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The Interpretation of Cultures : selected essays

by Geertz, Clifford
Published by : Fontana, 1993, c1973 (London) Physical details: ix, 470 p. 20 cm. ISBN:0006862608.
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Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Books Books School of Celtic Studies
Room 21 - MacCana Collection
PMC 306 G (Browse shelf) Available (Standard Loan) 30319

Donation Ex Libris Proinsias Mac Cana.

History and edition Originally published: New York : Basic Books, 1973.

Review What role does culture play in social life? A distinguished anthropologist restates the paramount question of his discipline and offers some brilliant conjectures. Hominization shows that the traits that were thought unique to homo sapiens (tools, language, social organization) not only preceded him, but contributed to the biological evolution which culminated in sapiens. Culture is, therefore, necessary not merely to man's survival but to his existential realization. How should it be properly studied? The starting point for a theory of culture, Geertz tells us, is a conception of thinking as a social act: a traffic in significant symbols. Groups employ machineries of meaning to orient themselves in the world. Only after having understood these programs for the regulation of behavior can we legitimately relate culture to social structure. This is precisely what the different "sociologies" - of religion, ideology, and knowledge - fail to do. But anthropology comes to the rescue. It gives us access to the conceptual worlds of peoples so that we can, in an extended sense of the term, converse with them. Geertz calls it "thick description": a scientific phenomenonology of culture that is different from the all too cerebral puzzle-solving of Levi-Strauss. Geertz applies this semiotic perspective to the study of ritual, religion, and world-view in various societies and analyzes the ideological ferment in the new states. These often eloquent, sometimes verbose, essays were written in the early '60's. The author has revised some of them for this volume, but in a more basic sense the book is surprisingly dated: it is steeped in functionalism of Parsonian vintage. (Kirkus Reviews)

(BIBI) Includes bibliographical footnotes and index.

Part I--Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture--Part II--The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man--The Growth of Culture and the Evolution of Mind--Part III--Religion As a Cultural System--Ethos, World View, and the Analysis of Sacred Symbols--Ritual and Social Change: A Javanese Example--Internal Conversion in Contemporary Bali--Part IV--Ideology As a Cultural System--After the Revolution: The Fate of Nationalism in the New States--The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States--The Politics of Meaning--Politics Past, Politics Present: Some Notes on the Uses of Anthropology in Understanding the New States--PART V--The Cerebral Savage: On the Work of Claude Lévi-Strauss--Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali--Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

This is a collection of essays which attempt to push forward a particular view of what culture is, what role it plays in social life and how it ought to be properly studied. What emerges is this book - a treatise in cultural theory developed through a series of concrete analyses.

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