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Klejn L.S. A History of anthropological ideas (Abstract)

By Leo S. Klejn



This book (of ca. 200,000 words) presents a world history of anthropological ideas and theories with an emphasis upon their development in Western Europe and America. Of Russian ideas, only those that influenced developments elsewhere in the world are included. Those that fall outside of this criterion are dealt with only summarily.


By anthropology predominantly socio-cultural (social and cultural) anthropology is understood, i. e. that that in the Soviet Union was covered by the term ethnography and that in the post-Soviet use is close to the concept of ethnology. Ethnography and ethnology are however only parts of the anthropological complex of disciplines, with a special accent on the ethnic aspect of research. Anthropology is broader in scope and covers various comparative study of peoples and cultures. However, philosophical and physical anthropology are not included – they must form the subject of another history. Yet the remaining field of study is so broad that the history of anthropological ideas presented here almost amounts to a history of social ideas in general.


The book is founded on the course of lectures read by the author at various universities in Russia, Europe and America, and can be considered as a university manual.


In Russian literature, books of this type were published half a century ago, namely the textbooks in the series entitled "history of ethnography" by S. A. Tokarev. However, they were written with the harsh strictures of the ideological censor in mind and, of course, the last fifty years was not covered. Cultural anthropology was regarded by the Soviet Union as a bourgeois discipline and along with genetics, cybernetics and sexology was absent from the Soviet Union because by its nature it implied tolerance of varied cultural norms and ideas. This is why it was replaced with ethnography.


There are plenty of manuals on the history of anthropology and ethnology in Western literature, but the exposition of the various directions and schools is not as detailed as that presented here. In the present book many scholars are classified afresh within different schools – every such decision being backed with reasoned argument.


An interesting phenomenon is analysed, namely the attraction of anthropology to outsiders of various kinds throughout its history – revolutionaries, socialists, Quakers, homosexuals etc. No neighbouring discipline has as many. The author explains this attraction by a peculiarity of anthropology – in fact, its main idea: the relativity of norms, recognition of the variability of mankind.


Some chapters coincide in many sections with another book by the same author, with the History of archaeological thought, since both histories are parallel, and some participants are the same.


The book is aimed not just at students but at a wide circle of intelligent readers. The leading figures of the history of the discipline are presented as real people, with their individual quirks, immersed in the clashes and peripeteias of the scholarly struggle. This is not just a history of ideas, but a history of people. The author was himself a participant in the described academic processes (his books and articles on anthropology and archaeology are printed by the leading publishers and periodicals of the world). This is why in his critical estimation of the impact of Marxism on anthropology and in his impassioned criticism of certain scholars (for instance Lévi-Strauss, and the postmodernists) there is an element of personal commitment: this makes the exposition both vivid and entertaining.


The book is richly illustrated, and supplied with a vast bibliography and indices. The Russian text is ready for publication, and an English text has been prepared by the author, though it is as yet in a rough condition. The author has not been lucky with this book. A number of publishers, one after another, agreed to publish the book (one even signing an agreement), but owing to various causes (usually of economic nature) these plans were never realised. Recently an agreement was signed with St. Petersburg University but the financial crisis threatens to prevent publication again.

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The objectives of a history of the discipline

1.       Subject matter

2.       Historiography

3.       Ways of presentation

4.       Periodisation and the grouping of materials

5.       The beginning of anthropology

6.       Preferences

1. Humanistic tradition in the making (from primordial times to the Renaissance)

A. The primordial epoch

1. The Anthropological notions of primordial people. Ethnocentrism

B. The ancient world

2. The ancient world and the idea of a Unique (chosen) People

3. Genealogical laying out of inter-ethnical relations

4. Elements of the comparative ethnology in the classical world

a)       the comparison of peoples by historians and geographers

b)       the question of the existence of anthropology in the classical world

c)       naïve geographical determinism

d)       ideas of progress and degradation

5. The Paradigm of classical thinking

C. Middle Ages

6. Christianity as a system of anthropological views and the inner world of a medieval man

7. Anthropological evidence and problems in the medieval literature

D. The Renaissance

8. Anthropological aspects of the Renaissance

9. Reflection of anthropological views in the literature of the Renaissance

2. Establishing an ethnographic base (Geographical discoveries and the Reformation)

1.       The Great geographical discoveries (late XV – XVI cent.) and their meaning for the development of anthropological notions

2.       Aborigines over the Ocean

3.       The leading ideas of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (XVI cent.)

4.       The Anthropological notions of the age

5.       Montaigne on cannibals

3. Naturalist tradition in the making (Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment)

A. Premises of anthropology in the Age of Scientific Revolution

1.       The Age of Scientific Revolution and the approach to the study of man

2.       Anthropological notions: the naturalist approach and the Bible

B. The founding of anthropology in the Age of Enlightenment

    a) Ground for the formation of anthropology

3. The Age of Enlightenment (XVIII cent.) and its principles

    b) The beginning of socio-cultural tradition

4. The place of Rousseau in the development of anthropology

5. Followers and adversaries of Rousseau

6. The Contribution of Lafiteau to the development of anthropology

7. The idea of development and the concept of culture

    c) The beginning of ethnological tradition

8. The place of Kant in the development of anthropology

9. Herder and the national spirit

10. The Races of man and the ape on the “scale of beings”

11. Summation of the époque of the Enlightenment

4. Romantic anthropology

1.       The century that dropped out: techniques, obscurantism and revolutions

2.       The mental atmosphere of the Age of Technology

3.       Intellectual currents in the Age of Technical Inventions

    a)     Romanticism

    b)     German idealistic philosophy and the idea of development

    c)     Materialistic anthropologism

    d)     Positivism

4.       The Brothers Humboldt and their place in anthropology

5.       Ritter and geographical determinism

6.       The role of German scholarship of the late XVIII and the first half of the XIX cent. in the development of anthropology

7.       From language to folklore, from Ursprache (pre-language) to Urvolk (pre-people)

8.       Under the aegis of physical anthropology

9.       Sven Nilsson and his stages of progress

10.     Remarks on methodology

5. Racialism and the “psychology of peoples”

1.       The View from the heights of the capitalistic world

2.       Towards the materialist anthropology

3.       Old Romantics: German nationalistic ethnology

4.       New Romantics: British travellers

5.       On the fringe of physical and cultural/social anthropology

6.       Arthur Gobineau, the creator of Race Theory

7.       Race Theory after Gobineau

8.       The Psychology of Peoples

9.       Psychology against Racism

10.      Nazi anthropology

6. Evolutionism and Social Darwinism

A. Evolutionism and natural sciences

1. The place of Evolutionism in the history of anthropology

2. Evolutionism in other disciplines

B. Spencer and the “Social Darwinists”

3. The role of Herbert Spencer

4. “Social Darwinists”

5. Eugenics and anthropo-criminology

7. Classical Evolutionism

1.       The unity of mankind and the global evolution

2.       Early forms of marriage

3.       Leaders of the trend: Tylor and Lubbock

4.       The Animistic doctrine of religion origins

5.       Tylor’s methodology

6.       Lewis Morgan and the clan-tribal society

7.       Morgan as a Communistic icon

8.       Evolutionism in the study of arts

9.       Evolutionism vs. the Bible: Robertson Smith

8. The crisis of Evolutionism

1.       Crisis and revision of Evolutionism?

2.       Frazer and The Golden Bough

3.       Other critics of animism: Lang and Marrett

4.       Revision of views on the development of family. Darwinist Westermarck

5.       Reaction to the revision of the views on family

6.       Heinrich Schurz and male unions

7.       Rivers’ conversion

9. Sociologism in anthropology

A. Emile Durkheim

1. French sociological school and anthropology

2. Formation of the creator

3. Sociologism

4. Durkheim on the formation of thinking and religion

B. Marcel Mauss, Durkheim’s successor

5. Formative years and general character

6. As Durkheim’s apprentice

7. As the head of the school

8. Conclusion

C. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl

9.  Lévy-Bruhl and the pre-logical thinking

10. Individualisation in anthropology

1. Individualism and irrationalism as an opposition to sociologism

A. Philosophical Groundwork

2. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Life

3. “Theory of understanding” of Wilhelm Dilthey

4. The Neokantians: Windelband and Rickert

5. Georg Simmel

B. Psychological grounds

6. The Psychology of the crowd

C. Max Weber

7. Weber, religious ethics and capitalism

8. The sources of his ideas and methodology

9. Ideal types

10. Progress or fortuity?

11. Weber’s analysis of religion

12. Values and tragedy

13. Chicago school

14. Anthropogeography and Migrationism

11. Anthropogeography and migrationism

1.    Geography and the spirit of the age

2.    Virchow and concentration on separate cultures

3.    Anthropogeography of Ratzel

4.    The ‘Cultural morphology’ of Frobenius

12. Diffusionism and transmissionism

1.    The Cologne school of Graebner

2.    The ‘Vienna cultural-historical school’ of W. Schmidt

3.    Rivers as a Diffusionist

4.    The Manchester school of Elliot Smith

5.    Diffusionism as a trend

6.    Diffusionism as a politics

13. Particularism

A. Franz Boas

1. Volte-face in the U.S.A.

2. Franz Boas: the roots of his ideas and the beginning of his career

3. The fight with Evolutionism

4. The fight against Racism

5. Criticisms of Evolutionism

6. Boas’ school

B. The earliest pupils: Wissler and Kroeber – “cultural area” and “plan of culture”

7. Clark Wissler

8. Aldred Kroeber

C. The trio of sceptics: Goldenweiser, Lowie and Radin

9.  Alexander Goldenweiser

10. Robert Lowie

11.Paul Radin

12.The primordial life of civilised Americans

13. Boas: the end of struggle

14. The Doctrine of closed cultures and Cyclism

1.  Introduction. The Doctrine of closed (parallel, equivalent) cultures, Cyclism and Relativism

2. The Crisis of Eurocentrism: foundation of the doctrine. Nationalism and isolationism as the regional realisation of the doctrine

A. The Cultural-historical types of Danilevsky

3. “Russia and Europe” by Danilevsky

4. Biography

5. Cultures and ethnia in Danilevsky

B. The Mutually impenetrable cultures of Spengler

6. The Decline of Europe by Oswald Spengler

7. The roots of his ideas

8. Methodology

9. Against Eurocentrism

10. The soul and ages of culture

11. Conclusion

C. Eurasian ethnology

12. Eurasians

13. The Ethnology of Trubetskoy

D. The Aeons of Schubart

14. Europe and the Soul of the East by Schubart

E. Arnold Toynbee: the role of the elite in civilisations

15. Biography

16. Initial ideas

F. The Idealistic cyclism of Pitirim Sorokin

17. Biography

18. Culture as a system of values

19. Types of culture and the fluctuation of styles

20. Sorokin in reviews

21. Crisis and prospect

G. Nationalistic Cyclism of Lev Gumilev

22. Fate

23. Methodology

24. Ethnos

The Dynamics of ethnogenesis

25. Conclusion

I. Samuel Huntington and the clash of civilisations as a problem

15. Freudianism in anthropology

1.       The place of Freudianism

2.       The beginnings of psychoanalysis

3.       The personality of the founder

4.       The Structure of personality

5.       Intrusion into cultural anthropology

6.       Antireligious termination

7.       The importance of Freud

8.       Freud and Freudians: Adler and Young

9.       The younger pupils: ‘the three Ps’ and Anna

10.     Neofreudianism

16. Functionalism

1.  Introduction: Functionalism

A. Bronislaw Malinowski

2. Biography

3. The Scholarly sources of Functionalism

4. “Naturalist theory of culture”

5. Against Evolutionism and historicism

6. The new methods of field work

7. Applied anthropology

8. Pater familias

9. The importance of Malinowski’s contribution

B. Structural Functionalism of Radcliffe-Brown

10,. Biography

11. The functionalist methodology of Radcliffe-Brown

12. From Functionalism to Structuralism

13. Dissent

14. The Possibilities and limits of Structural Functionalism

C. Other Functionalists

15. Thurnwald as Functionalist

16. Talcott Parsons and his notion of culture

17. The second generation of Functionalists

18. Crisis of Functionalism. Post-Functionalism

19. Traditions and modernisation

17. The Impact of Marxism

1.       Marxism and anthropology

2.       Social-democracy and the applicability of Marxism (anthropological solutions)

3.       Leninism

4.       Cultural revolution

5.       The Idea of sunken cultural goods

6.       Stalin’s Empire

7.       Anthropological aspects of Soviet reality

8.       Soviet ethnography

9.       Concept of culture in state practice and in Soviet ethnography

10.     Concept of ethnos in Soviet ethnography

11.     The name of the discipline

12.     Three directors

a)       Matorin

b)       Tolstov

c)       Bromley

1.       Antidogmatic tendencies in Soviet ethnography

2.       Neomarxism

3.       Post-Marxism

18. Personalism (“culture and personality”)

1.     Denomination

2.     Forerunners in Germany

3.     Conditions of formation

4.     Sapir against culturalism

5.     Ruth Benedict and Configurationism

6.     Margaret Mead and the formation of model personality

7.     The Theoretician of the trend: Ralf Linton

8.     Neofreudianism in American ‘culture-and-personality’ studies.

9.     Abram Cardiner, the organiser of Neofreudianism in American anthropology

10.   National character of the enemy

11.   Enculturation

12.   Acculturation and marginal man

13.   Values and cultural relativism

14.   Summation

19. Neoevolutionism

1. Introduction. Revival of Evolutionist traditions in Western anthropology

A. Leslie White

2. Biography

3. Culturalism: anthropology as culturology, not sociology. The ability to symbolise as a peculiarity of culture

4. Energetic evolution of culture

5. Cultural and technological determinism

6. The Theory of universal evolution. Three revolutions: agrarian, solid fuel and thermonuclear

7. The Destructive force of culture

B. The Multilineal evolutionism of Julian Steward

8. “Theory of cultural changes”

9. Adaptation and cultural ecology

10. The essence of revolution

C. The second generation of American Neo-evolutionists

11. Pupils and joining up

12. Elman Sevice and Marshall Sahlins: the new classification of social associations

13. The Cultural materialism of Marvin Harris

D. The Cross-cultural analysis of George Murdock

14.George Murdock as a Neoevolutionist

15. The Scientificatory tendencies of Neoevolutionists and cross-cultural analysis

E. Neo-evolutionism in Europe

16. The Biography of André Leroi-Gourhan

17. “Leroi-Gourhan’s “Technomorphology”

18. The Evolution of intelligence

F. The Crisis of Neoevolutionism

19. The revision of the main concepts

20. Structuralism

1.  Personal preamble

A. The Birth of Structuralism in various disciplines

2. A Forerunner of Structuralism in cultural anthropology: Van Gennep

3. The Birth of structural ideas in linguistics: Saussure, Trubetskoy and Jacobson

4. Ideas of philological Structuralism in the Soviet Union: Propp and Lotman

5. Ideas of Structuralism in archaeology and psychology

6. Ecological Structuralism in Europe (The Leiden school)

B. Ethnological Structuralism in France

7. Structuralism of the Annales school

8. Lévi-Strauss: biography

9. Idea of the unity of human intelligence and main mental structures: binary oppositions

10. Analysis of social organisation of Gold Age

11. Structures and history

12. Lévy-Strauss: analysis of myths

13. How Lévy-Strauss used the ideas of structural linguistics?

14. Lévy-Strauss: the basis of success

15. Lévy-Strauss: the meaning of the contribution

16. Lévy-Strauss and Propp

C. Structural Neomarxism in France

17. Structuralism and Marxism

D. American Structuralism

18. Kennet Pyke

19. Cognitive anthropology, New Ethnography

20. Summation

21. Interactionism

1.       Situation, fields and roles

2.       Ethnos and personality

3.       The gaming theory of culture

4.       The “Integral social field” and Interactionism

22. Anthropological phenomenology

1. Secret teachings and the wisdom of the Orient

2. Mysticism, mystics and time

3. Mysticism as a symptom: theosophers

4. Crisis of Christianity

5. Mysticism as a symptom: anthropologists

6. Mysticism as a symptom: the ideology of Traditionalism

7. Mysticism in Nazism

8. Existentialism

9. Mircea Eliade: India and Bucharest, holiness and sins

10. Eliade in Paris and the question of faith

11. Eliade in Chicago and Mysticism

12. Eliade as Existentialist

13. Attitudes to Eliade

23. Post-Structuralism

1. Structuralism and post-Structuralism

2. Initiators: Mikhail Bakhtin and Roland Barthes

3. The History of culture: Thomas Kuhn and Michel Foucault, Social Constructivism

4. The Post-Structuralism of Abraham Moles

5. Liminality in Turner’s Post-Structuralism

6. Bateson and Douglas

7. Interactionist Post-Structuralism: Bourdieu’s “theory of practice”

24. Post-Modernism

1.       Preamble

2.       Introduction: Post-Modernism everywhere

3.       Social-historical conditions

4.       The roots of ideas:

a)       hermeneutics

b)       Critical theory

c)       Post-structuralism

d)       Feminism

5.       The Interpretative approach in anthropology

6.       Ethnography as “thick description”: Clifford Geertz

7.       Other Post-Modernists

8.       Archaeology: Postprocessuaism (Hodder, Shanks and Tilley)

9.      Criticism and evaluation

25. The Third Evolutionism

1.       A New revival of Evolutionism

2.       Sociobiology

3.       The Egoistic gene and the elusive meme

4.       Selectionism

5.       Co-evolution

6.       The nature of man and civilisation – a view from Russia

7.       The Ecology of human behaviour

8.       Ecologo-demographic evolutionism

9.       The Theory of communication as applied to culture


1.       The History of anthropology from a bird’s eye view

2.       The development of anthropology: the geographic aspect

3.       Figures and configurations

4.       Unaccustomed sources of achievement



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