A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June But to Kroeber, the superorganic was actually what made anthropology a science —with its subject matter being the universals and regularities of human. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century.

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The links are symbolic, not genetic as in biological systems. When indigenous groups 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.

Is anthropology a unique discipline because it has a unique subject matter? Do not think of a dog as a carbon atom or a hydrocarbon molecule. Predictably, Kroeber argues that organic racial difference cannot affect the growth of civilization.

Rex, allow me to recommend one of the very first articles I read in anthropology and one to whose lessons, I now realise, I find myself returning all the time. There is a parallel, therefore, in the relations between the inorganic and the organic, as between the organic and the superorganic. I have cut it down to just under 8, With regard to isolated peoples, each South American country has its own unique and varied history with regards to indigenous peoples and their rights, and these varied historical policies directly affect their approach to the specific case of isolated peoples.

On the contrary DJ — this was designed to introduce you to the anthropology you always wanted to do but never knew existed!

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What, then, is his argument? Rather, culture operates on its own level of determination. Why not prefer a biological reduction of human action?


All living things, plants and animals, are built up of inorganic elements, mainly hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, plus some trace elements. For recently contacted peoples, FUNAI tries to do as much as possible to convince them to continue living as they did prior to contact. Kroeber begins the essay by asking the question: Do not anthropomorphise culture. A living entity transcends its inorganic parts.

Human beings are animals, and as such are organic systems. How, then, could culture have originated if it is such a unique phenomena? Similarly, do not think of a community, an institution, a society as a human being.

The arrangement makes them alive. We can call this the lowest level of complexity. In it, I will present a series of open access, curated texts from the history of anthropological theory. Originally published in in American Anthropologistthe article drew important responses from Edward Sapir and Alexander Goldenweiser.

Culture as the superorganic

If other minds want to publish in the series, then they can do so too — who knows what projects they may want to cook up…. What articles come to mind? There are no superior races. If we start tue the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life.

It is just easier to access and, frankly, cries out for an editor more. This position anticipates current work on culture as an emergent phenomena. But in doing so, he argues, we miss the cultural dimension of conduct that makes human lives so unique. One quick note, folks: I want to give my students early 20th Century essays by Anthros, on the value of superortanic history as indigenous interpretation of their past.

If a peoples e. The superorgqnic is clearly written and structured, but there is little explicit signposting. But HAU may beat me to it.

But if the organic causes the mental, the mental does not, then, cause the cultural. Culture and society comprise the third level.


Since you know well the Lowie collection at Berkeley, are supeerorganic any texts that might be available online? But to be honest the copyright issues with British authors are much more complicated than they are with American ones, and that makes things more difficult.

Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, and Prehistory.

“The Superorganic,” or Kroeber’s hidden agenda.

In future editions these may be corrected. At the same time, Kroeber argues, art and literature conveys truths that are enduring, but which are aesthetic and not scientific.

And yet it is little read today. Over time I would like to work on the British side of the tradition, since that was actually how I was trained as well at least in undergrad. So hard to find good materials that draw students into particular debates or key ideas. I will keep going until I complete a free anthology suitable superorgznic classroom use, or until I get bored.

There may be typos or other errors in the manuscript.

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

Or does anthropology have a unique method? The socio-cultural level, culture or society, therefore is carried by humans and transcends humans.

Please feel free to share it widely, including dumping it in whatever archive works for you. It may have a life of its own, but its life more resembles an amoeba than a human. Thanks for your comment and I hope to continue this discussion rkoeber you and others, Glenn.