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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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People could disagree with what Kroeber did and said but they could not ignore it. A botanist will not infer the relative age of pines and grasses from their distribution; the anthropologist must not compare textile arts with a religious cult.

Savage Minds

Gibson and John H. Those are carried by individuals. Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics, This elaboration links humans together into communities and societies. They behave, however, in concert superorgamico each other, as a system external to individuals —— society. Similarly, the dog, if seen as a biological system, operates at a higher complexity than the inorganic elements which comprise it.

His most extensive reporting on a single tribe is perhaps his early work on the Arapaho; his several publications deal with decorative symbolismceremonial organization and religion —and tales and language b. As a result, many of the reports contain extensive ethnographic footnotes or appendices.

However, Kroeber was well aware that even though a high degree of objectivity might be reached in mapping the geographical clusterings of culture traits culture areas kroebee, historical inferences based on this classification, especially when blurred by diffusion, are less reliable.

Kroeber also explored statistical approaches with Charles D. His statistical approach set in motion a still expanding use of statistics in archeology. In part this was because he perceived no significant historical depth in the archeological record.


These themes dominated his more important courses as well as several of his supeorrganico monographs.

Culture as the superorganic

The original essay is around 19, words. Bamberger not only gave Kroeber a lively appreciation of ancient Greece but also aroused in him an avid interest in natural history.

Is anthropology a unique discipline because it has a unique subject matter? Botany becomes a specific kind of window onto landscape and the historical and mythical past.

Most critics of the superorganic, said Kaplan, have in superorgqnico psychological questions, although psychological theories cannot explain most cultural phenomena. The only book he reviewed in this field was Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture Pages 57—62 in Alfred L.

And frankly, once must already know what is in supperorganico in order to know it is worth finding in the first place. In any case, his publications appeared over a period of sixty years, and he rarely bothered to note changes in his views or to organize his developing theoretical views into an overarching, coherent, or consistent design.

Both Darwin and Wallace imagined evolution, and neither would have been accepted if society was not ready for the idea. To this task Kroeber devoted part of his energies, particularly in his earlier years. He played an important role krosber organizing the International Symposium on Anthropology and he organized the Conference on Anthropological Horizons, both sponsored by the Wenner—Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. When he first visited California wuperorganicothe California Indians were little known and of little interest to anthropologists.

If we start with the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life. To this development Kroeber contributed greatly. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia.

Dear Robin, Thanks for writing. Students in ethnology might be advised to take plenty of paper and pencils or not to become involved with reservation factions. Bamberger, first principal of the Ethical Culture School. Modern kinship studies have gone beyond Kroeber and in different directions, but the questions he raises are still significant and partly unanswered [ see Culture ; Kinship]. Similarly, do not think of a community, an institution, a society as a human being. If you separate the dog or tree into its separate elements, it dies.


But if the organic causes the mental, the mental does not, then, cause the cultural. Kroeber viewed himself primarily as an ethnographer and ethnologist. Most of his some seventy papers on California ethnography deal with ethnological problems, utilizing his ethnographic data.

This controversy has been reviewed recently by David Kaplanwho has argued forcefully in favor of the Superorganic by moving the discussion from the ontological to the methodological arena. In The Nature of Culture he included an exchange of views with A. Moreover, he rarely attempted to defend his theoretical views; when he encountered opposition to them, his tendency was to seek to reconcile divergent views or to let the future decide who was right.

In both anthropology and biology geographical continuity of distribution strengthens the case for diffusion, and their age—area interpretations are subject to restraints.

Detailed structural similarities do strengthen the case for borrowing, but the principle of limited possibilities must be borne in mind.

But HAU may beat me to it. This preoccupation was reinforced by, but antedated, the development of such basic units sjperorganico phonemes and morphemes in linguistics. Kroeber begins the essay by asking the question: Why not prefer a biological reduction of human action?

The Science of Cultural Anthropology.