Cannibals and Kings: Origins of Cultures by Marvin Harris

By Marvin Harris

During this outstanding and profound research the prestigious American anthropologist Marvin Harris exhibits how the never-ending kinds of cultural habit -- usually so difficult firstly look -- might be defined as diversifications to specific ecological stipulations. His goal is to account for the evolution of cultural kinds as Darwin accounted for the evolution of organic varieties: to teach how cultures undertake their attribute varieties according to altering ecological modes.

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One has to be careful not to romantically misunderstand Bataille's incitements concerning a universal economy. These ideas do not at all aim at the introduction of a communism for rich people. They also do not point to an aristocratic redistribution of goods in social-democratic or socialist societies. The true significance of these ideas consists in instituting a cleavage within capitalism in order to create its most radical—and only fruitful— opposite. This is different from the traditional conception of the left, a left that has been overpowered by its own depiction of everything as miserable.

If a public sphere is dominated by the expressive lives of countless actors who can never really be on top and yet have advanced significantly, then one can be certain that what we are dealing with is a flourishing democracy. The old world knew slave and serf, the bearers of the unhappy consciousness of their time. Modernity has invented the loser. This figure, which one meets halfway between yesterday's exploited and today's and tomorrow's superfluous, is the misunderstood product of the power games of democracies.

It was presumed that the author, with his thesis concerning the end of history, only provided an updated version of Yankee ideology, according to which the American way of life meant the completion of human evolution from the desert to the shopping mall, from the hand axe to the ballot, from sitting around a bonfire to using the microwave. Since this initial reaction, sneering references to Fukuyama's book became a running gag in the political feuilletons in Europe. Many contributors never tired of repeating that history has, of course, in reality not come to an end and that the victorious West must not sit still after a partial victory in the struggle against ideological specters.

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