Primitive culture  

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"Many early sociologists and other writers portrayed primitive cultures as noble—noble savages—and believed that their lack of technology and less integrated economies made them ideal examples of the correct human lifestyle. Among these thinkers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is most frequently associated with the idea of the noble savage based on his Discourse on Inequality, and Karl Polanyi, who in The Great Transformation praised the economic organization of primitive societies as less destructive than the market economy. The belief that primitive cultures are ideal is often described as primitivism; branches of this theory include primitive communism and anarcho-primitivism." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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In older anthropology texts and discussions, a primitive culture is one that lacks major signs of economic development or modernity. For instance, it might lack a written language or advanced technology and have a limited and isolated population. The term was used by Western writers to describe foreign cultures contacted by European colonists and explorers. Primitive Culture is also the title of a major work by Edward Tylor, "the founder of anthropology", in which he defines religion as "animism" which, in turn, he defines by reference to contemporary indigenous and other religious data as "the belief in spirits". Another defining characteristic of primitive cultures is a greater amount of leisure time than in more complex societies.

Many early sociologists and other writers portrayed primitive cultures as noble—noble savages—and believed that their lack of technology and less integrated economies made them ideal examples of the correct human lifestyle. Among these thinkers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is most frequently associated with the idea of the noble savage based on his Discourse on Inequality, and Karl Polanyi, who in The Great Transformation praised the economic organization of primitive societies as less destructive than the market economy. The belief that primitive cultures are ideal is often described as primitivism.

Many of these writers assumed that contemporary indigenous peoples or their cultures were comparable to the earliest humans or their cultures. Some people still make this assumption. The word "primitive" comes from the Latin "primus" meaning "first", and it was believed by Victorian anthropologists that the so-called primitive contemporary cultures preserved a state unchanged since "stone age" paleolithic or neolithic times. This assumption has proved to be false as hunter-gatherer bands have just as much accumulated innovation as do "modern" civilised cultures. The differences are because most of the cultural innovation in hunter-gatherer or shifting horticultural cultures is in areas of ceremonial, arts, beliefs, ritual and tradition which usually do not leave cultural artefacts, tools or weapons. The assumption too that hunter-gatherer bands and shifting horticultural tribes have more in common than they have with more complex urban or civilised societies is also denied by many modern archaeologists. Close examination of differences in culture show that these types of cultures are as different as they are from modern urban and civilised cultures.

Though belief in the "noble savage" has not disappeared, describing a culture as primitive is often considered factually incorrect and offensive today. Use of the term, especially in academic settings, has thus diminished.

Primitive Culture

Primitive Culture

Primitive Culture is a anthropological study of "primitive cultures" by British ethnologist Edward Burnett Tylor first published in 1871, his most influential work. Building on the work of Charles De Brosses, Tylor considered fetishism to be a special case of animism.

See also

primitivism, primitive art, primitive, caveman

Further reading




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