SEX, CULTURE AND MYTH by Bronislaw Malinowski


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These are the late great Bronislaw Malinowski's heretofore uncollected articles, some from the others out of scholarly journals, all published during the twenties, thirties and early forties. They show the celebrated anthropologist delving with his customary cogency and clinical charm into the world of sex, culture and myth, but add nothing new, theory-wise at least, to the already well-established corpus. He knocks the Golden Age dream representing the paradisiacal primitive as a puritanically chaste, socialistic pacifist, notes the puzzles of early kinship: mother-right, father-right struggles, the class system and exogamy, polyandry and cross-cousin marriage, the mixed up nomenclature; and suggests the possible disappearance of the family as we know it within the next century. He underlines the fundamental sameness of the world's differing, cultures, their biological determinism, symbolic interactions, and demonstrates that once the balance between individual interests and group claims is upset, anarchy or dictatorships result. There are short assessments of Freud, Ellis and Briffault, longer ones on Frazer linking the sacred metaphor with totemism, Drukheim tracing religious phenomenon to crowd manifestations. As an agnostic he acknowledges the dogmas backed by myth and ritual to be ""indispensable pragmatic figments without which civilization cannot exist"". And in a jaunty tongue-in-cheek assay on the supposedly forthcoming ""stratified morality"" he signals ""the Reproductive Kingdom, the Free Love Republic and the Homosexual Soviets"". A retrospective must.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1962
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World