In older anthropology texts and discussions, the term "primitive culture" refers to a society believed to lack cultural, technological, or economic sophistication or development. For instance, a culture that lacks a written language might be considered less culturally sophisticated than cultures with writing systems; or a hunter-gatherer society might be considered less developed than an industrial capitalist society. Many Western authors, such as anthropologists and historians, used it to describe indigenous cultures in their foreign colonies and in distant uncolonized nations. Assigning "primitive" to other people has been used to justify conquering them.
It is also the title of a book by Edward Burnett Tylor, in which he defines religion as animism—which, in turn, he defines by reference to contemporary indigenous and other religious data as belief in spirits. Another defining characteristic of primitive cultures is a greater amount of leisure time than in more complex societies.
- Noble savage
- Pierre Clastres
- Political Correctness
- Primitive communism
- Shifting cultivation
- Uncontacted peoples
- White man's burden
- Zomia (geography)
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- Farb, Peter (1968). Man's Rise to Civilization As Shown by the Indians of North America from Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State. New York City: E. P. Dutton. p. 28. LCC E77.F36. "Despite the theories traditionally taught in high-school social studies, the truth is: the more primitive the society, the more leisured its way of life."
- Stanley Diamond, In Search of the Primitive, Transaction Publishers, U.S. 1987, ISBN 0-87855-582-X
- Adam Kuper, The Reinvention of Primitive Society. Transformations of a Myth, Taylor & Francis Ltd. 2005, ISBN 0-415-35761-6
- Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, Viking, 1959; reissued by Penguin, 1991 ISBN 978-0-14-019443-2
- Joseph Campbell, The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, vols. I and II, Harper and Row 1988, 1989.