Re: Put it on the ground

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 28 Sep 1995 07:50:52 +0900

Karl Schwerin writes,
"Go back and look at Marshal Sahlins & Elman Service 1959. *Evolution and
Culture* for an excellent discussion of the distinction between "general
evolution" ("in the grand sweep of things") and "specific evolution"
("the details"). Subsequently, I think we can consider most of the work
done by the cultural ecologists to fall into the category of "specifics"
or "the details" of evolution. The kinds of questions they dealt with
were significant, with evolution hardly fading into the background -
perhaps it *was* mundane (lacking the excitement and glory of the "grand
sweep of things"), but then it was also much more closely linked to daily
life and the chores of existence (survival)."

First, thanks for the reminders. Karl, could I ask you to briefly describe
a few of the "details" the cultural ecologists accounted for?

Actually, I'd like to make this a general plea. Could folks who cite
references give us a short summary of what they find interesting in them.
Bear in mind that while it's a pain to trek off to the library IF you are
located at a university, the transaction cost rises sharply if you are,
like me, someone with a non-academic job. As someone who makes his living
writing advertising, I'd recommend a telling quote, a pungent anecdote,
a fresh twist...something that grabs the reader's interest and says, "Hey,
I've got to read that." A sentence in the imperative mode that says "Read
X, period" arouses the same resistance it does in the classroom.

Apologies to Karl. Don't mean to be picking on you in particular. I do, however,
wonder why it is that when I cast my mind back to general and specific
evolution and cultural ecology the only stuff that sticks in my memory are
dim recollections of work on the social organization of hunter-gatherer
bands (Julian Steward?), Marvin Harris trying to explain the sacred cow as
a source of dung, and Roy Rappaport's _Pigs for the Ancestors_, which,
reading it in the '60s always made me wonder what folks in New Guinea
were doing with Irish Cops in their genealogies :-))) (My mind is truly
awful at times...)

John McCreery