KNOWLEDGES by Peter Worsley

KNOWLEDGES

Culture, Counterculture, Subculture
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An energetic, often fascinating, but somewhat sprawling argument about the pliable nature of knowledge. Worsley (Sociology/Univ. of Manchester, England) draws on an impressive array of examples from non-Western societies to press his argument that there are ``many kinds of knowledge in all societies.'' He cites in particular his study of an aboriginal society in Australia to illustrate not only how subtle and complex the thought and body of knowledge of a supposed ``primitive'' society can be, but also how varied thought is in native societies. In doing so, he takes on not only those scholars who have frequently dismissed non-Western thought as limited and exotic, but even some partisans of native societies, such as LÇvi-Strauss, who, Worsley argues, tend to force native thought into a few rigid forms, identifying the tendency of ideas in a particular society as being, say, primarily mystical. The detailed inventories of the knowledge preserved in non-Western cultures, from extraordinary navigational savvy to very precise ideas about the lives and habits of wild animals, that Worsley cites are startling. The book, however, begins to lose focus as the author pursues the other side of his argument, attempting to demonstrate that even highly technological societies sustain many different kinds of knowledge, not just apparently dominant modes like science and modern medicine. This involves him in some unsurprising analyses of such things as the meanings of the Statue of Liberty and the implications of Walt Disney's worldview. The basic set of ideas here--that knowledge is never uniform, and that many different kinds of knowing are preserved by societies--is persuasively set forth. The subtext, involving a critique of Western forms of knowledge, is by contrast less compelling. Still, a distinctive addition to the anthropology of knowledge.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56584-383-5
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997




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