Anthropology among the Powers

Eric R. Wolf

in Pathways of Power

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520223332
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924871 | DOI:
Anthropology among the Powers

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Anthropology at its best is analytic, comparative, integrative, and critical, all at the same time. This chapter is concerned with anthropology in relation to society and culture, and discusses ways in which it came to be built up and shaped within the wider field of relations that accompanied its birth and its subsequent transformations. It provides an understanding of the history of social anthropology in terms of the sociopolitical environment that was generated by powerful forces of capitalism, colonial expansion, and national rivalry. Anthropology came of age in a time of European expansion, which was closely connected with the rise of capitalism and with the proliferation of competing nation-states. The great transformation wrought by capitalism troubled existing social and cultural arrangements. Within anthropology, evolutionism gave way to diffusionism, and these two perspectives were seen as polar opposites. Anthropology is an integrative science—a rarity today—one that crosses the boundaries of different domains and resists the dismemberment of relations and contexts.

Keywords: anthropology; capitalism; colonial expansion; evolutionism; diffusionism

Chapter.  6968 words. 

Subjects: Theory and Practice of Anthropology

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