Tags: Adolf Bastian, Alexander Carr-Saunders, Alfred Espinas, Alfred Russell Wallace, Clark Wissler, Emile Durkheim, Franz Boas, Friedrich Ratzel, Henry Buckle, Herbert Spencer, Jack Goody, John William Draper, Joseph LeConte, Nick Jardine, Otis Mason
add a comment
Otis Mason (April 10, 1838 – November 5, 1908) was at the turn of the century one of the premier theorists of primitive evolution. He was a curator at the Smithsonian Institution for much of his career. Anthropologists remember him chiefly for his use of the “culture area concept” and for his contribution to “diffusionist studies.” A “culture area” is a “region of relative environmental and cultural uniformity, characterized by societies with significant similarities in mode of adaptation and social structure.”
Diffusionism, as argued by the American anthropologist Clark Wissler, contended that cultural traits (gift-giving, technology, language, etc) moved from a given center, which implied that the “center of the trait distribution is also its earliest occurrence.” Wissler contended that cultural areas and geographic traits were “broadly congruent, implying a mild environmental determinism” (Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. Alan J. Barnard, Jonathan Spencer, 61-62.)*
Modernity, the Cold War, and New Whig Histories of Ideas, Pt. 2 October 21, 2012Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
Tags: B. F. Skinner, Daniel Bell, Edmund Burke, Franz Boas, Jamie Cohen-Cole, John von Neumann, Karl Popper, Max Weber, Michel Foucault, Oskar Morgenstern, Raymond Aron, Richard Hofstadter, Talcott Parsons
add a comment
This post is an interlude in my look at Cold War Social Science. It paves the way for further discussion of that book, but contains no reference to its contents.
A new whig historiography of the social sciences, which I began to describe in part 1, posits a crucial role for intellectual figures’ ideas in history. These ideas need not be the source of the broader (non-intellectualized) ideas that drive social and political trends. Intellectuals’ ideas do, however, at least have the power to reinforce such trends by helping to prevent alternative ideas from instigating change. Thus, in this historiography, past intellectuals’ ideas tend to be illiberal ideas.
The historiography is whiggish rather than anti-intellectual in that it is constructed from the narratives of intellectuals who purport to represent the advent of a genuinely liberating intellectual movement. To understand the narrative features of this historiography, it is important to understand how it retains elements of narratives generated by a long line of purportedly liberating intellectual movements, and how it claims to diverge from them.
Modernity, the Cold War, and New Whig Histories of Ideas, Pt. 1 September 22, 2012Posted by Will Thomas in EWP Book Club, History of the Human Sciences.
Tags: Charles Darwin, Dorothy Ross, Ellen Semple, Ellsworth Huntington, Franz Boas, Herbert Butterfield, Herbert Spencer, Howard Brick, John Stuart Mill, Talcott Parsons, Ted Porter, William James
This post continues our examination of Cold War Social Science, edited by Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens.
One issue to look out for when addressing the history of the social sciences — and intellectual history more generally — is that scholars are apt to see themselves as in dialogue with the events about which they are writing. As with scientists writing about their own disciplinary past, there is a felt need either to credit the past as prologue, or to distance oneself from the folly of one’s predecessors. Such, of course, are the roots of whig history.
The implicit aim of a new whig history, which shapes much intellectual and social science historiography is, in broad strokes, to explain how anthropologists and their intellectual allies bested academic competitors, and can now lead society away from a myopic modernism toward a more harmonious, genuinely cosmopolitan future.
This narrative is fairly similar to the original Whig narrative diagnosed by Herbert Butterfield, which took history to progress away from authoritarianism to political, economic, and religious liberalism. However, the whiggishness of the present narrative can be difficult to acknowledge, because the phenomenon of whig history is actually incorporated within the narrative as an intellectual pathology arising from the same teleological modernism being cast as outdated. It is counterintuitive that the narrative could be whiggish, because whiggism is a declared enemy of the narrative.
The Weirdest Guest — William Z. Ripley: Economist, Financial Historian, and Racial Theorist September 26, 2011Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of Economic Thought, History of the Human Sciences.
Tags: Carl Ritter, Earnest Albert Hooton, Franz Boas, Friedrich Ratzel, Georg Hansen, Joseph Deniker, Lothrop Stoddard, Max Nordau, Otto Ammon, Pitirim A. Sorokin, R.R. Marett, Talcott Parsons, William Z. Ripley
1 comment so far
William Ripley’s (October 13, 1867 – August 16, 1941) long career as a writer, public servant, and academician presents nightmarish problems of reconstruction for the historian. Ripley, at one time vice president of the American Economic Association, was an expert on railroads and trusts, a competent historian of the financial history of colonial Virginia, an astute observer on the labor problem in both Europe and America, and, with the publication of the Races of Europe (1899), one of the preeminent sociologists of his day.
The longevity of Ripley’s influence poses problems for the scope of the academical truism of the “revolution” brought about by Boas’ cultural relativism, as well as the intriguing connections between the Oxford School of Anthropology and American racial theory. Such was the enduring reputation of Ripley’s work that it was revised in 1946 by Carlton Coon, an important twentieth century physical anthropologist who taught at Harvard. Coon’s mentor, Earnest Albert Hooton, a student of R. R. Marett, was a nasty piece of work, producing works in the same mental universe as Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920). (more…)
The Nineteenth Century Problem August 15, 2011Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of Economic Thought, History of the Human Sciences.
Tags: Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, Alfred Marshall, Archibald Alison, Arnold Guyot, Arthur de Gobineau, E.B. Tylor, Emile Durkheim, Franz Boas, Fustel de Coulanges, Hans Kohn, Henry Buckle, Hippolyte Taine, Jerry Muller, John Maynard Keynes, John Ruskin, Joseph Denniker, Karl Marx, Ludwig von Mises, Martin Heidegger, Matthew Arnold, Max Weber, Mosei Ostrogorski, Philip Mirowski, R.R. Marett, W.E.H. Lecky, Walter Bagehot
add a comment
The universal historian Henry T. Buckle (1821-1862) was last subject of a serious scholarly monograph in 1958. This is the fate of any number of nineteenth-century intellectuals. The first reason for the disappearance of these writers has been the inability to connect them to the catastrophic events of the twentieth century: the World Wars, National Socialism, the deradicalization of the European right after Nuremberg, the flight of the Marxist intellectuals, and so on. Second, the nineteenth century has been the province of sociologists and literary scholars. Such attention continues to be selective, judging from the ceaseless publications on the canonical sociologists: springtime for Weber, and winter for Gobineau and Bagehot.
Third, ignoring the nineteenth century allows anthropologists to get on with their own work. Fourth, and finally, while some nineteenth century economists get attention — Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) has been accumulating more slim volumes as the months go by — the impression I get from some not so cursory reading of the literature is that the with the exception of the proponents of “evolutionary” and “heterodox” economics, philosophers of economics, and Philip Mirowski, it’s Smith, Marx, Keynes, Hayek, Mises, or monograph wilderness. (more…)
Systems-Thinking and Robert Redfield November 9, 2010Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of the Human Sciences.
Tags: Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, Edward Sapir, Emile Durkheim, Ferdinand Tönnies, Franz Boas, Georg Simmel, Hebert Spencer, Max Weber, Montesquieu, Oswald Spengler, Robert Park, Robert Redfield, Victor Turner, Wilhelm Windelband
add a comment
Robert Redfield (1897-1958) earned his degree in sociology and anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1920. More than any anthropologist of his generation, argues Clifford Wilcox, Redfield adopted a “pronounced sociological approach to anthropology.” According to Wilcox, two broad intellectual currents influenced Redfield’s development: “the deep-seated critique of civilization that emerged among European and American intellectuals following World War I,” and “his father-in-law, University of Chicago sociologist Robert E. Park ” (Social Anthropology, xiv.)
In contrast to the assertive Victorian belief in progress, in the period following the First World War, intellectuals began to “question the nature not only of Western civilization, but of civilization itself, particularly the equation of civilization with progress.” Among those who penned withering critiques of civilization were Oswald Spengler and Edward Sapir. (more…)
Tags: Carl Mitcham, Franz Boas, Jacques Ellul, Jan Patočka, Leslie White, Lewis Mumford, Martin Heidegger
For the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, the sum of technological accomplishments in contemporary civilization formed the “Technique,” which was the “new and specific milieu in which man is required to exist” and which replaced “nature.” This milieu was artificial, autonomous, self-determining, not directed towards any specific end but only established through specific means, and interconnected to such a degree that all of its elements are impervious to analysis by its constituent parts ( In Philosophy and Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham, Robert Mackey, 86.)
Technology, according to Ellul, had become the all-pervasive material reality and rationality which defined the superstructure of contemporary society. Culture or politics, according to Ellul, does not determine the growth and development of technology. Rather, it is technology or technique which determines the culture or political life of a society. Nor was the understanding of technology as autonomous rationality a concern of French philosophers. German philosophers were as concerned with interaction of technology and human freedom and were as anxious to establish its roots in the philosophic and scientific thinking of the West.
Human Geography and Environmental Determinism: The Arguments of Ellsworth Huntington and Ellen Semple September 17, 2010Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of the Human Sciences.
Tags: Aleš Hrdlička, Carleton S. Coon, Ellen Semple, Ellsworth Huntington, Franz Boas, Friedrich Ratzel, Herbert Spencer, Josiah Nott, Samuel Morton
In the literature detailing the foundation of the discipline of human geography, it is widely argued that the opening decades of the 20th century saw this developing enterprise in the throes of “environmental determinism.”
Such determinism, furthermore, developed a series of propositions which defended racial superiority through a utilization of the guise of the objective, scientific geographer. Thus, David Livingston, in his The Geographical Tradition (1993,)concludes that Huntington, in his Character of the Races (1924) conjoined “ethnic constitution” to “climactic circumstance,” which argued that “racial character was spatially referenced and could thus be presented in cartographic form.” This “cartographic enterprise” in which the distributions of genius, health, and civilization were conveniently tied to the percepts of “cultural imperialism,” exactly those eschewed by Franz Boas. In Huntington’s scheme, climate influenced health and energy, which in turn influenced civilization (225-6.) Mark Blacksell in his Political Geography (2005,) notes that, “For a time in North America, in the first half of the twentieth century, environmental determinism held greater sway, largely through the writings of Ellen Semple and Ellsworth Huntington, but its intellectual dominance there was short-lived, not least because of the racist conclusions the philosophy frequently spawned (140.)
Tags: EWP Primer, Franz Boas, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl
add a comment
Lucien Lévy-Bruhl was born in 1857 in Paris. In 1876, he entered the Ecole Normale Superieure, specializing in philosophy. Lévy-Bruhl taught at secondary schools until 1895. Obtaining his doctorate in 1884, from 1886 onwards he lectured at Ecole Libre des Sciences, and from 1895 onwards, at Ecole Normale and the Sorbonne. At the Sorbonne, in 1904, Lévy-Bruhl became professor of philosophy. In 1917, Lévy-Bruhl became the editor of Revue Philosophique and in 1925 founded the Institut d’Ethnologie, together with Paul Rivet and Marcel Mauss. In 1927, he retired from the Institute as well as the Sorbonne. He was a visiting professor at Harvard from 1919 to 1920. Levy-Bruhl died in Paris in 1939.
Lévy-Bruhl considered the history of French philosophy, from Descartes to the 1890s, to demonstrate specific features connected to the French national character and intellectual life. For Lévy-Bruhl, it was of utmost significance that many French philosophers began their studies in either mathematics or the natural sciences. Voltaire “became the herald of Newton” in France, while Condillac wrote on the language of the calculus. “It seems allowable to infer,” Lévy-Bruhl concluded, “not that French philosophy was based upon mathematics, but that there has been in France a close affinity between the mathematical and the philosophical spirit” (History of modern philosophy in France, 470.)
Due to the legacy of Descartes as well as mathematics, philosophers “took it for granted that among the various ways of representing reality, there is one which is adequate and recognizable on account of its clearness and sufficient evidence” (ibid.) The connection of French philosophy to mathematics explained why French philosophers “have nearly always taken care to show that their doctrines were in perfect accord with common sense” and that method “was a mere application of the rules of common sense” (474,475.)
Consistent with Lévy-Bruhl’s coupling of French philosophy with the rational and the scientific was his privileging of the Cartesian tradition over that exemplified by de Maistre. Lévy-Bruhl’s association of French philosophy with a particular kind of system and a particular kind of intellectual work forced him to gloss over some of the more extravagant features of the French socialists and Utopians, such as Saint-Simon and Fourier, as well as the more extreme ideologues of the French Revolution. For Lévy-Bruhl, the history of “philosophy” was the steady growth of reason itself. Any derivation from such a growth was explicable by either a falling away from tradition or to a concern for justice which obviated reason. (more…)