An analysis of robert edgertons book sick societies

We have seen earlier how Edgerton identifies the semantic slipperiness of the standard ethnographic claim that intuitively maladaptive practices operate by concealed rationality, which the professionally uninitiated cannot perceive or understand.

Why, for example, must one validate the tribal belief in magic while withholding validation for the modern Western suspicion about magical thinking? Once the ice-bridge that permitted human migration to Tasmania melted, the Tasmanians remained in isolation from all other human contact for somewhere between ten and twelve-thousand years before the arrival of Europeans in modern times.

In about two-thirds of these instances, Edgerton finds himself obliged to discuss, not only the particular maladaptation, but also the deliberate elision of failed or An analysis of robert edgertons book sick societies or misery-producing institutions or practices in the field-reports of the ethnographers.

Nuclear arsenals on hair trigger might well have constituted such a condition, as more than one science fiction scenarist imagined.

But small and isolated societies are not the only ones vulnerable to maladaptation, as Edgerton shows in his examination of the Aztec Empire in the Valley of Mexico. It is interesting, however, and not a little provocative, that both cases involve sexual infractions of a lewd and disturbing kind.

Perhaps the original maladaptation was the idea that the moral code governing sexuality, rooting itself in the millennia of human experience, could be arbitrarily dismissed as though it was itself arbitrary.

The Oneida Community was obviously a case of maladaptation. These cases are significant because romantic misreporting has not distorted the relevant facts, which, belonging as they do to the historical record, no one disputes. While it is next unimaginable that even a committed cultural relativist would want to touch either the Oneida Colony or the Branchers apologetically with a ten-foot pole, the non-anthropological laity will probably - if only from its vestigial impulse to Christian charity - experience considerable sympathy for another case: Robert Edgerton — The idea that all societies have achieved adaptation, whether apparent to the outsider or not, thus communicates strongly with that longstanding strain in the modern Western mentality of irate rebellion against norms, simply because they are norms, and of seeking to replace the existing order, blamed for all sorrows, with a utopian one that straightens out all the kinks and knots of the existing condition.

In the main chapters of Sick Societies, Edgerton piles up the instances of maladaptation, one after the other, until the quantity of examples seem to make his case all by itself. The ethnographer, becoming an advocate for what he studies, declares the ethnic societies to be better adapted than the modern Western society.

The bloody order of the Aztec polity - although defended by such relativistic lights of academic anthropology as Marvin Harris and Marshal Sahlins - justly inspires a high degree of popular revulsion. The nobles apparently believed their many superstitions, and this credulity contributed to their downfall when Europeans arrived in the form of Hernan Cortez and his Conquistadors.

The reigning cultural relativism rejects this notion of a consistent human nature, but the record of that rejection consists in a series of disasters and catastrophes. Clearly the morality of sex is an adaptation so that ignorance or flouting of it necessarily qualifies as a maladaptation.

The currently prevalent self-hatred, urged on the commonality by the elites, who certainly never show any similar hatred of themselves or their own beliefs, differs radically from genuine introspection. Later on, Noyes imposed new strictures, according to which, "only older men Those policies are maladaptations.

Edgerton finally offers three formulaic definitions. The current prevalent self-hatred, urged on the commonality by the elites who certainly never show any similar hatred of themselves or of their own beliefsdiffers radically from genuine introspection.

Edgerton, whose willingness to admit reservations and concede opposing points makes him quite different from Rousseau, argues, not that no folk-societal arrangements are truly adaptive some arebut that anthropologists and ethnographers have exaggerated adaptation, always taken to signify some type of rationality, into a dogma.

Nevertheless, Edgerton writes, "all societies maintain some beliefs and practices that are maladaptive for at least some of their members, and it is likely that some of these social arrangements and cultural understandings will be maladaptive for everyone in the society. A false tolerance prevented the city from addressing the issue.


The Aztec elites valued warrior-competency and male-super-dominance above all other values, practiced slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism all on a lavish scale, and incessantly raided their neighbors for slaves and victims — the latter also furnishing the viands for the great ritual feasts.

Such practices stultified and brutalized the society.the use of using one's own culture as a yardstick for judging the ways of other individuals or societies, generally leading to a negative evaluation of their values, norms, and behaviors.

Culture the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and even material objects that characterize a group and are passed down to future generations.

Cultural relativism, anarcho-primitivism, and the myth of the noble savage are swept to the wayside as Edgerton takes the reader on a fascinating worldwide tour of folk societies. You will discover that no society is perfectly healthy, but some societies are far sicker than others.4/5. Robert B. Edgerton has 32 books on Goodreads with ratings.

Robert B. Edgerton’s most popular book is Sick Societies. An analysis examining mortality among millions of Americans. Paid content is paid for and controlled by an advertiser and produced by the Guardian. Robert de Vries and an analysis of robert edgertons book sick societies Aaron.

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