Using "Culture"

Fri, 4 Feb 1994 10:25:31 CST

Don't just keep talking about definitions of culture, say J. G. Carrier
and M. Salovesh; show us what you can do with a given definition. This
seems to me fair enough: it is implied by D. Read's observation that we
define "culture" in ways that help us get on with some kind of work. A
good deal of scientific progress is being made, I believe, toward
explaining culture non-culturally, assuming we define "culture" more or
less as the socially acquired way of life of a social group ("social
group" being defined as two or more organisms of the same species
engaged in patterned interaction in time and space). The main
transformations in human culture, so defined, are referrable to
population growth under conditions of inhibited expansion. The strength
of the inhibiting conditions is measurable; and rigorous, elegant
theories of the exact relationship between the resultant density
increase and the increases in societal size it produces are being
formulated and, in a preliminary way, tested. I have posted some
of the formulas involved over the past year or so, and have benefited
from the responses; a pair of papers on intensification is the latest
development. All derived more or less directly by formalizing
"population-pressure" theory, especially Carneiro's, these ideas require
a good bit of space to be made readily digestible anthropologically.
So I will end by proclaiming that I think my definition
of "culture" demonstrably promotes scientific progress, and is at the
same time fully consistent with the traditional concerns of
anthropology; and by shamelessly advertising my book, which should be
out late this year: *Population Growth and Sociocultural Evolution:
When Splitting and Spreading Stop Working* (Kirksville, MO: Thomas
Jefferson University Press, 1994).