Anthropology and Politics: Revolutions in the Sacred Grove
December 1995, Wiley-Blackwell
Ernest Gellner argues that cultures are crucially important in human life as constraining systems of meaning. Cultural transition means that the required characteristics are transmitted from generation to generation, leading, he shows, to both greater diversity and to far more rapid change than is possible among species where transmission is primarily by genetic means. But the relative importance of semantic and physical compulsion needs to be explored rather than pre-judged. The weakness of idealism, which at present operates under the name of hermeneutics, is that it underplays the importance of coercion, and that it presents cultures as self-justifying and morally sovereign: this line of argument, the author demonstrates, is fundamentally flawed.
1. The Politics of Anthropology.
2. Origins of Society.
3. Culture, Constraint and Community.
4. Freud's Social Contract.
5. Past and Present.
6. James Frazer and Cambridge.
7. Pluralism and the Neolithic.
8. The Highway to Growth.
9. A Marxist Might-have-been.
10. War and Violence.
11. Tribe and State in the Middle East.
12. Maghreb as Mirror for Man.
13. Lawrence of Moravia.
14. Anthropology and Europe.
15. The Coming Fin de Millenaire.
16. The Uniqueness of Truth.
* One of the world's leading philosophers - addresses the key issues in the subject: relativism and unique truth; the post-colonial crisis of confidence; the anthropology of the west, including the anthropology of war.