Marxist Anthropology. essentially an economic interpretation of history based on the works of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels posits a materialist model of societal change
Karl Marx (1818-1883).
1820 - 1895
Marx regarded social systems as inherently unstable, rather than normally existing in a stable condition.
History is marked by the growth of human productive capacity, and the forms that history produced for each separate society is a function of what was needed to maximize productive capacity.
the history of Europe seen in terms of the transition from feudalism to capitalism and eventually to communism
The wage is only equivalent to some of the value of the worker performed but the labourer;
Marx and Engles viewed social change as an evolutionary process marked by revolution in which new levels of social, political and economic development were achieved through class struggle
Capitalism produces a relationship of mutual dependence between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (without labourers the capitalist cannot make a profit), which is also inherently antagonistic: the interests of the two main classes are opposed.
Marx believed that various tendencies in capitalism would promote class conflict.
believed that Morgan’s evolutionary stages of human culture with material achievements and technology validated their evolutionary theory
1956 published a Marxist reinterpretation of Meyer Fortes’sanalysis of the Tallensi (Ghana) society
The Tallensi of are subsistence farmers who traditionally lacked centralized leadership..
Fortes said that men worked the land of their fathers because ancestors graves were built on it for religious reasons I.e. functional
He proposed a more practical reason for people’s attachment to the land.
Worsely Showed that Tallensi young men returned to their father’s homestead when he reached old because of a the desire to inherit the right to farm some of this land.
Worsely demonstrated how Marx’s axiom that control of the means of production conferred power, elucidated the economic basis of lineage organization in small scale societies
Many contemporary theories have come to rely on Marxists insights particularly true of cultural ecologists, and neo-materialists, feminist and postmodern thinkers
and, through increasingly powerful state bureaucracies, to consolidate the flow of surplus toward the core countries
The writings of Marx had been largely ignored by anthropologists but in the late 60s and early 70s they were rediscovered
The turn toward Marxist analyses coincided with changes in the empirical base of the discipline - the fieldwork situation
our society with its world view, its taken for granted knowledge derived from the capitalist mode of production, influences the people who practice a particular science and the further development of that field
In 1969, the Radical Caucus of the American Anthropological Association presented a resolution to the Association\'s annual meeting which began:
"Anthropology since its inception has contained a dual but contradictory heritage. On the one hand it derives from a humanistic tradition of concern with people. On the other hand, anthropology is a discipline developed alongside and within the growth of the colonial and imperial powers. By what they have studied (and what they have not studied) anthropologists have assisted in, or at least acquiesced to, the goals of imperialist policy. It is becoming increasingly apparent to many that these two traditions are in contradiction."
How do we assess the claims of a discipline which writes accounts of "cultures" abstracted from the contexts of capitalism and imperialism, racism and domination, war and revolution?
In his view, the motor for the rise of international capitalism was located in the West, and the system itself was built on exploitation, enslavement, genocide, and the formation of class structures and states
Marx’s framework cannot deal adequately with other dimensions of inequality. To conceptualize a society as mode of production is inevitably to privilege economic relations over other aspects of inequality. There is more than simply the class struggle going on in society
Marx\'s 11th Thesis on Feuerbach in mind: that the philosophers have interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.