Anthropology | Theory of Culture Change
E480 | 15732 | Peebles
General Overview: This course surveys major conceptual and theoretical
approaches to the study of culture change. It does so primarily
through the medium of broad, topical lectures and with the aid of a
few "classic" monographs. The lectures and the readings have been
selected to illustrate a particular school of thought, an exemplary
line of reasoning, a general ascription of cause that accounts for
change, as well as methods and techniques appropriate to the study of
culture change. Although primarily a lecture course, the format has
been designed to allow time each week for questions and discussion.
There will be additional opportunities to discuss specific readings in
small groups moderated by the instructor. In this way the themes
covered in the readings and in the lectures can be explored further
and related one to the other.
If there are texts in this course they are: Return to Reason by
Stephen Toulmin, The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon,
Understanding the Process of Economic Change by Douglas North, and The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber. Embedded
in this quartet of works are a series of monographs that can be
related to one another through intellectual filiations and strongly
expressed differences. They are: The Poverty of Historicism by Karl
Popper, The Road to Serfdom by Frederick Hayek, The Great
Transformations by Karl Polanyi. Plow, Sword, and Book: The Structure
of Human History by Ernst Gellner; The Eclipse of Reason by Max
Horkheimer, and Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Assignments: All participants in this course--registered students and
auditors alike--are required to complete the readings on or before the
dates specified in the class schedule. Each student who is registered
in the course for credit will be required to complete four small (ca.
5-8 page) papers on the causal arguments offered for culture change by
Popper, Polanyi, Horkheimer, and Gellner and then apply what has been
learned to a critical analysis of Diamond that will be the topic of
the final paper (8-12 pages).