Karl Marx, Anthropologist

By Thomas C. Patterson | Go to book overview

1

The Enlightenment and Anthropology

The Enlightenment, the “Age of Reason,” was a tumultuous period. It persisted, according to some, from the early 1600s to as late as the 1830s. It was marked by a series of processes that mutually shaped and reinforced one another. These included: (1) the formation of merchant empires and overseas colonies in the Americas, Africa, and Asia established by Holland, Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Russia from the mid fifteenth century onward combined with the creation of increasingly large domestic markets in England and other parts of Europe (McNally 1988; Tracy 1990); (2) the rise of anti-authoritarian sentiment, skepticism, and the appeal to reason or rationality which challenged and ultimately eroded the divinely ordained authority claimed by the churches and the aristocracy during and after the Reformation (Israel 2001; Popkin 1979); (3) the “scientific revolution”—also characterized as the “conquest of nature” or the “death of nature”—which involved the assimilation of a new understanding of nature into the wider culture and society, because of the desire of the emerging commercial classes for technological innovations and the erosion of barriers separating intellectuals and artisans (Forbes 1968; Jacob 1988; Merchant 1980; Zilsel 2003); and (4) the rise of industrial capitalism, analyzed later by Marx in Capital, which involved the appearance of new forms of manufacture from about 1750 onward that were based on the continual adoption of technological innovations, the transformation of social relations, the construction of factories, and the growth of cities across northern Europe (Hobsbawm 1968).

The Enlightenment was also marked by continuous conflicts between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and various Protestant fringe movements from the 1520s onward. Some claim that this “war of the Churches constituted Europe's prime engine of cultural and educational change” until the mid seventeenth century when “major intellectual turmoil developed first in the Dutch Republic and the Calvinist states of Germany” (Israel 2001: 23). Besides the ideological and political strife that formed the backdrop to everyday life, there were probably no more than a few decades between 1600 and 1830 when peace prevailed and battles or wars were not being waged somewhere in the world. The impact of the Enlightenment was not limited to the soldiers and sailors who died in these wars. It was felt by all layers of society. More than one aristocrat and preacher of the day lamented that “even the common people were susceptible to new ideas” (Israel 2001: 1, 8–9).

While Europe is often portrayed as its center of gravity, this is not precisely correct. Enlightenment thought was discussed and deployed in the Americas, the Middle

-9-

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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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