Beliefs & Behaviors: Benedict, Lévi-Strauss & Leach

What makes people do what they do and believe what they believe? In the following essay I will trace the differing explanations of why people do what they do of three influential anthropologists. The ideas of the relationship between beliefs and behaviors varies significantly among Ruth Benedict, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Edmund Leach. All three of them believed that meanings and values were contextual and historically produced. However, they differed in what they believed was the relationship between a person’s thoughts/beliefs and behaviors/actions. Continue reading


Individual and Society: The contrasting views of Benedict, Geertz and Wilson

What is the relationship between the individual and his or her society/culture? Does a person’s culture and society determine his beliefs and behavior? Or do the individual beliefs and behaviors based on self-interest, collectively comprise a culture and determine the cohesion of a society? In this paper I will compare and contrast the views of Ruth Benedict, Clifford Geetz and David Sloan Wilson on the relationship between people and their culture and society. Continue reading

Keeping it together: Why some societies & cultures cohere & some persist

Why do some social groups or societies persist for generations and others disappear in only a few generations? How is the integration and coherence of a society developed and maintained? Benedict, Gluckman, Barth, and Wilson all believed in specific mechanisms that sustained traditional values and societies over time. In this paper I will compare and contrast the various explanations for cultural coherence and longevity put forth by Ruth Benedict, Max Gluckman, Fredrik Barth and David Sloan Wilson. Continue reading