Karl Marx, Anthropologist

By Thomas C. Patterson | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is an exploration of a form of social theory that has a long history of suppression in the United States. The high points of this were undoubtedly the Palmer Raids of the 1920s and the McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities of the 1950s, although the antipathy of the vast majority of academics to anything but mainstream social thought in the decades that followed has been only slightly less deadening. The red-baiting of scholars who saw Marx only through the lens of anti-communism has gradually been replaced by scholars who assert that Marx is really passé, especially after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. While the sentiments underlying such statements are often conveyed by rolled eyes or kneejerk red-baiting, they are as often backed up by claims that one or another of the latest fads in social theory provide the bases for more textured analyses of what has happened during the last twenty years or even by declarations that history is over since the whole world is now, or should be, on the road to capitalism. What rarely happens, however, is any direct engagement and extended dialogue with what Marx actually said. More common are statements that rely on what someone claimed Marx said or that engage with the commentators on Marx, sympathetic or otherwise, rather than Marx himself.

My goal is to engage directly with Marx's works rather than those of subsequent writers in the Marxist tradition. Nevertheless, I am acutely aware of the difficulty of disengaging from the arguments and insights of subsequent commentators on Marx's views, both sympathetic and otherwise, since my own thoughts and actions were shaped in part in the same intellectual and social milieu in which they wrote and were read. Keeping in mind Marx's quip that he was not a Marxist, the book is Marxian rather than Marxist. Hence, it is not a book about Marxism and anthropology or Marxist anthropology; several of those have already been written. While Maurice Godelier's (1973/1977) Perspectives in Marxist Anthropology, Ángel Palerm's (1980) Antropología y marxismo, Marc Abélès's (1976) Anthropologie et Marxisme, and Randall McGuire's (1992) A Marxist Archaeology are a few that come immediately to mind, there are others as well.

My first direct acquaintance with Marx's writing occurred in 1959 in an introductory course in Western civilization with a selection from The Communist Manifesto. Two years later in Peru, I realized that broadly leftist newspaper writers in Peru provided accounts that better fit with my perceptions than those of their more mainstream contemporaries, and that they gave me a clearer and deeper understanding of what was happening there at the time. Over the next five years in

-ix-

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Karl Marx, Anthropologist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Enlightenment and Anthropology 9
  • 2: Marx's Anthropology 39
  • 3: Human Natural Beings 65
  • 4: History, Culture, and Social Formation 91
  • 5: Capitalism and the Anthropology of the Modern World 117
  • 6: Anthropology for the Twenty-First Century 145
  • Notes 173
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 219
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