Re: the mind of culture: tops-down or bottoms-up?

Gerold Firl (
16 Jul 1996 19:36:40 GMT

In article <>, (Len Piotrowski) writes:

|> This is general evolution, not culture with a small 'c.' As I've noted above,
|> White's functional relationship is between harnessed energy and technology
|> with respect to the general level of Cultural development. This is, in my
|> opinion, largely based upon empirical evidence, although there are problems,
|> in my evaluation, with his conclusion that the efficiency of the means of
|> harnessing energy can only result in higher organization. Biological systems
|> can alternatively respond by increasing their numbers.

The percentage of the population which must be devoted to food production
is surely one of the key parameters of human culture. This is the most
basic measure of the efficiency of energy conversion, and does lead
directly to organisational complexity. China jumps to mind as a possible
test case: there has been a recurrent idealization of the farmer as the
embodiment of the true gentleman, with the denigration of soldiers and
merchants, forming a cultural emphasis tending to promote a low, broad
pyramid of social specialization. And yet, how do ming-era rates of
urbanization compare with contemporary european, indian, and middle
eastern societies? It appears that as soon as people have the
opportunity to leave the toil of agriculture behind for the bright
lights of the city and the increased density of human-human interaction,
they do so.

|> Perhaps a better start would be:
|> Marshal D. Sahlins and Elman R. Service, et al, "Evolution and Culture," 1960,
|> with forward by Leslie A. White!

That does look like a good start; any suggestions for more recent work?

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf