultural surveys. The term “cross-cultural survey” means here a comparative statistical study in which the “tribe,” “society,” or “culture” is taken as the unit, and samples from the worldwide universe are studied to test hypotheses about the nature of society or culture. Galton’s problem is widely considered to be a crucial weakness in the cross-cultural survey method.
The fact remains that at least one area crucial to anthropological thought -that of diffusion, and more particularly, Transpacific contacts -relatively little theoretical investigation is being done, and of this, much is in the hands on non anthropologists. When one further observes what appears to be a relatively high degree of unanimity about the Transpacific problem among anthropologists, one is inclined even to reverse the proposition given above: in other words, to conclude that where there is a lack of theoretical investigation , greater uniformity of view is likely to be found.
In observing the current international sociological scene one is struck by the increasing number of publications in the area commonly called comparative sociology. Thus a renewal of interest in this broad and not too well defined area seems to be indicated. If this observed trend should continue -and there are compelling reasons that it will- we may well be witnessing also the beginning of a new epoch in sociology in the United States.
Review of book by Franco Ferrarotti. Bari: Editori Leterza, 1965. 175 pp.
Review of book by Theodor Geiger. Selected and introduced by Paul Trappe. Soziologishe Texte, Bnd 7. Neuwied am Rhein: hermann Luchterhand Verlag, 1962. 484 pp.
Review of book by Arnold Gehlen. Neuwied-Berlin: Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, 1963. 355 pp.
Review of book by Stuart Bruchey. New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1965. 234 pp.
Review of book by Roy Lubove. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. 291 pp.
Review of book by Izhak Korn. Tel-Aviv: Am Oved Publishing House, 1964, 368 pp.
Review of book by Richard and Eva Blum assisted by Anna Ame. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965. 269 pp.
Review of book by Norbert Elias and John L. Scotson. London: Frank Cass & Co., Ltd., 1965. 199 pp.