Talk:Marshall Sahlins

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Clarification of his cultural evolution?[edit]

As pointed out in Wikipedia:Peer review/Social evolutionism/archive1, this para needs clarification. Anybody up to it? --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 16:18, 21 July 2005 (UTC)


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  • Sahlins develops what might be called the “pure” cultural paradigm. Its essence is the assertion that culture consists of a single, internally coherent system through which a given society and its members understand themselves and the world in which they live, and that it determines their behavior (or at least those aspects of behavior that are of interest to us as social scientists) within that society. That system is, moreover, unique to a given society and is closed in the sense that new events and changes in the external environment are assimilated into it, without altering its basic structure and content. This “paradigm” thus contrasts sharply with both the liberal view that all men are essentially the same across time and space and the Marxist view that human beings change systematically in history. It also contrasts with the other social-cultural views we have encountered in the course (i.e., Weber and Polanyi) which play on conflicts within the culture or between the culture and its external environment.
  • Sahlins derives this view and illustrates it in the text with material from the study of so-called primitive societies. In most of these studies, the system (which is culture) is organized around kinship relationships, but, for Sahlins at least, the role of kinship is not the defining characteristic of these cultures. The relationship between Sahlins’ view of primitive culture and his view of culture in modern industrial society is one of the questions which runs in the background throughout the book, even though it is only discussed explicitly at certain points in the text, especially in the last part. The presence of that question in the background is one of the things which makes the argument so confusing at points. And Sahlins tries various approaches to it, but the logic of his argument is that there is no difference between primitive and modern societies on this score.
  • The other prominent theme in the book is the role of history and the mechanism of change. This theme runs in and out of the argument. The logic of the paradigm is that there is no real history and no capacity for change in culture. Change can only be produced by an exogenous shock, as if by chance. Historical events are interpreted by the culture and in this process absorbed into it without changing anything.
    • Notice the highlighted sections. This is obviously taken from a college book review of unknown source. We dont even know which specific book or text it was a review of. Also its format with lack of internal linking jars from the earlier part of the article. This appears frequently in material that is lifted off the internet. Google does not always get everything.--Countakeshi 00:21, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
        • I pretty much wrote this article in its entirety and did not take it from a book or any other source. My familiarity with Sahlins comes from the fact that he was the supervisor of my dissertation supervisor. I wrote this entry because I thought the oen that preexisted it was pretty poor. Rex 20:45, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

n/m going over the history on the page I get it now. Rex 21:01, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

make more clear Sahlins changes from evolucionism to culturalism[edit]

it should be more clear when Sahlins abandoned his evolutionist ideas to defend strutural-cultural anthropology

    -Isn't that unclear? I mean some timearound The Original Affluent Society, but...

Sahlins vs. Obeyesekere[edit]

The paragraph about the debate between Sahlins and Obeyesekere in the 1990s is heavily biased towards Sahlins' perspective. I only know enough about the topic to recognize the issue; could someone with more knowledge write a more balanced description?

Zimmerkatie (talk) 20:52, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Sahlins flunking out students for not protesting?[edit]

according to Napoleon Chagnon) Sahlins began flunking students out of the graduate program who failed to protest the Vietnam war.[1]. Not sure if this citation is sufficient, but if more are found for this allegation than I think it should be included.--Pengortm (talk) 15:23, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

It is *not* sufficient, this is a BLP, Chagnon and Sahlins are enemies and it is a claim found in a single interview. Including it on this basis would violate both NPOV and UNDUE.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 15:46, 29 March 2015 (UTC)