1 By “energy” we mean “the capacity for performing work.”
ENERGY AND THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURE
Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
1943 American Anthropological Association
Volume 45, Issue 3, pages 335–356, July-September 1943
How to Cite
White, L. A. (1943), ENERGY AND THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURE. American Anthropologist, 45: 335–356. doi: 10.1525/aa.1943.45.3.02a00010
- Issue published online: 28 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
2 The Symbol: The origin and basis. (Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7, October, 1940), pp. 451–463.,
3 See Science is sciencing (Philosophy of Science, Vol. 5, October, 1938), pp. 369–389, for a discussion of this general point of view..
4 “Natural science” is a redundancy. All science is natural; if it is not natural it is not science.
5 Actually, of course, it is not wholly constant; there may be progress in music, myth-making, etc., regardless of technology. A men's club, however, is still a men's club, whether the underlying technology be simple and crude or highly developed. But, since the overwhelming portion of cultural development is due to technological progress, we may legitimately ignore that small portion which is not so dependent by regarding it a constant.
6 “There is only one cultural reality that is not artificial, to wit: the culture of all humanity at all periods and in all places,” Cultural Anthropology: a Science (American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 42, 1936), p. 305.,
7 We say “per year” although “per unit of time” would serve as well, because in concrete cultural situations a year would embrace the full round of the seasons and the occupations and actions appropriate thereto.
8 The cultural evolutionists have been critized for identifying progress with evolution by pointing out that these two words are not synonymous. It is as true as it is obvious that they are not synonymous–in the dictionary. But by and large, in the history of human culture, progress and evolution have gone hand in hand.
9 See Tylor, Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p. 14 (London, 1929 printing) for another respect in which, in theory of evolution, “the student of the habits of mankind has a great advantage over the student of the species of plants and animals.”
10 “Commencing probably with the dog… followed … by the capture of the young of other animals and rearing them, not unlikely, from the merest freak of fancy it required time and experience to discover the utility of each …” (emphasis ours). Morgan, Ancient Society, p. 42 (Holt ed.).
11 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (New York, 1940 ed.) pp. 51-52. In this argument Lowie leans heavily upon Eduard Hahn, whose work, incidentally, appeared many years after Ancient Society (“Subsistence,” p. 303, in Geneeral Anthropology. F. Boas, ed., New York, 1938; History of Ethnological Theory. p. 112 ff., New York, 1937).
12 Following Morgan and Tylor, we use “savagery” to designate cultures resting upon a wild-food basis, “barbarism” for cultures with a domestic food basis. Our use of “civilization,” however, differs from that of Tylor and Morgan (see p. 355).
13 “Finds in the Near East seem to indicate that the domestication of plants and animals in that region was followed by an extraordinary flowering of culture,” The Present Status of Anthropology (Science, Vol. 87, 1938), p. 245.,
14 But this does not mean that agriculture must be preceded by a pastoral economy in the course of cultural development. Contrary to a notion current nowadays, none of the major evolutionists ever maintained that farming must be preceded by herding.
15 It is true, of course, that powder is used in blasting in quarries, etc., and is to this extent a motive force in culture building. But energy employed in this way is relatively insignificant quantitatively. The bow and arrow inaugurated cultural advance because in its economic context it provided man with food in greater quantity or with less effort. The gun, in its hunting context, has had the opposite effect, that of reducing the food supply by killing off the game. In their military contexts, neither the bow and arrow or the gun has been a culture builder. The mere conquest or extermination of one tribe or nation by another, the mere change from one dynasty or set of office holders to another, is not culture building.
16 Science and the World Tommorow (Scientific Monthly, Sept. 1939) p. 211. These figures do not, however, tell the whole story for they ignore the vast amount of energy harnessed in the form of cultivated plants and domestic animals.
17 We may be permitted thus to distinguish two different ways of harnessing energy although each involves fire and fuel. By “fire” we indicate such energy uses of fire which preceded the steam engine–clearing forests, burning logs to make dugout canoes, etc. By “fuel” we designate energy harnessed by steam, gasoline, etc., engines.
18 Technologically a freeman and a slave are equal, both being energy in homo sapiens form. Sociologically, there is, of course, a vast difference between them. Sociologically a slave is not a human being; he is merely a beast of burden who can talk.
19 According to E. H. Hull, of the General Electric Research Laboratory, the power equiva lent of “a groaning and sweating slave” is “75 watts of electricity, which most of us can buy at the rate of two-fifths of a cent an hour.” Engineering: Ancient and Modern (Scientific Monthly, November, 1939), p. 463.
20 Future Sources of Power (Science, Nov. 7, 1941), p. 425.,
21 Ibid., p. 426.
22 Progress in Harnessing Power from Uranium (Scientific Monthly, June, 1940).,
23 Is Atomic Power at Hand? (Scientific Monthly, June, 1940), p. 573.,
24 Fast New World (Collier's, July 6, 1940).
25 See Utilizing Heat from the Sun. (Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 98, No. 5, March 30, 1939).,
26 The page references are to Morgan's Ancient Society, Henry Holt edition.
27 Page references are to Tylor Anthropology (New York, Appleton & Co. edition of 1916).
28 One distinguished anthropologist has gone so far as to declare that “the theory of cultural evolution [is] to my mind the most inane, sterile, and pernicious theory ever conceived in the history of science…” in a review of Lowie's Culture and Ethnology (American Anthropologist, Vol. 20, 1918), p. 90.,
29 Op. cit., p. 211.
30 Human Origins (New York, 1933), Vol. II, pp. 134–135.