Science in Malinowski, Bateson and Sociocultural Anthropology


In this paper I want to address questions concerning the role of science in the social science discipline called sociocultural anthropology. I want to examine the role that science plays in Malinowski’s “Argonauts of the Western Pacific” and Bateson’s “Naven,” and, more generally, the role science plays in sociocultural anthropology. More specifically, I’m interested in examining Malinowski’s theory of functionalism as an expression of holism in the context of scientific discourse. I want to examine how functionalism as a central, theoretical, anthropological, analytical tool develops from Malinowski to Bateson. I also want to look at the strengths and weaknesses of functionalism as a scientific theory in Malinowski and Bateson’s works.

In addition, I want to ask what the limitations are to applying a more scientific approach to the study of culture as seen in the examples of “Argonauts of the Western Pacific” and “Naven.” While the challenges of studying dynamic human systems or elements in the context of culture from a rigorous, methodologically sound perspective are many, they are not insurmountable.[1] Malinowski’s use of ethnographic description to address the question of the significance of the Kula ring exchange raises interesting epistemological questions about why his approach is scientific and on what scientific principles his theory and ethnography are based. In comparison to Malinowski, Bateson begins to examine anthropology more scientifically by reflexively addressing anthropological, theoretical questions and problems as science. He asks, for example, what science is and how his work is scientific. He develops new theoretical approaches to anthropological questions through a process of abstraction that arises from his scientific analysis. I also suggest that Malinowski in “Argonauts of the Western Pacific,” and more generally, sociocultural anthropology, do not embrace or address science to the detriment of the discipline. Lastly, I examine some examples of more rigorously scientific approaches to anthropology and sociology as possible ways to reintroduce science, as identified below, to sociocultural anthropology.

Historically, science has referred to a practice of acquiring knowledge about the natural world utilizing reason, logic, measurement, fundamental laws, axioms, verifiability, replicability of results, comparison, control groups, modeling, experimentation, and proof, etc., among other approaches.[2] The scientific method also frequently involved observation, hypothesis, experimentation and conclusion. In “Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality,” Tambiah suggests

that the Western conception of science as a labeled, self-conscious and reflexive activity of experimentation, measurement and verification matured in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, that at this time there was a decisive separating off of Christianity (Protestantism) from science, and the repudiation of a third realm of activity as magic.  . . . A very critical precondition of modern science was the contribution of early Greece. According to the classicists it was in early Greece that the systematization of the rules of demonstration and proof was begun, and the marking off of nature as the domain of regular laws of causality was achieved.[3]

Rigorous, reflexive examination of method became a hallmark of science in the 20th century. The scientific approach enabled the scientist to test his or her observations against the objective “reality out there.”[4] The scientific method thus allowed for hypothesis and logical proof or disproof of observations often in relation to something universal or a standard. Science as a method also thus allowed the scientist to seek for and identify knowledge, often universal, as something distinct from hypothesis, ideology or interpretation.

Knowledge, of course, is generated in and by scientific contexts as well as in and by nonscientific social and cultural ones. In this paper, I want to specifically examine the relationship between a body of specialized knowledge (rectangles in diagram below) and the anthropological “subdiscipline[s], specialization[s] with conventions, and ‘rules of the game’ accepted by peer groups and professional associations”[5] (ovals in diagram below) below in terms of the theory of functionalism. I would like to situate Malinowski and Bateson’s work in the context of this dynamic to examine both strengths and weaknesses of functionalism as theory as well as how new developments in the rules of the sociocultural anthropology as science game might proceed. In a broad context, the relationship between the logic of functionalism, which because of the complexity of its ‘object’ of study -- i.e. complex, dynamic social group interaction in these cases -- is presently problematic.

The Logic and Sociology of Scientific Inquiry

(Tambiah, p. 141)

In this model, the Malinowskian/Batesian anthropological interaction between the rectangles and ovals – i.e. the methods of science, paradigms, reality testing of “nature,” verification of empirical reality, and technical applications of knowledge – would typically refer to the field worker him/herself participating, observing, and taking notes filtered through the theory of functionalism and anthropological readings learned in an academic environment. Malinowski emphasized an economic standpoint based on adaptational theory, but included observations in many other aspects of social life, including, for example, religion, myth, sociology, technology, etc. The field worker would then transcribe his or her data into text typically from an analytical stand point such as economics (Malinowski) or transvestitism (Bateson).

Early anthropologists such as Malinowski adopted, in a somewhat unreflexive manner,[6] aspects of the scientific method and explanatory approaches to seek to ‘scientifically’ understand the social dynamic underlying, and the reasons for, the Kula Ring exchange ritual practiced by the Trobriand Islanders. Using observation based on the training of the anthropologist, ethnographic description, and his own theory of functionalism, Malinowski sought to explain this exchange ritual from an economic standpoint as serving to integrate the community by ascribing status, prestige, etc. embodied in the objects, such as armbands and shell necklaces, to individuals, gained through ritual trade.

Arguing from a theoretical perspective, Malinowski suggests that every social situation is unique. The theory of functionalism which holds that customary practices are best understood in terms of the contribution to the society's integration as a working whole thus allows for the uniqueness of every complex, dynamic social situation by subscribing to a holistic understanding of social reality. As demonstrated through the Kula Ring exchange, holism implies an operating mechanism, which involves chains of relations not necessarily based on a teleological logic - everything is related to everything else. The logic inherent in this foundational anthropological theory of functionalism is either circular or more complex.[7] In “Argonauts of the Western Pacific,” Malinowski neither explains why his theory of functionalism is scientific nor offers a methodology besides participant observation and taking notes about as many aspects of social life as possible. Because of the subjectivity of the approach and the potential lack of replicability and verification of results as well as the lack of the possibility to test his analysis against an “objective reality,” one could question whether Malinowski’s approach is scientific or not. For example, five independent anthropologists going to study the same Kula Ring exchange in the Trobiand Islands in 1922 using an economic analytical standpoint could arrive at very different conclusions. This is fine except that it would call into question whether Malinowski’s results were “science,” (using the body of science as outlined above) as he claimed.[8] Consequently, I want to re-examine how one might adapt a theory of functionalism to incorporate a methodologically consistent approach, which might help to reframe and develop Malinowski’s theory of functionalism.

In an article about Malinowski, Grimshaw and Hart observe that the 'revolution' in anthropology / scientific ethnography in the early decades of this century attempted to synthesize object, theory and method. Primitive society was the particular object of study; primitive peoples were generally defined as isolated and self-sufficient, usually found on the periphery of empires. The theory, as mentioned above, was functionalism which, roughly conceived, suggests that customary practices are best understood in terms of the contribution to the society's integration as a working whole. Therefore, everything was open to investigation through the one unique discovery of the discipline: fieldwork.

Grimshaw and Hart also suggest that scientific ethnography for Malinowski here means, then, not just empirical fieldwork, but a coalescence of theory, object and method. Malinowski promoted a model where theoretically trained professionals would spend an extended period of time doing fieldwork in a single, exotic, 'primitive' location and produce a scientific paper on objective findings. The goal was to enter into local societies subjectively, learn the vernacular, and actively participate in the object of study. For Malinowski, the ethnographer worked alone with a notebook. Malinowski used the word "functionalist" to stress that ethnographic science was about the coherence of what people do together in the present, and not a reconstructive exercise of a speculated-on past.

In addition, Grimshaw and Hart suggest that Malinowski strongly emphasized the importance of understanding customs within the unique social situation in which the ethnographer found them. He specifically denied the relevance of history to his new scientific discipline. Consequently, Malinowski depicted primitive groups as self-reliant, static, culturally homogenous wholes, circumscribed in a specific, narrow territory. Malinowski thus created one of a number of somewhat arbitrary boundaries for his all-inclusive, holistic theory of functionalism.

One of the logical limitations from a synthetic perspective of the theory of functionalism rests in the limitations inherent in the concept of holism. For example, in attempting to understand the Kula Ring exchange as a whole, Malinowski, seemingly of necessity, adopted a particular (non-whole) economic standpoint, added other non-economic data that interfaced with the economic exchange observations, and derived a theory of functionalism from this particular analysis of the Kula Ring.

Holism is easier asserted than practised, and even Bronio never managed to write a single synthesising study to spell out all the connections that mattered in the case of the Trobriand Islanders . . .[9]

From a logical standpoint, Malinowski developed a particular interpretation of the Kula Ring, in the name of holism,[10] but actually employed a form of particularism. Holism on a grand scale is difficult, if not impossible, to verify, but the way systems work is not.


In the name of a functionalist economic analysis of the Kula Ring exchange system, Malinowski partially examined the experiences of the Trobrianders -- what they were thinking, feeling, and doing -- in the Kula ritual exchange. If one could develop methodologically sound approaches to functionalism to re-evaluate the Kula Ring exchange of the early 1920s in the Trobriand Islands and arrive at different or similar data and analyses, one would either demonstrate that Malinowski was correct in his analysis or disprove his analysis thus calling into question aspects of the theory of functionalism, participant observation as a “scientific” method as well as a foundational document of anthropology and possibly anthropology as a science, also. In studying the processes of enjoyment, University of Chicago Professor of Psychology Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi devised a methodology to scientifically explore and understand what it is people are doing when they say they are enjoying themselves. Hypothetically and anachronistically,[11] I want to suggest that if one were to adapt this kind of methodology to the Kula Ring exchange using Malinowski’s central question of economics (or any other question) one might assess whether Malinowski’s analysis was accurate or not and thus possibly rewrite anthropology as a science. To achieve precision in his study of enjoyment, Czikszentmihalyi used the Experience Sampling Method[12], which involves asking people to wear a pager for a week. The subjects in the study are then randomly signaled about 8 times a day and are asked to write down what they were doing, how they are feeling and what they are thinking, at the time they were signaled. At the end of the week, a running log of what people were doing at a series of representative moments exists. From this data, it is possible to determine what it is people are doing when they report enjoying themselves.

One can thus postulate a similar ‘scientific’ approach to restudy the Kula Ring Exchange, were one able to return to the 1920s to it. For example, one could devise an approach that would, using a Malinowskian economic, social integration approach or any other, for example, ask what each of the Trobriand Islanders were doing at regular intervals of time during the course of the Kula Ring exchange when they were signaled with a pager. Controlling for various possible design flaws in this anachronistic and hypothetical study (such as that the pager might become a status object to trade or that the Trobriand Islanders might not be able to write – a group of interviewing research assistants might solve some of these problems) such as this creates a body of data independent of the anthropologist’s subjectivity that could then be used to verify whether Malinowski’s data and interpretation was correct or not. Devising a method that could be used to verify Malinowski’s or an anthropologist’s observations and data, and thus the interpretations, potentially changes an aspect of the sociocultural anthropological method of inquiry. Malinowski’s anthropological inquiry into the function of the Kula Ring exchange (his interpretation was that it served to socially integrate the Trobriand islanders), which yielded the theory of functionalism could potentially be rewritten. The use of the Experience Sampling Method would allow anthropologists to sample many different aspects of life in a methodologically consistent fashion.


Bateson develops the theory of functionalism further by attempting to identify three “higher order” perspectives through which to parse ethnographic data and thus functionalism. By doing so, he implicitly attempts to reframe holism as having a certain ‘registers,’ in a sense.

In the dedication to ‘Naven” Bateson writes that the book is a “Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guineau Tribe drawn from Three Points of View,”[13] namely 1) sociological, 2) eidological (structural), and 3) ethological (emotional or affective).[14] In doing so, Bateson attempts to specify particular categories of knowledge within the anthropological domain as having special significance in understanding people for the theory of functionalism. He thus attempts to refine the wide-open theory of functionalism (and holism, by extension) by privileging parts of the whole to have (higher order) special, analytical significance. Implied in this view is both a level of abstraction in analyzing data from a functional perspective as well as a hierarchy of significance in holism, which is possibly contradictory. In Bateson’s ethnographic analysis of the Iatmul, he omits other potentially equally important categories, e.g. language, economics, psychology, etc. The significance of such omissions may indicate many things -- including that Bateson wasn’t developing a comprehensive theory of functionalism, or that there is a hierarchy of organization within the theory of functionalism or that Bateson was grasping at straws – but Bateson begins to theoretically develop functionalism as theory and to try to organize anthropological categories of knowledge.

In the beginning of ‘Naven,” Bateson observes that if it were possible to focus on the whole of culture, where every detail might seem “natural and reasonable as they do to the natives,” it could be done in two ways, artistically or scientifically. He points out that the Functional school of anthropology[15] attempts to completely avoid the impressionistic techniques of artistic approaches. The Functional School (Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski) describes “in analytic, cognitive terms the whole interlocking – almost living – nexus which is culture.”[16] But this approach also misses delineating what the artistic approach examines with its impressionistic techniques, especially the emotional fabric or ethos. Bateson thus divides and then synthesizes what for him are significant aspects of functional theory, especially the emotional.

Bateson proceeds to offer an analysis of culture, which includes the emotional fabric (ethos) as part of the inseparable cultural whole and which also includes “Ritual, Structure, [and] Pragmatic Functioning” among other factors.[17] Since it isn’t possible to examine the whole of culture in a ‘single flash,’ Bateson says he arbitrarily selects a paradigm defining culture as “an elaborate reticulum of interlocking cause and effect, [presenting it] not with a network of words but with words in linear series.”[18] The implications that such a representation, “arbitrarily” chosen, might theoretically signify is difficult to understand in the context of Tambiah’s description (diagram above) of the internal framework of scientific inquiry.

Bateson’s Functionalism

Bateson identifies many uses of the term ‘function.’ In one way, function is “the whole play of synchronic cause and effect within the culture, irrespective of any consideration of purpose or adaptation.”[19] If according to Bateson, Naven ceremonies play a role in integrating the community, one might say the Iatmul village size is a function of the naven ceremony. Anthropologists “might then insert qualifying adjectives to indicate what sort of [functional] interdependence they are discussing” leading to terms like “structural function, social function, pragmatic function.” (p. 27) By further developing various forms of functionalism, Bateson seeks some sort of scientific clarity.

For Bateson, function may also mean useful adaptive effect. Modern anthropology uses the word ‘function’ ambiguously in both ways. Malinowski uses the word function as adaptation, to regard all the elements of culture as ““working directly or indirectly for the satisfaction of human needs,” and he deduces from this that every detail of culture is “at work, functioning, active, efficient.”[20] Bateson observes that anthropologists have “fought shy of analyzing the concept of function” because every type of function is dependent on every other type.[21] After examining functionalism from many perspectives, Bateson, in the first epilogue, writes “I could not (and still cannot) see that orthodox functional analysis was likely to lead anywhere.”[22]

As a consequence, Bateson develops a number of approaches in the 1958 epilogue, which examine functionalism from a cybernetic or feed-back perspective. This reconfigured approaches to purpose and adaptional models at the time. The formal study of feed-back systems included “mechanical models of closed circuits which (if the parameters of the system were appropriate) seek equilibria or steady states”.[23] These approaches are interesting because they presage computational approaches. The 2nd epilogue in Naven suggests a number of models that now might be testable in a computer environment:

If, for example, we consider a circular system containing elements A, B, C, and D – so related that an activity of A affects an activity of B, B affects C, C affects D, and D has an effect back upon A – we find that such a system has properties totally different from anything which can occur in linear chains.[24]

In a simple computing environment, one could write a program where agent A affects agent B, B agent affects agent C, agent C affects agent D, and agent D has an effect back upon agent A, in terms of movement, or signal sending or any number of other possibilities. By increasing the sophistication of the programmed variables in a computing environment with no predefined outcome, one could then begin to observe how complex systems develop. This process would then begin to show through computing how complex systems work theoretically. One could then begin to incorporate behaviors analogous to those in preliterate (such as foraging and water seeking) and literate societies (such as language) thus forming a computational environment where one could observe complex developments over time. Certain aspects of Functionalism, which at its root works from an epistemology of linkages, therefore in the computational paradigm, become subject to modeling and artificial models.

One could potentially write a program, which would then include many features of the Kula Ring exchange, programming agents to trade objects given certain rules. The Kula Ring exchange would thus become subject to computational analysis.

In their work on artificial society the computational sociologists Epstein and Axtell identify key aspects of the computing environment including agents, a set of rules, environment.

The social sciences are also hard because certain kinds of controlled experimentation are hard. In particular, it is difficult to test hypotheses concerning the relationship of individual behaviors to macroscopic regularities, hypotheses of the form: If individuals behave in thus and such a way—that is, follow certain specific rules—then society as a whole will exhibit some particular property. How does the heterogeneous micro-world of individual behaviors generate the global macroscopic regularities of the society?[25]

They provide a methodology which takes into account heterogeneity and which can be used to analyze social complexity experimentally.

We apply agent-based computer modeling techniques to the study of human social phenomena, including trade, migration, group formation, combat, interaction with an environment, transmission of culture, propagation of disease, and population dynamics. Our broad aim is to begin the development of a computational approach that permits the study of these diverse spheres of human activity from an evolutionary perspective as a single social science, a transdiscipline subsuming such fields as economics and demography.[26]

Agent-based cultural transmission can then be used to create experiments to understand cultural transmission. This approach to understanding cultural phenomena would then move anthropology into the internal framework of scientific inquiry as outlined by Tambiah.

Nick Gessler for his UCLA dissertation on "Artificial Culture: Synthetic Anthropology," soon to be published by MIT press under the title “Anthropology from the Bottom Up,” has designed artificial culture computing environments. He defines it:

Artificial culture is culture recreated inside a computer . . . Culture in this view is seen as a complex adaptive system. Such an experimental program may help to clarify the positions of the various schools of scientific and humanistic thought. The computer model itself is an instantiation of an emergent materialist epistemology."[27]

Invoking multi-agency and evolution, these simulations have proven to be invaluable for calculating the emergent behavior of complex adaptive systems. Prior to their advent, problems in complexity remained intractable, their analysis lay far outside the realm of scientific inquiry. Simulations allow experimentation with systems that are too large, too dangerous, too distant, too costly, or too sensitive to manipulate. Meanwhile, untapped computing power sits idly on our desktops executing billions of inconsequential instructions waiting for our next keystroke. The emblematic bitten apple gleaming on the Macintosh assumes a more portentous meaning when we consider that it and its PC rivals could be spinning out entailments of experiments as we read or write. We need to take that first tentative bite, to taste that once forbidden fruit of complexity, to leave that so-called "garden" of comforting simplicity behind and venture into more realistic worlds.[28]

Gessler’s work fits Tambiah’s framework here. I quote Gessler at length here to give the reader a view of his orientation to artificial culture.

The growth of science, from its germination in Greece, its flowering in the 17th Century, through to the present, may be seen as a specialization in this kind of model building. In fact, the entire enterprise of science may be seen as the building of increasingly reliable, integrated and powerful representations of our world, linked, one representation to another, and further through those linkages, to the world itself. Models, whether internalized as ideas, concepts and discourse, or whether externalized as mathematics, diagrams, and renderings, as dimensional miniatures or machines, are at the root of science. By experimenting on these representations we approach the world itself. We make our way through a Victorian garden maze hoping to find a central fountain of enlightenment, the direct view of our goal blocked by hedges, or perhaps reflecting hedges lined with a myriad of mirrors. Experimentation is the heart of the scientific process, but the world yields to experiment only in proportion to our power over it. Thought experiments may be relatively free of ponderous impediments, while physical experiments are much more cumbersome.[29]

What if anthropology had access to a new and different mode of experimentation? What if we could devise and carry out experiments of our own design on quasi-living cultures to answer some of the more puzzling problems of theory? What if we could study the entailments of various "what if" scenarios? And what if we could do so without ethical dilemmas? Perhaps we can by looking down from a new perspective on the role of representation in contemporary science. Recall the trajectory of inventions mentioned earlier, that trend that brought us from advent of tools that leverage matter and energy to those that leverage information beginning with the first graphic representations and writing? At the dawn of the new millennium, we stand at the coalescence of two new ways of looking at the world, two new representations of that world, two new epistemologies, and two new technologies that are transforming the very world that created them. These new perspectives are those of evolution and of computation.[30]

Computational anthropology and Artificial Culture . . .

Why should we as anthropologists care about these new emerging paradigms? Simply because they seem to be effective ways of representing, understanding and knowing, the kinds of adaptive complex systems that we are.[31]

By beginning to examine complex adaptive systems through the modeling capabilities of computing technologies, anthropologists gain the ability to analytically comprehend and create complex culture paradigms and real situations through time.


In the article, “Not the Question,” Bruno Latour argues that the question of whether anthropology is a science or not is not the important question, apparently responding to an oft-voiced criticism of anthropology. He argues that anthropologists need to consider two obstacles before the current debate can draw on the resources of the anthropology of scientific practice: “1) the confidence of anthropologists in their own discipline; 2) the second involves the relative emphasis of methodology over content in definitions of science.”[32] Referring to the second point, he argues in terms of anthropology today – which, in its fourth stage, is examining presumed vanishing cultures, which are very much present - that the theory of science is antiquated. He suggests, using the analogy to theoretical physics that anthropology is far more complex than other ‘sciences.’ He also suggests that arguments over methodological rigor are useless. This perspective, however, does not really respond to an anthropology contextualized within Tambiah’s framework, nor a computational model, nor does it respond to the way other social sciences such as ecology, social psychology, etc. have incorporated methodologically sound 'holistic' approaches. Latour’s perspective also does not examine the seeming lack of reflexive rigor concerning anthropology’s approaches, but instead dismisses it, possibly to the detriment of the discipline, as Roy D’Andrade points out in “The Sad Story of Anthropology, 1950-1999.”

By introducing the “Experience Sampling Model” and computational approaches, the anthropologist as subject is decentered enabling more scientific and methodologically sound approaches to shape data collection. A body of knowledge is developed apart from personal observation. The lines, i.e. the methods, between the rectangles and ovals, between bodies of specialized knowledge and specializations with conventions, in Tambiah’s diagram above become potentially methodologically clarified, not just reliant on subjective fieldwork, but allowing for the subjectivity of experience of the groups studied.

Some theorists critique anthropology of science as based on axiomatic induction. Merrill writes, for example, that:

The critical difference between the social sciences and the natural sciences is that the social sciences are founded on axiomatic induction, not on experimentalism. It is possible, of course, to perform experiments on an individual or any aggregate of individuals, but such experiments don't tell us what we need to know in order to explain the history of the Tokugawa shogunate. Only the arm-chair theorizing of the "scholarly" culture can offer any worthwhile assistance to the historians regarding the laws of human behavior applicable to the analysis of the historical record. What we should keep in mind here is that there is a sharp dualism between axiomatic induction and experimental induction, and there is an equally clear distinction among the subject matter appropriate to each. There is no more justification for an experimental "sociology" than there is for an axiomatic physics.[33]

What this observation seems to beg, is that the history of the Tokugawa shogunate, for example, seems to be history and not necessarily a social science. Without the theory of Functionalism, which seems problematic within Tambiah’s paradigm, anthropology might be viewed as a form of history. Functionalism’s resistance to methodological development (Bateson, etc.) suggests that its claim to science may be spurious or now examinable and hence refinable through computational and modeling paradigms.

In many cases, sociocultural Anthropology seems to have moved quite far from any scientific input or methodological rigor. I want to suggest that this isn’t because complex, transitory (ephemeral), dynamic, human interaction can’t be examined from a methodologically consistent or scientific approach. Nor is it because sociocultural anthropology has shown science to be ideologically suspect or intractably based in regimes of knowledge and power. In a Foucauldian sense, science can be used to challenge the system, just as well as ideological analysis. Nor is this due to problems logically inherent in a holistic paradigm. The question becomes: how to introduce methodology.

Sociocultural anthropology, the uniqueness of cultures and functionalism may always remain in a liminal global cultural space, a perpetually new mysterion,[34] but computational technologies and a reexamination of its theoretetical limitations may help guide it explicitly toward reflexive methods of scientific inquiry.

In conclusion, I want to argue that scientific sociocultural anthropology, with the few examples mentioned in this paper, is a new/old direction worth examining that potentially synchronizes anthropology’s endeavors more closely with the internal framework of scientific inquiry as modeled by Tambiah.[35] In addition, I want to suggest that anthropologists can potentially examine and develop the theory of Functionalism through tools such as the “Experience Sampling Method,” modeling with computational resources, comparison, as well as other approaches in the social scientific literature, to reorient anthropology in a methodologically sound direction.


Bateson, Gregory. 1958. Naven. Stanford: Stanford Universtiy Press.

Book that compares Theravada Buddhism to Mahayana Buddhism in a methodologically sound manner, written by a Brown professor which came out in the early 80s.

Clifford, J., The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. 1988, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Czikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. 1991. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperCollins.

D’Andrade, Roy. 2000. “Sad Story of Anthropology 1950-1999.” Cross-Cultural Research v 34, August 2000: 219  H1.B45

Epstein, Joshua M. and Robert M. Axtell. Growing Artificial Societies. Online. May 4, 2001.

Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.

Gessler, Nicholas. 1999. Artificial Culture: Experiments in Synthetic Anthropology. Online. April 27, 2001.

Grimshaw, A. and K. Hart, "Anthropology and the Crisis of the Intellectuals". Critique of Anthropology, 1994. 14(3): pp. 227-261.

Hann, Chris. 2000. Teach Yourself Social Anthropology Supplementary Materials. Online. May 18, 2001.

Hertz, Ellen. 1998. The Trading Crowd: An Ethnography of the Shaghai Stock Market. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Latour, Bruno. 1986. “Not the Question.” Anthropology Newsletter 37(3):1,5. fGN2.A217

Lett, James. 1997. Science, Reason, and Anthropology: The Principles of Rational Inquiry. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

Nagel, Thomas.

Parrinello, Giulia. 1999. “New Sciences and High Technology in Tourism Research and Praxis. Mobility and the New Sciences. The Technological Body and the     Subject.” Draft.

Kluckhohn, Clyde. Mirror for Man.

Malinowski. 1961 [1922]. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: Dutton.

Martindale, Don, ed. 1965. Functionalism in the Social Sciences: The Strength and Limits of Functionalism in Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, and Sociology. Monograph 5. Philadelphia: The American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Money, John. 1988. Gay, Straight, and In-Between. New York: Oxford.

Ornish, Dean. 1996. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease: The Only System Scientifically Proven to Reverse Heart Disease Without Drugs or Surgery. New York: Dimensions.

Nadel, S.F. 1951. The Foundations of Social Anthropology. London: Cohen and West.

Nader, Laura. 1996. Naked Science: Anthropological Inquiry Into Boundaries, Power, and Knowledge. New York: Dimensions.

Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. 1990. Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sim, Susan Elliot. Evaluating the Evidence: Lessons from Ethnography. Online. April 27, 2001

[1] Many writers in anthropologically related social scientific fields have successfully applied scientific approaches to studying complex, dynamic, human, cultural patterns. Cf. Sexologist John Money (1988), enjoyment researcher Csikszentmihalyi (1991); Yale biologist, limnologist and ecologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson explored complex lake systems. Heart researcher Dean Ornish (1996) uses science and holism to scientifically show that heart disease is reversible. In reference to Tourism, Guilia Parinello writes p. 9 “Therefore it is possible to imagine new forms of experiments involving tourist, which would have a scientific basis but consider them in a holistic attitude.” Economists have long examined systems of flows.

[2] While there are many approaches to science, the ‘science’ I’m referring to and in which I wish to situate anthropology is embodied by these approaches; before anthropology can be compared with theoretical physics and related sciences I think it needs a firm basis in the above more basic scientific approaches.

[3] Tambiah, 1990, p. 140

[4] Tambiah, 1990, p. 140

[5] Tambiah, p. 141

[6] In “Argonauts of the Western Pacific.”

[7] Bateson, Epilogue p. .

[8] Clifford, Predicament of Culture

[9] Hann, 2000.

[10] About Kant’s view on ‘thinking the whole’:

“The second aspect of Kant’s concern with metaphysics is with the problem of the antinomies. As a result of his reflections on the concept of a world, he became convinced that reason inevitably falls into contradiction with itself when it endeavours to ‘think the whole’, that is, when it ventures beyond experience in order to answer such questions as whether the universe has a beginning in time, limit in space, or first cause, or is, rather, infinite in these respects. The contradiction or antinomy arises because it is possible to construct valid proofs for each for each of the two conflicting positions: the universe has a beginning in time; the universe has existed for an infinite period of time; etc. He also thought that, if unresolved, this problem would lead to a hopeless skepticism, which he termed the ‘euthanasia of pure reason’.” (Kant, Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

Does anthropology fall into the trap of antinomies or contradictions when ‘thinking the whole?’

[11] The Trobriand Islander’s Kula Ring exchange no longer occurs.

[12] Czikszentmihalyi, p. 8?

[13] Bateson, 1958, Frontispiece.

[14] Bateson, 1958, p. 30

[15] Bateson, p. 1

[16] Bateson, p. 2

[17] Bateson, p. 3

[18] p. 3

[19] Bateson, p. 26

[20] Bateson, p. 27

[21] Bateson, p.28.

[22] p. 257

[23] p. 287

[24] p. 288

[25] Epstein and Axtell

[26] Epstein and Axtell

[32] Latour, p.1

[34] Nagel.

[35] Tambiah, p. 141


Scott MacLeod

Copyright May 19, 2001

Special thanks to UC Berkeley Professor Laura Nader and the anthropology 250 x "'Classic' Ethnographies" class



MacLeod, Scott Gordon K. 2001. Science in Malinowski, Bateson and Sociocultural Anthropology. Accessed online March 17, 2009. Berkeley, CA:


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