The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome

The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome

The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome

The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome

Excerpt

In this work we present and demonstrate a theory of the evolution of culture from its origins on anthropoid levels to relatively modern times.

The theory of cultural evolution inspired and dominated most of cultural anthropology during the last three or four decades of the nineteenth century. Evolution "is the great principle which every scholar must lay firm hold of," said England's great pioneer, Edward Burnett Tylor, "if he intends to understand either the world he lives in or the history of the past." The theory of cultural evolution was science's answer to the question, "How are the civilizations, or cultures, of the world to be explained?" It was advanced by science to replace the theory of creation as provided by Judeo-Christian theology.

The theory of cultural evolution enjoyed great success in England and the United States during the 1870s and 1880s. But during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a reaction against evolutionism set in both in America and in Germany. The American attack upon cultural evolutionism was led by Franz Boas (1858-1942; born, reared, and educated in Germany), who dominated much of anthropological thinking in the United States for a quarter of a century. Numerous members of the Boas school opposed any theory of cultural evolution, not merely those expounded by Lewis H. Morgan, Herbert Spencer, or others. This reactionary attitude received its most picturesque expression at the hands of Berthold Laufer in a laudatory review of a book by Robert H. Lowie, a staunch opponent of evolutionism. "The theory of cultural evolution [is] to my mind," said Laufer, "the most inane, sterile, and pernicious theory ever conceived in the history of science." William Jennings Bryan could have said no more.

In Germany, a nonevolutionist interpretation of culture became prominent around the turn of the century among a group of scholars--Friedrich Ratzel . . .

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