Re[2]: "Culture" AGAIN!!!

Mon, 7 Feb 1994 13:01:22 CST

"Doesn't anyone read Leslie White any more?" asks D.P. Walsh in his
interesting post. Yes, some of us do. It isn't made easier by the fact
that White's greatest work (*The Science of Culture*, 1949), is out of
print. I must say, however, that some of us read White not because of
how he defined "culture," but *in spite* of that. By requiring
dependence on symbolizing, White's definition entailed that the socially
acquired ways of life observed among monkeys and apes, which depend not
on language but on imitation (like much of human culture too!), are not
"culture." Setting up a qualitative gap between humanity and the rest of
nature certainly was an odd position for the otherwise rather
thoroughgoing materialist to take. White's late attempt to define
"culture" in pseudo-physical terms as "vectors" was no good either.
White was at his worst when trying to define "culture." When he just
went ahead and used the term unself-consciously he did much better,
repeatedly including within its scope "technology," "social
organization," and "ideology." And he was at his best when, in the
immortal essays of Part 2 of *Science of Culture*, he gave the lie to
such illusions as anthropology's reducibility to psychology, the
individual's role in history, and humankind's ability to control
cultural evolution. --Bob Graber