A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June But to Kroeber, the superorganic was actually what made anthropology a science —with its subject matter being the universals and regularities of human. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century.

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It auperorganic also important to emphasize that in asking this question, Kroeber clearly sees the importance of biological anthropology and human evolutionary history to cultural anthropology.

The superorganic is another way of describing —— and understanding —— culture or the socio-cultural system. If other minds want to publish in the series, then they can do so too — who knows what projects they may want to cook up….

Kroeber makes this argument through a discussion of the role of genius in shaping history. Or does anthropology have a unique method?

“The Superorganic,” or Kroeber’s hidden agenda.

Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, and Prehistory. Please feel free to share it widely, including dumping it in whatever archive works for you. In future editions these may be corrected. The essay is extremely long, and larded with multiple examples used to make the same point. With regard to isolated peoples, each South American country has its own unique and varied history with regards to indigenous peoples and their rights, and these varied historical policies directly affect their approach to the specific case of isolated peoples.

Those are carried by individuals. When it comes to speaking for a contemporary audience, then, Kroeber is his own worst enemy. Thanks for your comment and I hope to continue this discussion with you and others, Glenn. There is a parallel, therefore, in the relations between the inorganic and the organic, as between the organic and the superorganic. We can call this the lowest level of complexity. In a few cases I have altered verbs and nouns for agreement when deleting text caused them to disagree.


This is of course a highly ambiguous situation, in essence forcing people to live in imposed isolation.

Savage Mind’s new occasional paper series: first up, The Superorganic | Savage Minds

Key Words Modules Sociology: Kroeber included material from the article in his textbook Anthropology: The links are symbolic, not genetic as in biological systems. I will keep going until I complete a free anthology suitable for classroom use, or until I get bored. Both Darwin and Wallace imagined evolution, and neither would have been accepted if society was not ready for the idea. There is today a tremendous amount of material which is open access.

Finally, Kroeber argues that the legitimacy of anthropology or history, these terms are used interchangeably in a way that modern readers may find strange is tied to the existence of culture. It may have a life of its own, but its life more resembles an amoeba than a human. Similarly, the dog, if seen as a biological system, operates at a higher complexity than the inorganic elements which comprise it. The essay is clearly written and structured, but there is little explicit signposting.


Over time I would like to superorgnic on the British side of the tradition, since that was actually how I was trained as well superotganic least in undergrad. Much Boasian thought is now in the public domain, but is difficult to find and inconvenient to read.

At the same time, Kroeber argues, art and literature conveys truths that are enduring, but which are aesthetic and not scientific. There are many reasons: But he also argues that individual organic endowment cannot affect civilization.

Humans have thoughts and behaviour. This position anticipates current work on culture as an emergent phenomena.

Do not think of a dog as a carbon atom or a hydrocarbon molecule. The current approach is to superprganic isolated peoples as much as possible, to initiate contact only as a last resort. I hope ,roeber this will become one of a series of papers which present early anthropological theory in a form that is accessible to everyone.


They have developed communications between themselves to an elaborate degree, much more sophisticated than other animals. Please feel free to share widely! The arrangement makes them alive.

The Mashco-Piro and the dilemmas of isolation and contact Cantor and Smith: If we start with the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life. Kroeber begins the essay by asking the question: Botany becomes a specific kind of window onto landscape and the historical and mythical past.

Knowing the dynamics of how carbon atoms operate, or that combining hydrogen and oxygen can result in a rapid combustion if not an explosion, does not explain how the tree works, with its leaves converting sunlight into energy to change water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon, channels to transfer sap from leaves to root, and so on. I have cut it down to just under 8, But to be honest the copyright issues with British authors are much more complicated than they are with American ones, and that makes things more difficult.

Dear Robin, Thanks for writing. Predictably, Kroeber argues that organic racial difference cannot affect the growth of civilization. What, then, is his argument? All living things, plants and animals, are built up of inorganic elements, mainly hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, plus some trace elements. Folks, today I am beginning something new: And yet it is little read today.

It is just easier to access and, frankly, cries out for an editor more. Difficulty of access supports them.