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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And yet it is little read today. Please feel free to share it widely, including dumping it in whatever archive works for you. Even the greatest inventions, he argues, will only take root if a culture is prepared to accept them. They have developed communications between themselves to an elaborate degree, much more sophisticated than other animals.

Since you know well the Lowie collection at Berkeley, are there any texts that might be available online? These are indicated with brackets. I have cut it down to just under 8, When it comes to speaking for a contemporary audience, then, Kroeber is his own worst enemy.

There is today a tremendous amount of material which is open access.

If we start with the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life. If a peoples e. Knowing the dynamics of how carbon atoms operate, or that combining hydrogen and oxygen can result in a rapid combustion suprorganic 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.


If you analyse all those parts, in themselves, or even as a collection, they are not living. When indigenous groups make clear efforts to avoid contact, it seems perfectly justifiable, indeed necessary, for governments and indigenous rights organizations to do all they can to respect this choice.

And frankly, once must already know what is in it in order to know it is worth finding thw the first place. If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author s and link it back to cec. Kroeber makes this argument through a discussion of the role of genius in shaping history.

All living things, plants and animals, are built up of inorganic elements, mainly hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, plus some trace elements. There is a parallel, therefore, in the relations between the inorganic and the organic, as between the organic and the superorganic. Or does anthropology have a unique method? Predictably, Kroeber argues that organic racial difference cannot affect the growth of civilization. But HAU may beat me to it.

Kroeber occupies several positions here, and the loose ends in this section of his argument would be taken up by future thinkers.

The current approach is to protect isolated peoples as much as possible, to initiate contact only as a last resort. The original essay is around 19, words.

Much Boasian thought is now in the public domain, but is difficult to find and inconvenient to read. 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….


The superorganic is another way of describing —— and understanding —— culture or the socio-cultural system. I will keep going until I complete a free suprorganic suitable for classroom use, or until I get bored. Culture and society comprise the third level. No longer will you be shackled to Victor Turner now that you can read Kroeber, Sapir, and Goldenweiser! A living entity transcends its inorganic parts. For recently contacted peoples, FUNAI tries to do as much as possible to convince them to continue living as they did prior to contact.


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

It may have a life of its own, but its life more resembles an amoeba than a human. Those are carried by individuals. As you can imagine, a better part of the bibliography comes from Anthro. It is indeed a very tricky situation, especially since Peru lacks the kind of organized institution with clear policies and relevant experience such as FUNAI in Brazil. What do you think? They behave, however, in concert with each other, as a system external to individuals —— society.

Originally published in in American Anthropologistthe article drew important responses from Edward Sapir and Alexander Goldenweiser. The Mashco-Piro and the dilemmas of isolation and contact Cantor and Smith: And if a culture is ready for an innovation, then anyone with above average intelligence may be able to invent it. The socio-cultural level, culture or society, therefore is carried by humans and transcends humans.

Kroeber included material from the article in his textbook Anthropology: