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Robert Ranulph Marett, Eugenics, and the Progress of Prehistoric Man September 10, 2011

Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of the Human Sciences.
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R. R. Marett’s account of the progress of prehistoric man in Progress and History (1916), edited by Francis Sydney Marvin, had the  object of assuring his audience that no matter how savage individuals were in the past they still grew, through gradual biological adaptation and an increasing awareness of divinity, into full grown Englishmen.

Robert Ranulph Marett (1866–1943)

Marett is remembered, if at all, for succeeding E.B. Tylor as Reader in Anthropology in Oxford in 1910,  and for proposing a primal stage of religious worldview,  pre-animism.  This elaborated on Tylor’s evolutionary scheme of psychic development.  Marett, like Lucien Levy-Bruhl, considered the primitive mind to be a uniform entity which ordered reality in a distinct way from that of modern man.


The Nineteenth Century Problem August 15, 2011

Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of Economic Thought, History of the Human Sciences.
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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…)