A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June But to Kroeber, the superorganic was actually what made anthropology a science —with its subject matter being the universals and regularities of human. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Both Darwin and Wallace imagined evolution, and neither would have been accepted if society was not ready kroebsr the idea. Knowing the dynamics of how carbon atoms operate, or that combining hydrogen and oxygen can result in a rapid combustion if not an explosion, does not explain how the tree works, with its teh converting sunlight into energy to change water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon, channels to transfer sap from leaves to root, and so on.

If you analyse all those parts, in themselves, or even as a collection, they are not living.

There is a parallel, therefore, in the relations between the inorganic and the organic, as between the organic and the superorganic. On the one hand, Kroeber sees the mental lives of individuals as the biological substrate on which culture writes itself.

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And yet it is little read today. When it comes to speaking for a contemporary audience, then, Kroeber is his own worst enemy. There are many reasons: Now to the meat of the paper itself: If we start with the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life.


For recently contacted peoples, FUNAI tries to do as much as possible to convince them to continue living as thw did prior to contact.

superorganc In future editions these may be corrected. I will keep going until I complete a free anthology suitable for classroom use, or until I get bored. The original essay is around 19, words. It is just easier to access and, frankly, cries out for an editor more. There are no superior races.

They have developed communications between themselves to an superorganiic degree, much more sophisticated than other animals. If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author s and link it back to cec. This elaboration links humans together into communities and societies. Kroeber occupies several positions here, and the loose ends in this section of his argument would be taken up by future thinkers.

Culture as the superorganic

When indigenous groups make clear efforts to avoid contact, it seems perfectly wuperorganic, indeed necessary, for governments kroebfr indigenous rights organizations to do all they can to respect this choice. Kroeber sees the organic and the mental as being very closely connected — indeed, he argues that intelligence may be genetically determined.

So hard to find good materials that draw students into particular debates or key ideas. It operates at a higher level of complexity than the organic.

Savage Mind’s new occasional paper series: first up, The Superorganic | Savage Minds

One quick note, folks: Culture and society comprise the third level. What articles come to mind? The essay is clearly written and structured, but there is little explicit signposting.

But if the organic causes the mental, the mental does not, then, cause the cultural. Kroeber makes this argument through a discussion of the role of genius in shaping history.


But in doing so, he argues, we miss the cultural dimension of conduct that makes human lives so unique. Do not think of a dog as a carbon atom or a hydrocarbon molecule. Difficulty of access supports them.


What do you think? Dear Robin, Thanks for writing. But he also argues that individual organic endowment cannot affect civilization.

Superorganjc arrangement makes them alive. The second level of complexity is composed of living things.

At the same time, Kroeber argues, art and literature conveys truths that are enduring, but which are aesthetic and not scientific. Looking superorgannic the relationship between living things and their inorganic components in this way helps us to understand the relationship between culture and persons. Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, and Prehistory. Those are carried by individuals.

Predictably, Kroeber argues that organic racial difference cannot affect the growth of civilization. And if a culture is ready for an innovation, then anyone with above average intelligence may be able to invent it.

Rex, allow me to recommend one of the very first articles I read in anthropology and one to whose lessons, I now realise, I find myself returning all the time. But to be honest the copyright issues with British authors are thhe more complicated than they are with American ones, and that makes things more difficult. Rather, culture operates on its own level of determination.