Beware all ye who may scoff at Indians who establish old-age homes for cows, or New Guinea primitives who build airports on...

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COWS, PIGS, WARS & WITCHES: The Riddles of Culture

Beware all ye who may scoff at Indians who establish old-age homes for cows, or New Guinea primitives who build airports on which planes never land, or Kwakiutl chieftains who impoverish themselves by giving away their wealth -- this is a fascinating revisionist work which attempts to combat the largely descriptive state of current anthropological studies by giving precise materialistic explanations to seemingly inexplicable, nonrational religious and/or social behavior. Thus, it's not that a Hindu farmer would rather go hungry than eat beef; it's just that he will certainly starve if he has no animal to pull his plow, hence the religious taboo is a consequence (rather than a cause) of economic necessity. The author's arguments concerning the curious dichotomy between Jesus the Jewish warrior-Messiah and the peace-bearing Son of God (certain sections of the Gospels were added later to show the Romans that the Christians were no threat) seem convoluted at best, and those concerning the witch hunts of the Inquisition are unconvincing. In addition, Harris' attack on Charles Reich and the Consciousness III folk (remember them?) seems about as irrationally anachronistic as he accuses them of being. Nonetheless, this is a well-intended, engrossing study.

Pub Date: May 15, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974