Culture "over and out"

Daniel P. Walsh (dpw7@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Mon, 7 Feb 1994 17:56:11 -0500

quite agree that White's "Science of culture" is his most seminal
work, and while I am certainly no authority on his oeuvre, I for
one found (as an undergraduate) his "Concept of cultural systems"
rather beguiling for a number of reasons: one by depicting
culture in physical terms, forces (and thereby evoking Durkheim
and the Annee, which is remarkable in and of itself), magnitude,
direction etc. he enabled one to begin at least thinking about
actually measuring, i.e. quantifying these macro/micro variables
(relative to the problem at hand). Secondly and perhaps most
importantly, it is a very accessible book, brief and to the
point. Lastly, and I guess this is because I read more
"sociology" these days than "anthropology", the work (among many)
leads directly to that of Jonathan Turner's, which is heavy on
operationalization of variables, formal modeling and the like
which I find very beautiful, recognizing of course its ultimate
impracticality in terms of actually going out and measuring these
things at least to the extent they envision! How arid one may
presume this approach depends, I think, on the research problems
one finds interesting. In my opinion!
"Science of culture" is sadly out of print but certainly not
unavailable (there are multiple copies in libraries all over the
place), it is one of the more ubiquitous books in used book
stores as well. I obtained my copy in such a way, and as I idly
looked through it that day, I noticed a slip of paper with a few
lines of handwriting on it. It was a note from Leslie White,
dated April 13, 1966 allowing a student to enroll in his Anthro
457, The Evolution of Ancient and Modern Cultures, Fall Term,
1966 at the University of Michigan. I rather like this artifact,
and whether or not one has faith in the idea of the "author
construct", it is a lovely thing to have.

Daniel Peter Walsh