Economic anthropology: A study in comparative economics by Melville J Herskovits

By Melville J Herskovits

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Sapir, in developing his idea of "what kind of a good thing culture is," felt that this factor of specialization was so important that it could be used as a criterion to divide cultures into those which are "genuine" and those which are "spurious": The great cultural fallacy of industrialism, as developed up to the present time, is that in harnessing machines to our uses it has not known how to avoid the harnessing of the majority of mankind to its machines. The telephone girl who lends her capacities, during the greater part of the living day, to the manipulation of a technical routine that has an eventually high efficiency value but that answers to no spiritual needs of her own is an appalling sacrifice to civilization.

We must, then, be on our guard against a position that fails to take due account of modes of life other than our own, or which disregards directive forces other than those that to us appear to first magnitude. Above all, we must guard against think- be of the the cultures of nonliterate peoples as one undifferentiated mass, to be contrasted with our own particular body of ing of all traditions. These reservations must be kept ing that the machine has order of society which, in from all made its in mind in recogniz- possible for us to live in an economic aspects, is to be set apart it its complexity.

Further point must be clarified before we proceed to an exposition of the data descriptive of the economic aspects of non- One with which we shall deal in succeeding chapters. division of labor in the intellectual field has brought it about that students who investigate nonliterate cultures have had but literate societies The contact with those whose special concern is with the economic aspects of life; while those who study our economic organization have been so occupied with the problems of our complex industrial order that they do not customarily turn to other cultures for relevant materials against which to project their generalizations.

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