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Pathways of PowerBuilding an Anthropology of the Modern World$
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Eric Wolf

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520223332

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520223332.001.0001

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American Anthropologists and American Society

American Anthropologists and American Society

(p.13) 1 American Anthropologists and American Society
Pathways of Power

Eric R. Wolf

University of California Press

This chapter generates an interest in the sociology of anthropological knowledge and reveals the three different phases of American anthropology that correspond to three different phases of the development of American society. It stimulates thinking about problem setting in the discipline not merely in terms of the truth and falsity of answers, but in terms of whole intellectual enterprise as a form of social action, operating within and against a certain societal and cultural contexts. To each of these three phases, American anthropology responded in its own way: to the intellectual mood of social Darwinism, with the elaboration of evolutionist theory; to Liberal Reform, with theories that stressed human flexibility and plasticity; and to the present phase, with uncertainties and equivocations about power. The renewed interest in cultural plurality and relativity celebrated the malleability of humans, thus celebrating also their vast potential for change. This period is characterized by two opposing yet interconnected trends.

Keywords:   sociology, anthropological knowledge, American society, cultural plurality, evolutionist theory

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