The Origin of Cultures: How Individual Choices Make Cultures Change

The Origin of Cultures: How Individual Choices Make Cultures Change

by W Penn Handwerker
     
 

In this provocative and important book, renowned anthropologist W. Penn Handwerker shows that individual choices, from the fatal to the mundane, are fundamentally questions of culture—what it is, where it comes from, and the complex ways it changes and evolves.See more details below

Overview

In this provocative and important book, renowned anthropologist W. Penn Handwerker shows that individual choices, from the fatal to the mundane, are fundamentally questions of culture—what it is, where it comes from, and the complex ways it changes and evolves.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781598740684
Publisher:
Left Coast Press
Publication date:
09/15/2009
Series:
Key Questions in Anthropology: Little Books on Big Ideas
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
156
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

Table of Contents

Preface 7

1 The Puzzle 9

What's This Thing Culture? 15

Directional Change in Productivity 16

Revolutions Produce Qualitative Change 18

Names Aren't Cultures 24

Many Cultures Intersect to Make a Person 26

A Thing, Sui Generis 27

Galton's Problem 30

The Argument in This Book 33

Selected Bibliography 34

2 What Makes a Door? 37

What Exists Now Shapes What Comes Next 39

New Things Come from Old Things 41

What Exists Now Could Not Exist Without What Went Before 43

Why Cultures Must Evolve, Unexpectedly 47

What Sets Us Apart? 50

Selected Bibliography 53

3 Sensory Fields and Cultural Outputs 55

Different Experiences Produce Different Cultures 55

Sensory Isolation and Information Flow 60

We Take Our Cultures with Us 62

We Learn from Our Neighbors 67

Information Volume Regulates How Much We Learn 70

Two Rules for Cultural Design 74

Cultural Dynamics 78

Selected Bibliography 80

4 Why We Don't Learn What We Could 81

Why We Tell Good from Bad 82

Winnowing the Good from the Bad 83

Winnowing Makes for Incremental Change 85

How We Tell Good from Bad 89

What This Means 92

What Makes Consequences Change? 94

Cultural Evolution Shifts Course when Consequences Change 97

Selected Bibliography 104

5 Consequences Depend on the Distribution of Power 107

Consequences Elicit Cultural Assumptions 109

A Fish Rots from the Head 113

Lower Level Power Concentrations Also Unleash Violence 116

Subordinates Find Ways to Empower Themselves 119

A Shift in the Distribution of Power Elicits New Cultural Assumptions 121

Selected Bibliography 129

6 Lessons Learned 131

A Thought Experiment 134

People Do violence to Defend Themselves138

More Often than Not, Different Does Mean Better 140

How New Things Acquire Immense Power 141

What about the Future? 144

Selected Bibliography 149

Index 151

About the Author 155

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