Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

By Richard N. Adams; Jack J. Preiss | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

THE MYSTERY of man and his works is the perennial theme of certain writers and artists, but clearing away some of the mystery has been the task of anthropology and the other social sciences. So far as can now be seen there will always remain enough uncertainty, enough unpredictability, in human affairs to satisfy all but the most extreme romanticists and mystics. But it is generally agreed that scientific knowledge of man's life in society must be increased to the maximum if the human species and its cultures are to survive on this earth. How can some of the certainties, the recurring regularities of social life be determined with confidence?

The essays in this book are mainly concerned with answering these questions in real life situations. They indicate how a variety of human organizational and cultural problems have submitted to analysis devised by field workers and how various techniques have been invented and put to work for the purpose of securing reliable information, often in very complex situations. The editors have based their selection of these chapters on articles that have appeared over the past eighteen years in the journal of the Society for Applied Anthropology, first called Applied Anthropology and now known as Human Organization.

These articles show how some of the guesswork has been taken out of the study of human behavior in social situations. And they also demonstrate that social science has certain complications not often found in other scientific fields. Not the least of these is that the investigator is himself a human being who in studying most real life situations must himself be physically present and visible to other human beings he is observing. Being human, the latter tend to react to the scientist's presence, his personality, and to their notions of what he is trying to do. All of this creates complications that do not face, say, the chemist examining interactions of a group of elements in a test tube or a biologist peering into the behavior of a colony of microbes under a microscope. How some of the field problems of the social scientist have been at least partially solved, as described in the following pages, makes fascinating reading.

The Society for Applied Anthropology was founded in 1940 for the purpose of investigating and solving real life social and cultural problems having some apparent significance for the modern world. At the present time about one half of the membership wear professional labels other than "anthropologist." Among them are sociologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, economists, human geographers, administrative experts, government officials, businessmen, labor leaders, and others. One may ask, How is "ap-

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