The Ghosts of Marx.


Marx’s materialism influenced much of anthropology in the 20th century. Once Marx’s predicted world proletarian revolution failed, many academics decided to look into why world communism never materialized, looking specifically at how capitalism adapted and changed. One of the aspects that the newer Marxist looked at is how the class struggle in the industrialized nations became a struggle between the rich and poor countries, so that the lives and struggles of the poor across the world became connected as more and more economic and political linkages developed around the world.

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Much of present day anthropology is dealing with the push of Marxist anthropologists to make fieldwork more “activist” and protect the poor and weak, to right the wrongs of academic anthropology that used to serve imperialism, and that of non-Marxist anthropologists that simply want to record societies and strive to be “unbiased.”

I am being a bit simplistic here, but some of the biggest controversies revolve around globalization and power. Societies around the world are no longer truly isolated. They have to contend with the powerful groups from the US and Europe, whether it’s Hollywood, Coca-Cola or the Pentagon. At the same time, the way power works is almost invisible.

How do we examine power and culture? One way is to look at the “structure” of society.

Please read The Anthropology of Social Critics by Ida SusserPlease read/view the following links:

What are some ways power can be defined?What is the World System? What are some examples of this system in your everyday life?Why is it advantageous to see world cultures as a system of interconnections rather than a collection of isolated groups?

How does Ida Susser’s approach differ from the approach of “scientific”  anthropologists? Why?

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