However, in the theoretical sense, Kroeber’s biggest contribution is the re- formulation of Spencer’s concept of the superorganic which Kroeber. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century. A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June

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Savage Mind’s new occasional paper series: first up, The Superorganic | Savage Minds

Since language is a cultural phenomenon, similar units should be discoverable in other aspects of culture. American Anthropological Association, Memoirs 2: Knowing the dynamics of how carbon atoms operate, or that combining hydrogen and oxygen can result in a rapid combustion if not an explosion, does not explain how the tree works, with its leaves converting sunlight into energy to change water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon, channels to transfer sap from leaves to root, and so on.

When indigenous superoganico make clear efforts to avoid contact, it seems perfectly justifiable, indeed necessary, for governments and indigenous rights organizations to do all they can to respect this choice.

Retrieved December 31, from Encyclopedia. But not all things that are similar are necessarily borrowed, and in his Anthropology Kroeber characteristically opened his chapter on diffusion with a discussion of the couvade, a set of similar behavioral restrictions placed upon the father at the birth of a child, found in Europe among kroebe Basques and in Brazil among some Indians. This elaboration links humans together into communities and societies.

Kroeber, Alfred L.

The Mashco-Piro superorganioc the dilemmas of isolation and contact Cantor and Smith: If you analyse all those parts, in themselves, or even as a collection, they superoryanico not living. He did not, however, teach ethnographic methodology to his students as, indeed, he had never taught archeological methodology. Kroeber, working in part with graduate students, analyzed and published articles on the Uhle collections, refining and extending the Uhle chronology.

Although they spoke English as fluently as German, German was the language of the home. The concept has been attacked as mystical and as sheer reification because it fails to predict variations in individual behavior and because it is deterministic.



Humans have thoughts and behaviour. They are rarely presented as theory in the grand style, but rather as interesting hypotheses. A large part of the surviving cultures of the western United States were resurveyed by means of standard trait lists, and not only presences but also absences were recorded, in order to permit statistical measures of relationship between groups. They behave, however, in concert with each other, as a system external to individuals —— society.

It was the very precise methodology of linguistics that interested him, and he speculated upon ways of developing similar techniques in ethnology. The links are symbolic, not genetic as in biological systems.

Culture as the superorganic

Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, and Prehistory. He used it most commonly in relation to aesthetic productions, and when he occasionally extended it to other human activities he seems to have meant a distinctive mode of expression or action.

In the growing literature on the Hokan, Penutian, and Athapascan language families his work will continue to be basic. And frankly, once must already know what is in it in suerorganico to know it is worth finding in the first place.

The regard in which Kroeber was held and the reasons for his eminence rest on several characteristics. I hope that this will become one of a series of papers which present early anthropological theory in a form that is accessible to everyone.

Do not anthropomorphise culture. The culture element distribution lists are heaviest on material culture and lightest on social organization, where at the time the identification of units was less advanced. Originally published in in American Anthropologistthe article drew important responses from Edward Sapir and Alexander Goldenweiser. Such measures of relationship could also be used, in his view, to establish historical depth, both for relationships and for traits or trait complexes.

By cleaning and curating a selection of open access, I hope to make open access resources better known and to raise superroganico of the actual history of anthropological theory. siperorganico

Most critics of the superorganic, said Kaplan, have in mind psychological questions, although psychological theories cannot explain most cultural phenomena. Kroeber suggested that the appearance of these geniuses is the result of the emergence of new patterns, their exploitation until possibilities have been exhausted, and their subsequent decline and disintegration until some productive new pattern is formed either in the same or some other area.


Hence the explanation of culture and its processes in his Anthropology is almost entirely historical. On the personal level he was a man of great breadth of interests and a deep concern with what other people thought or were doing. In future editions these may be corrected. Yet his emphasis on multiple causation and the importance of historical and linguistic variables may yet prove a way out of the blind alleys encountered in the closed and static systems of functionalism and structuralism.

Whatever he did outside the field of ethnology was either the product of an incidental if acute perception of problems or was ultimately related to his krowber with culture. He explained the appearance and recognition of genius and the flourishing of civilizations in cultural terms. Pages 66—78 in Alfred L. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol.

The second level of complexity is composed of living things. Many of the problems he struggled with, even though far from solved, are no longer fashionable. This curiosity repeatedly led him to enter a kroeebr field, topic, or problem on supedorganico little had been written or which lacked systematization. But in doing so, he argues, we miss the cultural dimension of conduct that makes human lives so unique. Indeed, some of his own important contributions in social organization are essentially attempts at isolating items of culture, and he published several important studies in kinship kroener contradict his own position.

Those are carried by individuals. Field workers found the trait-list approach confining, and at least part of the ethnographic data they collected turned out to be unsuitable for tabular listing.