Current Anthropology 1977

Brain, James L. Sex, Incest, and Death: Initiation Rites Reconsidered Current Anthropology, June 1977 Vol. 18, No. (2): 191-207

The concepts and ideas James L. Brain reconsiders in his article Sex, Incest, and Death, give insight on why societies develop initiation rights and what they mean. Brain s discussion focuses on the patterns of behavior that are genetically transmitted or diffused through society from the early periods of human kind. His review studies the innate social interactions and the rights of passage within given cultures. Brain’s accounts within this article explore that culture is potentially biologically shaped. Brain also explores the theory of the mind as a part of the physical body subject to the pressures of evolution and adaptation wit! hin any given society.

Brain considers that there are social traits that influence the power of decision making and this process allows humans to develop according to cultural stipulations. He expresses that human societies adapt to this process and focus on the areas of sexuality, the fear of death and the anxiety about incest (194). Brain believes that societies maintain control over these issues by adaptive reasoning. Initiation rites help distinguish the differences within puberty both socially and physically. Brain also explores the transition into adulthood and he believes theses characteristics are innate.

This essay focuses on the belief that physical and social science can be explained by the process of the human psyche based in sex, incest, and death. Brain emphasizes the act of self preservation, starting with self maintenance. Brain explains that one genetically acquired trait is the need to set up norms of conduct to institutionalize behavior (192). Brain maintains that humans do in fact clean themselves after defecating to prevent disease and sickness. Brain also uses the idea of self-preservation as a parallel to retaining memory through time and space as part of the same psychological and cultural phenomena. Brain believes cu! ltural activities, like initiation rites, are universal and that they do affect the actions of social groups.

Within Brain s article he expresses many views that are disputed by the commentators at the end of his article. These views are based on Brain s theory of cultural universalism based in sex, incest and initiation rites. This idea of social or cultural universals does not take into account different world cultures or the lack of social initiation rites in modern western societies (Schlegel, Alice 204). This hypothesis has too many inconsistencies and is not supported with enough evidence. The rites of initiation seem to develop within the article to explain the, cultural universals and in this regard show cause in world societies for developing these rites (Bluebond-Langner, Myra 199). Brain s research theorized that these concepts are cultural universal or evolutionary facts. Blake feels that Brain s discussion of hostilities from the parent towards their young can be explored and disproved cross culturally (Blake, Fred 198-199). It explores the possibility that an aggressive view motivates every father to inflict mental or physical anguish towards their children.

Brain redefines the use of defecation within his article and explores the importance for it. Brain also notes that Gorer s point on initiation rites being a manifestation and ritualization of parental anxiety in conditions of high mortality is a good idea and expresses that it should not totally be excluded. Brain also revisits his idea that death and the idea of death is colored by fear in some way contrary to what Bluebond-Langner expresses. Finally Brain addresses struggle and a confrontation between a father and a son. Chilungu denies that there is such a struggle, but Brain redefines his point by saying that there is still some level of competition within every social! group based on subsistence and procreation.

JEIREMY GOMEZ University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Brain, James L. Sex, Incest and Initiation Rites Reconsidered. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2)191-208.

In this article, James Brain sets out to interpret and demonstrate the form and function of initiation rites in different societies. Employing a psychoanalytical perspective, his primary argument is as follows: societies enforce initiation rites when an individual has reached a social age that is conducive to their movement into the next status, for example child to adult or asexual to sexual. The argument continues, explaining that these social transitions are dangerous events, and that the advancement of age or sexuality increases stress levels concerning topics such as death, sex and incest. Brain proposes that initiation rites serve to reduce these anxieties. During the remainder of the text, the author states that he believes that sex, feces, incest and death need to be linked together.

Brain declares that sex is dirty because the associated organs are near the anus, which as humans and due to our bipedal nature, needs to be cleaned regularly. Secondly, ‘we’ equate the bodies of our dead with filth, and therefore excrement as well. Incest, he believes, is a direct result of the Oedipus and Electra complexes, and rites such as circumcision allow a father to inflict pain on his son, which serves as a warning to Avoid incestuous relations with his mother. Despite a lack of supporting evidence, Brain declares that he has thus proven the links between sex, feces, death and incest, which he feels are universal to all human beings.


The article is heavily criticized in the comments section. Only seven percent of the respondents appeared to be in agreement with any of the ideas that Brain espoused. The remainder were disappointed by the weakly sustained argument and by the unprofessional and uninformed approach that Brain utilized in the construction of the article. For example, at one point in his work, Brain tells the reader that a uniquely human characteristic is the concern with feces and the need to clean up after one’s excretory activities. Tekla Dömötör points out that many other mammals clean their young, even eating the waste that has been eliminated. Many similar instances occur throughout the paper, and each is corrected by a reviewer.


Brain’s brief reply addresses selected comments, though he appears to be indifferent to their criticisms, looking to his original argument with several minor additions to defend himself and his work.

JASMINE MARSHALL Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Brain, James L. Sex, Incest and Death: Initiation Rites Reconsidered. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2): 191-208.

James Brain attempts to demonstrate why there are two alternatives to explain why initiation and/or puberty rites occur and why puberty rites develop. The first supposes that these patterns are genetically transferred or dispersed from the earliest human and the second supposes that certain ecological and environmental conditions created certain cultural responses. In order to establish why and how initiation and/or puberty rites occur and develop he used concepts taken from social and physical anthropology and psychoanalysis to show the causes and effects of initiation rites.

He follows Levi-Straus in proposing that initiation rites are universal. Regardless of the geographic location, language used or ethnicity, the primary human need is to establish order and categories and to become structured. Initiation rites solve human problems and help the individual move from one phase of life to another.

Brain explained the causes and effects for the initiation and/or puberty rites for girls and boys. The first cause was so that children could transition from being asexual beings to sexual adults. For girls it was to avoid deviating from the common order and for boys it was to remember the horrible unconscious/conscious similarities between sex, excrement, death and incest. A second cause was so that children could establish a sexual identity and attempt to end boys and girls envy of each other. One effect for girls and boys was to clarify their status and to transition from childhood to adulthood. These ceremonies also should alter women’s inclination to attain a position of dominance and emphasize men’s dominance over women. Older women and men should hold authority over younger women and men, the authority over younger women is to uphold subservience to all males and to emphasize the use of male ancestors as the source of male authority and for men this is to stop any tendency for rebellion in younger men. Finally, women were educated about sexual conduct and tribal lore and men were assigned roles and taught tribal lore and values.

COMMENTS: All but a couple of the comments criticized him for not establishing a link between sex, incest, feces and death and for his emphasis on men’s rites and not women’s rites.

REPLY: The author defends himself from the criticism of his colleagues, but in answering some of their criticisms he seems to veer off on tangents.

IZTLATZIGUATH R. CASTANO University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Dutton, Denis. Art, Behavior, and the Anthropologists. Current Anthropology, 1977 Vol.18(3): 388-407

In his article, Denis Dutton seeks to address an area of neglect in comparative sociology and anthropology: “aesthetic criticism.” He claims that social scientists overly interpret culture’s art and behaviors, understand beauty (of art and behavior) from an ethnocentric perspective, and classify beauty with a myopically relativistic perception. The latter two arguments may at first seem contradictory, but do suit the idea of aesthetic criticism. It is important to understand, however, that aesthetic criticism is a method and not an event.

Dutton uses the example of Bible Belt farmers’ revival meetings, from Robert Merton’s study on social theory and construction, to stress his first argument. Social scientists are guilty of assigning technical language to describe something like a revival meeting, calling it “religious rituals [that] promote social cohesion” (Merton 1964: 220). They assume the Kansas farmers would be baffled and astonished at the news that they are ritually strengthening group ties. Dutton regards the phraseology as tedious jargon. He emphasizes that social scientists have no grounds to assume the farmers would be baffled by their behavior. Although the farmers may have little or no knowledge of sociology, they are probably aware of their own purposes and motivations.

Next, the author examines ethnocentrism in understanding beauty. He compares the beauty one might find in a Renaissance painting with the beauty of a stone washed up on shore from the ocean; the painting is an achieved beauty but the stone simply is. It is not an accumulation of effort and purpose, it just exists. One cannot praise the ocean for showing consciousness and emotion in producing a beautiful stone. Dutton feels that some anthropologists interpret a primitive people’s art as being the beauty of the stone: “created blindly, mindlessly, blunderingly, and without artistic purpose or intention” (Dutton 1977:391).

Finally, Dutton looks at the classification of beauty in terms of aesthetic criticism. An innocent observation that a primitive creates an object and purposely gives it beautiful form would receive much criticism. Critics say that beauty is biased; it could be defined through the primitive, the observer, Western perception, etc. Dutton defends comments calling an object beautiful; Western critics can’t see primitive art works, rituals, or institutions as matters of achievement by the culture. Anthropologists are sometimes too relativistic to define beauty.

COMMENTS: The commentators all had some positive feedback, but the majority felt Dutton’s article was incomplete and abandoned or ignored elements crucial to his theory. Alan Merriam remarks, almost disappointedly, that Dutton failed to answer the question that started his article: “do sociology and anthropology stand with the sciences or with the humanities?” (387). Tim E.H. Jones felt Dutton did not convince his reader that aesthetic criticism could shed its ethnocentrism in critics’ culturally one-sided perceptions. Thomas Green says appreciating art is a form of behavior; the perception of beauty is set within what the cultural defines as its borders. He accuses Dutton of rejecting the “importance of cultural relativity in his haste to pass judgment on the insensitivity of anthropologists to products of non-European culture” (397).

REPLY: Dutton dismissed his treatment of primitive art as being incidental to the main thesis of the article but admits to his critics that it is difficult to even define the concept of art. He then emphasizes the importance of understanding that human activity (art and behavior) do not “demand a comprehensive anthropological theory,” (405) thus rebuking his critics’ insistence to produce a concrete one. He states that “all great theories reduce our understanding of a covered domain to certain essential features” and admonishes cultural anthropologists for trying to set limitations for the “domain of human meanings” (406).

JESSICA ELLIS University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Dutton, Denis. Art, Behavior, and the Anthropologists. Current Anthropology September 1977 Vol.18(3):387-407.

Maintaining that all of the many aspects of criticism and the social sciences cannot be discussed in one paper, Dutton focuses his attention on one of the most universally accepted notions in the practice and methodology of social science: the idea that social activities can be understood to exhibit underlying social functions which can be recognized and comprehended by a scientifically trained observer, but which are neither intended by those being observed nor recognized by them. This article centers on how much those enculturated in Western traditions of enquiry, aesthetic perception and theorization about human behavior can understand and explain motivations for the art behavior of people outside of these traditions.

The author begins his argument with the discussion of obvious and hidden functions of a social activity using such example as the Hopi rain dance. The interpretation of the function of this dance by an outsider will differ dramatically from the Hopi’s understanding of this ritual. Dutton makes the distinction between explicit and implicit intentions with the latter having three important senses in which activities may be characterized. The first is an intentional act, the second is the description of this intentional behavior, and the third is the intended purpose of the act. Using as examples Wagner’s score, the Ring, and Melville’s Moby Dick, Dutton makes the statement that these achievements are not by accident yet many anthropologists regard primitive people’s works of art as without artistic purpose or intention. The question is also raised of the anthropologist’s refusal to view the objects of their study, primitive art works, as having implicit in them the possibility of achievement. In conclusion, Dutton states that if the anthropologists were to pay careful attention to the language and structure of criticism as well as the logical model offered by natural science, the result would be a far better understanding of their field of inquiry.

Dutton accomplishes two goals in this paper. First, he makes the point that human society and behavior are to be studied from the subjective or emic point of view, and second, he sets out to assimilate an objectivist or etic approach in the discipline, functionalism. The issue of interpretation of native art is always a challenge for anthropologists and this study is still relevant today.


The comments ranged from excellent to elusive and incorrect. Two distinctions were thought to have been ignored: perception and the distinction between art and craft. One commentator was upset with Dutton’s sneer at chimpanzees’ drawings. Clarity seemed to be a problem with this article and the author was criticized for erring on seven points. Dutton was also criticized for his quarrelsome manner and sweeping conclusions. The paper was accepted as thought-provoking and was found to have raised some important issues that needed to be studied by the discipline of anthropology.


In his reply, the author discusses the many reasons for the problems of cultural anthropology. One, and the most important, (the one that interests Dutton primarily) is that many anthropologists have assumed that methods of the natural sciences can be used to understand human action and achievement. Dutton addresses the comments made regarding orienting framework and diversity of human activity and the demand for a comprehensive anthropological theory to make sense of human action. He does not believe that there is a need for such a demand and gives his reason.

LINDA J. BASTIEN Okanagan University College (Diana E. French).

Dutton, Denis. Art, Behavior, and the Anthropologist. Current Anthropology, September, 1977 Vol.18 (3): 387-407

Dutton sets out to determine if the studies of sociology and anthropology are sciences or humanities. He uses art and behavior as a foundation or independent variable as a way to find out if the two studies are of the humanities or science studies. The paper begins by introducing Merton’s Social Theory and specifically, the terms manifest and latent function. Manifest function is a person doing a particular activity and gaining a desired result. A latent function is a result that is extra and not perceived to occur from an initial action. The paper and Merton use the example of the Hopi Indians and their ceremonial rain dance. A manifest function of the rain dance is to bring rain and provide for a plentiful harvest. Merton also points out the latent function, which is the Hopi’s small clans come together as one tribe for social bonding and promoting cohesion. Merton believes there is a methodological way of looking at the Hopi actions and prescribing activities as scientific evidence. But what if that is what the Hopi Indians do; they get together at certain times and celebrate with dancing for a good year, to connect spiritually and for a good harvest. Dutton suggests it could be a community activity and therefore cannot be put into a scientific method and you find a variety of meanings to activities.
Another example given by Dutton is about perceptions anthropologists and sociologist use to interpret art from primitive times to the modern eras. Primitive art is thought to stand for a fact in tangible life or reality. If used scientifically then a spoon or dish used to eat with could not constitute art; even if who ever made it put many hours and exceptional care into carving it, is that not art? Art would have to be big cave murals with color and drawings that make one wonder. But how can you describe something there are not words for. The primitive people did not know what art is, they just made things we find to day to make them for, yes, functionality, but others could make tools to pass time as an activity. Art is a European notion and is subjective to its definition of art. As with the Hopi Indians and there “rain dance.” If an anthropologist were to go to the Hopi and say to them, “Did you know you get together to do these rain dances to bring communities together for social cohesion and bonding and connecting spiritually?” They might do it just because they like to and that is how they have done things for centuries. It is an activity they do and they do not use the same vocabulary to describe the activity. The anthropologist is going in with a systematic view. These are terms “made up” by top intellectuals and reaffirmed in the social and anthropological worlds. They are truths of the studies. But at the same time the people from the south do realize church services strengthen community and community harvests brings people together and reaffirms unity, they just know it without words, but with action.
He is trying to say in this paper that there are many explanations for why people do what they do. Sometimes there are not latent functions at work and it is just a trained scientist observing and ascribing a title to something. Human activity is subject to interpretation and the interpretations are unimaginable. The same goes with art. Some people see a dish or clothing as art while some see it as necessity and sometimes a shiny, new car is art and to others it just functions as a utility to get from one place to another. Criticism and different views from others in the field is beneficial and it helps us to reflect on our own interpretations and biases. We need to look at specific activities, behaviors, and art, but at the same time look at those ideas on a large scope to get some real understanding of meaning, scientific or aesthetic. The debate will be on going to the value of turning, anthropology and its look at people and culture, into a systematic experiment or observing and drawing upon one of many latent function explanations out there. So for now Dutton believes Anthropology is in the humanities.

COMMENTS: The comments or criticisms for the most part refute Dutton’s claims. Some felt he poses thought provoking ideas in the way we look at art and human behavior/activity, but he lessens the impact the article could have with his examples and the biases that come out in his language. One person liked Dutton’s idea that anthropology should incorporate more aesthetic criticism, but wanted Dutton to elaborate on that more. Another thought that humans never do anything for the pure sake of doing it and that we are not that simple minded and he thought the article and its points could not prove otherwise. Overall I thought the comments were critical and added more of others feelings rather than reaffirm Dutton’s points.

REPLY: Dutton stands by what he says. He questions what 500 years from now scholars and students will read about. He thinks they will see many papers full of absurd jargon and empty theories. The best way to record and document cultures and people on the verge of extinction is through ethnographies rich in detail about everyday life and the things within that culture. The reply makes very clear the natural world has been equated and functionalized and the natural world is a miracle in itself. He states that people cannot be looked at like numbers with an end correct answer. People and their actions have infinite meanings and a science could not answer human behavior.

STEVEN AMSLER University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Erickson, Paul A. Phrenology and Physical Anthropology: The George Combe Connection. Current Anthropology March, 1977 Vol.18 (1):92-93.

Erickson explores the possibility of there being a connection between two scholarly disciplines, 19th century physical anthropology and George Combe’s data on phrenology. Erickson’s goal is to outline the connection linking early anthropology and phrenology. He aims to discover what influence, if any, phrenology exerted on anthropology.

Phrenology developed before professional anthropology, in 1800. It became popular when Combe and associates decided to promote it during the 1820’s and 1830’s through publications, public lectures and travel abroad; unfortunately, due to bickering among he proponents , its popularity declined in the 1830’s. There would be no second coming of phrenologists, and it declined rapidly when Combe died in 1858. However, phrenology was able to influence anthropology through the knowledge of brain configuration, which leads to an understanding of various brain functions and subsequently to the knowledge of human behavior. One obvious similarity between phrenology and anthropology, Erickson believes, is the common preoccupation with the human head.

Combe believed that phrenology was part of biological reductionism and that it belonged at the nature end of the nature-nurture spectrum. He also held that phrenology was accurate and true to nature. Erickson discusses how Combe was interested in various anthropological concerns such as prehistoric facts, theories of origin, evolution and heredity, further concluding to there being a historical connection. The historical data presented displays the contribution of Phrenology to Anthropology and the similarities between the two.

As evidence for his statements, Erickson relies on various publications on evolution, the brain, and generalizations of race, physical anthropology, phrenology and instruments used in the latter two disciplines. He also reiterates various scholars from history who support both his own research and the ideas of George Combe.

SHANNON SVISDAHL Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Grottanelli, Vinigi. Ethnology and/or Cultural Anthropology in Italy: Traditions and Developments. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):593-614.

Vinigi Grottanelli addresses the development of anthropological studies in Italy as early as 102 B.C. Using an overarching view of Italian anthropological history, he describes the development of two separate strains of anthropology: cultural anthropology and ethnography. The chronological reconstruction of events from the reign of Julius Caesar to the 21st century emphasizes Italy’s involvement in world affairs. He provides references demonstrating the development of particular Italian educational and social institutions. Grottanelli argues that the main factors in the dichotomy of the anthropological disciplines are the result of both national and international trends.

Early anthropological studies in Italy were firsthand accounts of exotic peoples and their lifestyles. Grottanelli mentions C. Julius Caesar’s documentation of the Celts along with Marco Polo’s accounts of the people and places he saw on his expeditions. This begins Italy’s early interest in “anthropological matters.”

Moving towards the 16th Century, a new trend in the observation of other cultures emerges in Italy. Cultural comparison becomes the dominant methodology for scholars to determine levels of civilization and “savage” features within particular societies. This line of thought pre-dates the American version of evolutionism by several hundred years. During the 19th Century, when anthropology is gaining acceptance as an academic discipline and new theories are developing, Italy’s interest in the subject is curbed and focus shifts towards building national unity. Institutions, such as the Società Italiana di Antroplogia e di Etnologia in 1870 and the Società Romana di Antropologia in 1893, were born to accommodate this new sense of national unity.

Ethnography becomes the new trend in Italy starting in the late 19th Century and lasts until the dawn of World War I. Grottanelli mentions pioneer scholars for their contributions to the study of cultures overseas. Italian studies also become prevalent during this time. Grottanelli argues that the retardation of anthropology in Italy relates to the nation’s belated interest in colonial development. It is a time in history when social anthropology develops out of the need to understand foreign cultural institutions and organizational structures.

Today, Italian interpretations of the terms “anthropology” and “ethnology” are different from the general understanding of the terms in places such as the United States. “Anthropology” in Italy is considered the biological study of man, whereas “ethnology” designates the study of culture.


Comments made concerning Grottanelli’s article range from positive reviews to insults concerning intellectual competence. The positive commentators compliment him on his mention of the most important influences on the development of anthropology and offer constructive criticism about details they think should have been added to enhance his argument. The most requested missing detail is the link between politics and the different branches of anthropology, specifically the affects of Fascism on academics. Other commentators choose to criticize Grottanelli’s argument due to the absence of their works in his article. The negative reactions clearly emphasize how volatile the dichotomy between “anthropology” and “ethnology” is in Italy.


In response, Grottanelli thanks his commentors for their input. He also addresses the interest in the effects of Fascism on the development of anthropology by stressing that the field was not flourishing at the time, therefore, it was ignored. More importantly, Grottanelli says that what others want to hear and/or expect to hear does not apply to his overview of the origins of anthropology in Italy. They are too specific to be addressed in this particular article. Grottanelli also questions the self-absorbed commentators’ feelings of superiority, since they are the only ones concerned with the impact their work has had on the development of anthropology.

LINDSEY HUDSON University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Grottanelli, Vinigi. Ethnology and/or Cultural Anthropology in Italy: Traditions and Developments. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):593-613.

This is a short essay that is basically a description and timeline of developments of cultural anthropology and ethnology in Italy. The author states his scope is to “provide foreign colleagues, and especially those who do not have a reading knowledge of Italian, with some general information on the rise and development of ethnology and related sciences in Italy, from early origins to present day.”(593).

Grottanelli believes that these studies have not received as much attention as other studies in Italy, but it is still a vast subject. He has narrowed the discussion to events, people, and stages that he deems the most significant. He begins the discussion with background of how far back anthropology can be traced into Italy, which is the 1st century B.C., and he continues his discussion until the 1500s.

The next sections deal with the early days of fieldwork, ethnography and folklore, teaching in universities, and problems with terminology. The author manages to cover a large scope of Italian anthropological history, and in the final section he provides the reader with a description of the recent research being undertaken.


Comments are from various parts of the world. In this case they are mainly positive, and most contain praise for Grottanelli and his presentation of Italian anthropology. The complaints and criticism is mainly in reference to what Grottanelli chose to leave out of his work, or objections to what events or people he found significant.


Grottanelli makes a comment at the end thanking those who commented. He makes note to those who criticized as to why he left things out or why something was put it. He addresses each concern noted in the Comments section, and is careful about explaining his personal choice in what was important to note in his work, and why he made that specific choice.

ALLISON STATEN Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Handwerker, W. Penn. Family, Fertility, and Economics. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol. 18(2):259-287.

W. Penn Handwerker begins this article by explaining the contemporary anthropological position held concerning the relationship between family, fertility, and economics. This position was centered upon the idea that hunter gatherer groups consisted of low fertility rates, a lack of descent groups, and nuclear family units. On the other hand, pastoralists and agriculturalists generally maintain high fertility and extended descent groups. Finally, industrial societies were associated with nuclear families, low fertility, and a lack of descent groups. Handwerker attempts to disprove this assessment by showing that the industrialization of African nations has developed very differently than that of Western industrialized nations. Furthermore, the current curvilinear hypothesis is too simplistic to explain the system that has developed and continues to change in Africa. Handwerker suggests a neoevolutionary perspective to explain the material circumstances that created the conditions existing in Africa.

Handwerker discusses technological niches which individuals use as means to meet their subsistence needs. These niches compel individuals to adopt certain kinds of family structures and fertility patterns. Handwerker calls these groupings “estates.” He establishes six estates focusing on those involved in patterns of urbanization. He describes the first estate as educated, white collar workers. They are characterized as having low fertility levels and patterns similar to a nuclear family. The second estate consists of skilled laborers and the moderately educated and is described by high fertility and extended family patterns. The third estate is composed of unskilled laborers that have a tendency toward low fertility and a lack of extended family patterns. The economic circumstances of the individual niche affect which estate a family unit will be included in. Therefore, estates follow certain fertility patterns that are conducive to their situation. Furthermore, the tendency toward either a nuclear family unit or extended kinship groupings is related to which estate an individual inhabits.

Handwerker presents statistical data showing a relationship to economic niche and the rate of births that they produce. His data support a relationship between economics and fertility. The data suggest that the material circumstance of an estate directly influences the number of children a typical family will have and how that family will relate to extended family. Handwerker concludes that there is a correlation between family, fertility, and economics.


Many commentators agreed with Handwerker’s negative evaluation of previous theories of the relationship between family, fertility, and economics. He is criticized for a lack of clarity in defining operational terms such as estate and niche. Many considered Handwerker’s definitions vague and ill defined. Some critics cited examples in which his methodology would not work because there were too many factors that were not taken into account. The lack of clarity caused some confusion which resulted in the questioning of his results.


Handwerker begins his reply by clarifying his theoretical position. He states that his purpose was to explain the complexity of family patterns and show that the contemporary position does not explain that complexity. Handwerker defends his definition of terms by suggesting that they are not perfect, but that they are categories that show tendencies toward certain behavior. His criteria for classification do not universally represent the social conditions in Africa, but to properly interpret his data he believed it was necessary to distinguish categories such as estate.

DAVID SIMS University of Wyoming (Sarah Stauss)

Handwerker, W. Penn. Family, Fertility, and Economics. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol. 18(2):259-287.

Handwerker proposes that family, fertility, and economics are interrelated. He argues that urban African family patterns i.e. their structure and reproduction/ fertility levels are not consistent. However, they can be revealed as families adapt to “economic constraints and options” created by technology i.e. industrialization. He bases this theory on his own fieldwork in Africa (Liberia) and other related research. The author sharply contrasts what he calls his theoretical alternative with what is referred to as conventional theory. The latter asserts that the more economically industrialized and urbanized a society, the more likely a consistent pattern should emerge regarding family patterns. Handwerker claims conventional theory is a “curvilinear” construct from the West and a simple cause and effect pattern cannot explain African urban families. He suggests that it cannot be assumed urbanization is the same in Africa as it is in the West or elsewhere.

Incorporating figures and tables into his discussion, the author provides a breakdown of his theoretical alternative. First he links technology to subsistence. Technology presents the options and constraints to which families adapt. A family’s technological niche affects their family pattern. Therefore, industrialization and urbanization results in a complex family versus a simple “curvilinear” prediction. Handwerker further provides six categorizations of African family patterns he refers to as estates. He evaluates only the first three estates based on their industrialization, or technological niche, and urbanization level (versus rural). They are summarized as follows: the first estate consists of highly educated elite, representing a nuclear family, and low fertility levels. The second estate consists of moderately educated white-collar workers and skilled labourers, generally representing extended family patterns, and high fertility levels. The third estate comprises uneducated, unskilled labourers, with fragmented family patterns, and low fertility levels. Incorporating age, fertility, estate, and economic niche the author strives to prove his theory and essentially disprove the cross-cultural application of conventional theory.


Several commentators commend Handwerker’s attempt to challenge the general conventional theory. The bulk of their criticisms center around the use of the words “niche” and “estate”. Some express confusion not only with the use of the terms but also consider their definitions too vague. Some believe insufficient categories were incorporated into the analysis. In particular, it is suggested the combinations of entrepreneurial and rural family “estates” should also have been included. Regarding the relationship between family sizes and fertility, some commentators criticize what they saw as a lack of sufficient categories such as contraceptives, stress, economic pressure, values, and prostitution that may have impacted the research results.


Handwerker begins his response by reiterating his purposes for writing the paper. He suggests the commentators may have been missing relevant background information he assumed they possessed. As this may have contributed to some of the confusion they experienced when reviewing the paper, he proceeds to expound on a few relevant details pertaining to the “analysis of socio-cultural phenomena”. Further, the author clarifies a labeling error on two tables for which he apologizes. He goes on to defend his decision to use the terms niche and estate, as well as his choice to limit the analysis to the first three noted estates.

GRETA TRODD Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Handwerker, W. Penn. Family, Fertility, and Economics. Current Anthropology, June 1977 Vol. 18(2): 259-287.

In his paper, Handwerker argues against one of the “conventional theories” of familial development- that a curvilinear pattern of interconnectedness exists between technological complexity and familial complexity. Arguing that this theory does not accurately describe the experience of families in urbanized Africa, nor does it reflect the interdependencies between their structure, economics and fertility, Handwerker proposes his own theory of familial structuring: family structure, including living patterns, occupational patterns, and fertility, is a response to the overall diversity of economic (and technological) “niches” with a community. To support his cultural materialist/idealist theory, he focuses on the Bassa of Monrovia, Liberia, and forms a six tiered estate system to describe socio-economic levels. He uses quantitative data, which mostly, but not exclusively, refers to the Bassa, to describe the prevalence of such characteristics as marriage contracts, kinship obligations, polygamy, educational level, occupation and income. Though he admits his information does not include many aspects of the urbanized African experience, Handwerker concludes that a more applicable and universal theory for familial structure would conclude that familial units emerge as an adaptation to constraints and options established by technology.

COMMENTS: While many support his willingness to critique “conventional theories” of industrial society and familial decision making models, the critiques were varied and eloquent. Criticisms included the possible inaccuracy of his conclusions about the Bassa, the lack of universality of his theory when tested against sample populations, and the incomplete discussion and definition of terms and logic in all parts of his article. They fault his failure to include many of the same factors within his theory that he had originally criticized “conventional theory” for failing to consider. They observe that Handwerker’s conclusions were little different to Murdock’s kinship theory and the author’s tendency to oversimplify or overlook non-materialistic factors including cultural norms, time passage, health considerations, and social and familial obligation.

REPLY: Handwerker energetically defends his paper by elaborating on his main focus when creating his theory, and pointing out areas of misinterpretation by his commentators.

AMY ROSE SPAMPINATO University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Hill, Carole E. Anthropological Studies in the American South: Review and Directions.Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2):309-326.

The purpose of Hill’s paper is to briefly review some of the anthropological approaches to the study of the American South. There is also an examination of some of the recent anthropological studies in the area, focusing on a few of the more relevant concepts in her discipline that can be utilized to explain the social dynamics and problems in the South. It is revealed that research done by anthropologists in the past was more concerned with indigenous people. In contemporary research, there is a list of 198 identifiable traits of American culture, representing the major social institutions involved in daily life, that they feel characterize the south. Hill believes this list to be limited because this approach fails to integrate cultural patterns into a holistic framework. Many other researchers have also made the mistake of avoiding or ignoring the fact that Blacks can be both Black and Southern, and that Indians can be both Indian and Southern, etc. All participate in a complex society.

In her review, Hill also points out that all studies tend to focus on methodology and the conceptual framework of anthropology in complex societies rather than defining Southern culture, they have added to our knowledge of the variation in Southern life. These are invaluable for an analysis of the South. Another valuable point is that studies that can be classified as anthropology in the South contribute to an understanding of anthropology of the South. However, she states that anthropology has yet to devise an approach that explains the interaction of all the subcultures of the south, and the nature of the dynamics of these diverse groups on the micro-level and the macro-level in a complex society.

Hill offers the addition of the “Plain Folk” model to the “Frontier” and “Plantation” model as socio-cultural models to approaching the South in the Future. The “Frontier” model is associated with the Appalachian region and represents historically a specific adaptation to the Southern Appalachians. The “Plantation” model is restricted to areas around the coastal plain, “with a few localized centers in other geographical areas in the South (311). The “Plain Folk” model that Hill suggests would target subsistence farmers, or average citizens living in rural or small towns.


The author’s arguments were met with both agreement and speculation. It was recognized that the points made were timely and interesting. It seemed of value to study the various ethnicities and social divisions in their Southern context. The notion of regions and regionalism is an extremely important one for the proper understanding of a total South. On the other side of the fence, the assertion that the American South as a distinct society is met with the rebuttal that the South is no more unique than the American North, East, or West. Special attention in the South by Anthropology would in this case be biased. It is not stated, for instance by Hill, what makes the South so distinct.

The “Plain Folk” model for handling conflict through Church, neighborhood, or kin network is thought to be no less different in all small town societies regardless of ethnicity. In one commentator’s opinion, a number of different theories and models to approaching the complexities of the South that Hill suggest may not be in their best interest. In another opinion, even though funding has made it difficult for budding anthropologists to travel out of the U.S., this does not make the Southern states worth studying. Hence, in this case, the commentator is not criticizing Hill’s methodology of Southern studies, but the very area of the South. If the South is to be addressed it should be from the need to study the patterns of culture that are subjected eventual change.


Hill responds to the commentators concern over her opinion of the uniqueness of the South as not being just hers alone. She also points out that it was stated in her article that similar studies in other regions need to be carried out before definitive statements are made. In closing, Hill wishes to promote the studies of complex societies in a variety of regions not just the American South.

GINGER JACK Okanagan University College (Diana E. French).

Hill, Carole. Anthropological Studies in the American South: Review and Directions. Current Anthropology June 1977 Vol. 18(2): 309-326.

Carole Hill provides a very thorough and concise review and analysis of the numerous studies that have been done in and of the American South. She believes that none of these studies have attempted to integrate other dynamics of the South into a more holistic framework for understanding and studying the larger complexities of the South as a cultural region and complex society. In speaking of the advantages and disadvantages of these various studies, Hill suggests the use and integration of specific models that, although not new, could provide a more useful conceptual framework for a study of the dynamics of the South on all levels.

Early studies that were done in the South paid little attention to methodology or a clearly refined purpose, and it wasn’t until the 1930’s that anthropological or sociological research attempted to analyze the South, but even these attempts were mostly “community approaches.” Although these approaches are important, they do not help build an understanding of the larger cultural and structural dynamics of the South. A few more recent anthropological studies that Hill reviews are more useful in helping to explain social and structural dynamics of complex societies.

Hill looks to frameworks developed by British social anthropologists such as Gluchman and Turner for ways to study of complex societies, who propose looking at the interconnectedness of dynamics and relationships in a society. From here she proposes using an equilibrium model in the place of a more static model as a beginning for understanding the continual change of a society. Then she expands the framework with various other models, such as Turner’s model for studying continuity and conflict resolution in helping to explain such dynamics as change, cultural symbols, and structural relationships.

COMMENTS: The comments of Hill’s article are overall positive and supportive, with some criticism of her more personal claims and assumptions. Most thought that her review of studies in and of the South was timely and needed and that this review was a thorough and concise summary of the vast array of studies that have tried to explain the South. Many commentators agreed with Hill that a systematic, interdisciplinary review of all the social science research and a more holistic conceptual framework are needed to better understand the complexities of the South. Some suggested taking this a step further by looking at all regions of the U.S. and then look to the South for differences within and among these culture areas. A few criticized her idea that the South is one society and that the continuity of a Southern identity is premature.

REPLY: Hill defends her regional model and why she believes the South is one society, both from her experiences in studying the South and in reviewing the historical and more recent studies. She stresses that understanding the complexities and dynamics of the South could build on anthropological theory and then could apply them in studying other complex societies or regions. She ends by stating that regional studies can also further our understandings of culture overall.

LUKE BORKENHAGEN University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Kressel, Gideon M. Bride-Price Reconsidered. Current Anthropology, 1977 Volume 18 (3): 441-458.

Gideon Kressel discusses the established institution of bride-price in a variety of regions where the practice still exists. He especially examines sedantarized Bedouin populations in Israel who are in a new and changing physical, cultural, and economic climate. He first refutes economic and fertility compensation theories. He also discredits the bride-price institution as a means to marriage stability. Kressel attempts to show that social stratification is the reason behind the continuation of the bride-price practice. Kressel gives an example of Northwest Coast American Indians, where bride-price developed under the duress of extreme change. This destroyed kin groups and “impaired social equilibrium and intensified status competition” (1977).

Hypergamy characterizes bride-price because it is honorable to marry a woman of lower status in Bedouin culture. This shows subjugation to authority. The size of the bride-price shows the relative inferiority of her family. Kressel puts forth a symbolic dimension that he believes has been over-looked in previous analyses.

A recent change in wealth distribution and mobility has increased exogamy practices of Arab Muslims in Israel and driven up the bride-prices that the woman’s family will receive. Established social frameworks have broken down, competition has increased, and the newly rich are vying for status. In this way, bride-price is a reflection of the new social situation and marks the natural restratification that is occurring. Confusion of former hierarchies drives the need to re-establish social equilibrium or make new divisions. This leads to a different cultural climate that values achievement versus ascribed status. Accommodating new norms while maintaining the traditional status of the culture is a complex and dynamic development. Kressel uses this new vantage to analyze an ongoing practice. Kressel’s scope of discussion includes new practices emerging in a changing economic and social atmosphere as well as ethnographic material to develop his point. He documents two Israeli villages and draws from a handful of other documented bride-price institutions, then draws conclusions about the foundations of bride-price.


Kressel’s commentators seem unified in questioning the scope of the paper and his methods of using ethnographic specifics to derive a cultural theory. They viewed it as a simplified explanation, when bride-price is a complex socio-cultural phenomenon. Generally, the commentators thought it needed to incorporate a larger discussion of the political and economic situation while more clearly defining what is being examined as ‘bride-price’. Basil Sansom believes Kressel neglects the bigger social relationships and ramifications. However, William Divale asserts that Kressel’s theory of bride-price as a reflection of social stratification and as a measure of social distance is an important contribution. Divale delves into it with credible, scientific data that showed there was a correlation between stratification factors and bride-price.


Kressel’s reply addressed the concerns of larger political and economic factors. He stresses that his concern is not along the line of comparative method and is only complementary to methodologists. He further explains the economic situation of the new Bedouin and landless peasants to the Ramla-Lod area of Israel.

EMBER OAKLEY University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Kressel, Gideon M. Bride-Price Reconsidered. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18 (3):441-458.

Bride-price is a recognized practice within Arab Muslim Eastern marriage patterns. However, frequently it is compared with other theories of marriage exchange established in other areas of the world. Anthropological analysis of bride-price and dowry are examined from several different perspectives. For instance, they may be divided into composite explanations, from the view of those with special interests, individual or shared, and structural explanations, from the standpoint of society as a whole. Explanations vary, depending on culture region and within differing theoretical traditions.

Frequently, Western anthropologists suggest bride-price as a means to compensate the father of the bride’s household for loss of her labour. Secondly, the custom compensates for the loss of the woman’s fecundity consistent with the notion that dowry is an impregnation fee. Thirdly, based on data of the Kafir of South Africa, bride- price payment is intended to moderate her father’s anger for fear he may harm the daughter. The Africa data illustrates a fourth explanation of the significance of the practice; the marriage ceremony is validated by the transaction, thus granting social approval of the bond. Moreover, the union is an issue of concern for the whole society. The amount invested indicates the effort put forth by the family to prevent a divorce.

Ethnographic research conducted concerning marriage payments in two former Bedouin communities in two Israeli towns, Ramla and Lod, revealed five principles. First, in close agnatic relationships where the kin groups share equal social status, bride-price payment can be relinquished. Secondly, a groom of distant relation to the bride is obligated to pay more than a groom who is closely related. Furthermore, bride-price, multiplies if the impending groom is a fellow countryman but of no relation to the brides kin group. Payment is also high for the groom’s family when there is hierarchical differentiation between the families of the couple. These conditions apply if the groom’s family has the higher status. Rarely does the bride’s family hold the higher status. However, in such an event, the payment would be low. Lastly, couples who are in unrelated kin groups, but live in the same village, are required to make a large bride-price payment.

The reasons offered for bride-price in the Arab Muslim East compare essentially to the selection of explanations stated previously. However, further analysis suggests that the greater the payment, the greater the bride is valued by her husband’s household. A higher price also indicates that the woman comes from a good family. However, the explanations of bride-price are only partial, and therefore must not be mistaken as complete.


One author feels that the three sections of the article do not tie together to make a clear argument. Oppenheimer further states that there was no clear indication of Kressel’s thesis or definition of what “bride-price” is. In contrast, Divale supports Kressel by stating that no theory is ever complete and all have a limited application therefore does not fail to explain the phenomena of bride-price in socially stratified societies.

LIANNE STOOSHNOFF Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Kressel Gideon M. Bride-Priced Reconstruction. Current Anthropology. Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sept., 1977) 441-458.

Gideon M. Kressel reviews previous information that defines the types and construction of “bride-price”.He starts off reviewing the methods and overall practices of bride-price. He gives well studied professional observations by Leach(1961) and Dumont (1972). That information opens a one of Kressels big arguments about endogamy and exogamy and how it effects pre-marital methods. For example, it provides information that shows depending on the level of religious and caste status that the groom has, the brides family has to a variation in dowery. Throughout the methods and practices information he expands on European, Hindu and Middle Eastern cultures. falls off into an ethnography about certain people in different areas in Arab Muslim Eastern and two small towns Ramla and Lod (pop. 70,000 together). It was not a mistake to give examples of actual cultures that do practice the act of “bride-Price” but it was not the intention of the tittle.
Although some explanation was given about “bride-price” it was not explained complete enough to be “reconstructed”. Kressel does not define key terms, for example: how he used class system and cultural modalities, which held great weight in his explanations of bride price. He fails to explain what he is writing about, falling off course and leaving me lost on multiple occasions. He proposes to look at bride-price and gives an ethnography about several societies. During the explaining of different kinds of bride-price, he lumps all exchange of money during marriage as bride-price, but does not mention terms like dowery. He does not state which forms of bride-price were practiced or which were outdated.
Kressel used data from previous research and he compiled information into charts and statistics. His charts did in fact work well to explain wages and how they pertained to minimum and maximum bride price in different cultures. He also uses studies to show that although money has an effect on bride price, religious and cultural customs distinguish the amount of blessings offered for a wife in marriage.

COMMENTS: The commentors stated the article was confused and mis-informed. Most said that it was too “ethno-graphy” and that Kressel resurrected a prejudicial term, “bride-price”. Others understood that this topic is easy to disagree over and gave him credit for opening the subject to future exploration. Kressel was apprehensive about addressing the judgmental commentors. He wanted to focus on furthering the exploration of the bride-price practices and believes it has a great impact on cultures that practice bride-price.

CALVIN W. SNEED University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Lomax, Alan and Conrad M Arensberg. A Worldwide Evolutionary Classification of Cultures by Subsistence Systems. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol. 18(4): 659-707.

Lomax and Arensberg suggest that the primary aim of anthropology should be to study the variable ways that human cultures evolve, or adapt to their physical and social environments, and to organize a classificatory system for that cultural evolution. Their method for classifying cultural adaptations is progressive, and is based on the total energy conversion associated with a given society; that is, the total energy extracted from the natural environment and converted into a form that can be consumed or used by people. In other words, for Lomax and Arensberg, the human progress is synonymous with increasing productivity. Thus, they assert that human cultures can be arranged hierarchically in terms of their subsistence systems.

Having made this assertion, Lomax and Arensberg proceed to apply their classificatory system to documented human cultures. This endeavour requires both data and a methodology. For the data, they use almost exclusively the Ethnographic Atlas, a collection of ethnographic data representing 1254 cultures, complied by George Murdock in 1967. Murdock used literature collected from the era of European expansion in the Ethnographic Atlas, and the cultures described are associated with pre-contact human societies. For Lomax and Arensberg, this data is preferable because a meaningful system of classification must represent societies that have not experienced European cultural diffusion. In addition, they include data from their own research for another fifty-four cultures, which they describe as contemporary but relatively primitive.

With regard to methodology, Lomax and Arensberg begin by identifying seventeen criteria that are directly related to a society’s level of production and mode of subsistence. Included in these criteria are ten descriptors of subsistence traits, for example the amount of hunting done by a society, two criteria related to kinship, and five intended to allow for differentiation between smaller classes of collectors, for example, the presence of games of chance, which the authors presume to indicate a production surplus. The representative data for 1308 cultures is then applied to the seventeen criteria, and Lomax and Arensberg use the results to classify each culture in relation to a hierarchy of five increments of increasing productivity: extractors: incipient producers; animal husbanders; plow agriculturalists; and irrigators. The relationship of variable physical environments to the different stages of cultural evolution is also briefly discussed.


There are mixed reactions represented in the responses. Many authors are open to the concept of cultural evolution (though not necessarily in a progressive sense), and some are appreciative of the attempt to systematize that notion. Others, however, put forth many complaints with respect to Lomax and Arensberg’s model. The most important of these complaints regards the seemingly ethnocentric nature of the classifications. Other criticisms include the idea of classifying solely on the basis of mode of subsistence and other factors directly related to productivity, the exclusion of cultures influenced by Europe (recognizing that diffusion had shaped cultures for centuries prior to the era of expansion), the source for and interpretation of the author’s data, and the potential for the model to classify fundamentally different cultures in the same group, for example the Bororo of the South American tropical rainforest and the Arctic hunter-fishers.


The authors’ response tends to be for the purpose of clarifying their methodology and the resultant classifications. They emphasize, for example, the correlations between subsistence techniques and other aspects of human culture including music, dance, and speech, and justify some of their groupings from these types of relationships. Perhaps more significant than the response the authors provide, however, is the response they fail to provide. They hardly acknowledge the concerns of ethnocentrism, and at no time state explicitly that the system is not intended to imply the superiority of western cultures.

BEN VAN DER GRACHT Okanagan University College (Diana E. French).

Makarius, Raoul. Ancient Society and Morgan’s Kinship Theory 100 Years After. Current Anthropology December 1977 Vol.18(4): 709-729.

Raoul Makarius reassesses Lewis Henry Morgan’s kinship theory and Ancient Society in what he calls the current anti-evolutionary environment of anthropology. Anthropologists today often ridicule Morgan and call his kinship theory repugnant and absurd; Makarius believes this point of view stems from the anti-evolutionary teachings of Boas, Malinowski, and Radcliffe-Brown. Makarius argues that there is great value in Morgan’s kinship theory, which distinguishes between classificatory and descriptive systems. Makarius also re-evaluates Morgan’s idea of evolution in terms of its lack of Marxist interpretation and Morgan’s failure to clearly distinguish between family and tribe. Overall, Makarius aims to show that anthropology needs to reconsider its blanket rejection of evolutionary theory.

Makarius argues that Morgan’s classificatory and descriptive systems of kinship, based on the distinction between tribes and families, is an outstanding contribution to anthropological theory that has been overlooked. The university environment, which teaches students that 19th-century anthropologists “were naively or preposterously evolutionary” (724), has poisoned anthropologists from even considering Morgan. In addition, Makarius blames the rejection of the diachronic approach for anthropology’s “misplaced and inept criticism” (710) leveled at Morgan’s kinship theory.

Confusion over Morgan’s kinship theory has often led to its dismissal. In the modern sense, kinship relations are always biological. This is not the case in Morgan’s kinship theory. The classificatory system emanates from tribal organization and is based on the law of exogamy. The descriptive system expresses individual relations within the family. In tribal society, the classificatory system “designates a kinsman in terms of the relation between the category to which he belongs and Ego” (710). Makarius also points out that the family system develops within the framework of the tribe.

Makarius supports these arguments through logical analysis of Morgan’s kinship theory. He also provides a few examples from ethnographic texts. He uses the development of the Chinese kinship theory as an example of how family organization develops within the limits of tribal structure—that descriptive systems develop out of classificatory systems.

Near the end of his essay, Makarius revisits Morgan’s evolutionary theory. He explains that in Morgan’s work there is “no recognition of the principles underlying the Marxist interpretation of history” (715), although Morgan does correlate different lines of development and show that they are dependent on the arts of subsistence. Makarius also notes that Morgan clearly distinguishes between tribal organization and the family but is at “pains to keep them on different evolutionary lines” (715).


Makarius is praised for his efforts to re-evaluate Morgan’s theory. However, Makarius comes under vehement attack from the majority of the commentators. He runs into criticism in three broad categories: (1) his lack of definition of terms, (2) the androcentric, homocentric, and ethnocentric points of view he takes, and (3) his assumption that social history can be derived from kinship studies.

The majority of the commentators found the article to be simplistic, vague, and even absurd. Other commentators criticized Makarius for not including new theoretical approaches, such as feminist theory, in his review of Morgan’s theory.


Makarius begins his response by stating that “it seems indeed inevitable . . . that whenever Morgan’s name and evolutionary theory are mentioned, they immediately trigger heated debate” (724). Makarius responds to the attack that he does not define terms by explaining that Ancient Society defines the terms repeatedly. Makarius also states that he uses the generic term “man” to mean humankind and does not apologize for any other androcentric viewpoints. In the end, Makarius points out that most of the commentators failed to attack the broader issues involved with Morgan’s theory of kinship and evolution and that anthropology should rethink its anti-evolutionary outlook.

SHELBY CHAPMAN University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Makarius, Raoul. Ancient Society and Morgan’s Kinship Theory 100 Years After. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):709-729.

This article is a critical analysis of Lewis Henry Morgan’s theory of kinship and its impact on the theoretical history of anthropology. Makarius argues the anti-evolutionary position supported by Boas and Lowie is scientifically unsound and neglects the distinction between tribal and family structures.

The author asserts Morgan’s theory on the differences of classificatory and descriptive terms and kinship organization is based on tribal and family structures. Tribal organization as put forth by Morgan is based on the law of exogamy and a classificatory system, which does not recognize individuals within families. Furthermore, the classificatory system as proposed by Morgan merges lineals and collaterals in kinship theory. Family organization as put forth by Morgan was based on relationships and the descriptive systems used to express them. Contrary to the classificatory system of merging lineals and collaterals, descriptive systems merge collaterals only.

Makarius asserts that Morgans’ theory may be interpreted as follows. First, the idea that classificatory system refers to the generation and sex of the individual. Second, kinship theory and terminology are derived from family structure and classificatory systems are derived from the nuclear family. Classificatory systems are evolutionary in form while being structural and synchronic in function.


Commentators agree that Makarius has misunderstood Morgan’s theory of classificatory and descriptive terminology. Many find Makarius’ definition of classificatory systems as a reflection of biological relations and systems of relational representations, as seen in “men’s consciousness,” extremely offensive.


In his reply, Makarius’ expresses theoretical advancements made by the structural approach of Levi-Strauss with respect to exogamy as the primary ban on marriage and not on sex to clarify his position on classificatory and descriptive systems, and terminology. Continuing, Makarius states that terminology, as well as classificatory and descriptive systems are a projection of social organization. Mental structures as described in “men’s consciousness” are in actuality oppositional mental structures, which in turn address the notion of reciprocity and sexual accessibility.

JOYCE GIFFORD Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Makarius, Raoul. Ancient Society and Morgan’s Kinship Theory 100 Years After. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):709-729.

Author Raoul Makarius opens his article with an overview of the ridicule and disdain Morgan’s evolution theory in Ancient Society received in the early 19th century from leading anthropologists, who decided, in the end as stated by Makarius, that the concept of kinship does not exist. While in agreement with Morgan’s theory, the author breaks down the idea of kinship by comparing two separate orders of tribe and family and their dissimilar notions of kinship relations.

Makarius feels Morgan’s largest contribution to anthropological theory was distinguishing between classificatory and descriptive kinship systems. Tribal organization uses the classificatory system which is based on the law of exogamy and does not recognize individual relations within the family, while family organization uses the descriptive system which designates individual relatives outside the family in different exogamic groups. In tribes, kinship is absolute, binding all members, while there are degrees of kinship based on distance and are relative within the family.
The author finally defines kinship as “systems of representations derived from established norms governing human conduct,” and that stem from previously established kinship systems. The family appeared out of a primary classificatory scheme, social, to secondarily describe individual biological relations. According to Makarius, kinship cannot be a concept unless it is distinguished by its opposite, non-kinship and this distinction arose with the introduction of exogamy.

Makarius ends by describing Morgan’s shortcomings in Ancient Society which include his biases toward descriptive kinship models of the time and that it was through family only, not through government that the kinship system arose.

COMMENTS: Overall the commentators did not agree with Makarius. Many recognized that Morgan has been misunderstood, but felt Makarius did not do a sufficient job explaining his idea. The commentators felt Makarius made too many assumptions, did not define his terms, had brief, inadequate and outdated references, and had no evolutionary scheme at all. Although they commended the author on his insight and interesting points, the commentators largely agreed that the article was “absurd,” “archaic nonsense,” the references flawed and taken out of context, contradictory, confused, and did not do justice to modern kinship theories.

REPLY: The author thanked all commentators for their critiques despite their aggressiveness and recognized that evolutionary theory is under attack with ridicule and invective. He does not define his terms because they are defined in Morgan’s Ancient Society already, but does go into more detail on tribal and family organization, incest and exogamy. In general he felt they misunderstood him. He reminds the commentators that it is not his theory of evolution but Morgan’s under discussion. Makarius feels the commentators were not clear whether they rejected the presentation and that the criticisms were limited to specific points particular to the individual commenting, not the broader issue of kinship. He felt many failed to respond to some of his ideas but went on a vehement tangent.

ALISA MARTODAM University of Minnesota (Jennifer Jones)

Meacham, William. Continuity and Local Evolution in the Neolithic of South China: A Non-Nuclear Approach. Current Anthropology, Sept., 1977. Vol.18(3):419-440.

William Meacham uses twentieth-century archaeological literature to inspect the origins and assumptions of nuclear-diffusion models. South China has traditionally been portrayed as a cultural backwater or migration corridor. In models by Chang and others, the Huang-Ho Basin or other locales were rapidly-advancing cultural centers from which people and technology spread to South China. These models derive from earlier theories that labeled the Near East as the cradle of agriculture and civilization. North China-centered theories rose partly due to the lack of archaeological research and evidence in South China. This region had also dominated surrounding areas politically, technologically, and culturally throughout most of recorded history, so this relationship was extrapolated to prehistory. New C-14 dates and discoveries of advanced Southeast Asian Bronze-age cultures in the late 1960s and 1970s suggested to other researchers that the flow of culture was from south to north. Local-evolution theory had been applied “successfully” to a few regions, including the Lungshanoid complex at Ch’ing-lien-kang in the Yangtze Delta.

Meacham proposes that a local, parallel-evolutionary model of South China cultures better accommodates the data and complexity of the region. He reviews the general framework of cultural progression, from Early to Late Neolithic, and describes the features of sites associated with each in South and Southeast China. The first “fully Neolithic” complexes arose between 10,000 and 5,000 BC from an East-Asian chopping-tool tradition. Local variants of the Neolithic culture may have begun to develop throughout China by the Middle Neolithic, around 5,000 BC. The Yang Shao and Lungshanoid complexes then characterized North and Southeast China, respectively. He proposes that the culture of south coastal areas and North Vietnam be designated “Yueh Coastal Neolithic.” All cultures show both new stone and ceramic technologies and continuity from the Early Neolithic. The trans-regional, nearly-simultaneous distribution of many aspects of material technology suggests rapid spread of ideas and possibly independent invention.

Meacham then applies a theory of local continuity to the Late Neolithic by correlating characteristics of Yueh pottery design with similar characteristics in the Late Neolithic Geometric pottery. The nearly simultaneous appearance of similar technologies over the regions discussed requires extensive and repeated sharing of ideas and may make locating a trait’s specific origins impossible. In addition, it may require a common antecedent culture and similar “political, social, and religious values and structures…” (427).


Many comments were supportive of Meacham’s break from nuclear-diffusionist theory. However, several thought he may have overstated his case for local-evolution, ignoring the importance and presence of diffusion where it does occur. Some criticized the lack of discussion of man-land relationships and environmental change, which were stated in the article’s thesis. The independent development and significance of bronze working outside of the northern Shang culture was questioned. Some stated that Meacham’s use of “Neolithic” was poorly defined and such “stages” of evolution imply directionality. Several thought he equated material technologies too heavily with ethnic, linguistic, and culture identities. Others questioned whether the Yueh and Lungshanoid were really separate cultures.


Meacham replies that the first-order assumption of local-evolution is justified; diffusion is not an unacceptable explanation but should be considered secondarily. Due to a lack of solid paleoenvironmental and ecological data, the environmental relationships make a weaker, more speculative argument against diffusion models than the well-known material culture. Meacham’s use of the Neolithic “stages” intended no inherent assumptions of progress; it followed the Chinese usage, based on the presence of both pottery and polished stone tools. He cites outside linguistic, ethnographic, environmental, and cultural material evidence before saying that Yueh were probably different from Lungshanoid peoples. He notes that material culture obviously does not always correspond to ethnicity, non-material culture, or environment.

CYRENA UNDEM University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss).

Meacham, William. Continuity and Local Evolution in the Neolithic of South China: A Non-Nuclear Approach. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18(3):419-441.

Throughout this article, William Meacham continually seeks to challenge the accepted hypothesis that the emergent culture in Neolithic southern China was a product of external rather than internal forces of development. He believes that though the material culture of this area can be explained in terms of diffusion from abroad, it is actually more precise to focus instead upon a purely local origin for the cultures of this period.

William Meacham structures his argument primarily along a scrutinized evaluation of the pottery styles and traditions existant within the archaeological record and as they had developed through time. In the southern regions of China, he identifies characteristics of pottery bearing stylized systems of geometric design that persist between the late and middle Neolithic periods in these areas. As he feels there is strong evidence for a linear progression in pottery technology he uses this evidence to form an argument by which diffusionist evolutionary models of culture are to be discounted. It is the authors belief that a focus upon the Shang culture of upper China and attempts to link this group with the varieties of material culture recovered from sites in southern China that has biased the work of researchers who continue to address this topic.

The argument is concluded by directing the reader to understand that with such widespread and contiguous evidence for a unified cultural tradition in this location it is misguided to assume that it must have been incorporated from an external area. Instead, the notion is proposed that both the northern as well as southern cultural traditions can be understood to have evolved in a parallel fashion, although they may have each been influenced in the distant past along a common cultural root.

MIKE D. LOGAN Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Meacham, William. Continuity and Local Evolution in the Neolithic of South China: A Non-Nuclear Approach. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18(3):419-438.

Searching for universal comparisons is common for anthropologists when examining a new geographical region. South China’s prehistory for example, has developed by comparisons found in East Asia. This research has been conducted with a diffusion model, however the author finds that a non-nuclear approach is a better model to examine the prehistory of South China.
The intent of the article is to show how a local-evolution model explains the Neolithic Period in South China better than a nuclear approach. The nuclear approach suggests that an idea or innovation starts in a centralized place and diffuses out to surrounding areas. A local-evolutionary approach suggests that areas develop with their own ideas and innovations without external stimuli. The local approach focuses on humans relationship to the land, changes in the environment, previous culture history, and forces within the culture itself to explain culture change.
The author uses the styles of pottery and C-14 dating to support his idea that changes came from local stimuli rather than outsiders. Previously South China was considered to have developed due to diffusion of ideas from East China, but new evidence showed that geometric style of pottery found in the Southern regions of China were earlier than East China.

COMMENTS: Many agree that a shift from diffusion and migration models to a ecology and man-land model is needed in anthropological and archaeology studies. However, others defend the nuclear-diffusionist model and argue the local-evolutionary model was inadequate. The study focused on aspects that commentors felt were lacking substantial support. Many reviewers felt he should limit his analysis to a small-scale study rather than a broad and untested idea. Others felt that much more evidence and data are needed before either model is proven.

REPLY: The author agrees with many of the suggestions made that the presentation was lacking in some areas and left some questions unanswered. He feels that additional studies are needed using a local-evolutionary model as new data is analyzed.

LYNDSEY LOCKHART University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Moles, Jerry A. Standardization and Measurement in Cultural Anthropology: A Neglected Area. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2):235-258.

Jerry Moles asserts that anthropology is a discipline lacking a standard procedure in operationalization of concepts, data collection techniques, measurements, and the methods used to test the validity and reliability of information. Cross-cultural comparisons are necessary for the enlargement of the ethnographic record, but scholars need to interpret ethnographic reports written with a variety of different research objectives and theoretical agendas. The goal of anthropology as a science is to generalize categories and classify phenomena in order to compare cultures. This can more easily be accomplished by standardizing rules for collecting information based on agreed upon empirical knowledge by researchers, resulting in focused rather than abstract generalizations.

Concepts should be standardized by creating operational definitions, which are defined through a series of questions. For example, the concept of obedience can be validated by a series of questions regarding authoritative relationships. Also, data collection techniques are more efficient through standardized procedures, using forms and tables.

When comparing cultures, questions of how many, how much, and how long must be answered, so he suggests standardizing measurements will bring order to this process and make comparisons easier. Comparativists are dependent on ethnographers to ask similar questions in order to make classifications between societies. These classifications can be made with more accuracy when validity and reliability of findings have been confirmed. Validity can be measured by two or more standard operational definitions, and reliability means that the same results can be drawn from more than one procedure and generalized.

COMMENTS: Cohen commented that there is an “anthropological method”, a broad, standardized method which involves a commitment to interact long-term with a group and that standardization of techniques would not be useful to anthropology because it would minimize the richness of different groups. Kolig agreed that fixed categories means closed-mindedness, and it is not safe to fully control one’s situation in the field through over-simplistic methods. Schneider labeled Moles as an “inductivist,” one who believes that concepts speak for themselves, and numbers can affirm those concepts. There are also “deductivists” who might disagree on concepts, because they first need to be proven through empirical research. That in mind, he thinks Moles has not considered that other theories, like those of deductivists, demand other kinds of measurement; therefore, a standardized procedure would not appeal to all.

REPLY: Moles argues there is no specific isolated anthropological method and that in order for concepts and variables to have worth, investigators need to define and standardize their techniques. He does not feel the scientific/humanistic dichotomy is relevant and standardization should work for inductive or deductive theorists.

STACY METTNER University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Montagu, Ashley. On the Nonperception of “Race” Differences. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):743-744.

Ashley Montagu’s one page article challenges the racist belief that individuals of different races should not live intimately together, whether through marriage or child adoption. Over the span of forty years, several families, adoption agencies, and individuals have consulted Montagu in order to determine the race of a child. Adoption agencies required knowing the race of child so the child could be placed in a home of a family of the same race. However, in every instance involving interracial families that he has been involved with, race differences, such as skin colour, are found to be in the eye of the beholder. The families and individuals who consulted Montagu interestingly did not perceive any racial differences regarding the child in question, which they were intimately familiar with, but desired to know the child’s race because of outside comments and accusations from neighbours regarding the child.

The article explains that in a typical case, the parents were an educated middle-class couple and the child was about one year old at the time of consultation. When Montagu explained to the parents the child was of a different race, a “mulatto”, they were astonished, and claimed the race of the child was inconsequential and they would love the child the same. The important point of each case is that the parent’s love transcended all racial prejudices and the loving relationship between the parents and child following the consultation intensified.

Montagu concludes by expanding his discoveries in intimate relationships to society, stating that how we accept and judge others depends on how we decide to perceive them and that those individuals who refer to racial differences as barriers for intimate relationships will not find facts to support their assertion.

KIM TOWNSLEY Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Neumann, Thomas W. A Biocultural Approach to Salt Taboo: the case of the southeastern United States. Current Anthropology 1977 Vol.18, (2): 289-308.

Thomas Neumann’s article focused on ethnographic history of the southeastern Indian tribes in the United States. Neumann deliberates on the tribes’ adaptive, cultural behavior of salt taboos and taboo-foods that contain salt. According to Neumann, cultural practices such as salt taboos have adaptive, physiological functions. To reduce physical pain and emotional stress, the southeastern tribes consumed a decreased amount of salt. Neumann elaborates that salt is an essential mineral component of a healthy, balanced diet, helping the body to perform vital functions.

Neumann’s three-part argument focuses on the sodium adrenocortical system. His biocultural perspective attempts to explain southeastern nutritive restrictions in biological terms. Sodium concentration of the human body varies according to size, age, metabolism, and exertion level. The salt taboos of these tribes limited and restricted the use of salt during certain biological consequences.

As Neumann discusses the effects of the adrenal system on sodium concentration, he argues the suggestion of salt leads to high blood pressure has largely been discounted. The consumption of salt by the southeastern Indians occurred prior to their certain salt-restricted cases, or it was ingested through foods that already contained salt.

Neumann’s focus on the adrenal system and sodium concentration, as well as stress on the adrenal system, led readers to conclude that low-sodium intake benefits persons or is “physically advantageous” during menstruation, pregnancy, initiation rites, and to people with emotional stress. Proceedings between boys and girls’ puberty, menstruation, initiation rites, physical stress, warfare, pregnancy, and mourning resulted in taboos of low, if not any, sodium intake. Neumann clarifies the reason for regulating a dietary sodium intake and the ways that salt taboos help to maintain biological equilibrium.

The effects of too much salt may lead to the malfunctioning of the human body. Neumann gives ethnographic data on the Navajo and Huskanaw tribes’ perceptions of salt, supporting his discussion of salt and salt practices. Documented material of the Navajo reveals the consumption of sodium accelerated children’s growth. However, the Huskanaw Indian boys, during initiation rites, showed that too little salt resulted in confusion that lead to death. In this case, people with low sodium levels were shown to have a higher death rate, and those who had normal and higher levels of salt in their bodies maintained good health.

COMMENTS: While many of the commentators agree with biological factors shaping the role of a salt taboo, many disagree with how the information was presented. Paul T. Baker offers three logical salt-taboo explanations to determine why these tribes’ had physiological taboos, especially relating to salt. Although Neumann’s analysis was based on historical and ethnographic data, some commentators, McCracken, Mendez-Dominguez, Kerri, and Wilson agreed that there was a lack of absolute proof and supporting evidence. Louis Evan Grivetti disagrees with Neumann’s hypothesis, referring to Neumann’s hapless attempts of fish avoidance during menstruation as “spurious.” Offended by Neumann’s essay, Grivetti offered his own reasonable suggestions on salt intake and salt taboo.

REPLY: Neumann offers straightforward explanations to the unsettled remarks, providing firsthand descriptions, background, secondary sources, restricted sodium and protein intake, and diet limitations on the body. Neumann agrees that salt is a vital component, a point expressed by both Baker and Dahlquist’s. Neumann disagreed with the type of response given by Grivetti and Mendez-Dominguez. The consumption of fish results in an ingestion of sodium, and an avoidance of fish during menstruation would support his discussion of salt taboo foods. In disagreeing with many of their hypotheses on the subject, he provided information valuable to explicating the meaning of his thesis. As Neumann refutes many of his commentators’ responses, he questions the particular approaches each argument endorses.

KATRIN MCDONNEL University of Wyoming (Dr. Sarah Strauss).

Neumann, Thomas W. A Biocultural Approach to Salt Taboos: The Case of the Southeastern United States. Current Anthropology, Jun., 1977, Vol.18, No.2, 289-308

This article by author Thomas W. Neumann seeks to use a biological explanation to explain why salt and salt laden foods are culturally restricted amongst southeastern American Indians during certain periods in a person’s life. The author starts his article by laying down a principle he abides by in hypothesis, Kroeber’s belief that something becomes a cultural norm because a certain act has been proven beneficial to a group of people. Neumann’s own hypothesis in this article is that salt taboos provide for a controlled intake of salt in the absence of medical institutions, and that the taboo is a matter of human biology.

The author breaks his article into three parts, the first consisting purely of the biological reactions salt creates in the human body under various conditions, the second part consisting of well documented food taboos of the west coast American Indians, and finally the author’s case study deciphering why salt taboos occur under certain conditions in the Southeastern United States. Biologically, the author states that sodium salts are a major determinant of the body’s extra cellular fluid volume. The only main route of sodium elimination in the body is through the kidneys and loss through sweat is negligible, and moreover the kidneys can be stimulated to conserve body sodium. Sodium also has a therapeutic effect on injuries, especially hemorrhaging. Newborns are very susceptible to dehydration and thus must have their salt intake regulated, as well as those who are under emotional stress, menstruation, and those who are pregnant.

In observing salt taboos of the western United States, the author uses most of his data from Kroeber’s earlier empirical evidence on western tribes, which cites some salt taboo constants. The taboos for salt consumption occurred during pregnancy and birth, girls and boys puberty rites/initiation rites, vision quests, and periods of mourning. Applying the previously stated data, the author then looked at southeastern tribes. Neumann acknowledges that most of his information is derived from traveler’s accounts or secondary sources, and offers only limited reliability. Evidence has shown that salt in the southeastern region was an important trade commodity, but perhaps knowledge of it’s possible benevolent properties can be seen by the fact that tribes would give salt to exhausted Europeans. Evidence also shows that salt was restricted during menstruation, which biologically is time when too much salt intake would lead to edema. Salt was also restricted during pregnancy, which is a time when women are more susceptible to hypertension and edema when they eat salt. During warfare diets were limited which increased sodium retention and led to a loss of judgment and rashness which would make for a formidable warrior that wouldn’t give in easily to torture.

COMMENTS: Reviewers of this article leveled several criticisms including the use of shaky historical evidence, too much speculation, being overly confusing to read, and that it was misleading to those not trained in biology.

REPLY: The author in turn replied that most historical evidence garnered at that time period is shaky and that he disagrees with the bulk of his reviewers.

NELSON KLITZKA University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Pershits, A. I. The Primitive Norm and Its Evolution. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18(3):409-417.

A. I. Pershits’s main argument in this article has two parts. First, he defines the term “norm,” making explicit the points where he diverges from other scholars. Second, he discusses the origins of these norms and asserts that they evolved into formalized legal codes. Pershits’s approach is a dialectical one, and the article relies on an acceptance of binary oppositions of everything from tradition and innovation, to Marxist sociology and Western science. The dialectical approach is key to his evolutionary perspective, which posits a fundamental distinction between “primitive” (that is, “preclass”) and class-based (which he equates with state-level) societies. He pays virtually no attention to anything intermediary.

For Pershits, dichotomy is the hallmark of class-based society. As a contrast, he argues at great length to for the notion of “the undifferentiated nature of the primitive consciousness” (411). This is to say that members of “primitive” societies do not separate the various aspects of their social worlds – such as religion, morality, or economics – into distinct realms as do members of class-antagonistic societies. Using this idea, Pershits invokes the term “mononorm” to signify the undifferentiated nature of morality and law in “primitive” societies.

Pershits does not dwell on the question of how these mononorms arose, asserting only briefly their probable origin in some pre-human “herd instinct.” Instead, he is more concerned with the transition from preclass to class societies and its impact on the system of norms. His position is that during an “epoch of class formation” (410) mononorms split into the dual paths of law and morality. Law, he argues, evolved from those norms that were most beneficial to the interests of the upper classes. Furthermore, he suggests that class formation entailed the development of two separate kinds of morality, parallel to the asymmetrical valuation of different types of labor.

Pershits ends the article with a discussion of customary law. He is careful in his definition here, asserting that customary laws are neither norms nor simply unwritten laws, but rather “the sum total of late mononorms sanctioned by the early state” (412). He sees the establishment of customary law, then, as the transition between preclass and class society. For Pershits, it is only a very small step from the formation of class-based society to modern nations like England and, ostensibly, the Soviet Union.

The commentators mostly take issue with Pershits’s dialectical approach, particularly with regard to his assumptions about the evolution of societies. There is a suggestion from at least one commentator that Pershits’s scientific-Marxist approach is not science at all. There is also a good deal of criticism over his unfounded characterization of the nature of “primitive consciousness.” In the main, the commentators see Pershits’s views on primitive society as outdated. Some acknowledge the importance of his questions to anthropology in general, while others see it having little redeeming value.

The main thrust of Pershits’s reply is a defense of his dialectical-materialist approach. He insists on the importance of a philosophical component to scientific methodology and the fundamental distinction between Marxist and non-Marxist science. He also argues for the validity and usefulness of the distinction between preclass and class societies, as well as arguing over the specifics of the transition between the two. If the existence of a “transitional” group throws this distinction into question, he asks rhetorically, then “[a]re we justified in distinguishing, for instance, between the Mongoloid and Negroid races, if there are transitional racial groups such as Polynesian-Micronesian?” (734).

LEIF CAWLEY University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Pershits, A.I. The Primitive Norm and Its Evolution. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18(3):409-416.

Pershits’ article is based on a division between preclass (pre-state) societies and class (state) societies and a perception that class societies ascended from a “primitive” system of social norms to a state instituted system of law. He attempts to chart this evolution, from its origin in human herd instincts inherited from the distant past. In this, Pershits makes use of an “historical approach”. He first defines the concept of mononorms, which consist of a spectrum of social norms in “primitive” societies, ranging from legal norms to moral norms to manners, which, due to the mentioned lack of class, apply equally to everyone (excluding age, sex, and kinship divisions) in a “primitive” society. Group unity gave rise to mononorms as solidarity demanded minimization of strife, the norms were not recognized but carried out by imitation until fixed through social selection.

The author then discusses the modes of sanction in “primitive” societies in Australia and Papua, stating that societies at the same stage of development have similar scales of sanction. More advanced societies have more sophisticated sanctions. According to Pershits, primitive mononorms developed in parallel with their societies; however, novel sanctions must find their way into myth to be heeded, there is no such thing as “ the notorious ‘thinking savage’ as a lawmaker”(412). Law began to develop as class societies emerged, as class antagonism arose so did the state and law. Simultaneously, as mononorms disintegrated, morality arose, differing among social stratum. The author then discusses the role of writing in developing law, concluding that law can exist without written language. Customary law is seen as “the total of late mononorms, sanctioned by the early state”. Law emerges when legislative acts and legal precedent begin to dominate legal custom.

The comments generally focus on the lack of evidence for the leaps of logic which Pershits makes. and many comments also question the assumptions he begins with. The most scathing and pertinent comment, by Klaus-Friedrich Koch is short enough to stand for the others, which are more polite, though more detailed: “Pershits holds antiquated views of “primitive” or “preclass” society and uses haphazardly chosen ethnographic bits to illustrate a speculative and utterly useless model of customary law. There is nothing more to be said” (419).

A printed reply was not featured with this article.

RYAN YOUNG Okanagan University College (Diana E. French).

Pershits, A.I. The Primitive Norm and Its Evolution. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol.18(3):409-417.

Following a Marxist view based on the theory of social formation, placing great importance on the distinction between class and pre-class societies as well as their corresponding norms of social regulations. The aim of this article is to attempt to derive a more suitable definition in describing social norms as well as to examine how the norms of pre-class societies evolved into the “laws” and “morality” of class societies

He begins this process by pointing out the inadequacy of terms scholars have used in the past to describe social norms, such as the term “custom” which is defined as a regular and traditional practice and this does not leave room to include the evolution of social norms through innovation which is obviously present considering that primitive societies do in fact develop. He also points to the errors of certain norm classification system like: Lotman’s division into fear, operating in intergroup relations and shame, operating with in the group. The problem with this system is that in both the group and intergroup relations fear and shame are used as regulator in primitive societies. Drobnitskiy’s institutional and non-institutional system though more suitable than the early since one is able to separate law with intuitional and morality with non is still flawed because no destination is able to be made weather or not governing bodies were separate from the people in pre-class societies which this system implies. White’s ethics, rules of conduct common and expected to all of society and etiquette, rules of conduct regulating relationships between different members of society division falls short as well because it places greater importance on the regulations created by etiquette than that of ethics. The main argument that can be found against all three of these systems is their disregard for the differences between class and pre-class norms as social regulations.

As a solution to this problem, Pershits offers the term mononorms, as a way to describe the broader spectrum of social regulations that existed in primitive social groups. Mononorms formed in early human in three possible ways. The first hypothesis is Lorenz’s theory of ancestral animal herding instincts, which states that rules of conduct and regulation grew out of out of the need to say together in a “herd” this instinct was derived from people’s animal ancestors. The second hypothesis is development of food and sex prohibitions. And the third proposition is a combination of the two earlier stated; that though mononorms could biologically through herding instincts they were only able to be maintained under the conditions of a society. Pershits points out archeological evidence that supports the later of the three.

Mononorms over time evolved into two planes of meaning the religious and the traditional. These planes can be disintegrated by Pershits’ categories of “morality” and “law”. Morality can be looked at as religion or thought of as “customary laws” that is those regulations set by the people of that society. The category of “law” is created by the ruling class of a society as a way to institutionally regulate the society’s people and can be thought to reflect “traditional” values.

COMMENTS: Many scholars believed that his remarks on the subject are of great interest, but find flaw in his work. His work of mononorms is found to over simplify the socio-cultural entities of pre-class people. The process of norm evolution is not nearly as simple as he makes it out to be either, it is in fact entanglement of class and pre-class institutions through time that lead to a fully class system. Pershits’ article gives of the impression that people are mechanically inclined to follow the set regulations of their society and does not address the element of resistance that occurs with in societies as far as the actually rule or law of a society and the reality of how that rule is actually followed.

REPLY: The author had offered no reply to the reviews of the article at this time.

ANDREW H. KURTH University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Price, Barbara. J. Shifts in Production and Organization: A Cluster Interaction Model. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18 (2):209-231.

This paper demonstrates a shift in the type of production and organization. Price proposes that this model is relevant to nearly all pristine state formations. She goes on to describe how pristine state sequences have alternating periods of production and intensification, and that intensification primarily involves an increased investment in harnessing energy and in labour. Intensification can be determined by the gradual increase in population. She suggests that an indication of what they are doing can also be seen in the relative size and pattern of population distribution

The Mexican sequence is used to illustrate this model; in this are various forms of interactions such as trade, competition and warfare. She then moves on to the agricultural revolution and a description of types. Hunting and gathering systems, which are mostly marine-riparian lack significant seasonality in production. With this system substantial population growth is possible. She then describes a desert culture pattern, emphasizing seasonal cycles and an alternating availability of wild plants and game. This type is wide spread in the Mexican basins.

Agricultural techniques such as swidden systems and slash and burn are discussed in terms of labour demands and productivity. As is the impact and role of warfare and how its relationship with trade has a direct effect on the availability of basic resources. Irrigation agriculture was the product of a long period of intensification of production. The amount and timing of water was its most limiting factor. In this section. she suggests that her cluster interaction model is applicable to the evolution of irrigation. Price concludes that this model is not only applicable to specific problems, but that it is also useful for major organizational and production shifts.

Overall, the commentators seemed to support this article and offer suggestions and criticism where they could. They agreed with Prices’ idea of parallel development of irrigation and political centralization. The article was also applauded for making the Meso-American cultural history clearer by bringing it together in the same cultural context. Some of the concerns about this article were that it did not place enough emphasis on the interaction between clusters like nuclear and marginal areas. There was also some concern about the data used, and that it was lacking a description of the ecological relations that underlay social development. There were also several negative comments about the clarity of Price’s writing style.

Price thanked the respondents for their comments and suggestions. She agreed with some of the comments that she did not pay enough attention to certain aspects within the paper but that some of them were intentionally not within the scope. Some environmental factors would be impossible to detail as they relate to every known effect on human populations and land of socio-cultural integration.

FRASER BOULTON Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Scheff, Thomas J. The Distancing of Emotion in Ritual. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol. 18(3):483-505.

Thomas Scheff extends the definition of catharsis to explain ritual as a way to manage stress. He argues that stress is dissipated through the release of specific emotions. These emotions include grief, fear, embarrassment, and anger, all of which can be either underdistanced or overdistanced, creating distress. In an ideal situation, these emotions will be at the esthetic distance.

Scheff introduces his article with an overview of the positive, negative, and contradictory views of ritual in the social sciences at that time. Scheff argues that the distancing of emotion is the primary function of ritual. Ritual is a universal coping method for emotional distresses. Scheff implies that with his theory of emotional distancing he can merge the negative and positive attitudes that split anthropological views of the role of ritual, and the part it plays in a certain culture. He suggests that by either overdistancing or underdistancing of emotion in ritual, one causes misrepresentation of the ritual. When repressed emotions are accumulated, such as the reaction to a period of grief, other problems, like avoiding attachment with others, can occur. Scheff’s argument is reinforced through examples of both common and uncommon rituals. He explains that even the simple game of peek-a-boo can be seen as a way to learn to manage stress. Scheff’s goal is to prove that when emotions take place at the esthetic distance, or somewhere between the positive and negative views of ritual, stress is relieved. (word count : 241)

COMMENTS: While most commentators show interest in Scheff’s theory, the majority imply that his theory is out-dated and has little relevance to anthropological thought. Many feel that this article should not have been accepted in an anthropological journal. Other commentators feel that Scheff’s examples were poorly chosen and that he gives no real evidence for his results. While a few commentators suggest that Scheff’s article conveys a new view of ritual and its emotional outcome, the majority argue that his theory is oversimplified.

Commentators indicate that Scheff makes the common mistake of interpreting social organizations in terms of personal, individual actions, when the opposite is true. Many commentators dislike the examples of emotions Scheff uses, stating that he has oversimplified the emotions associated with ritual. Finally, the combination of re-vamping Freud’s catharsis theory, confusing word use and poor choice of examples, gives way to a multitude of comments that are critical of Scheff’s theory. (word count : 153)

REPLY: Scheff defends his article by expanding on the details that support his argument. He discusses the testability of his theory and describes, in more detail, his studies on distancing and emotion. He counters with the explanation that the four emotions of his focus are simply categories of emotional states. Other emotions can be placed within these categories depending on the degree to which they are felt. Scheff states that the true focus of his hypothesis is that the level of distancing establishes whether catharsis takes place, which then determines the psychological significance of ritual. He concludes that individual processes create social solidarity among groups of people. (word count : 106)

KIM GLIDDEN University of Wyoming (Dr. Sarah Strauss)

Scheff, Thomas, J. The Distancing of Emotion in Ritual. Current Anthropology September, 1977 Vol. 18(3): 483-505.

Rituals that have been in place as a means of therapeutic release are becoming decreasingly useful by socio-cultural constructs. Scheff argues that rituals were set in place to release psychological tension that builds up throughout the day. He states that through time there are fewer rituals that we practice everyday, which actually accomplish this goal. He believes that there are three elements that make a ritual a successful manager of stress. There first must be a need for discharge, and then there is a distancing device, and lastly the discharge of distress.

The author takes a psychological point of view in trying to solve an anthropological question. He uses catharsis, which was postulated by Freud and Breuer. In short, if distress is not dealt with in the appropriate manner it may cause neurosis. The memory would have to be retrieved through therapy in order for the patient to produce the behaviour that should have accompanied the distress. In doing so the patient would be cured. Scheff uses theatrics as a metaphor to explain the concept of catharsis in association with distancing techniques in relation to rituals. There are three basic forms of distancing. In under-distancing, people are drawn into the action and experience it as though it were happening to them, or referred to by Scheff as repressed emotion. Over-distancing is used when it does not evoke any emotion at all, or repression. Then there is a middle form (aesthetic distancing) where it evokes emotion but not enough for people to become besieged. This is referred to as a balancing of emotion where the person is both a participant and an observer at the same time. Scheff ties in these two components (distancing and catharsis) by stating that traditionally rituals use aesthetic distancing techniques to allow the person going through distress to be a participant and an observer at the same time.

Lastly, Scheff states that traditional rituals were designed to allow for a release of emotions through what was previously mentioned as catharsis. The purpose of rituals is becoming lost due to societal restrictions that are imposed on us at a very young age. Thus, as we get older, the therapeutic affects of rituals are no longer effective and emotional distress washes over causing neurosis.

To a degree, there were mixed reviews depending on the occupation of the commentator. There was a general consensus that the article lacked scientific refutability. There were no means of measuring any of the data that was presented, and if there was Scheff did not take the time to develop an empirical test. 2) The emotional responses depicted were few compared to the many that humans exhibit; as well the responses to emotion were subjective. 3) There was an oversimplification of data that inevitably led to assumptions concerning some of his data. Finally, Scheff’s review of the positive and negative aspects of rituals seemingly contradicts each other.

Scheff states in response to the comments that defining the degree of distancing occurs in response to the situation. The worse the response, the more under-distanced the person will be. Scheff also states that measurements of some of the data is in progress now and will be presented in future publications; as well there has been scientific studies regarding aesthetic distancing. He adds that emotions can be both learned responses through culture, and natural responses. For example, crying is a natural response while laughing from embarrassment could be learned. The reason why he only dealt with four different emotions was because he categorized certain emotions under one heading. Scheff proposes that catharsis had to be redefined because he wanted to pose a solution to a problem that has affected many disciplinary approaches and has been debated for many years. Lastly, he notes that most rituals did not produce catharsis and was not intending to prove the opposite.

KEVIN LOOK Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Scheff, Thomas J. The Distancing of Emotion in Ritual. Current Anthropologist September, 1977 Vol. 18 No. 3:483-504

Scheff focuses on rituals that cause a release of emotions such as anger, fear, and grief through reliving events in an emotionally distant way. There are three ways to distance onesself: over-distancing, esthetic distancing, and under-distancing. Over-distancing is associated with repressing the emotion to the point that it is not recognized as part of ones life. Under-distancing will cause a person to be completely immersed in the past to the point of not being able to separate it from the present. Esthetic distancing is where the person will relive the events but in a manner that does not overwhelm them. Esthetic distancing is the ideal because it allows a person to get rid of some of the distress by reliving and dealing with it yet still has strong contact with the present so if a memory becomes too stressful or cannot be taken all at once a person can withdraw from it. Scheff argues that many of our emotions are culturally trained to be over-distanced such as those associated with gender roles. The male role is expected to over-distance fear and grief, which the female role is expected to distance anger.
The author chooses to define ritual as anything that develops around a reoccurring source of pain. This includes pain from separation ranging from temporary farewells to death and transitions from one stage to another and its connected anxieties. Any method that allows people to both participate and observe in this stress is a ritual.
Scheff argues that over-distancing is the most commonly used type in modern western culture. Examples such as the decrease in sensitivity towards the loss of life, especially in mass media are given. He also argues that the need for ritual in modern society is less because daily life has few dangers such as attack from predators or risk of disease that would require ritual. Even in situations that one would suffer in such as funeral the emphasis is on hiding emotions rather than showing them.

COMMENTS: Several comments criticized Scheff as being too general and for not defining terms such as “discharge of emotion” well enough. One person asked why ritual needed a new definition and criticized the authors new definition. Questions on the emotions were brought up such as why only negative ones were mentioned and why include other forms of negative emotions that were not mentioned.

REPLY: The author admitted that his terminology may have been confusing and that he had lumped the other negative emotions in with the ones he mentioned. He also gave several new examples in an attempt to clarify previously stated ideas.

ANDREA SANFORD University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Schiffer, Michael B. and John H. House. Cultural Resource Management and Archaeological Research: The Cache Project. Current Anthropology March, 1977 Vol. 18(1):43-68.

Michael B. Schiffer and John H. House’s article represents an early critique of the scientific relevance of cultural resource management (CRM). At the time this article was written, CRM was just beginning to develop, following legislation such as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Schiffer and House make valid points about non-academic archaeology. First, they blame the low quality of archaeology conducted by many cultural resource management archaeologists on faulty assumptions and outdated methodology, and they propose goals for CRM programs. They offer their own work in the Cache Basin of northeastern Arkansas as an example of proper CRM. They use this example to illustrate the workability of their model for CRM, and to show the ability of random sampling to give accurate assessments of cultural resources given limited time and funding.

Overarchingly, Schiffer and House argue that cultural resource management has potential to contribute valuable insights to academic archaeology. In fact, they argue that “problem oriented research” (45) is essential to meeting even the non-academic goals of cultural resource management. This, they argue, is because ‘significance’ of archaeological remains cannot be established without a relationship between those remains and important research questions. They propose that “while all sites are significant, some are more so then others” (46). They list a number of contributing factors that may influence significance, including the ability of the remains to contribute to current theoretical and methodological issues. This illustrates the complexity of determining significance and the inadequacy of relying on a single individual to assess significance. They point out that significance may be assessed based on different criteria by different individuals. Schiffer and House suggest that assessments of significance are impossible without concrete research questions.

CRM archaeologists must formulate research questions given the resources to be managed. This is clearly illustrated in Shiffer and House’s inductively determined conclusions based on their Cache Basin research. These conclusions relate to a number of theoretical concerns, including lithic resource distribution as a reflector of mobility and trade patterns, site-use by Dalton peoples, and the rise of Mississippian culture.

Schiffer and House conclude by stating that CRM will inevitably contribute to the advancement of archaeological theory. They reiterate that CRM can be conducted with valid academic focuses that allow management archaeology to contribute substantially to our understanding of the past. Schiffer and House see that cultural resource management will continue to evolve, moving from mere salvage archaeology to meaningful scientific study.


Commentators on this article discuss a range of issues almost as broad as those covered by Schiffer and House. The majority of these comments applaud Schiffer and House’s recognition of the potential that CRM has, and most commentators express an interest in Schiffer and House’s methodology and the practical aspects of implementing responsible CRM projects. Michael Glassow and Rodolfo Raffino comment on the issue of significance, decrying Schiffer and House’s reliance on current research questions in assessing significance.


Schiffer and House respond to these critiques by saying that, “It is simply not realistic to hope that all sites can be preserved” (64). They also clarify several methodological issues regarding their own work, and list reference materials that would be appropriate for individuals interested in implementing their suggestions.

JOSHUA L. TATMAN University of Wyoming (Dr. Sarah Strauss)

Shweder, Richard A. Likeness and Likelihood in Everyday Thought: Magical Thinking in Judgments About Personality. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.98(2):637-658.

Richard A. Shweder explores the debate within anthropological theory concerning the existence and interpretation of magical thought. Shweder believes that magical thinking is a universal occurrence in the everyday lives of normal adults. For Shweder, magical thinking has two different parts. The first part relates to the idea of correlation. Shweder shows that correlation is a nonintuitive concept that expresses a comparison between two relationships. By saying that correlation is nonintuitive, Shweder shows that it is a difficult concept for most normal adults to grasp and is, therefore, absent from everyday thought. Magical thinking comes into play when resemblance becomes a substitute for correlation. Resemblance is an intuitive concept and is, therefore, more common in everyday thought. In other words, magical thinking exists because of the inability of normal adults to make correlations about their everyday experiences.

The second part of Shweder’s argument deals with the creation of resemblance and likeness amongst humans. Shweder states that personality psychologists have failed to find everyday personality traits in behavior. He goes on to say that personality traits have a low predictability and can be variable in their interpretation. These traits are also a determining factor of conduct and have certain symbolic meaning within the context of that conduct.

Shweder uses statistics from experimental and observational studies to support his arguments. He uses Smedslund’s study of Swedish nurses that involved finding a relationship between symptoms and disease. This showed that correlation is a nonintuitive concept. Shweder also discusses his study which asked American college students to place certain personality traits on a scale. This study showed an inability of normal adults to correlate information about personality. T. M. Newcomb’s study of boys at summer camp was an example of how interpretation of personality traits can be variable. Shweder included another study of his own done on American college students that used Newcomb’s data. This study reanalyzed Newcomb’s data by having the students make comparisons about the personality traits listed. This further showed the variability in interpretation. Shweder also included results of a study he did with personality traits in India. The India study was included to show that this occurs cross-culturally.


The comments about Shweder’s article were both positive and negative. Almost all agreed that it was an interesting subject that many have failed to address. However, there were many who believed that Shweder was making too many judgments and generalizations about adult human thought. He was also criticized for his use of experimental studies that provide unnatural data as well as his misuse of some terminology. Despite this criticism, Shweder was commended on his original way of looking into the difficult subject of human thought.


Shweder’s response begins by comparing himself to earlier theorists such as Levy-Bruhl, Frazer, and Tylor. He then refutes claims of overgeneralization by stating that his argument was not general, but restricted, due to the amount of data he had to work with and the amount of interpretation it allowed. His response to the claim that his data from experimental studies is speculative states that well-designed experimental studies hold merit and that the data taken from them can be useful. (524 words)

ERICA NUCKLES University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Shweder, Richard. Likeness and Likelihood in Everyday Thought: Magical Thinking in Judgments about Personality. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):637-655.

The author presents the theory magical thinking is a universal way for adults to draw relationships from their experiences and make symbolic and meaningful connections among objects and events. Magical thought has been a difficult interpretive problem for anthropological theory. Some scholars view magic as a symbolic attempt to influence uncontrollable events designed to arouse feeling, rather than make truth to what really goes with the experience. In this study, the author takes an alternative perspective. He examines the cognitive processing perspective on magical thinking by focusing on everyday personality judgments.

Shweder makes two main distinctions in human thought, intuitive and non-intuitive concepts. As soon as events can be linked together, magical thinking occurs; people substitute the intuitive concepts for the non-intuitive concepts. Difference studies were assessed which looked at how people correlated different events. It was found that “magical thinking is not equivalent to non-correllational thinking; rather, it is one type of non-correlational thinking” (639).

The study focuses on these major questions: What does the organization of symbolic systems reveal about the human mind? In what ways do the symbolic systems influence the intellectual process of those who use them? How are symbolic systems to be described? How do objects and events give rise to meaning? and, How do people label others?

In conclusion, the author points out that not all cognitive acts could be assessed. He found that intuitive understandings were usually unaffected by non-intuitive thought. He also discovered that magical thinking is not to be confused with propositions about the world. Finally, he found that despite our own scientific thinking, we (the western culture) are as interested in magic as anyone.


One commentator notes that the author made a valuable contribution in pointing out that we do not think as we think we think. Another states that he wrote an intelligent and brilliant paper. Another commentator even claimed that the author is quite intuitive and magical in his own thinking. There was however, some controversy about some of the conclusions that the author made. Several sources point out that his conclusions were based merely on verbal reports and judgments of what people believed to be the case rather on what people actually did. One commentator also points out that most anthropologists would agree with his claim about magic, but not so many would agree to the degree in which he believes in magic “we are as magic as anyone” (650).


In reply to the comments, the author says that he does not believe that Levy-Bruhl would have approved of his study, in contrast to an earlier comment that said he would have. Shweder goes on to state why he would not approve of his article. He then states how he came up with his hypotheses and gives further evidence as to why they are precise. Finally, he gives additional supporting evidence for his hypotheses to help convince the reader.

TRICIA VELTRI Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Weisner, Thomas S., and Gallimore, Ronald. My Brother’s Keeper: Child and Sibling caretaking. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2):169-190.


This article discusses the role of child and sibling caretakers in several different cultures. The main focus of the article is to point out shortcomings of ethnographic studies in the research of child caretaking. The authors feel that such a study is important and should be addressed more directly in cultural studies. They believe caretaking behaviors should be seen as an important part of anthropological discourse. Thomas Weisner and Ronald Gallimore set out to prove that sibling caretaking may add an additional and important class of variables to the current approach of cultural studies. Statistical data are used to show correlations and figures throughout the article.

Initially, the writers point out the lack of real, available data regarding child caretaking. By taking small bits of evidence from many different sources, such as Mead, Geertz, Whiting, and many others, Thomas and Gallimore are able to summarize the different kinds of possible child caretakers. Such caretakers may be male and female siblings, a mother’s younger sister, or a slightly older cousin of the child.

The essays then shifts to how these caretakers are able to successfully tend to younger children. The majority of caretakers imitate what they feel the mother would do during a situation. By imitating their mothers, these older children are able to cope with the needs of the child. These caretakers have to cater to the child, yet be able to properly chastise the child when needed. If the child caretaker makes a mistake, the caretaker will be reprimanded by the child’s mother. The essay also focuses on the correlations of numbers of children and amount of sibling care and the amount of happiness a mother has when more children are available to care for her young. This type of child caretaking is less apparent in industrialized countries, due to the differing lifestyles and needs of these families.

Lastly, the authors address variables that affect behavior types in these caretaking children. There are eight different variables, each of which is explained in depth with accompanying examples. The examples used come from many cultures in different parts of the world. The article then draws to a close.


Each commentator gives recommendations for the article, and points out shortcomings within the paper. The commentators all enjoyed the fact that this article focused on a much neglected subject, but each critic also had a number of points on how to make the essay more complete.

Points on improvement included recommendations of other books and publications which could have been used to create a stronger argument, and how to make the article less diffuse through tighter organization and more specific examples. Commentators also used space for comments as a way of drawing attention to related studies in progress, which could be refereed in future essays. Most of the comments are short, but this shortness does not affect the views and opinions that each commentator conveyed.


The reply by Weisner and Gallimore was an attempt to show appreciation for the comments that were made, while at the same time strengthening the article by answering the commentators’ questions. Commentator feedback is used by the authors to reinforce the data already presented in the original article. The authors address most parts of the article that received criticism, such as the lack of research on incest taboos among these cultures and exactly how complete this child caretaking is. The two writers also explain how available data in the essay could be used to draw conclusions to questions such as what other roles are filled in assistant caretaking, and how older children teach younger children to fill the role of caretaker.

JOEL HICKERSON University of Wyoming (Sarah Strauss)

Weisner, Thomas S. and Ronald Gallimore. My Brother’s Keeper: Child and Sibling Caretaking. Current Anthropology June, 1977 Vol.18(2):169-190.

This article evaluates the cross-cultural evidence for nonparental caretaking. The authors state that this occurs in most societies, but it has been overlooked because of the Western view of the mother as the primary caretaker. The paper focuses on the role of child caregivers, specifically older children who care for younger children, which takes place all over the world. The authors suggest that this sort of care giving is different from parental care giving, and has different effects on all the people involved.

The first section of the paper examines cross-cultural data on child caretaking. Most ethnographies focus on parental caretaking and there is little ethnographic evidence of child caretaking, although it is common. They say that psychological studies have also looked at child care giving, but not to a large extent. The authors point out that child care giving usually takes place with siblings within the household. They state it is often an imitation of parental care giving and that the sibling caretakers have to deal with pressures from those they care for as well as their parents within the home. The style of caretaking changes with regards to age, parental models and many other factors, and it is variable between cultures. In the next section of the article, Weisner and Gallimore discuss the antecedents of child caretaking. The availability of individuals to become caregivers is seen as very important, as well as family and household size. The occupational demands of the primary caregiver also influence the amount siblings care for one another. The interaction between the primary and child caregivers is also discussed in this section.

In the next section, the authors discuss eight possible correlates and consequences of children taking care of one another. Child care giving may influence the relationship between mother and child and possibly decrease child dependency on their mother. It is also seen as playing a role in a child’s progression through childhood stages, both as the giver and receiver of care. Child care giving may also affect the organization of playgroups and a child’s contacts with children outside their family. The assignment of care taking tasks to boys and girls enforces sexual expectations within society. The way children are cared for is also seen to influence personality development, attitudes and values. The authors also say cognitive style and development may be influenced by child caretaking, along with motivation, learning and classroom performance. In their concluding remarks, the authors emphasize the need for further studies in the area of child caretaking, using both psychological and anthropological methods.


The commentators seem to accept the views of the authors regarding the need for further research in this area. They suggest many additional hypotheses concerning child care giving that they feel should be studied in the future. An issue that is brought up by the commentators is that Weisner and Gallimore used very few studies to back up their arguments. They also have issues with some of the data used in the article. One commentator says that cross-cultural, intracultural and individual-level data were all used and that the article should have focused on only one of these. Another commentator thinks that a discussion of sexual initiation, incest taboos and psychodynamics is necessary because the majority of the child caregivers are girls.


The authors are pleased by the suggestions of further research hypotheses because one of their goals was to stimulate further discussion on the topic. The authors accept the criticism that they do not use enough studies to back up their argument by saying that it was because there are not very many studies available on the topic and they want to encourage more studies on child caretaking to take place. The authors response to the commentator who said they should have made a more specific argument and used more specific data, was that they intended to provide an overview of child care giving that includes all types of data and that future studies in the area should have a more specific focus. The authors reply to the commentator that felt they should discuss sexual issues and taboos was that this could be a very interesting study, but it is minor and was not necessary to deal with in this overview, but should be looked at in the future.

KARLA DOW Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Weisner, Thomas S. and Gallimore, Ronald. My Brother’s Keeper: Child and Sibling Caretaking. Current Anthropologist February, 1977 Vol. 18 No.2:169-190.

The authors argue that in many cultures sibling caretaking is a very important phenomenon. Children as young as four years old, but more often around the age of eight, have varying degrees of responsibility over their younger siblings. This often occurs when mothers have to work away from the home or have work that cannot be interrupted often by children. Availability of caretakers is also an important factor, as often older relatives were close to by in case something were to happen that the child doing the caretaking was not able to handle alone.
Most of the caretakers take their responsibility seriously. They are pushed at an early age to understand social rules for themselves and their siblings. They must also be able to interpret and respond to behavior from their younger siblings. In many cases the older children are expected to be more tolerant than even the parents may be and if there is a fight the parents tend to blame the elder sibling. This can lead to the caretaker being more interested in keeping the peace than teaching the younger siblings proper behaviors. This is not always the case though; in New Guinea the caretaker may be much harsher on their charges for “the pure joy of it”.
The authors found several interesting effects of sibling caretaking. Mothers with between 3-5 children were less satisfied than those with 5 or more. Those with a greater number of children had more helpers which reduced their duties. The children with multiple care takers also experienced less separation anxiety because they were attached to several caretakers. In societies where sibling caretaking is common, a child’s play group is often determined by their older sibling’s friends and they may not meet children outside of this social group. Sibling caretaking may also limit the amount of personality differences between siblings because the siblings tend to be closer in personality to each other than they are to the parents.

COMMENTS: Many comments agreed on the important, yet little studied, occurrence of sibling care taking and added data and ideas. Several argued that the article was too general or did not define variables such as age or what it meant to be a caretaker. One reviewer criticized the focus on data and statistics rather than cultural ideas. Several asked tangential questions related to sibling caretaking in a modern society and one person suggested it was fading out.

REPLY: The authors summarize and comment on the new data given in several of the replies. They defend their use of data and statistics as a useful tool. They comment on the questions asked and state that they did not believe sibling care taking was fading out.

ANDREA SANFORD University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)

Wolfe, Alvin W. The Supranational Organization of Production: An Evolutionary Perspective. Current Anthropology, 1977. Vol. 18: 615-635.

Alvin Wolfe addresses the need for the social sciences, anthropology included, develop new theories to interpret the effects of globalization and multinational capitalist organizations. Wolfe cites access to raw materials and other resources as primary reasons for corporations to expand abroad, to what he calls the “supranational” level.

Wolfe suggests a Stewardian cultural ecology-like approach, which he dubs “sociocultural evolutionism” (617). In this new theory he emphasizes that the multinational is not merely an independent institution ranked above the state. Ideally, this is a hierarchically ordered, holistic theory which focuses on economic systems.

Much of this article is dedicated to pointing out areas where current terminology fails. For Wolfe, current terminology such as land, labor, and capital are inadequate for describing the complex interactions of the “supranational” level of organization. Thusly, he calls for increased categorization to describe the various aspects of modern production and control of resources. Attempts are then made to improve upon perceived problem areas. For example, Wolfe reorganizes B. F. Meeker’s work (1971) into a minimum of two “decision rules” for modeling transactional systems. Maximization is the negotiation tactic that corporations or individuals use to receive as much as possible while giving as little as possible. His second rule, “antiminimization,” is a rephrasing of the term reciprocity. Antiminimization, on the multinational level, occurs when a corporation gives a loan to one of it’s subsidiaries which gives a loan to one of it’s subsidiaries, etc, at a lower than market rate. According to Wolfe, governments are often actors in this antiminimization process.


Most of the commentators agree with the principal of the article; there is a need in anthropology to address the effects of corporatization and globalization. Most also agree that Wolfe’s explanation of his new theory is inadequate. Nowhere does he provide a model or an example of sociocultural evolutionism in practice. Bernard Magubane and Jane Alison Weiss and Howard Aldrich accuse Wolfe of misuse and oversimplification of Steward. Several commentators (Cyril Belshaw, Chet Lancaster, William Stein, and Malcolm Webb) point out the total lack of historic consideration on Wolfe’s part. Jay O’Brien notes that, contrary to the title, Wolfe ignores the production process itself.


Wolfe sees two main misunderstandings of his work. He reminds us that the article is about the multinational corporation as an institution of its own. Wolfe also perceives the commentators’ responses as accusing him of defending “neocolonial exploitation.”

He also cites a letter written to him by Julian Steward in 1962 telling Wolfe how he approved of his use of cultural ecology. Wolfe reminds us to be open-minded in considering new theory.

JOE CHESHIER University of Wyoming (Dr. Sarah Strauss)

Wolfe, Alvin W. The Supranational Organization of Production: An Evolutionary Perspective. Current Anthropology December, 1977 Vol.18(4):615-634.

Wolfe addresses the issue of international trade and the growth it experienced over a twenty year period among industrialized countries. The overall focus was the complexity of patterns and events termed “internationalization of production” accompanied by a new economic unit the “multinational enterprise”. The primary argument made by the author is the question of whether control or power is located within corporations, and that the nation state is inadequate. Suggested is that each plays a role in a much wider system and production under these new models become organized on a world scale. The system he sees emerging is one in which industry becomes organized into a social system of overlapped groups rather than organization based on a centralized administration and bureaucracy. Under such a system the author argues that nationality is no longer an issue as corporations are owned and operated by many diverse people and it is this integration which overrides both international and political ties, this he calls the “supranational”. To better understand the supranational theoretically it is suggested that a holistic approach is required but was not recognized in previous studies. Wolfe proposes Steward’s cultural ecology approach as having the most adequate frame of reference, noting that Steward’s theory sees the family or band as not disappearing but rather as specializing and modifying with the appearance of a more complex system of organization. Such a system is composed of numerous parts which themselves become sub-systems which are interdependent.

The author proceeds in discussing a new organization in production in which he states, as socio-cultural systems change in response to increased levels of integration changes in the organization of production through modification occur. He suggests corporations have come to form the status of a social unit functioning within several stages of the system. The article concludes with a discussion on mechanisms of control within the supranational system, stating there are marked differences between industries in relation to modes of control and that at higher levels hierarchy dissipates in exchange for an overlapping model, a form of evolution.


Comments on the article revealed a relatively positive response, acknowledging the importance of the subject of anthropology. Wolfe is applauded for his pioneer venture into an area of analysis on multinational corporations and for bringing the subject to the forefront gaining the attention of anthropologists. Opposition to the article is for the most part a theoretical one, in particular, his use of Steward’s concept of the levels of integration. This is said to suggest Wolfe’s failure to recognize contradictions between Steward and the concept of segmentary lineage. In contrast it is also suggested that he could have taken better advantage of Steward’s theory using it to better his arguments through including the idea of the culture core.


Wolfe’s reply appears more as a defense to what he sees as a misunderstanding of the entire subject of his article, than it does to recognize positive feedback. He does however accept some criticisms acknowledging shortcomings on his part. The suggestion, however, of a failed recognition of contradictions between the supranational model and the concept of segmentary lineage, Wolfe opposes, taking considerable time to note that his interests were not referring to the model of segmentary lineage but that he was really referring to the non-existence of a centralized government. In conclusion, he points to a letter written by Steward to him expressing his correct application of Steward’s concept of levels of integration and for moving onward by relating it to evolution.

CHARLENE HAYNES Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)

Wurm, S.A. and C.F. Hockett. Review: Lexical Reconstruction: The Case of the Proto-Athapaskan Kinship System. Current Anthropology, March 1977 Vol.18(1): 82-91.

This paper consists of a review and a critique of a book by Dyen and Aberle written in 1974. Wurm gives a brief overview of the book. He feels that the book is very technically complex and detailed as it is discussion lexical reconstruction of proto-Athapaskan. The reconstruction was used to make connections between cultural and social anthropology and linguistics. By using kinship terminology that is used today by the Athapaskan languages, Dyen and Aberle were able to reconstruct kinship terminology of proto-Athapaskan. The book discusses the methods of previous scholars and the method of the authors as well, and how they differ from each other. Research carried out by Hoijer in 1956 is used rather than collecting data on kinship terms and meanings themselves. Wurm points out the authors’ use of rigour helps in their findings. Their findings and implications are particularly detailed in the book and the importance of using statistics is emphasized. By using statistics, experience, and intuition, the authors interpreted the terminology to social correlates.

Wurm did not write a critique on this book, and instead briefly summarized a lengthy work written by colleagues. Subsequently, Wurm comments that the authors deserve credit for their hard work as it has implications on a wider scale of anthropology in general.

Hockett wrote a lengthy and in depth critique of Dyen and Aberle’s book. The fact that it was written by a linguist and someone who was an Athapaskanist, rather than someone who was both, weakens their argument. These authors tried to discover social history by using linguistic data which largely came from work previously done by Hoijer. Hoijer was both a linguist and an Athapaskanist, which according to Hockett, was ideal. Although he felt that the work in the book was poor, it is still an important effort. He comments on issues that he thought were important and critiques it or attempts to clarify it.

Hockett created a summary of the reconstructed terms because there was no neat summary in the book. By using a statistical survey as well as experience and intuition the authors were able to make inferences from their data about kinship terminology and it’s relationship to kinship systems on the proto-Athapaskan society. They were also able to look at intermediate societies. Hockett emphasizes the importance of accurate phylogenetic grouping of the Athapaskan daughter languages. Although he feels that Dyen and Aberle’s grouping is incorrect, it does not mar their results. There is insufficient data on Athapaskan, and for this reason, six or seven of Dyen and Aberle’s reconstructions were unreliable. Dyen and Aberle’s methodology was written in a confusing manner, but it does sound valuable. However, it must be tested on another language.

Hockett also discusses whether or not the authors’ method is correct. Hockett emphasizes that just because it is simple, does not make it right. Dyen and Aberle must recognize the importance of irreversibility and the possibility that another method may be needed to see proto-Athapaskan social structure.

SANDRA FOX Okanagan University College (Diana E. French)