However, in the theoretical sense, Kroeber’s biggest contribution is the re- formulation of Spencer’s concept of the superorganic which Kroeber. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century. A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June

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Similarly, do not think of a community, an institution, a society as a human being. Why not prefer a biological reduction of human action? Kroeber explained cultural processes diachronically: The socio-cultural level, culture or society, therefore is carried by humans and transcends humans.

But much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Kroeber himself. At the same time he pioneered studies of dialect surveys among aboriginal American Indians, publishing significant material as early as and Like virtually all archeologists in the early years of this century, he did not attribute any great time depth to the aboriginal peopling of the New World; he recognized regional differences but not cultural change.

Much more important to him was his insistence upon the complexity of causation and the importance of historical, linguistic, and psychological variables as well as of sociological variables.

“The Superorganic,” or Kroeber’s hidden agenda.

A botanist will not infer the relative age of pines and grasses from their distribution; the anthropologist must not compare textile arts with a religious cult. This position anticipates current work on culture as an emergent phenomena.


A large part of the surviving cultures of the western United States were resurveyed by means of standard trait lists, and not only presences but also absences were recorded, in order to permit statistical measures of relationship between groups. Indeed, some of his own important contributions in social organization are essentially attempts at isolating items of culture, and he published several important studies in kinship which contradict his own position.

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Many of his recurring scholarly interests and viewpoints are related to his own experience and were established at an early age. Although they spoke English as fluently as German, German was the language of the home.

Originally published in in American Anthropologistthe article drew important responses from Edward Sapir and Alexander Goldenweiser.

Culture as the superorganic

Porno basketryfor example, is dealt with in the context of California basketry, not Porno culture; Yurok kin-term systems are described and compared with those of their neighbors b. His notebooks are meticulous and orderly. American Anthropologist New Series 4: Now to the meat of the paper itself: He paid little attention to social organization, technology, or ecological adaptations.

Ultimately, he identified four cultural segments: Culture and society comprise the third level. I have cut it down to just under 8, Many of his earlier theoretical interests concerned kinds of problems that are no longer central.

Kroeber, Alfred L. |

At the time of his death probably no comparable area of the world had such a large anthropological literature, a substantial portion written by Kroeber himself. In his sophomore year he took a deep interest in English literature and was the leader of a group that founded an undergraduate literary magazine; indeed, his first publication, inappeared in the Columbia Literary Monthly.


This curiosity repeatedly led him to enter a new field, topic, or problem on which little had been written or which lacked systematization. He underwent a brief analysis himself, and in and he maintained an office and practiced psychoanalysis with some success in San Francisco. The problems of independence in research and freedom of publication for government-employed anthropologists which he anticipated continue to preoccupy the professional associations.

Most important, however, was his lifelong curiosity about new fields, new approaches, and new problems.

Kroeber, The Nature of Culture. There is today a tremendous amount of material which is open access.

So hard to find good materials that draw students into particular debates or key ideas. He used it most commonly in relation to aesthetic productions, and when he occasionally extended sueprorganico to other human activities he seems to have meant a distinctive mode of expression or action.

Kroeber played a part in introducing controlled excavational techniques, original seriational techniques, and the use of stylistic analysis for chrono-logical or cultural historical purposes to American archeology.