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Edited by
Raonl Naroll and Ronald

Columbia University Press

New York & London 1973
Originally prepared under the auspices of The Council for Intersocietal Studies at North-
western University.

Library of.Congress Cataloging n Publcation Data

5 Naroll, Raoul. ":
*. . A handbook.of method in cultural anthropology.
: Reprit of the 1970 ed.
. Tncludes bibliographies.
1. EthnologyMehodology. I. Cohn, Ronald,
joint author. II. Title.
GN345.N37 1973 301.2 72-12762
-JSBN 0-231-03731-7
ISBN 0-231-03749-X *(pbk.)

Copyright.,,1^70 by0aoul Narpirand Rpnald Cohn - -

x.iFirst published i^^atura^Hi^ by C
v- Printed in the United States of America

The Logic of Generalization


Raoul Naroll

To start with, a book on research method answer to the question: "How do you know,
may well have a look at the nature.of. that you are not now dreaming?"
knowledge. ,The purpose of research is .ob- The study of optical illusioris by Segall,
viously to increase knowledge. But what do Campbell and Herskovits (1966) further at-.
we mean by "knowing" and how do we know tacks our confidence n our own knowledge.
what we know? Needless to say, these ques- Through a large-scale comparatve study of a
tions constitute that branch of philosophy wide variety of cultures, these three men
called eplstemology. Their discussion has been showed that certain optical illusions are sys-
a .central theme of Western philosophy from tematically related to cultural background.
Plato and Aristotle through Hume and Kant You may or may not be persuaded by the
to Reichenbach and Popper. foregoing argument. Some people are; others
The discussion of epistemology by philoso- are not. But you must concede, I think, that
phers has usually taken for granted one ele- no answer to the Chnese- sage has proved
ment in the definition of knowledge. Usually, generally convincing. Ever since the basic
the question has been in erfect framed, "How issues were raised by Plato and Aristotle,
can we be sure that such-and-such is true?" thoughtful men in the West have wondered
No philosopher has provided a generally and have disagreed about the basic nature of
satisfactory answer to this question, even in knowledge.
its easiest form. The easiest form of the ques- Thus, after you think about it awhile, you
tion is: "How can I be sure of what is taking may or may not still feel absolutely certain that
place within my own mind?" To answer this you are a man or a woman, rather than a but-
question finally one must dispose of the terfly. But you must face the fact that you can-
familiar Chnese paradox. An od sage once not persuade all your colleagues you know
was talking^to a group of his students. "Last how tp, demnstrate with certainty the truth
night," he said, "I had a dream. I dreamed of your belief. -
I was a butterfiy. I flitted from blossom to There is a tale about another philosopher of
blossom, reveling in the delicious perfume of ancient timesthis one a Greek. The story
the flowers and sipping from their nctar. goes that the od man pondered long on-
Then I awoke, and found myself a tired od epistemology. "How do I know that I exist?
man." He paused and looked about him at How. do I .know that bread is good food and^
each of his disciples in tura. "Now tell wine^ good drink?"; Unable to answer these
me," he finally asked. "Am I. an od man who questions, he refused either. to eat or drink
dreamed . he " was . a butterfly? Or. am I a anything. And so ,he die_d: a martyf to
butterfly who is dreaming that he' is an od epistemology. ,. : " ' . . - - . . - ..:;.
man?" . : - . . . . - ' ,- Whether ( or not there is any . truth to this
I put r it .to you that there is no way to tale, it is nevertheless of the greatest . im-
answer wz/i certainty. .There is no way to portance. For it points up the epistemological,
be absolutely sure. There is no final and olear foundation . of all scientific research. Some.
ay have no doubt. at all that they exist And we must all do as the most skeptical of
hat they are people and not butterflies. philosophers in fact dowe must eat the
thers may have no doubt at all that bread is bread and drink the wine anyway, whether
ood to eat and winein moderatkmgood it is really good for us or not.
o drink. But when it comes to the fundamen- Each of us may conceivably doubt that
al propositions of science abot the general he is awake and truly observing, not asleep
ature of the universej doubt is the rule and 'fantasying. But each of us knows with
ather than the exception. Scientific general- certainty what he is now feelingwhether his
zations are always tentative. There are two sensations are pleasant or unpleasant. Whether
accepted models of the logic of scientific in- or not the sensations are based on reality or
ference. The older model is the inductive fantasy is beside the polnt. Each of us, at
odel of Aristotle. This model holds that any moment, knows whether or not he feels
scientific generalization consists in reasoning comfortable or uncomfortable.
rom a number of particlars to a grand Hunger is uncomfortable, thirst even more
general. I have seen hundreds of swans. All so. We allwith the possible exception of
swans I ever saw were white swans. There- one demented ancient Greek philosqpher
ore, I conclude that all swans are .white. have a working hypothesis that bread will still
uch was the classic model of inductive rea- the pangs of hunger and wine the pangs of
oning. Philosophers who taught it always thirst. I know I feel hungry. I think -I am in
mphasized that it did not yield certainty. my kitchen. That looks like a pece of bread
here was no way to be sure that somewhere on the table. As a good Popprian logical
lse, in the remote undiscovered Antipodes positivist philosopher, I proceed to attempt
erhaps, there might not be a race of black to falsify the hypothesis that in fact I really
wans. " : am in my kitchen, that what I see really is
The newer model of the - logic of scientific bread on the table, and that such bread is
nference is that of Karl Popper (1959). really good to eat I eat the bread with a
opper .arges that true. scientific generaliza- bit of raspberry jam, and immediately feel
ion is not inductive at all, but deductive. better. My personal hypotheses about hunger,
or example, it strikes him that probably all about kitchens and about pieces of bread, al-
wans are white. He wishes to test the truth ready firmly established in early childhood,
f his idea by systematic study; Therefore are once again further supported, My attempt
e plans a world-wide sample survey of water- at falsifying my theory of almentation once
owl, looking for swans. From the general again had failed. Happily so. The intervention
heory it follows by deduction that any partic- into what seems to be the real world has not
lar individual swan must be white. Every produced any experiences which contradict
ew swan observed is a new test of the gen- my alimentation theory: hunger pangs are
ral theory. If he finds even one black swari, stiled by food; bread is good foodespecially
is generalization is refuted. Scientific re- with a lttle raspberry jam. I ' d o ' n o t know
earch consists essentially! of attempts to re- that this theory is correct, not with certainty.
ute the scientist's own ideas. The scientist But after so many successful triis, I must
aturally hopes his attempt will fail. But he conclude with the rest of bread-eating man-
s not a scientist unless he devises a re- kind that the probablity of its falsehood is
earch plan which is likely to refute his ideas very small. Probability estimation is the nub
f in fact they are incorrect If a really of the matter. The odds now seem to me
horough and well-designed attempt at ref- smaller than evr'thaf'my mother 'was :mis-
tation fails, then the idea is tentatively taken in this matter. She led-me very early
resumed right. But it is nver finally shown in life to believe that bread and -'jam are
o be so."According to -Popper and't Aris- good to "eat.-:Nearly fifty years latey after
tle alike, there is no research method which thousands of triis, I have yet to find -n in-
ermits generalization with ".certainty -"about stance'where bread and jam have : disagreed
e world outside the mind }rom Vthings" ac- with me.'' ' l -- ?: - ; <,-* '-"- -" ''- ;"- ^'-^ -*. 1 '"-'-..;-: -
ally observed to things notvso observed. Technically, .the -special kind of probability
Thus as scientists we 'are all in the position irifefric'e " involved: he're r is ' calld :-Bayesian
f the old:Greek";:who could not be sure : that' inference.' -To" understand what is ';ment by
read is good 'to at or -wine good to drink.' Bayesia "inference, "we must "consider 'for a
moment the basic meaning of the probability ting a black marble on a blind draw is itself
concept. The classic concept of probability less than one in a hundred. In technical
deals with a known universe having known language, the same idea can be put thus: I
characteristics. Suppose my universe is a glass conclude at the .0001 level of confidence that
bowl full of marbles. All marbles are identical 'the probability of getting a third black marble
in size, shape, weight and all other charac- on a third blind draw is aMeast .01.' (This
teristics, save only color. Exactly half the conclusin follows from the binomial theo-
marbles are black, the other half are white. rem of mathematics and may by verified by
Then the probability concept may be defined calculation or by consulting a se of tables of
in terms of this proportion. Given that the the cumulaive binomial probability distribu-
marbles in the jar are well stirred, then tion. See Kenney and Keeping, 1951:14-18,"
what I mean by a probability of 50% is the 22f.) - f
likelihood or chance that a blindfolded per- By a similar calculation/l can conclude that"
son would have in a single try of obtaining there is a probability of no more than 0.0801
a black marble rather than a white one. This that the true- proportion of black marbles to
model is an example of a priori probability. white is greater than 99 to 1. Thus ther is in
Before any marbles are taken out of the bowl, all a probability of 0.9198 (1.0-0.0801-
it is known what are the proportions of 0.0001) that the rue probability of getting
black and white. a black marble-on the -third blind. draw is
Now, the Bayesian kind of probability somewhere n the interval betwen 0.01 and
inference supposes a slightly diferent model. 0.99 (both inclusive). Such a statement is an
Again we have a glass jar full of black and example of a confidence interval.
white marbles, not difering at all save in Abstruse this confidence interval ' concept
color. But this time we do not know what may be. The work of J. Neyman and E. S.
are the proportions of black to white. How Pearson (1928), it is less than half a century
can we make judgments about the probability od. Yet I arge that this concep intuitively
of any given draw yielding a black marble lies at the root of most "common sense"
rather than a white one? The probability judgments by---people in all cultures.
here may not be determined with certainty. My argument then' runs .thus;
However, nferences may be made about it, Whatever may be the degree of 'doubt or
which themselves have a certain probability certainty about the most simple and seem-
' of truth or error. By taking one sample of ingly obvious facts, there is no doubt in most
any desired number from the bowl, statements people's minds about many simple but strong
can be made about the probability that the p.leasant or unpleasant feelings. Most people
true proportions of marbles in the bowl are know in large measure what they like and
thus-and-so." Such probability reasoning is what they dislike. They must and in fac they
called a posteriori probability reasoning. Its do live their lives on the basis of their jdg-
key concept is that of the confidence interval. mentusually intuitive-of the probabilities,
' -For example, suppose that there are clearly of the odds: first, the odds thaMheir percep-.
a large number of marbles in the jar. I cannot tions are accurate, or inaccurate; second, the
tell how many exactly,. but obviously there odds" that their theories about everyday living
are tens of thousands. Suppose I stir the most of which come to them via their cul-
marbles thoroughly, and then blindfolded take ture, of courseare crrect or incorrect;'
out nly two marbles. Both of them are black. I arge then that all people are intuitiv
I may conclude'from this single trial that the mathematical statisticians and Poppe'rian logi-'
proportion of black marbles to white is at cians. All people are constantly 'constructing
last ne to a hundred. Such a conclusin is theories; testing them against reality/ and
;riot certainly crrect. But if the experiment forming 'conclusions in their minds about' the
-.+,' . . . . s - . . . - ...r- -
: .is frequently repeated 'with ' wide vanety of probabilities concernedthe' probabilities f
proportiph's Varying randomly,' 'this conclusin their observations, and the probabilities ::of
- will go wrong n the average only one time their general theories. - - - ' : ":''^\*<*'*'
.in ten thousand. Can the mind conduct such '"subtle^and
." Thus our basic inference is the probability complex nferences intuitively '-withbutfthe
f a probability. There is les's than one chance thinker being aware of -them? -Ch'^people"
-insten thousand that the probability of get- who cnsciously know nothing of 'probability
theory or Popperian epistemology, neverthe- the most mystical of Hind ascetics has and
less practice both? Make both the very foun- uses an empirical stochastic theory of alimen-
dation of their daily lives? Can so complex a tation. He may not eat much, but he gener-
set of mental operations be possible at an ally eats something. He may have little use
iutuitive and subconscious level? for the things of this world, but he does need
Ask this question of the linguists. a begging bowl. And that bowl in turn is
The linguists nave, taught us all the won- filled by other Hndus more heavily involved
derful regularity and precisin of the basic than he in stochastic epistemologymore
phonetic system of every human language. deeply cohcerned with observing the world
They have also taught us that this system is around them and drawing probability . in-
regularly learned and differs from language ferences about it.
to language. Each language has its own set of
phonemes. Each set is a regular pattern THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE
produced by various combinations of tongue
position, lip position, nasalization and the like. The increase in knowledge may then be
Thus English .has nine basic vowel phonemes, thought of as the increase of confidence levis
produced by a three-by-three matrix of tongue that is to say, the Recrease in probability
positions. Tongue forward, tongue central or of errorand the narrowing of confidence
tongue back; tongue high, tongue middle or limits, Such is the measure of how well we
tongue low. Turkish, on the other hand, has know what we know.
eight basic vowel phonemes, produced by a The measure of what is worth knowing
two-by-two matrix of tongue positions to- consiss of generality and elegance. The wider
gether with a dichotomy of lip positions. the number of phenomena encompassed in a
Tongue may be high or low; tongue may be theory, and the simpler the theory, the more
forward or back; lips may be rounded or general and elegant. Galileo's law of gravity
parallel.. described the movements of falling bodies on
Now ask any English speaker to explain earth. Nev/ton's laws of universal gravitation
the English vowel system as I just have held that Galileo's law was but a special case
done. Until a few decades ago, none could. of a more general set of principies; these
Today, only those who have studed linguistic same principies likewise implied Kepler's laws
theory. can. Almost no English speaker under- of planetary motion. Furthermore, though
stands the theory of English phonetics. Yet Newton's basic -principies explained much
ali native speakers practice it precisely. more than Kepler's, they were no more com-
I arge then that stochastic 'epistemology is plex.
a human universal; that this system of reason- As scientific anthropologists then, we seek
ing is found among all people in all cultures. ever more general and more, elegant theories
It is this system which English speakers have of man's culture. We disagree with Evans^
in mind when tbey speak of "common sense." Pritchard. He maintains anthropology must
Needless to say, this system is not uni- become history or it will become nothing.
versally applied to all situations. There are By his he means that anthropology must
always other epistemologies, in every culture. become exclusively descriptive, idiographic, or
Each culture has more than one belief system, it becomes nothing. But we. hold on the
in other words. But' the "common sense" contrary that history must become anthro-
belief system of stochastic epistemology is a pology, or it becomes nothing. By that we
system found in all cultures, to deal with mean that history must become comparative,
much of everyday ufe. This ..system ,of sto- theoretical, nomotheic, or it becomes nothing.
chastic epistemology is the basis of scientific For us, the object of both disciplines , is
research. As such/it forms a cultural uni- identicalthe . extensin of man's knowledge
versal today. And .henee one universal valu about ..himself. For us this object is , best
premise. (I use the word "stochastic" here attained through the empirical testing of 'the
simply to mean ."having to do with prob- most general .and elegant theories of human-
ability.theory.") , . ,. ... , culture. . . ',
All ..cultures valu probability inferences , As has. been said, . we. hold . with Popper
about the world of sensory . observation to and Aristotle that no scientific_ theory can
some extent and for some purposes. Even ' ever be proved correct. However,\s .both
these philosophers maintain, scientific theories at skeptically, appear to" rest on very little or
often and easily can be proved incorrect. very poor evidence, or to conflict with some.
Scientific research then for us, followng If the scientist is working in a scientific dis-
Popper, consists of the construction of general cipline with a history of its own, he soon
and elegant theories together with the system- learns a substantial body of .theory under dis-
atic attempt to disprove them. cussion. From this body of theory, he may
The more general and elegant the theory, select particular elements for testing, or he
usually the easier to disprove it if false. may revise and develop new theories of his
Henee a general and elegant theory which own. The later course is much the rarer,
has withstood a well-designed broad attempt more difficult, and more fruitful, of course.
to disprove it is established as a presumption. Scientific . research, then, sarts with a
The canon of parsimony now demands that theory.
we take it as though it had ,been proved, 2. Classification. A theory is a statement of
but only until some new evidence comes relationships between variables. Such a state-
along to overthrow it. The burden of proof ment involves concepts which define the vari-
has been shifted to the skeptic. He has, ables and ' the statements - of relationships.
however, only to produce new evidence in- These concepts explicitly or implicitly form a
consistent with our theory or a new theory system of categories, a Classification or tax-'"
equally consistent with our data, in order to onomy. At the beginning of any science, the
return the burden of proof to the proponnt scientist has the folk. concepts and folk classi-
of the theory. - . fications of his mother culture. -But it is
To sum up, scientific research may be said characteristic of all sciences that they rapidly
to rest upon the following axioms: develop new systems of Classification, new
1. The canon of skepticism. Nothing about conceptstechnical language. A scientist may
the world outside the mind of the observer is make his major modification to the existng
taken as known or given. Everything must be body of theory by developing a new category
established by observation. or set of categories with which to sort ot the
2. The canon of parsimony. . The more data. . '
general and elegant explanation is preferred 3. Observation. Concepts, Classification and
to the less general or more complex ex- taxonomies are mere sorting devicesways
planation, other things being equal. to maniplate data. They have no use in
.3. The canon of a posteriori probability. themselves. A new concept is better than'an
This is the principie of confidence limits just od one if it helps us understand the data,
described. better. But by "understand" we simply mean
to develop a theory which is more general,
THE SPIRAL OF THEORY TESTING more elegant, or more plausible. The making
of systematic and accurate observations is
; .The matter of esting' theories through ob- thus one of the hallmarks of any science. It
servation involves at least four distinct opera- is only by applying the theory through the
tions. ;. . . " - . - ' Classification system to our observations that
1. Theory statement. Every .- scientist is a a test of theory is possible.
member of a ' human society. with its own 4. Analysis. Many thories, particuarly of
culture. Consequently, he comes equipped the simpler sort, can be so tested without the
with a complex set of theories about the aid of any formal logic. For example, the
real world, furnished by his culture. Some theory of biolgical evolution rests upon four
of these may seem to him so manifestly major bodies of evidence: paleontology, com-
well-tested as to need no further investiga- parative anatomy, embryology and" vestigial
tionat least, until a skeptic produces, an ,,organs. All four of these bodies of evidence
inconsistent observation or an altrnate ex- involve a large. collection of sinall theories,
planation. For example, we may take ^ the elabrate sets. of categories, and hundreds of
theory current in our .own .society that,.bread lifetimes of' systematic observations.;. But no
and jam are good to ; eat: eating bread and special methpds - of logical analysis;r are xin-
jam not only produces agreeable sensations volved. The thought processes, or logical yin-:
in the palate, but - also stills .the .pangs of ferences, are all those of ordinary,''common
hunger. But very many of.thes, when looked sense." On the other hand, Newton's theory
of universal gravitation requires for its dem- statement of more elegant, more general or
onstration not merely a vast body of astro- more readily testable theory; and unless, fur-
nomical data on the. motions of the planets ther, this theory is presumptively established
and. a number of experiments with falling by test. Categories are validated by testing
bodies on earth. It also requires the dif- the theories they make possible. They have
ferential and integral calculus. Unless this no other service to the scientist. True, it
particular system of logical analysisthe cal- more than once has happened that the cate-
culusis first mastered, Newton's theory can- gories lea to the theory. The biological tax-
not be understood. onomies of Linnaeus did not rest upon any
In the opinin of the present writer, many major theory; but they later were seen to re-
major theories of human culture will simarly late directly to biological evolution. The peri-
require a thorough grasp of mathematical odic table of chemistry had a like hlstory;
statistics for their understanding. laer on, new underlying theory made sense
The spiral. Every new cultural anthropolo- of the table.
gist, like every other scientist, comes to his One way to develop a theory,. then, is to
work with a considerable body of theory, develop a system of categories which seem
classification concepts, data observations and to sort out a vast body of data into a smaller
methods of analysis. He may-properly choose and more manageable groping.
to occupy himself with any one of hese four However, until the categorization has been
activities alone, if he wishes. Or he may validated by the theory, it has no further
combine two or more of them; most of us rnerit than that of an arbitrary indexing
do. If his work is fruitful, he will modify system.
the existing state of knowledge to some ex- New methods of analysis are but play toys
tent. Perhaps he will contribute new data for unless they lead to the validation of more
use by others. Perhaps he will challenge an general or more elegant : theories, br unless
existing theory by : showing it inconsistent they make more plausiblemake a better
with certain data. Perhaps he will develop case forexisting theories.
new conceps, which.< permit a more effective Finally, new data are but a pack rat's
test of theory. Perhaps he will apply new trove unless they have relevance to a body
methods of analysis to a body of data. Per- of theory. And, in fact, our field workers
haps he will develop new theories. inevitably collect the data they consider im-
The key point to grasp firmly in mind is portant and ignore the' data they consider
that scientific research consists of all four of wmmportant. These considerations of impor-
these activities, linked together. The valida- tance and unimportance are considerations of
tion of any one activity depends upon the relevance to theory.
other three. So scientific research consists of an end-
New theories are mere idle speculation less cycle of observation, classification, analy-
unless hey are tested by collecting data, sis and theory. But the cycle is a spiral,
sorting the data into categories, and analyzing moving upward, Each turn advances the state
the relatonships among the categories. (The of knowledge. Each of us may begin at any
analysis need not always be abstruse to be point on the spiral he likes. But the valu of
effective; but it must be present.) his work.can only be fixed by examining its
- New categories are mere idle intellectual relevance to the other points. * _ - , " -
sible -the


ENNEY, ' JOHN F., and E.''S. KEEPING ': POPPER, KARL R. . " ' " ,. '""'!"'' '/
" '^1951 Mathemaics of statistics, Part 7//2nd ed. 1959 The.'logic of scientific discpyery.. New
rr. . -Princeton, J., Van Nostrand. York, Basic Books.' ' ,-'.,,:,.-, % .;:^;';
."1928 On the use and interpretad on of certain MELVILLE J. HERSKOVITS , ' - ' r -:;- ",-?f; "-;:'. .
' test criteria for purposes of statistcal 1966 The infiuence of culture : on ; visual_per-
.'inference. Biomerika 20A:175, 263. ceptions. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill. j
Ronald Cohn

All anthropological research is carried out abilistic, diachronic, synchronic, etc.). Others
nder the prideful guise of being scientific in see it as stemmmg out of "a set of very specific
heory, substance, and method. Nevertheless, procedures such as operationalism or exper-
s we rummage about in the literature, it imental design. The reason for both its utility
oon becomes clear that the "scientific" as a means for gaining knowledge and the diffi-
uality of anthropology is not uniform, al- culty in defining it stems from its openness and
hough it may vary systematically in lack of constant changeability. What's "in" today as
igor. Difculties in achieving stringently sci- the most-accepted discovery procedure may be
ntific standrds are explained because an- "out" tomorrow or be changed into some other
hropology is so young compared to" the kind of scientific device. A' model of reality
atural sciences or because the material is that is useful at one stage -of our knowledge
o complex or because of the difficulties may be regarded as less than useless at an-
n collecting material in the field. What is an other. Scientists refuse to stick to just one
cceptable standard that must be applied to method, or one procedure, or one concept of
ur work, if we wish it to be scientific? reality, and this is the reason it is difcult to
nd exactly what does science ask of 'us as pin -down exactly what scientific method or
n enterprise? the scientific method acrually is at any one
In what is to follow I wish to answer time. , - . .
he^e questions in two ways: first, by setting Like religin, science extends or expands
orth quite briefly a standard for scientific the world of sensory experiencebut where
ehavior, especially with regard to theory religin extends and expands our world view
onstruction. Secondly, and in more detail, to include the supernatural, science extends
wish to go into the ways in which an- it to include the data and theories it con-,
hropology had in the past, and may in the tinually creates. Unlike religin, at least un-
uture, ' construct different kinds of theories til quite recenly, science is by its very
ith varying degrees of explanatory power nature "open." That is to say, it is in con-
nd .varying degrees of potential for further stant tensin because of the social organiza-
laboration in order to satisfy the ultmate tion. of scientists and the lack . of finality
oal of science which I conceive of as the built into its intellectual materials and norms.
ontinuous creation and refinement of .ideas For their par, scientiss may gain. rewards
nd facts that help us to understand the by proving each other" wrong, by refining
orld we live in. (i.e., by limiting or expanding) the applica-
bility of each other's work, _by substantiating
previously doubtful findings. This in tura
produces sanctions against falsification of evi-
As a means for gaining knowledge and dence, and.rewards for the careful and fruth-
nderstanding, especially in a cumulative ful recording of observations which . provide
i . ' science . .. is -unexcelled. On. the. . . other a base Une set of standrds for the.;rise of
and .there is probably no such thing as the cumulative knowledge. At the conceptual and
cientific .method, 'and philosophers .who have general theoretical ievel, Kaplan-\)
* - , . . ,'-' .in such
. matters
-. often.refuse
. . .us , a claims that there'-can never ;'be. any / final
oncise,, definicin ^.because .as Kaplan .says answers in sciencethe. process.^of -research
1964:27)', '"There .is no .one .tring to be is itself an' ', ^.r:; V.Y;:.;:: ,,"-,;>;-:>
efined " Some see it as the result. of ,having
i n . . . ' , . . - . . . . . . . . _ . . . _ __ . -- The "rationale for'this stems -from a num-
certain model. of reality - , (formal, prob- ber bf properties of conceps and , theories
I wish t 'thank my colleagues in .the Department (1) scientific findings, and explanations ^are
f Anthropology at Northwestern Uhiversity as 'well always partial, and -they always.-leave .."some-
s Professors Harold "Guetzkow and Paul Kress who
ad and mde many useful comments on a previous
thing out; (2) they are corditioned, Le.,' they
raft of this paper. stipulate what is included in the findings, and
then everything else is by definition or im- (1962:150) that even after a "revolution" has
plication excluded; (3) there are always ap- occurred it may not triumph because its op-
proximations, and therefore they always in- ponents are unalterably commited o a pre-
clude error; (4) they are independent or un- vious research tradition and thus leave the
cerain to some extent, Le.3 they are always new approach or theory to younger scientists
to some degree probable and therefore sta- who are not linked so closely' to opposing
tistical so that any particular instance has views. In anthropology, revolutions occurred
only a likelihood, not a certainty, of occur- wih the inception of field work and I believe
rence; (5) all scienific findings are to some another one is developing because of the
extent intermedate, i.e., they produce many rapd changes going on in non-Westem so-
problems that are unexplained and f or which cieties leading to the disappearance of clear-
there are at present no data. cut cases of cultural variation.
These , generalizations about the limitations What I have referred to above as a "syn-
and uncertainties of scientific concepts and thetic product" is my understanding of the
theories are, in effect, the fundamental reason word "theory." Thus it is infinitely easier to
underlying progress in any scientific enter- use conceps .like "Crow kinship terminology"
prise. The product is a growing body of or segmentary lineage" than to describe the
ideasmore or less integrated, sometimes in numerous qualities associated with such con-
conflictthato can be used to describe and cepts. As a science begins to find agreement
understand (within the limits of their de- amog its pracitioners or groups of them,
fects) the empirical world they were derived at any time level of its own development,
from as the enterprise develops. What this on basic units and concepts, then these be-
means ' is that empirical reality is too com- come the means for coping with their refer-
plicated to be undersood as it is experienced ents. I would contend that the creation,
by ordinary human senses. Science twists, development, and renement of such sym-
molds, and distorts aspects of reality by bols and their interrelationships is the primary
fashioning concepts and suggesting interrela- goal of science. A group of such symbols,
tionships amog them with the hope that this representing aspects of reality and the ideas
creative reflection will enable us to explain governing their interrelationships, often con-
and predict - the existential reality of sense ceptualized as well into processual symbols,
experience. As this synthetic product proves is a theory. Whether or not the theory is
progressively more useful, it becomes estab- scientific depends ultimately on whether the
lished as part of the empirical reality it is ideas involved in the theory can be sub-
said to reflect. mitted to a test of their validity. The stress
This does not mean that any particular here is on the word "ultimately." Obviously
research tradition is necessarily a steadily there have been many crucial theories in the
accelerating and cumulating tradition of history of science that could not be tested
theory and data. As Kuhn (1962) has shown, when they were first proposed. However,
scientific traditions move forward in cycles or science does demand that ultimately theory
jumps that range between what he calis must stand up before empirical observations,
"normal" research and "revolutions." Normal hopefully designed specrfcally to disconfirm
research follows fairly clear-cut lines. Prob- any or all of the propositons contained in
lems derive from a known conceptual mass the theory.
of theory and the results are not - terribly It is important to note here that I am not
surprising. Revolutions '-take place*' because suggesting 'that science replaces reality and
traditional modes of theorizing leave out nothing else 'happens. The. world of the
problems that begin to gain in importance, senses is' always. there and is constantly re-
or because there is increasing conflict be- ^ferred to! through empirical 'research. "Indeed
tween interpretations,. or becase :theory be- it ;is this 'aspect of the enterprise that serves
comes heavy and awkward .with amendments, as. the excutiner f theory. "As long as'we
or.combinations of all of these. .Such a crisis understand and accept the inexorable mor-
produces a: stimulus to crate new axioms, tality of our concepts and theories, we stand
new modes ::of posng questions, and new in no danger of reification. Scientific theory
modes of --explaining research findings. Given treated as if it'were reality'is npt'hallucin-
all'of hese stimuli to change, Kuhn cautions tion, but heuristic, This " pragmatic . :qality
bcst appreciated when we have two or infonnation that can be used to confirm or
more confiicting theories both of which pre- disconflrm a theoretical conclusin.
Hct nnd explain the same empirical phenom- For presen purposes these introductory re-
cnon, both of which seem reasonable on a marks will suffice o clarify my own particu-
cornnion-sense basis, but both of which stena lar views on the nature of science as a^ gen-
from different processes, use different con- eral cultural institution designed specifically
ccpls, afld involve different theoretical rela- to increase knowledge and understanding in a
ton-ships. progressive and cumulative fashion. For fur-
The goal of science, then, is theory, and ther and more detailed discussion on this
theory is treated with greater or lesser con- topic, specialists in the field should be con-
fidcnce by the use of tests devised to dscon- sulted (Hanson 1958,; Popper 1959, Gibson
firm or substaniate propositions. The devel- 1960, Kuhn 1962, Brown 1963 and Kaplan
opment of a science is very crucially bound 1964). The remainder of this paper is de-
U n with the. relations between theory and voted to varying models of generalzation
bbscrvations that form the traditions of its that are used in social and cultural anthro- enterprise. These relations are what pology.
pbiJosophers refer to when they speak of
: deductive and inductive science. When we DESCRIPTIVE MODELS
:kno\ very little about a topic, investigaron
proceeds with the goal of discovering its Nearly two decades ago a writer from
variety in time and space. Once this has been psychology, in rying to evalate anthropol-
.done for a fairly generous number of varie- ogy as science, claimed that for the naost
ties, we start to classify the phenomena and par, social and cultural anhropology results.
-their subparts, then begin thinking of, and in descriptive accounts of field trips (.Savri-
-observing ways that they and their subparts anos 1950). Field reports, she claimed, lack
are interrelated with each other and other any clear hypothesis or any exact infonnation
known phenomena. If some of these first as to the quantity or quality of the data. In
ideas about variety and relaionships are sub- general such reports are also described as
stantated, we can, in fact, say that theories lacking in clear conclusions or. generaliza-
are developing. From then on observation tions. Kluckhohn (1959), in respondng to '
: . is* guided more and more frequently by this criticism, suggests that anthropologists.
: Jtheory. That is to say, in.its earliest stages, view their infonnants not so much as actors
.science is primarily inductive, but its own whose behavior must be observed and meas-
internal requirements demand more and more ured but as documents, or as an art historian
; deductive work as the enterprise develops. treaing a new specimen might do when he
;>Thus in order to conceptualize X, A, B, and fits the new item into a recognizable stylei
; - G,; and suggest that they are related such that He also claims (1959:259) that it is not sim-
'.'Xfis a function of (A, B, C), it is important ply a matter of incidence and distribution,
;.to*'.collect informaion on just these concepts but one of pattern, or in what slightly
' /ifc-we wish to test the validity of a theoretical .variant ways the pattern is manifest. In such
.-idea.'It may be, of course, that the empirical an. analysis, he claims, statistics. may even
.Vindicators of each may vary from situation obscure the issue; he then gives the example
;.'-tOf;stuation (cf,, Perlman's comments on this of American men rising when women enter
V;p~oint_ in Chapter 19), but other'informaion the room. - Data on incidence "simply. blur
M-inot;.-related to the heory must be omitted the existence of a minor cultural pattern
.-.or:'';cpntrolled for if we suspec that it will . . ; (Kluckhohn 1959:260). In effect then,
-.-irTerfere with he relationships being studied. Kluckhohn r asserts" the independence of an-
^$other way of saying this s to suggest. a thropology from the type-of criticism-hurled
: ;/8eneralization: As science develops, - there. is at it by-Stavrianos, (1950) because a pattern,
.acpnsant tendency for .more .elabrate and and .presumably. the. way the patterns fit to-
r Vrefined. theoretical development as well as gether,- is 'qualitatively different from the fre-
.^mpre carefully controlled and heory-directed quency of occurrence from which the-pattern
v 'cSb''seryafion. -The goal is heory, the - best is 'abstracted, or which expresses the pattern
-^pjpssible; facts are necessary, but to contrib- (depending upon its deductive or inductive.
j.jt-to'science, they must also be "data," i.e., origins). This is a well-known view in -an-
thropology; in its most elabrate form it is ferred and prescribed cousin marriage, i.e.,
expressed in the work of Lvi-Strauss (1963), they are different types of obligations and it
who seprales social relations as a concept is the obligation that, for him, determines
that expresses the statistical findings of em- the pattern. Schneider (1966), on the other
pirical reality from social structures, which hand, claims that both of these are statisti-
are abstract patterns derived from a com- cally variant resuls of the same underlying
bination of social relations and their ordering causal forces, and thus the distincton be-
by the anthropologist. tween preferred and prescribed patterns is
If we leave aside the intellectual work one of degree and not kind.
performed in this operation and go to the Whether a researcher takes one or the
phenomena themselves, then on logical other of these views (i.e., how does he treat
grounds, Kluckhohn treats only one of two the statistical variance of the paterns) it is
possible positions. Pattern emerges from still apparent that a pattern statement is not
either the statements or behavior of inform- simply as Stavrianos (1950) claimsa de-
ants. The number of informants who do or scriptive account. Much more is involved
do not conform to the pattern is not another because the pattern that emerges as the
kind of datum but simply a refinement of descriptive datum is in fac a generalization
the original one, i.e., a part of it. Since akin to those of natural history (Brown
the pattern emerges from a statistically based 1963). Thus to watch birds is one thing,
observation, whether there is one informan but o record their behavior and then know
or one hundred, it is impossible that a pattern within limis when each species migrates
not be clarified by increased information southwards is quite another type of knowledge
about the occurrences from which the ob- because it grants to its user some level of
servations were originally taken. Let me be predictability based on a nonrandom occur-
perfectly clear about this point because it is rence of the particular phenomenon under
the fundamental assumption of the material- observation. Prediction for both bird watch-
ist as opposed to the idealist approach in ing and ethnography is applicable to one case
anthropology (cf., LeVine's chapter in this (one species of bird or one society among
Handbook). A social or cultural pattern in people). As we shall see, when all generali-
the materialist view has a number of ele- zations about this one case have been put
ments. First at the most general level it is a ogether, we have what Kaplan (1964:332)
regularity or nonrandom occurrence in the has called a pattern model of explanation.
sociocultural sphere of human experience. Jn such a model, explanation stems from the
Second, there is to a variable degree an degree of fit of each individual pattern to the
expectation or obligation on the part of over-all organization or integration of a set
actors in society to conform to a range of of them. Causal analysis is minimal; we know
behavior that is socially recognized to be that such and such regularities occur, i.e.,
an acceptable conformity to the expectation. we can predict them, but why they occur
Third, there is an observable set of oc- is not a necessary part of such a set of
currences which indcate what is the actual generalizations. As I have shown above, what
degree of conformity to the expected obliga- is important here for anthropology is to un-
tion at any one time period. All of these derstand the empirical and theoretical basis
statements involve ranges of variation, as well of such generalizations. First of all from
as expected and observed occurrencesnot the materialist point of view they are, as I
particularly unstatistical ideas. have said, statistical in nature, i.e., they are
If this view is not accepted, or for heu- statements of probability; and secondly, they
ristic purposes another view is taken, such as rest, ultimately, on the empirical occurrences
that of Kluckhohn mentioned above, then (also statistical) which form the basis of ob-
quite conflicting "facts" may emerge from servation.
the same empirical phenomena. For example, Applied strictly to anthropology such gen-
societies differ from being cise to zero to eralizations are the basic ingredients of eth-
cise to 100% in the frequency with which nography. Ethnography involves a descriptive
they practice cousin marriage. A "structural- summary of the customary' practices of a
ist" like Needham (1962) perceives a quite group of people. It is made up of thousands
distnct qualitative difference between pre- of generalizations having varying degrees of
reiability and is based on diferent amounts gesting that this alternativo is correct or even
of .observation and frequency of occuirence. that Ray's generalization is wrongwho
Anthropologists try to document a descriptive knows what data he has that are not exhib-
or pattern generalization by reference to the ited in the report? However, for present
behavior from which it was inferred: as Lvi- purposes, this is beside the point. What is
Strauss (1963:17) says, anthropologists at- mportant is to note that ethnpgraphy does
tempt "to enlarge a specific experience to the nvolve generalizations and such theoretcal
dimensions of a more general one." The skill statements require a reasoned argument from
\vith which this is done is perhaps the key data to the resulting inference about patterns.
standard for judging the scientifc status of By contrast to the ambiguity of Ray's
ethnographic reporting. The ppint to be re- 'generalization, it is instructive to look at a
membered here is that there are both data pattern when it is handled with greater pre-
and theory in ethnography, and the variation cisin, as in the following example:
among ethnographies stems from the validity
The lateral extensin of kinship, that is, the
of the inferences made when the anthropologist range'of. relationship within which the expected
mves from data to generalization: behavioral norms are regularly observed, tends to
v Consider the following example: follow the line of common identical descent. Harf-
sblings by the same father are neither expected to
( . According to cultural standards, marriage be-' show, or do they show, a similar degree of soli-
tween individuis of any known degree of blood darity of interests to that normally expected and
relationship was considered undesirable, but no observed beween full siblings. As previously men-
; puhisnrnent was suffered by offenders except so- tined, full siblings differentiate hemselves as a
: cal disapproval. (Ray 1963:87) group from their half-siblings, and this differenta-
Presumably the ethnographer has asked the tion is followed by the children. (Smith 1955:46)
informante about incest and observed a mim- The author established the distinction be-
ber of cases where the rule has been broken. tween ha^- and full siblings on a sample of
The only case material actually cited in the thirty compounds in a single community
report is that gven by one informant who (Smith 1955:34). Ten of these with full
said that he could: brothers in them were single authority units,
, . remember three men who married their while no divided authority compounds had
mothers' sisters* daughters. And I know of one only full brohers in them. On the other
who married his mother's sister. Nothing was done hand, five compounds. had half-brothers and
about mese cases. (Ray 1963:93) divided authority while only three of these
\e difficulty with his data and the eth- had single authority units. The generalization
nographic generalization given is quite ob- follows logically from the statistical informa-
vzous. Since Ray makes no other statements tion. Disconfirmation could come from a
about incest and gives no other: data on the larger sample n which this relation turned
subjecty we must assume that he wants us to out to be a chance occurrence; or perhaps
hnk the case material - with the descriptive with better sampling procedures, the direc-
generalization. There is no reference to "dis- tion of relationships mght even be reversed.
pproval" or "laughter" in the data 'cited Again this is beside the point. The generali-
althogh both are stated to be a community zation about half- and full siblings is based
reaction to incest. The satement, "No pun- on a particular set of observations whose
ishment was sufered by offenders," is sup- details are given and whose implications * are
pbrted by the informani's statement, "Noth- summarized in the generalization. As ;> pre-
ing^was done abot these cases." On the viously mentioned, - ethnography as descriptive
other tiand, the nf ormants' " statements giv theory involves hundreds,' even thousands, of
^no grond ^for - th'e incest rule give in the such statements. It^ wbld . be -impossible'-to
- (.
.. "Marriage
.. *-". is forbidden
. . . . be- treat each one as a problem for ;detailed
ween^persons"v'0f' any known :-genealogical empirical ;testng. However, the plausibility .'bf
relation.".-lnded the data given -suggest the Smith's first generalization about the'bhavir
ppssibility of something quite different^viz.j norms following ;lines" of identical ^cognatic
ki weakening -^of ;:thev incest 7brrier' ' (male descent gains " in -deductive .coherence c be-
rspeakig):in'a case of uterine parllel cousins 'cause it not only 'follows^ from the autnor's
and a/.possible1!.extensin of this to women field work experience, but it ,is_v;xkctly''th'e
of tiie^mother's .matrilineage. ^T am not^sug- type of ; patiern one would logically expct
if fulT brothers maintained their solidarity formulations were correct. She then sought out
while .half-brothers did not. Thus one way fresh materials drawn from the same categories
and validated, rejected, or reformulated her initial
to construct a general theory of one society hypotheses and made at least one more rial run.
is to crate a pattern model of generaliza- (Quckhohn 1959:261)
tions validated as well as possible, but es-
pecially at key points, and then to derive In my own work on the Kanuri (Cohn
other related generalizations, obviously with .1967) I theorized about halfway through the
lower confidence limite, but which are fully field work that there were several integrating
supported by the documented statemens features that held the individual patterns to-
frora related generalizations. gether. I wrote these down and tried to
For many anthropologists, this method enumrate all the situations, organzations,
goes no 'further than the logical derivation and sectors of the society that could provide
pf one statement from .others as described information to disconfirm these ideas. When
above. However, such method has its limi- these further data tended only to support my
tations. Supposing several derivatios of equal "model" I accepted the features as my own
plausibility are possible, hbw can we choose integrating or pattern model of the society.
between them? For example, supposing the In a more recent and revealing case, that
ethnographer has good data on descent group of Barth's attempt to write up Pehrson's
behavior, but. his material on voluntary as- field notes, he reports (Pehrson 1966:ix) that
sociations is less adequate and he wants to he was unable to do so until he actually
fit both these associational patterns into one went to the field site and experienced the cul-
over-all set of generalizations. His conclusions ture for himself. He concludes from this that
about descent may lead him to interpret his there must be types of information, especially
non-kin -association as (a) an extensin or with regard to integrating seprate but re-
analogue of descent group behavior, or (b) lated ethnographic generalizations, for which
as a cathartic reaction to descent group mem- anthropologists are trained but for which they
bership. If he chooses (a) then he stresses the do not in fac have any .systematic recording
similarities in his data between descent and techniques. Although Barth may be the first
non-kin group membership; if (b), he may to have stated this problem so openly, it has
choose to stress the differences. a familiar ring for anyone who has written
In order -to obvate such difculties, at an ethnographic report, Thus, as Kaplan ad-
least to some extent, anthropologists often mits (1964:333), the pattern model of ex-
try to construct an enture structure or or- planation still leaves a great deal to be de-
ganized wbole so that each individual gener- sired. It is the perception and s.ubjective feel-
alization fits into the over-all pattern. As ing that everything is just where it should
suggested above, this rationale lends credence be that produces a sense of "rightness" for
to less well-substantiated statements. . Given such a theory. It may involve correlations,
the nature of the entire case, as it is theo- functional analyses, and perhaps the creation
rized to be put together, then it is more of an entire system; indeed it usually takes in
likely that each individual pattern should be all these. Such generalizations may or may
in the form described, than in any other. not be as rigorously derived as they are in
How such an over-all pattern, or integra- the discussion of them to follow which in-
tion, is arrived at is not a standardizad pro- volves problems of objective validity and re-
cedure in anthropologyor is it mystical. liability. .The crucial question is, as Kaplan
When Ruth Benedict, without the aid of field says (1964:335), .whether.the mere think-so
work, was doing research on Tapan which (or feel-so) makes a statement so. Even
resulted in her book, The Chrysanthemum and though .such subjectivity may ^denied (I
the Sword, ';.. -,' , :' .; . , 7- would only-partially admit to it fqr-my own
work), there is no simple . way out : of; this
she saturated herself in Japnese 'materials of
carefully selected variety: literature, art, projective weakness in the traditional case study method
tests, .'interviews,' etc.'' After she. thought she "had pf ethnography.- . " - ;. , : -
deominators 'that constituted, 'so to speak, im- . The problem .of ethnographic . generaliza-
plicit premises cutting across bodies of culture con- tions and their synthesis into integrated case
ten that were .quite different, she then wrote down
some hypotheses as to what she should findand studies can now be stated: Is there any way in
not findin as yet uexamined data if her initial anthropology to raise the level .of validity of
all ethnographic staements so the degree of well do this job more efficiently than anything
confdence can be raised equally for all such yet produced in anhropology, although there
generalizations? I believe there are solutions are many precursors to this type of eliciting
to these problems. Most of them, however, in traditional ethnographic techniques. By
I will leave until later since they require their own admission, however, those using this
more, fully developed theoretical models, to . technique cannot deal with the nonverbal;
be discussed below. One method, however, thus as a valid means of obtaining ethno-
can be discussed briefiy here. It requires an graphic generalizations, ethnoscience has strict
idealst bass for theory construcion which is limits. It is important to realize that some
outside the purvew of his chapter or at problems simply have no place in such studies.
least its main thrust. This is ethnoscience, For example, significantly different behavior
which is dealt with in more detail in Chapter by Ego toward two kinsmen for whom he
29. It is idealist in that for the most part uses the same kin terms could not be dis-
workers using this technique have not worked covered using a strictly ethnoscientific analysis
wih variability in the occurrences they ob- of the kinship terminology, since the verbal
serve, but have instead set up procedures for concepts gloss over these drrferences (see
establishing formal relations between what- Keesing's comments in Chapter 23).
.ever units they decide to use. In this ap- There are other problems. While there
proach the ethnographer makes a number of are well-established means of making tradi-
assumptions which are crucial to his method- tional anthropological categories of descrip-
ology, and to the position of this approach tion into useful categories of cross-cultural
in the theoretical development of . anthro- comparisons, it is not clear how such work
pology.1 could be accomplished with ethnoscientific
First, it is assumed that the researcher can data, since the recording of this information
obtain Information about the categories of depends upon (a) the '.researcher's concep-,
understanding and meaning in a culture by tualization of semantic order in the culture
recording and analyzing concepts reflectad in he is studying, and (b) the specifics of the'
the language. The methodological result of particular culture, i.e.? the culture makes the
this assumption is that the study is completely categories. It may be that taxonomies are
restricted to the folk view of the culture. universal, and/or that other logical structure's
Furthermore, since semantic fields are the go along with taxonomy to form a universal
phenomena being considered, then no as- set that underlies semantics for the entire
sumptions can be made about their content human experiencesuch a goal is both inter-
and all of the interviewing must be conducted esting and provocative. But so far even at this
in the native language. The study is by def- level of generality ethnoscience only tells us
initon, then, restricted to the explicit parts of uwhat is there," and does not try, as do other
the culture, i.e., to that which can be com- models of generalizaron, to work b ack to
municated by language, Second, it is as- questions, and hopefully to answers, about
sumed that native concepts (verbal) have "why it is there/1 This does not mean-in the
some frm or structure such that they follow end that ethnoscience wll not move to this
or - can be approximaed to taxonomic prin- level of explanation either within its own
cipies or some other formal or .logically framework, or by combining \vith more ma-'
-t* stnictured interrelations among semantic com- terialist. (behavioral) approaches in anthro-
ponens. The methodological consequence of pology. At present it welcqmed as, a
this assumption is to apply taxonomy or some delicate .;insrument for obtaining detailed in-
other formal system such as mathematics that formation,. about .the .semantics or folk ,view
can,-be shown to depict most adequately the of . a culture, . and : is. thus a - useful addition
ordered relations among the native concepts to-the roster of anthropological techniques.
and their components. . -" '-.'.-;-.;.; ; ; - ,
*'<f The great advantage of this !approach is its ASSOCIATONAL MODELS / ; ;
bjective " and systematic means - for' eliciting
1 the'verbal concepts. in a culture. It may very .. Ethnographic , generalizations are by themf
11 am grateful to Professor - Oswald Werner for
selves only' best fit statements about the^in-*
" ' < * J i i - - . -. ' - - - \ *'"-: ' *. ' . , " V '

major help with these assumptions, although the final cidence' or frequency of occurrences' :in the
. . ^ -, , . . . :- , - - . - - - ' " * y."' '

formulation i s my own. ' ' " : - society. 'By thenselves, they say ' little ' or
" "37
nothing abqut. what goes with what. The thing Leach does not always do. Thus he tries
simplest levis of relationship between eth- to show (1961:1-27) that in some patrilineal
nographic generalizations are associational. By societies a mother-child relationship is one of
this I mean that a correlation is said to exist affinity, not affiliationor at least that afnity
among two or more phenomena such that a is a deerminant of Ego's relationship to his
change in one implies a change in the own motheran interesting and surprising,
other(s). In strict trras, there is no impli- Le., not common-sense, sort of ehnographic
cation or proof of causal direction, merely correlation. The general conditon for such a
an attempt to document the relationship. phenomenon to exist is absorption by the
Thus Gluckman and others have tried to child into the father's lineage. If the son, for
show the relation of des cent to divorce rate example, relates to his divorced mother, he
(Gluckman 1950, Failers 1951, Cohn 1961), tends to do so as her afnne, not her son.
and I (Cohn 1966) have posited a rela- Leach does not say the relationship resembles
tionship between type of succession and de- that of afznity, or that here are forces "tend-
gree of centralization in feudal states. ng to crate mother-son interaction which
The problem that emerges almost immedi- symbolize the relation in an affinal form; he
ately with correlation is that of measure- says that the relationship "is in sociological
ment. If a is correlated with b, then to test terms one of affiniy rather than filiation"
the relationship, we must be able to show (1961:14). The best proof, says Leach, of
that more or less of one of these implies more this thesis would be if the son married his
or less of the other. In anthropology such own divorced mother, but unfortunately
correlations are often based on presence and there are no data available to support such
absnce statements. Thus "nobles" are said a notion. However, there are groups where
to be present in one type of acephalous people have formal requirements at the death'
lineage societies in frica but not others of a spouse in. which the son fulfills oblga-
(Middleton and Tait 1959). This particular tions to his mother's lineage when his own
type has clans and admits of heterogeneous father s unable to do so. At such times the
origins. We might interpret this to mean that son is said to be acting in affinal terms to
the more heterogeneous the clan origins of an his mother's group. I would point out in
acephalous sciety, the more likely it is that passing that Leach does not show, therefore;
such a sciety will have a system of social that' the son acts affinally to the mother,
stratification based on clan affiliation. The but to her group, which is not quite the same
hypothesis is a useful one, but the presence thing and leaves lots of room for the mother-
and absnce of relevant data provide only a son relations to oprate as they do in all
gross measure of association such that it is societies.
difcult to predict tendencies for more or less The general problem that Leach raises is
association with any confidence. Dichotomous an interesting one, but he does not put it
data are not necessarily wrong; indeed some- into testable correlational terms.. He suggests
times they are the' only kind of information two possible ways for Ego o'relate to his
available. However, to make such associations mother's descent group in a patrilineal system
more sensitiv'there is a need'to have field through (a) filiation or (b) affinity.2 Put
data that are scaled, or that can be scaled in the form of a testable hypothesis, we can
later 'on by cross-cultural srvey researchers. say that in societies where ' a mother's tie to
In ''the' xarhple cited: above this means we her chldren is weak, because they have
would ' want some measure of greater ' or strong ties to their father's descent' group,
lesser heterogeneity ' o f : clan origins and then there is a tendency for such children to
greater or lesser' structuring "of social strati- manifest behavior to : her and her .descent
fication.-r ' * ti'm-..:.,::. -;''; " '-" ' '- ''' : 2This is part'bf a more general tiiesis 'that in.ny

Sometimes interesting correlations are un- system of kinship and mairiage "there-'is' a' funda-
mental - ideological opposition : between ^the - .relations
co vered by reinterpreting- ethnographic ^con- which en do w the individual with . . .^a-'we'^ group"
cepts and generalizations. Leach implies this (Leach 1961:21) and,those .that link pur : grpup for-
in "his " wprk pn 'Rethikihg'^ Anthropology mally to those of others\s dichotmy, he says,
(1961). .However, it is important to be'cear is related to symbolic representations jn._.which'>"our".'
group is a common substance whe relations of <: al-
just ,where such, analysis ' takes us and .what liance to other groups are said to equal some sort of
has to be done to carry it forwardsome- metaphysical influence.
grpup as if they were not her own children the measurements. Kaplan (1965:176-206)
but members of a patrilineage that had a takes the .position' now widely held in most
marriage relation to her and her group of the social sciences and by many . philoso-
through one or more of its members. We then phers., that all things are measurable, and
operatonalize the variables involved, i.e., (a) whether we accomplish the task or not-de-
mother's tie to son, (b) Ego's ties to own pends not on the thing but our conception of
patrilineage, (c) afnal relations of husband- it. The aptness of the measure (Le., does it
father and bis patrilineage to wife and her measure what it purports to measure?) can
patrlineage, and (d) similarity of son's be- be established by one or both of two tasks.
havior to mother and her patrilineage, to that First, does the measure itself define the con-
of bis father and bis. patrilineage. If we- as- cept? If so, the measure and the concept are
sume as , given an inverse : relation between the same. Thus for some purposes intelli-
(a) and (b), then tests should show that there gence is defined as what intelligence . tests
is a positiye correlation between (c) and (d) measure. Second, does the measure predict
as predicted. If Leach has touched on sonie- to other quantiies as suggested by a. more
thing fundamental, then the hypothetical cor- general theory in which this concept is re-
: relation should be checked on limited samples lated to others that have also been meas-
of society using controlled comparisons, on ured? It is very unlikely that the network
large samples, and ;even within one society of interrelaed quantities could occur as pre-
to see if variance in. behavior among persons dicted by chance, or by a systematic. error
in these roles follows according to the theory. in only one of the measures. They are. either ,
- . Severa! things should be noted in this ex- all wrong, or there is a strong possibility
ample. First of all, the relationship that is that they are all to some extent right.
elicited from "rethinking" ethnographic gen-
eralizations and crrelations,can only be vali- FUNCTIONAL MODELS OF
dated by some sort of quantitative procedure. EXPLANATION
It can be posited by qualitative analysisin-
deed this is one of the best ways to discover Mechanical relations, or correlatons, pro-
such relationsbut it cannot be made into a vide us with a prob that is one step deeper,
fac, that is to say, validated this way. and more satisfactory han a descriptive gen-.'
Second, this level of analysis is correlational, eralization. However, even though they . give
i.e.,(. predictive, but not explanatory. Leach us predictive powr (i.e., if this, then that),
giyes no plausible reasons beyond some vagu they tell us very little about why, or for what
notions of . dualism stemming out of 'Ve1' reasons, the relationships exist. Given the
and-"they" groups which might explain why massive potentiality of " high-speed computers .
' . the correlation ^exists, if it really does. In and their ability to handle enormous quanti-
-: 9rder to study the reasons why something ties of informtion, it is also becoming ot>.
ccurs, we must t u r n i o causes and func- vious that a plethora of correlations ' without
i tional analysis which move beyond correla- any accompanying thery. produces . .very
-v.; tions to, answer questions about 'Vhy," not little beyond a slightly more abstract set . of
- , just "how," things occur the way they do, descripions. Thus recent studies such as those
"^Before .proceeding to such questions, it is by Banks and Textor (1963)_ do not in them-
ilv^irportant to digfess /moment to consider selves explain very muchinstead they ,pro-
&Cthe ;theoretical and ; methodoloeical status of
'-" + 11 * ' ' , i- '- -' - . - .
vide a new form of descriptive informtion"
^uantification. As Kaplan (1965:206) suggests, at the correlational level . which may be, ;uti-
i;there.-is 'an anti-measurement attitude which lized selectively to cpnstruct vtheories. for fur-
consistently: arges'' that: measurement is m- ther testing. . Anthropology .. has, . for ;._ many
possible'yr 'to inaccurate or ..premature or years, had a serni-evolufionaiy ..apprqach ',to
8nly~'god .for'dealing;'. with the' obviou's "and explanation. Assuming that .l..marL-n-socity-'.
sp' 1 on,/When mearemets''are applied, then and-cultufe adapts ~ to..- his : envirbnment '
..--'-. ' . ' '''..* ~ >' f >.'-- - ~ ; t '-
l^Vgame is begun^.in'wuch the quantifiers say, thropologists haye,.,in . effectj askd ., what . re-
f <,See, "we did ' it!" and the . anti-quntification quirements and/or
. ; '.
needs "are - refected^in a
. , t, . _ ; . ' . ; . ; - - i,.- - *! j ^.
'?'<>"" '"" ''' ' ' '' ' " - - ' ' ' ' " " ' "
: " " : - . '
Jprohibitionsts say, ,ulf you can measureT it, functioning way . of-. life. :.Jhe .'.major goalt'is
' . .: " . - - :.* -. .. j*f - -i'.'- .
Vrrtiiat ain't'it!" And hen the latter proceed to posited to be the maintenance, or persistence,
. show how the phenomena ha ve in fac eluded of the phenomena under study, and analysis
concerns itself with the discovery of, or in- and every ethnographic generalization in or-
ferring of (i.e.3 . more often, imputing) the der to explain them.
contributions to maintenance made by each In order to make this method of inquiry
aspect or segment of social life. The func- more logical, it is necessary, first, to adopt
tional approach is semi-evolutionary because Kaplan's assumption (1965:365) that teleolog-
adaptaion Vas (and is) always implied, but ical analysis is perfectly in order when evi-
no real technique for studying and analyzing dence is presented to tie a particular action
change has ever developed as a clear and with a particular result in a purposive way.
logically derived part of the approach. On the Thus, instead of simply imputing or claiming
other handj utilizing some notion of "con- that activity X functions to carry out the
tribuion" when analyzing data does go be- purpose(s) Y, we must provide some evidence
yond simple correlation to a theoretical state- that such a relationship does in fact exist, Le.,
ment about.the reason(s) why such relations that X does have Y effect(s). This does not
are found. mean hat we must thoroughly understand
Before we go any further into the nature the purpose, Purposiveness is part of nature
of functional analysis, it is necessary to ex- "and can be used to explain other natural
amine the criticism that this particular phenomena even when we are not in a posi-
method of building generalizations is funda- tion to provide, in tura, an explanation for
mentally an unsound and unscientific -proce- the purposes" (Kaplan 1965:367). Thus Dar-
dure even though it has produced sensitive win did not explain "survival."-- although this
insights beyond the descriptive level (cf., purposive forc was a theoretically useful re-
Hempel 1959). Jarvie (1965) claims that quirement of nature that helped him to ex-
functional statements cannot be confirmed or plain biological variation.
disconfinned, and therefore as assertions they In order to clarify what kind of evidence
are unscientific even.though they provide-plau- is neededj let us divide teleological'explana-
sible explanations; The r'eason for this is that tions up into three subvarieties 'based on the
it (is impossible to demnstrate whether he point of origin of the purposive stimuli.
function(s) said to be performed by an in- Motivational. First of all, there are per-
stitution or custom or other unit of behavior sonal actions in which an actor states, or can
would fai to be performed if the institution be evidenced to possess, a goal or set of
or behavior wer removed. Without such a them. Consequent actions are then related to
test the functional argument is a circular one. these purposes, and the actor's functions are
Thus:. fulfilled. Thus if an actor has fully accepted
a decision-making role, he wants o carry out 1
To be told hat the function of church-going is such action, and part of the reason such ac-
to express and reinforce social solidarity, and the
main test of the desire to express 'and reinforce tion is performed is because of the actor's
social solidarity is. church-going, is to get into a motivation o function in this way. Data on
circle which cannot be broken in favor of a motivations, that is to say, intentions or dis-
"deper" explanation. Circular or ad hoc, or non- positions (cf., Brown 1963) on the one hand,
independent testable explanations do not tell us
anything new; they are . [herefore] methodolog- and on their efects on behavior on the other,
ically unsatisfactory. (Jarvie 1965:25) provide the necessary evidence. In other
words we are positing a simple cause and
The real difficulty ere is that, testable or not, effect relation between the motivations of
sococultural reality and actors-in-society are actors and their subsequent acts,. not as-
purposive in at least "some of'their actions. suming, of course, that such an aritecedent
Furthermore, actions very often have conse: /consequent correlation is a perfect' one, or
quences,, and environments do -limit the con- that causation is unidirectional. ' ,
ditions of action if they do : not, in some Outputs. Second,.. actions being performed
cases, determine them "outright. The attack have" effects on others and on elemehts "of, the
n "functionalism, then, is" releVant only when situatiqn. I would cali such reslts 1 "qutput-
a researcher decides that ' everything' must functions?' The analysis here is' desigried to
serve a purpose, if not now, then at 'some find out what are the consequences of action.'
previous time. This 'latter approach leads' to a The data 'required are 'ethnographic generali-
method in which the researcher must elicit, zations about actions and data (not 'spposi-
or more. correctly impute, purposes to each tions) concerning the effects of such' action.
This is probably the weakest and most trite where (Cohn 1965b), this may be the most
rea of functional analysis in anthropology improbable among a number of contending
because of statements about "maintenance," possibilities under conditions of observable
"contributing to the social order/' "main- change. With this in mind let us suppose that
taining equilibrium," and other vague out- imbalances are not restored or only partially
puts that are often suggested but not really so. What then? Given the equilibrium assump-
documented or argued convincingly (cf., Eras- tion, such problems are avoided, and the
mus 1967). What is needed here, ideally, is question never comes up. This does not
a research design that includes variation in mean that t[maintenance)J or "persistence" or
observed behavior in relation to variation in "equilibrium" are not useful concepts. The
is posited effects, giving us grounds to relate studies cited above have made positive con-
action to effects in a demonstrable way. If tributions, but it does mean that they are in-
the ideal cannot be reached, then the re- complete because all the logical, and, per-
searcher still has the responsibility to arge haps, empirical possibilities have not been
hypothetically about what would happen if, explained, and instead ''forces are assumed
for example, his decision-maker did not make into existence which constantly push the in-
such decisions, or did not make enough of terrelated set of variables b'ack to a steady
them, or make the right ones, and so on, state of balanced opposition between the
-through the gamut of all possibilities, not parts. - '
just the one that creates "stability" or "main- In working with the same type of data,
tenance of the system." but using an evolutionary prospective, Sahl-
jExamples of such analysis can be seen in ins (1962) arges that segmentary lineages,
two forms: First, where the phenomena are whether equilibrated internally or not, pro-
assumed to be, static or equilibrated; and duce a constant1 political imbalance between
second, when this assumption is not made. neighboring ethnic groups when one of them
In its first and most common as well as in- has segmentary lineages and the other does
complete versin, equilibrium is used as the not. Instead of looking for "redress," he sug-
basic underlying determinant of constituent gests that a continual advantage in favor of
properties, while in the second, and more the segmentary lineage group is present and.
rare approach the equilibrium assumption is associated with (produces?) expansionist
is dropped. As an example of the firs ap- tendencies such that the segmentary society
proach, we can look at the findings of re- constantly takes over the territory of its non-
search on lineage segmenation in frica. It segmentary neighbors. .Although there are
is now accepted that lineage segments de- problems of causal direction and priority in
velop natural imbalances in manpower and/or this argument, the hypothesis advanced is
wealth over time. These discrepancies have testable, and the data upon which it is based
. :.been shown to be redressed by genealogical can be re-examined to see -whether they do
inanipulation (Bohannan 1952, Fortes 1953), provide reasonable grounds for the explana-
-or by contractual arrangements with collat- tion advanced.
"erl lineages in which .the uterine ties are Since the basic approach here is to dis-
.utilized as a means of uniting weak segments cover the effects on institutions of behaviors,
'into alliance groups that are equivalent to the "most clear-cut demonstration' of such
larger and more powerful ones structured phenomena is to be seen in the use of time-
g strict lines of agnation (Lewis 1961). lag data, a technique not often used by social
incompleteness of such ^work lies in.its anthropologists, with some notable exceptions
. * - - - - -taken only one among
a number of (Carrasco -1961, and the work of some of the
.\theoretical possibilities into account. The doc- younger. social ^anthropologists using oral his-
.-umentation of this particular theoretical posi- tory in frica which .will probably prqvide
tion requires data indicating that the system an. antidote to this weakness)! 'Maro Blo'ch
asf observed has, in fact, persisted in its tpres- (1:961) has used ' such an approach in vhis
ent..form for a respectable time-depth. If wrk on 'feudalism. Thus he" gives evidence
: such data are not available, then whether to show that the intro'duction bf primog'eni-'
'or: not 'these forces really do "redress" im- ture 'in ;'eleventh-century ' Europ produced
balances is based only on the assumption of a tendencies' for the decentralization of "Eur-
Vstable equilibrium. As I nave pointed ou else- pean mdnrchies. Habakkuk (1960) claims
(again with time-lag data) that the same cases quite ancient, technology. Another ex-
method of inheritance produced a differential ample of the same sort of work are the
tendency for he later development of migra- studies done on millenarian movements (cf.,
tory and nonmigratory labor, urbanizaron, Mair 1959). These materials do have a tem-
and the inception of industrialization in nine- poral dimensin, and it is possible to see com-
teenth-century Europe. mon antecedentconsequent relations which
The validity of such studies is embedded in have occurred in a number of cases in many
the word "produced." This term implies that pars of the world.
a prior occurrence, A, is related to a con- Perhaps the best-known example is the eco-
sequent one, B, by a development or causal logical interpretations of Julin Steward (1955)
sequence. To disconfirm such a contention we in which he tries to show how the environment
mus show that A is not prior to B, gen- of the American Plateau Regin determines
erally controlled for in time-lag studies, and/ the nature of Shoshoni social structure. His
or that A has no relation to B which depends argument gains in strength when he adds data
on how much other data are available at time on one Shoshoni group at Owens River whose
A and time B, or whether this conditon can environment was more productive and who
be generalized so that the relationship can be also had a more settled and a more complex
tested elsewhere to see whether A precedes society than the majority of Shoshoni. How-
B in a number of other similar types of in- ever, there is no time-lag built into this study,
stances. and so we are left with a correlation analysis
Requisite Analysis. The third type of func- even though Steward uses the requisite form
tional analysis focuses on the conditions of functional analysis to explain his material.
within which actors and institutions must
oprate. This kind of teleological approach is SYSTEMS ANALYSIS
often called requisito analysis and is purpos-
ive in a rather abstract sense since it bears So far in this essay we have dealt with
on the purposes being served by requirements three varieties of generalizations found in
of the context in which the phenomena being anthropologythe ethnographic or probabil-
studied are to be found. Put into terms de- ity statements concerning the occurrence of
scribing the behavior of the phenomena, we events, the mechanical or predictive correla-
can use the term "adaptation" since the stim- tion, and the functional generalizations that
uli are coming from the environment or out- aim at both correlation-prediction as well as
side the phenomena and they require certain explanations which give insight into why cor-
kinds of adjustments or consequent behaviors relations should exist. These three are ar-
on the part of the phenomena under study. ranged cumulatively, i.e., each succeeding
Again, as in the case of motivational pur- type of generalization includes the methodol-
poses, or outputs, the argument requires a ogy of the previous one but adds another
clear-cut delmeation of the needs or require- qualitatively different set of procedures and
ments and their effectshopefully showing strategies to those already given. If we con-
how variations in needs are related to vari- tinu this approach, the next step is to move
able effects in the phenomena under investiga- toward some sort of systems analysis in which
tion. large numbers of units or components are
The most obvious example of requisite considered in relation to one another and
analysis is to be seen in the acculturation separated out from their context because as a
literature where an ethnic group is presented group these particular components can be
with a set of new conditions and must re- made to tell us something that solves an
spond. Sper's (1958) work on habit channel- empirical or theoretical problem.
ing among nineteenth-century California Ch- Although the word "system" has been used
nese is a case in point. He shows how the regularly in anthropology for several decades
Chnese in California changed their tool at least, it has not meant much more than
usage in social situations involving employ- what might be conceived within the scope
ment by white Americans, but when the of functional analysis. However, a number of
Chnese were self-employed or organized nto crucial qualities have been omitted if the
groups amongst themselves for feuding pur- word "system" is applied to a set of functional
poses, they used traditonai, and in some relations. These particular qualities do not
stem directly from functional generalizations, role structure of the society so that religin,
.but instead can be deduced from two general economas, and political actions are often en-
assumptions about the nature of empirical meshed into a single ro.le network. Yet for*
reality. These are as follows: (a) The attempt comparative analysis I need a means of sepa-
to study anything distorts it, and (b) the cir- rating out the political system from other ac-
cular causality criticism leveled ai functional- iyities, i.e.j a definiion of he boundaries of
ism contains a basic truh ha needs recog- political activity.
niion in theory construction. What I con- The relation of the parts of a system to
ceive of as systems analysis takes each of phenomena outside it is a measure of the
hese two problems into account and by permeability or degree of differentiation of .
doing so leaves us with logical devices for the system from its conext or environment3
creating less distortion when building our but it must always be remembered that it is
own heories. the researcher who is isolaing the pars from
Let us begin by defining a sysem as a set heir context in the first rnstance, not some
of inerrelaed pars or unis isolaed o higher .principie of reality or basic quality
some degree from heir context.3 For an- of existence, even though this may be posited
hropology how each part behayes is derived to be the case much later in our investiga-
from ethnographic generalizations, and how tions. When phenomena defined as parts. are
these parts interrelae comes from the associa- more interrelated with each other than with
ional mehod. The sysem has, as one of is non-system phenomena, then there is a high
basic qualities, he idea ha as a whole it boundary mainenance. Conversely when
does "something" or a set of things. If is pars inerrelate closely with contextual or en^ .
pars are actors or roles, it satisfies at least vironmental.phenomena, and only t o - a much'
some of the internal needs of hese parts o more, limited and lower degree to oher sys-
a variable degree hrough ime. It also pro- em pars, then to that extent boundary
duces effects, and it reacts or adjusts to the mainenance is lowered. When we use such a
needs of its contextual environment. In other defnition, any set of phenomena can .be
words, it funcions.4 However, when we say called a system as long as we can, demn-
ha the sysem funcions qua system, I would strate their interrelationships to one an- -
arge that we imply two other qualities no other.5
previously included in the oher types of gen- System boundary, or boundary mainte-.
, eralizations and explanations. These are (a) nance, is a concept that separates out.
ts boundary characerisics, and (b) is feed- phenomena analytically from their context
ack mechanisms and heir funcions. and enables us to study this particular set in
Boundary mainenance and heir characer- terms of a problem focus. The utility of the
sics are importan in anthropology .where concept lies in the attenion it forces us o
mpirical observations may no elici a pay to the objecve fact that we have - done
o.undary, and yet such a boundary is needed the separating, and the relation of the system
many prob.lems of comparison. Thus, as I to that from which it was arbitrarily (al-
t out in Chaper 25 on "The Poliical Sys- hough logically) absraced is .a matter ,pf
eni," the simplest levis of political complex- some importance. As we shall see below, this
'ity, inerweave political activity into the toal is a difficult methodological point, and ,failure
?,Thisvdefinition is very similar to ha giren by to recognize its .implcations.lead to problems
: S.Crtalanfry ,(1956): a system is a set of units with about levis of analysis or to the question
relationships among them. For a recent and detailed of what Gluckman (1964) has called "closed".
-:discussio of systems theory and its component con- systems. . '. . ' . - . ' . ,
'.cpsWd hypotheses see'Miller (1965a, 1965b, 1965c) What I said above about boundary^mainte-_
/and Buckley (1967). In concentrating on boundary, or
bquridedness, "of the system'as -a-crucial aspect that nance being an attempt o . cope . with the^
:..sernSf from he arbitrary choice of components, I am premise that studying anything distorts it now-
following' some system theorists (Easton 1965) but becomes clear. To. study/-somehng ' we. must
noro'the'rs '(Tanter n.d,)- , * " '*
"* In'inodern machine systems''teleblogy is operation- B Logically one could wilh 'his 'definitio posit a
alized'through feedback mechanisms.'Goal-seeking can system with zero boundary inaintennce/'but the idea
be^simulated by arranging for ; a_feedbacfc principie seems of little practical valu .scientificaUy for,-the"
,Wich r,esults in the output .of a system being modi- present. Qn the other hand,. that, such systems' exist,
,'fied^by the error between output ahd some present can be seen easfly by reducing horoscopes to questions;
goal '(Rappaport and Horvah 1959:89). about the empirical relations among their parts. " J.


"pick i up" as it were, in other words take Examples of such model building are rare
it from its context. But if we have assumed or nonexistent as yet in anthropology, al-
that its very nature and development are hough the idea has been implicit in much of
closely bound up with its context, then to say social anthropology ever since the inception
we are going to define it from the very be- of he so-called "organic analogy." Dalton's
ginning as being in relation to hat context conception of the economa system (see
does less to distort it than if this were not the Chapter 24) or my own adaptation of
case. Furthermore there is the even thornier Easton's political system model are approxi-
question of whether we "picked up" the right maions to this ideal of heory construction.
thing or left some of it behind or picked up The work by Gilbert and Hammel (1966)
extras not really included and so on. This is on simulation of cousin marriages is another
also distortion, and only a clear understanding good example of an attempt to show all pos-
that it is the investigator who decides on sible combinations and permutations of a
boundaries, i.e., on "thingness," will keep us multivariable system by creating the condi-
aware that these pars are related to pars ions under which a se of sysem variables
both in and out of he system. could inerrelate with one another. The com-
The second quality of systems analysis not puer hen allows the researcher to vary one
present in any of the previous methods of or more of the system variables experi-
creating generalizations is that of feedback. menlally o discover what such variance
Where boundary maintenance deals with the would do to he frequency of different ypes
relations of pars of the system to one an- of cousin marriage. Using his echnique,
other on the one hand, and to the tes of he auhors have concluded ha abou one-
reality on the other, feedback deals with the lialf of he frequency of father-brother-
relations between different kinds of func- daughter marriage can be accounted for by
ional inerrelationships. Not only do motiva- territorial preference, i.e., marrying locally
tions cause actions, actions have effects, and or not, measured at a gross level on societies
contextual features crate limiting or directly having these types of input characteristics.
causal requirements, but each of these is con- Although Gilbert and Hammel have not
stantly affecting the other so that causality been able to cope as yet with contextual
in the system-in-its-environment is mltiple features, and thus with he problem of
in direction and nature; each cause is an ef- boundary maintenance, in any very com-
fect, and each effec is also a cause. This is plicaed way, his could be a nex step with
he truism underlying the circular reasoning such a simulation in procedure.
of functional analysis. If both sides of a
causal chain are causes, then logically cau- SYSTEMS AND THE LEVELS
sality is circular. 'Unfortunately this makes PROBLEM
empirical research much more difficultbut
no impossible. Systems analysis, hen, is a logical or theo-
Wha is needed here are echniques for reically based choice of a set of pars whose
handling data which we posit as systems so relaion o non-sysem or environmen fac-
that we can take out functional relations in lors is not natural bu delineated for us by
order to abstract each causal chain separately he concepl of boundary mainlenance. If he
from the system, or system-in-its-environment, arbilrariness of sysems analysis is accepted,
(see Chapters 4 and 5 on causality). The then the mater of levis of analysiswhich
fac ha here is already some parially suc- has exercised social science ai leas since
cessful work going on in his field means ha Durkheim's rules of the sociological method
in he near future it may be possible to in- right up o the most recen treatment of the
clude such analyses in our research designs. problem by Gluckman (1964) becomes
Hus feedback allows us o visualize and quickly apparenl, This is due to the fac that
appreciate the complexity of social and cul- the choice of a system of interrelaed pars
ural materals so tha our generalizaions can presents us immediately with a decisin about
be sated o apply within valid limits. Feed- wha lo include and exclude from our iheo-
back is, as well, forcng the technologists in relical and empirical attack on a research
our midst o develop a means of handling problem. Should some variables be excluded
mltiple forces of causaliy. because although they may be relevant, hey
are different "levis'* of analysis, or from man] autonomous and independent of other
another rea of compeence? If the systems aspects. Having chosen a particular aspect for
approach is to be taken seriously-then the study, the social or human scientist, who then
becomes an economist, sociologist, psychologist,
decisin must be taken to resolve this ques- or student of poliics, confines himself to that
tion in exactly the opposite way to that sug- aspect and ignores aspects, and complexities, stud-
o byJ the Durkheimian tradition. Le me ied by others. (Gluckman 1964:161)
explain this conclusin. The Durkheimian, or In this passage Professor Gluckman rec-
strictly sociolgica! approach is based, in my ognizes many of the pitfalls of Durkheimian
view, on an episemology that has almost a reductionism as an argument for remaining
paranoid fear of "reductionism" and an hon- within one's own disciplinary bailiwick. He
est, but warped, view of the integrity of levis notices, quite rightly, that data for the so-
of reality that have been reified because they called "different levis," and/or different dis-
underpin the professional status of academic ciplines, are of ten collected by obs erving
disciplines and ther development into spheres the same phenomena; whereas, 'when a biol-
of "competence." Reductionism. is the "sin" ogist reduces his material to physical-chemi-
of believing that one level of reality can be cal components, he records- different observa-
reduced by findings and explanations of its tions on what are really quite different
causal determinants at a simpler level. Since phenomena. Furthermore Gluckman, by view-
levis of reality (inorganic, organc, psychic, ing aspects as "relatively autonomous/' seems
sociocultural) include the previous ones plus not to be totally unaware (although not com-
new elements not found "below," it is argued pletely -aware either) of the possibility that
that, at some point, the new elements. in a such aspects, i.e., the psychological, cultural,
level must be explained in terms of causal social, economic, etc., are not independent
forces within that level itself. Such argu- natural systems. However, he does not ask
ments have been used, fortunately or un- the nexf logical questions, viz., how relatad
fortunately, to found new disciplines. The or unrelated are they, and what would
new disciplines, like anthropology and to a knowledge of this kind do to solve the theo-
lesser extent sociology, become expert at retical and empirical problems of man's social
certain kinds of data collection on certain and cultural existence.
kinds of phenomena. Theory and research, The reason why these questions are not
especially in social anthropology, have tended asked has nothing to do with epistemology
to use explanations solely within the social but is based, instead, on what seems to me
and cultural level of activity. Gluckman calis to be much thinner ice, namely, professional
this methodological caveat "circumscription." competence and disciplinary integrity and
e moves beyond the major epistemolgica!
tradition. Thus in criticizing two of his col-
roblems raised by Durkheim and by reduc- leagues for using economic variables he says
ionism when he states that different
- ,
that he doubts whether they would be able to
disciplines may study the same events, and even solve many problems using such variables;
ome of the same regularices in these events; but indeed even economists "have tried to develop
heyjook for different kinds of interdependencies
etween the regularices, i.e., for different kinds ways of measuring these variables without
f ( relations. (Gluckman 1964:160) marked success" (1964:206). However, even
?'--, -
if his anthropologist colleagues did solve such
e goes on to say that researchers from
problems, "they would be working as econ-
various disciplines .may talk about psycho-
''lgica!, social, cultural, or economic facs but omistsV'... . not as, social anthrojpologists, and
rin; a strict .sense this is not truewhat they they would have to employ the appropriate
eally mean is that the same ;events,...and techniques and competence, "and'work within
sometimes .different ones, are. being . _ , , ; the. limits these impose" , (19^4:206-207).
Later. on he shows-how -Kluckhohn's work
itted nto various types of systems in terms of one led. ,to "sterility" and "incompetent" trespass
ystem of reality- with different aspects, . . . .
Thus the behavior of workers in a factory has its into .the field ^f another ..discipline tYz.;^psy-.
economic aspect, its politcal aspect, and its psy- choanalysis] . . . particularly when... its; resulte
hological aspect. . . . If one is to succeed in are compared with' the"' fruitful result^jOf .
tudying society one must split up reality'by iso- Eyans-Pritch'ard's'' dsciplined;'refsal vt.'';tres-
ating a particular aspect which presents regulari-
ies"and is'relatively [emphasis is that of Gluck- pass .thus" (1964:249).. He .makes ,tiils,]udg-
ment correctly, because Kluckhohn had none family life are subjects of interest, or politics,
of the psychological data necessary to support or personality, then, ' as I have argued
his contenion, wbile Evans-Pritchard did above, the ultmate goal is development of
gather material to document his generaliza- theoretical systems which tend to explain
tions. and eventually replace our present notions
To summarize this argument, it seems to and perceptions of these phenomena wth
me' that the problem of levis boils down more adequate ones in terms of understand-
to two interrelated issues. First of all, social ing. To do this we must work toward what
anthropology, it is argued, has its own "level" I have called a "systems approach," or some-
of analysis; data collection. and interpreta- thing like it, which isolates elements into an
tion have developed a productive tradition analytically distinct whole; then we must
of. theory by restricting research to this level; study these as they interrelate amongst them-
second., such a tradition has developed its selves and their context. The approach sug-
own disciplinary organizations, its own meth- gested by Gluckman leads logically to po-
odological caveats, its own types of data, litical science, and anthropological politics, to
and so on. Staying within this boundary, or econmics per se, and" to ' anthropological
"closed system," produces results and an on- economics, and so on. But these problems
going intellectual enterprise as well as a rec- are cross-culturally significant and are foci
ognizable status in academia. Going beyond for emprical research and theory develop-
these boundaries creates dangers of incom- ment. This means that eventually problems,
petence and lack of progress toward our not disciplines, must determine theoretical and
final goals of understanding and theory de- methodological developments in anthropology
vel'opment. and its related fields. It means that anthro-
Let me deal with the levis problem first, pologists specializing in certain problems' wl
then the issu. of competence which follows draw closer to their colleagues in nearby
deductively from it. If, as I have suggested, disciplines for theory and niethod. It also
systens are, in fac, arbitrary choices of means that ultimaely we shall be determined
pars, what then. determines this choice? The in our methods, not solely by our discipline
answer is a simple onethe problem to be and its traditions, but by the kinds of data
sudied.0, If the problem .is political, then and theory needed to solve these problems.
we must ask what such a rubric entails. If Thus competence is not a matter of tra-
the problem is more situationally based, such dition, or disciplinary traning, but a con-
as it i s . f o r Lupton and Cunnison (1964) stantly developing requirement determined
when they .seek to understand the workers' by what is studied rather than which pro-
output in a factory, then again the problem fessional societies one belongs to.
defines what should be included. If, instead, From the point of view of the other dis-
the discipline defines the approach, the meth- ciplines, it also means that the results of
ods, and the data, we . must always be anthropological research on these problems
satisfied with either partial answers or multi- has something to contribute to the developing
disciplinary .research to fully explore man in body of theory growing up across disciplines.
society or any .particular species of problem. Thus the study of new nations in political.
I submit, however, that reality is not dis- science requires that a body of information
ciplinary. This is a quality of the social and theory be developed concerning the way
structure of academic "society which may, or in which local politics are incorporating into
may .not, .be, the ' ultmate solution to the the new national entity, and the way in
problems of- social science. If kinship and which new, politically significant groups have
emerged (Cohn 1965a): Anthropological
0 JFrom another point of . view this statement begs
case studies of these' traditional politics f orm
the' question since ;we can iobviously ask what, then,
' determines the problem. .However, ths chapter is meant an excellent base line for both the -polit-
to be/^primanly, .a contrib'ution .to^method, rather ical scientist and the. anthropologist..,..who
than the sociology of science; The reason why scientists wish to study .these' contemporary develop-
choose .certain 'problems is both fascinating in itself ments. On the other. hand, those 'studying
and ,Yery;;lilcly. ;one of -the ultmate, determinante of
developments^ within science. However, I am restricting
such 'problems
. , , . . . - * - . - --
today inr the. . field,'--whether
J . r ... t. .^ ... ^ .
myself here to "what'is,'" or'should'be, done when a they are from anthropology, sociology,': or
problem. has 'alfea'dy b'en fonnulted. political science, must do very similar kinds
of research in which both theory and method criticism that he has distorted "the data to fit
begia to merge because .the problem itself his categories. For example, there are theories
is a major determinant in the situatioja. about divorce rates being related to a system
This discussion hearkens back to the ques- of variables that tend to vary the rate from
tion posed in the section on - ethnograpc high to low depending, among other things,
generalization concerning the difficulties of on the descent system, fertility of the wife,
validity in a traditional ethnography. Ethno-" permissibility of the role structure in the
science was mentioned briefly as one method society in general, and so on. Only when .a
of cutting down on scope while increasing series of studies that quantify the rate is
the , accuracy of ethnographic work. Per- made, and the theoretically related variables
haps the more common solution to this diffi- in a sample of societies have been chosen
culty comes from the. kind of - problem to represent ranges of variance for each
orentation discussed above. As theory, major variable in the theory, can such a
method, and data begn to restructure the body of ideas be fully tested.
social organizacin of social science, only Finally, I should point out that this chapter
specific aspects of social life will be inves- refiects what I consider to be a major
tigated with any degree of concentratin. thrust at theory consruction in athropology,
Anthropology has nndoubtedly shown that indeed, in social science in general. It is not,
all problems mus be seen in their social however, an exhaustive survey of the methods
and cultural context, but' this does not mean of theory construction. In particular I have
that every problem-oriented research project avoided idealist approaches such as ethno-
must complete, or carry out, a total holistic science (dealt with in a later chapter) and
ethnography, although some work on context the concept of "structure" put forward by
must always be a sarting point. This means Lvi-Strauss (1963). Both of these methods
that anthropological field trps are more and for arriving at generalizations do not make
more turning out different varieties of data. the assumption that between observation
First of all, there is the general contextual and generalization there is a statistical, or
material for which participant-observation probabilistic, quality of realty that must al-'
techniques are so well suited. Second, there ways be accounted for. Before a behavior,
is the data directed primarily by theory, in or custom, or belief can be put through the.
which specific and, I would predict, progres- procedures of formal analysis of either
sively more quantified material. is collected. ethnoscience or structuralism, we must know
The general background field work will pro- something about its specific range of oc-
duce the understanding needed to crate in- currence and the varations it displays (cf.,
telligent measurements, and theory must gen- Harris 1966:22 and 1968: chapter 20). This
rate the variables to be operationalized in intervening quality of variance is a funda-
afly particular field work situation. mental feature of all phenomena (including,
.;,, Such developments are.bound to have pro- I believe, formal models in the minds of the
' found effects on cross-cultural studies. As natives). However, it is not nearly so ap-
demonstrated by the work being done on parent or crucial to those who utilize either.
data quality control (Naroll 1962), much ethnoscience or Lvi-Strauss' structuralism,
emphasis is now placed on assessing the for they start their assumptions from a'differ-
; accuracy of ethnographic material and in ent set of premises. At base, then,.are totally
Operationalizing variables from this literature. different conceptions of the .ultmate - nature
When, however, there are a number of studies of reality and our means of understanding it.
of-. single cases in which
-..-.-' "' ^ -
theoretically relevant
Within the materialist approach used through-
: variables haye already been operationalized out this chapter, variance is assumed t o - b e
orV"each field situation separately, then the a constant property of all. phenomena. <'Thus'
comparativo Job will be simpler. and, less formulating a ' problem for - research - means
1" '' '"**" -" " ' '"''' " ' '' '
- *~^ "- -
- .-.. . * .- > - - c
data on
asking questions about a variance p in terms
the 'variables the cpmparativist is interested of. .pther variances that ,.may ; .be_.cansing
i/wil ,be . available, and less contentious be- its behavior. In the formal analysis -called
'cause the' field worker will have performed for by ethnoscience or by-Lvi-Strauss,
. . ' - . . ' - . - : , , - ' ' > ' , ,t- -

the " - 'operationalization

-*- '- - .
in terms of > the
, . . . .
. , .^. .
variance is . a ' :<noise-ridden" ''expression ^ of
. , . - > - ' .i- :".-'
-spf. that the comparativist will .escape the fundamental regulanties or invanant pnnci-
pies that express the ultmate causes of ob- nevertheless it is constantly changing since it
servable reality. has inherent mechanisms in its own social
Thus Needham (1962), a foUower of Lvi- and cultural organization for constant change.
Strauss, likes to deal with prescribed patterns Anthropology is built on the collection
of behavior, i.e., those that approach 100% of informatiori from field studies. These re-
correspondence between expectations and ac- sult in reports which are large collections of
tual practice. For him these are purer ex- ethnographic generalizations. These generali-
pressons of the underlying principies, and zations are variously accurate and are usually
he does not have to get caught in the cross integrated into a coherent set of patterns.
fire of probabilities in which such correspond- The methods of carrying out these two
ences are well below 100%. But how much operations of abstraction and synthesis also
of the human experience is like this? Should vary as to accuracy and logical consistency,
we try to build theories about man's social which leaves the basic data of anthropology
and cultural life from types of practices that in a somewhat unclear position scientifically.
are extremely atypcal? Parenthetically, an- I have started the analysis of anthropo-
thropology has not had such notable theo- logical generalization with the methods used
retical success with its most widespread pre- to obtain the simplest level of generalization,
scriptionthe incest rulewhich obviously that of describing a single pattern or regu-
does represent something quite fundamental larity among a group of people. Some an-
(but what?) in the human condition. How- thropologists give data upon which such gen-
ever, if this approach is taken seriously eralizations are based, others illustrate the
then methodology becomes the study and generalization, others simply state the gen-
effort to find ways and means of arriving eralization. In many cases, besides observing
at these formal underlying principies whch a pattern, it is also linked with others to
are said to be expressed in empirical reality. show its agreement and integration into an
Undoubtedly such approaches have their over-all pattern. This integration or pattern
utility, and it is to the credit of anthropology model is in effect a set of correlations whose
that it has, less than most of the social validity is but poorly known except for the
sciences, developed no orhodoxy, new or feeling we get as researchers and readers
oldJ that the entire body of generalizations does
Contention and competition among ulti- fit together in the manner indicated.
mately different conceptions of reality and From this level of generalization I have
the means of developing generalizations means moved to the more rigorous methods of
that as a discipline we ourselves appreciate creating relationships among ethnographic
variance in our own midst, and from an generalizations or single patterns. The sim-
evolutionary point of view this is an adaptive, plest leve! I have called "associational." Vari-
i.e., a "good" way of coping with our prob- ables are shown to vary with respect to each
lems. other. Why this is so is not part of the logic
involved in demonstrating that the relation-
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIN ship does in fact hold. The method ultimately
involves quantification, because development
In this chapter I have briefly gone over of the generalization eventually turns on
the meaning of a scientfic approach to under- questions of more and less of something.
standing. The goal of science is theory, and After this level the discussion takes up the
good theory is a body of ideas that can be functional model of generalization which is
submitted, ulimately, to empirical testing. designed to cope with questions of correlation
Theory explains and predicts phenomena and but adds statements about cause, i.e., it
is a heuristic devce because it can be used provides reasons why the relations exist.
as a substituto for the complexities of reality; Functions are dvided into (a) those originat-
71 have not chosen to compare these approaches ing with the intentions or dispositions of
in any detail in his paper because I believe it is more actors, (b) with the effecs of action, and
important for the parpse at hand to clarify the (c) with the requirements of the situation
phenomenological approach which is the dominant
trend in the social sciences today. For a fuller treat- upon the actors. Finally, a systems approach
ment of this subject see Schneider (1965) and Harrs is discussed in which an entire set of variables
(1966 and 1968). are theoretically related. The concepts of
boundary maintenance and feedback are and more cumulative, stemming as they will
jntroduced in order (a) o relate the ar- from progressively developing theories.
bitrarily chosen set of variables to their con- Finally the way in which the limitations
text, and (b) to take care of the accusation are to be applied stems less from the tradi-
of circular reasoning often directed at func- tions of holistic ethnography ihan from com-
tional analysis. mon interests across the social sciences di-
These models have been offered as a re- rected toward a series of problems. These
placement for the pattern or synthetic model foci, some of which are discussed later in
of traditional ethnography. I believe that they this volume in the section on models of
involve much greater limtation in the sc'ale analysis, form the contemporary (they may
of data collected in the field, but they change in the future) basis for systems
also involve much greater rigor in the attempt analysis. As we have defined it here, this
to synthesize ethnographic generalizations into refers to a theoretically derived choice of
larger sets or systems of interrelationships. elements that are posited to be related to
If this variety of theorizing contines to ex- one another and relevant .to a certain prob-
pand it means that holistic ethnography does lem. Such a restructuring of the socia.l sciences
not have a bright future. However, it does calis for methodological openness and a lack
mean that the generalizations stemming from of, concern for disciplinar/ boundaries.
field work will be more rigorously developed


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