SOC483Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Historical Materialism, Verstehen, Reductionism

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9 Nov 2012
SOC483Y1- October 19, 2011
Geertz similar to Weber’s approach – Weber saw the human as an animal suspended in webs of own
construction. Geertz saw the threads in the web as having meaning and tried to define- tried to search for
meaning- ultimate purpose of culture- Geertz was specific about sociology and sought the method of
sociology and found ethnography or “thick-note” taking – extensively descriptive- note-taking write
down what is going on as if it is a novel, diary, defined by intellectual effort in thick description
- Geertz looks at Gilbert Ryle- “the winking boy” – twitch or gesture, it is deliberate to impart
message based on socially established code, parody Point: the thin description would not be
able to describe hierarchal levels of abstraction, “simply be boy twitching eye in front of mirror”
Geertz’s own example of thick description, spent time in Morocco, does not describe Morocco from
outset long presentation that does not make sense at first meanings within symbolic action symbolic
significant within thick description make arguments whether culture is subjective or objective argument
made irrelevant- thus we need to know what is being signified by particular acts in the given situation.
Culture is not causal, but rather the context in which things can be intelligently described, we want to
develop initial tones and concepts by looking within particular context, or culture interprets concepts…
Anthropologist is apparently an active agent… we want meaning based in a specific context
Geertz wants to find “minding” no universal applications
Anthropologists tried to take micro and turn into macro which causes macro experimental problems
thus he provides things to be aware of…
Ex: protest- as natural social experiment is flawed because you cannot control a riot cannot say you
identified specific variables
Similarity with Geertz? They are both looking for meaning, speaking to importance of meaning on
social structure
Sahlins challenges materialist approach to capitalism
- He would challenge a material world concept
- He challenges the historical materialist argument, and believes they made an essential mistake-
that they can separate into material aspects and social need to get along
- Historical materialist analysis ignore unity of culture, ignorant of reason imposed in society
believe nature is a deterministic force and society based on personal interests but this separation
ignores culture as itself having symbolic meaning (According to Sahlins) which could potentially
define personal interest
- Nature : realm of possibilities
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