Cities, Classes, and the Social Order

Cities, Classes, and the Social Order

Cities, Classes, and the Social Order

Cities, Classes, and the Social Order

Synopsis

"Cities, Classes, and the Social Order brings together nine conceptual and theoretical essays by a leading anthropologist, Anthony Leeds (1925-1989). Leeds's pioneering work in the anthropology of complex societies was built on formative personal and research experiences in both urban and rural settings in the United States, Brazil, Venezuela, and Portugal. Inspired by Karl Marx and Alfred Kroeber, he developed a protean vision of culture, power, and the social order, and his work represents an outstanding synthesis that is relevant to current attempts at reintegrating a balkanized anthropology and to other social and human sciences. Leeds brought to his anthropology a simultaneous concern for science and humanism, and for explanation and interpretation. He constructed a nuanced and intricate vision of the connections among ecology, technology, history, evolution, structure, process, power, culture, social organization, and human creativity. The essays in this book draw on his approach to demarcate the role of cities in human history, the use and abuse of class analysis, the bases of power in complex societies, and an agenda for ethnographic and social-historical research in the contemporary world. In addition to major but little-known writings and an important essay on Marx here published for the first time in English, a selection of Leeds's ethnographically and politically inspired poems are included, as are several of his professionally exhibited photographs. In addition, introductory essays by R. Timothy Sieber and Roger Sanjek chart the course of Leeds's career and the development of his theoretical viewpoint." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Anthony Leeds was a creative and visionary anthropological theorist. A member of the remarkable post-World War II cohort of Columbia University anthropologists, Leeds shared interests in history, evolution, and power with fellow students and colleagues Stanley Diamond, Morton Fried, Marvin Harris, Eleanor Leacock, Robert Manners, Sidney Mintz, Sally Falk Moore, Marshall Sahlins, Eric Wolf, and others. Although less well known than the leading work of these peers, his intellectual synthesis, still expanding and growing at the time of his death in 1989, is perhaps most far-reaching of all. Rooted philosophically in both scientific and humanistic sensibilities, Leeds's vision of anthropology is of major relevance to the dilemmas the discipline faces today in understanding an intensely interconnected world.

Leeds's thinking tied together grand evolutionary transitions, specific historical sequences, ecology, technology, classes, power, social organization, individual choice, human creativity, and the epistemology of social thought. Although a coherent vision underlay his writings, it appeared in unified form nowhere in them. It was presented, or leaked out, in different places, at different times, in his forty published papers written over nearly three decades. Leeds's métier, the long essay, was not conducive to precise, clipped, unified statements; no master theoretical treatise brought together all the strands of his thought. Yet the connections among the intensely theoretical nuggets that appear throughout his writings, taken as a whole, interlink with each other, and emerge forcefully as one digests his many-faceted work.

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