- A macro-theory in anthropology which holds that most aspects of human culture can be explained in material terms. Its most systematic formulation will be found in the two closing chapters of Marvin Harris's exhaustive survey of the development of anthropological theories of culture (The Rise of Anthropological Theory, 1968). Harris, an American anthropologist, claimed that his purpose in writing the book was ‘to reassert the methodological priority of the search for the laws of history in the science of man’, specifically to prove that ‘the analogue of the Darwinian strategy in the realm of socio-cultural phenomena is the principle of techno-environmental and techno-economic determinism’. This holds that similar technologies applied to similar environments tend to produce similar arrangements for the production and distribution of goods, which in turn tend to support similar sorts of social groupings, who organize and explain their activities in terms of similar systems of beliefs and values. In this fashion, the principle assigns research priority to the study of the material conditions of socio-cultural life, in much the same way (according to Harris) as the principle of natural selection accords priority to the study of differential reproductive success. He claims that this makes the former a ‘statement of a basic research strategy’ rather than a specific ‘law of society’. Critics have observed that, despite Harris's attempts to avoid historicism and to exclude any reference to the Hegelian dialectic , his materialist approach to the study of culture shares the same characteristics as the materialism of Marx and Engels; namely, that as a concrete research strategy it soon falls foul of empirical findings that falsify its basic premiss, and as a pseudo-law of history it must be framed at such an abstract level that it claims everything but says nothing.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.
Look at other dictionaries:
Cultural materialism — The term Cultural materialism refers to two separate scholarly endeavours: Cultural materialism (anthropology) an anthropological research paradigm championed most notably by Marvin Harris. Cultural materialism (cultural studies) a movement in… … Wikipedia
Cultural materialism (anthropology) — Cultural materialism is an anthropological research orientation first introduced by Marvin Harris in his 1968 book The Rise of Anthropological Theory, as a theoretical paradigm and research strategy. Indeed it is said to be the most enduring… … Wikipedia
Cultural materialism (cultural studies) — Cultural materialism in literary theory and cultural studies traces its origin to the work of the left wing literary critic Raymond Williams. Cultural materialism makes analysis based in critical theory, in the tradition of the Frankfurt School.… … Wikipedia
Cultural ecology — studies the relationship between a given society and its natural environment as well as the life forms and ecosystems that support its lifeways. This may be carried out diachronically (examining entities that existed in different … Wikipedia
Materialism — Not to be confused with Materialistic. For the prioritization of resources, see economic materialism. For the Marxist analysis, see dialectical materialism. For consumerism, see consumerism. For materialist perspective on social development, see… … Wikipedia
Materialism — • As the word itself signifies, Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and… … Catholic encyclopedia
Cultural hegemony — Cultural hegemony: the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, (1891–1937). Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological theory, by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally diverse society can be dominated (ruled) by one… … Wikipedia
materialism — In sociology and related disciplines, the word materialism has three quite distinct meanings which are, however, to some extent interconnected, and very commonly confused with each other. The first meaning is drawn from popular moral or political … Dictionary of sociology
materialism — /meuh tear ee euh liz euhm/, n. 1. preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values. 2. the philosophical theory that regards… … Universalium
Cultural Creatives — For other uses, see Culture (disambiguation). Cultural Creatives is a term coined by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson to describe a large segment in Western society that has recently developed beyond the standard… … Wikipedia