Importance Of Materialism In Anthropology

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In the field of anthropology, there are two main theoretical perspectives that anthropologists tend to fall into: the idealist and the materialist. The idealists view human beliefs, ideas and values as the most important feature of shaping culture. The materialists, rather than focus on ideas and beliefs of individuals, focus on more material aspects of shaping culture; like advancements in technology and structure. Anthropologists with an idealist perspective consider the study of anthropology humanities; while anthropologists with a materialist perspective, sees the study of anthropology more as a science. In this paper I will discuss three anthropologists: one that falls into the idealist perspective, one that falls into the materialist …show more content…
Boas rejects the then dominant theories of unilineal evolution of culture and hyper-diffusion, and offers an alternative explanation, which states there may be different ultimate and co-existing types of civilization (Boas 27). The popular beliefs of the study of cultures saw all societies as progressing through hierarchic stages of culture and technology. Boas argues that the unilineal evolutionary theory is ethnocentric and based on unproven assumptions. It lacks any evidence suggesting otherwise and once this theory has to be proven to be accepted it completely falls apart. Boas also dismisses the hyper-diffusion theory asserting it lacks credible support and is based on unproven assumptions that similarities in cultural development are due to migration and diffusion. This theory of hyper-diffusion emphasizes cultural stability and contact over an extremely large area, but Boas argues that cultures are dynamic, not …show more content…
Leacock gives the example of how decision making among the people of the Montagnais-Naskapi was not only essential to their everyday life, but was also effective; necessities such as food were manufactured by all able-bodied adults and were shared with all members, and women in these societies’ had power. Leacock highlights historical changes caused by the development of class societies and argues that the subordination of women is a product of history, not a universal pattern (Moore 246). Leacock argues that the data being reported fail to recognize historical changes in many egalitarian societies and is ethnocentric, and these issues complicate the analysis of women’s status in

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