A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June But to Kroeber, the superorganic was actually what made anthropology a science —with its subject matter being the universals and regularities of human. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Thanks for your comment and I hope to continue this discussion with you and others, Glenn.

It operates at a higher level of complexity than the kroeer. I hope that this will become one of a series of papers which present early anthropological theory in a form that is accessible to everyone. For recently contacted peoples, FUNAI tries to do as much as possible to convince them to continue living as they did prior to contact.

If we start with the inorganic, it is the physical universe, all the atoms of elements without life. Over time I would like to work on the British side of the tradition, since that superlrganic actually how I was trained as well at least in undergrad. In it, I will present a series of open access, curated texts from the history of anthropological theory.

Much Boasian thought is now in the public domain, but is difficult to find and inconvenient to read. Finally, Kroeber argues that the legitimacy of superkrganic or history, these terms are used interchangeably in a way that modern readers may find strange is tied to the existence of culture.


There are many reasons: If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author s and link it back to cec. I want to give my students early 20th Century essays by Anthros, on the value of oral history as indigenous interpretation of their past. We can call this the lowest level of complexity. Kroeber occupies several positions here, and the loose ends in this section of his argument would be taken up by future thinkers.

“The Superorganic,” or Kroeber’s hidden agenda.

And yet it is little read today. Similarly, do not think of a community, an institution, a society as a human being. Both Darwin and Wallace imagined evolution, and neither would have been accepted if society was not ready for the idea. Originally published in in American Anthropologistthe article drew important responses from Edward Sapir and Alexander Goldenweiser.

If a peoples e. On the contrary DJ — this was designed to introduce you to the anthropology you always wanted to do but never knew existed! Kroeber makes this argument through a discussion of the role of genius in shaping history. They have developed communications between themselves to an elaborate degree, much more sophisticated than other animals. Key Words Modules Sociology: There is a parallel, therefore, in the relations between the inorganic and the organic, as between the organic and the superorganic.

Dear Robin, Thanks for writing. If you separate the dog or tree into its separate elements, it dies. Similarly, the dog, if seen as a biological system, operates at a higher complexity than the inorganic elements which comprise it.

They behave, however, in concert with each other, as a system external to individuals —— society. This is of course a highly ambiguous situation, in essence forcing people to live in imposed isolation.


Human beings are animals, and as such are organic systems. It may have a life of its own, but its life more resembles an amoeba than a human. On the one hand, Kroeber sees the mental lives of individuals as the biological substrate on which culture writes itself.

I will keep going until I complete a free anthology suitable for classroom use, or until I get bored.


Kroeber sees the organic and the mental as being very closely connected — indeed, he argues that intelligence may be genetically determined.

The original essay is around 19, words. Since you know well the Lowie collection at Berkeley, are there any texts that might be available online? It is also important to emphasize that in asking this question, Kroeber clearly sees the importance of biological anthropology and human evolutionary history to cultural anthropology.

What articles come to mind? Humans have thoughts and behaviour.


The links are symbolic, not genetic as in biological systems. The arrangement makes them alive. Kroeber included material from the article in his textbook Anthropology: It is just easier to access and, frankly, cries out for an editor more.