Anthropology in crisis – what, still?

Fifteen years ago, Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart declared that "anthropology has been in crisis for as long as anyone can remember" (here). Has anything really changed? Today, anthropology remains a discipline riddled with rival paradigms, ferocious disputes, and fleeting fashions. Few basic principles of theory and method are agreed upon and even the general nature of anthropological knowledge is continually being contested. Cumulative theory building is rare and difficult to sustain. Why?

Perhaps part of the answer is that humans are not naturally adept at reasoning about complex social morphology. As our societies have grown in size and complexity, we have witnessed the emergence of a vast plethora of specialized offices and corporate groups based on a broad range of sorting principles: kinship, descent, rank, caste, ethnicity, nationality, and so on. Categories of office, coalition, and class are no more than idealized models of how the social world is organized, rather than precise descriptions of how it operates on the ground but they provide robust schemas for individual behaviour, cumulatively instantiating patterns that people reciprocally interpret in terms of those schemas. These schemas, however, are a relatively modern and potentially dispensable accretion to human thinking, too recent in our evolutionary history to have led to specialized cognitive skills for reasoning about social complexity. The same could not be said of human reasoning in many other domains.

As part of our evolutionary endowment, we possess dedicated intuitive machinery for reasoning about physical properties (such as solidity and gravity), biological properties (such as essentialized differences between natural kinds), and psychological properties (such as a capacity to empathize with suffering). Our intuitive physics, intuitive biology, and intuitive psychology may have to be substantially revised in light of the discoveries ofscientific physics/ biology/ psychology but our intuitions often also deliver useful reference points and pedagogic tools. For instance, while our intuitions about the discreteness and stability of natural kind taxonomies are inconsistent with the diachronic character of evolutionary processes, nevertheless they provide a convenient on-the-hoof framework within which to conceptualize speciation.

Problems arise, however, when some of our intuitively grounded ontological commitments also serve as markers of identity.

 

 

In order to function in that way, such commitments must cause us to differ discernibly from other people so as to become a locus of conflict. If you and I share the intuitively grounded explicit belief that certain features of the natural environment are the outcome of intentional design, then we can live in peace with that delusion. But if somebody challenges those beliefs with an alternative account (e.g. that the features in question were caused by some other agent or by no agent at all) we have a basis for conflict, especially where competition for resources, either symbolic or material (or both), depends on who comes down on which side of the debate. In this particular case, some evolutionary biologists and their supporters have been drawn into protracted disputes with young earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design. In scientific circles, however, these kinds of battles tend to be somewhat peripheral to the day-to-day business of formulating hypotheses and gathering data to test them. Any competent biologist who has the slightest sympathy for certain variants of ID, would (despite this oddity) be doing the same kind of science as anybody else in that field. Likewise, an astrophysicist with theistic commitments is not necessarily hampered in the conduct of good scientific research on the origins of the universe that would be recognized as such by atheistic colleagues. Imagine, by contrast, a domain of scholarly enquiry that based its theories on multiple and conflicting intuitions about the basic nature of the phenomena under study. It would struggle to get off the ground because of interminable turf wars among competing coalitions with widely differing foundational assumptions about the nature and purpose of scholarly enquiry. Unfortunately, we don't have to imagine it. That is exactly the problem, or at least has been the problem historically, with social and cultural anthropology.

 

 

Since we lack dedicated cognitive machinery for reasoning about social complexity, we are prone to borrowing intuitions proper to alien ontological domains. Consequently social scientists at turns reify institutions, biologize social categories, anthropomorphise offices, and mentalize corporate groups. Consider the following examples in scholarly sociologizing.

Instances of teleological reasoning about the social are obviously rampant in functionalist and Marxist traditions in the social sciences. For example, the theory of social functions (as elaborated by several generations of British anthropologists since Malinowski) maintained that every social institution serves to bolster some other institution (or cluster of institutions) so as to contribute to the maintenance of stable social systems. Marxist scholars have often adopted similar strategies of reasoning, except that the functions of political, legal, and religious institutions are typically said to serve the interests not of society as a whole but of a particular sector of society (the ruling class).
Just as we are prone to deploy artefact cognition in sociological reasoning, so we are also inclined to treat certain types of persons as natural kinds, based on analogical extension of intuitive knowledge about the biological world. The temptation to biologize the social world grows stronger as societies become larger, more heterogeneous, and the division of labour more elaborate. It is no accident that Emile Durkheim coined the term "organic solidarity" to characterize this type of social morphology.  Biologizing the social can lead us also to essentialize institutions, especially where particular offices or membership of social groups and categories are transmittable from parent to offspring. Where that is not the case (for instance where there is great occupational mobility, where people join and leave clubs and associations at will, where religious affiliations are chosen rather than ascribed, etc.) we may be less likely to essentialize the social. But where people's roles and identities are determined by birth and shared with ancestors, the speciation of social categories is hard to resist.

Despite or perhaps because of the extensive tendency for the man or woman "on the street" to biologize social categories (for instance in racial stereotyping) this way of reasoning is highly problematic for liberal academics, nowadays at least. Efforts, particularly in the nineteenth century, to carve up humanity into distinct races based on phenotypic characteristics seems to most contemporary social scientists at least as distasteful as it is biologically indefensible. But that is not to say that intuitive biology has ceased to play a role in social theorizing. A particularly widespread, if largely unexamined practice in social and cultural anthropology is (and probably has always been) to talk about cultural traditions as at least implicitly analogous to biological species, especially when threatened with extinction. There are striking continuities for instance between the ways in which some anthropologists reason about the rights of small-scale societies to preserve their traditional beliefs and practices, and the way conservationists campaign for the protection of endangered species. Even though anthropologists have become increasingly sensitive to the contested nature of cultural traditions, and their embedding in wider regional and global processes of economic expansion and political struggle, there remains a widespread intuition that all traditions should be respected and preserved, that there is no moral high ground beyond the local cultural universe from which we can justly impose reform. And from that relativistic perspective cultural and linguistic diversity comes to be valued by more or less explicit comparison with the taxonomic richness and diversity of the natural world.

Just as we are tempted to borrow from artefact cognition and intuitive biology when reasoning about complex sociocultural phenomena, we are no less inclined to draw on our intuitive psychology for similar purposes. For instance, the so-called "culture and personality" school in American anthropology, inspired by the ideas of Franz Boas and Sigmund Freud, was premised on the idea that variable childrearing practices lead to the predominance of certain personality types at a population level, allowing us to generalize about tribes and nations rather as we might about the character of an old friend. Under Durkheim's influence also the tendency to anthropomorphize social groups and categories has been a recurrent theme, featuring prominently for instance in the ideas of L'Année Sociologique whose members talked freely and enthusiastically about such things as "collective memory" and "collective conscience". Some of these ideas have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years – indeed, around the turn of the millennium it was practically impossible to find a major conference in any of the arts, humanities, or social science disciplines that did not in some way emphasize the theme of memory, and in particular its putatively collective or social character as understood by social theorists.

The trouble with grounding our ideas about the sociocultural realm in intuitive thinking borrowed from other domains is not merely that we discover these to be, inevitably, inadequate tools for the job. True, social and cultural institutions are not really artefacts with functions, organisms with essences, or minds with collective personalities or memories. But if that were the only problem, it would be relatively easy to surmount (in comparison with the more intractable problem to which we presently turn). After all, mature sciences are accustomed to explaining that our intuitions – for instance about the cosmos, or the natural world, or the mind – are only going to take us so far and then we have to abandon them. It is not that those intuitions then disappear. It may still seem to us that the sun moves across the sky (rather than the earth round the sun) or that some kind of intentional agent is responsible for selecting the characteristics of biological species (rather than effects of random mutation and ecology on the fitness of organisms). But with sufficient education and intelligence we can realize, and remember when reasoning explicitly, that things are not as they seem. Where it gets tricky is when people's identities become wrapped up in a particular intuitive construal of the world. This is how Galileo wound up under house arrest as punishment for his heretical claims about the structure of the solar system. Even today intuitive forms of biblical literalism are belligerently espoused by Christian fundamentalists. The problem gets worse, much worse, when the same phenomena attract mutually exclusive and competing intuitive claims, upon which professional reputations are pinned.

Every time a new school of thought has emerged in social anthropology, anchored in borrowed intuitions, it has eventually provoked a backlash of objections from those inspired by alternative intuitions. Often the arguments are less about the issues at stake and more about whose intuitions should prevail. Ultimately, however, all are losers. Functionalism, for instance, is now considered a dirty word in social anthropology where once it had been a more or less paradigmatic method of ethnographic enquiry. Why? Because whereas we could trace the functions of real tools and artefacts to the intentions of ancestral (and sometime historical) individuals, nobody could explain how institutions came to have the useful properties that functionalists ascribed to them. Of course there were other causes of embarrassment too: we found that societies were seldom if ever trapped in a state of functionally integrated equilibrium: looking a little closer we always found a writhing morass of contestation and struggle rather than consensus and harmony; looking a little longer we found upheaval and transformation rather than stability and social reproduction. But although often cited as the reason for functionalism's downfall, such considerations are less than compelling. There is no reason why tendencies towards functional integration should not be possible to demonstrate in principle, and arguably these have been repeatedly demonstrated in practice. So we return to the real nub of the problem: if institutions really do have functions then this cannot be understandable in terms of intuitive teleology. An alternative possibility is considered presently.

But before we can begin to contemplate solutions to this sorry state of affairs, we have to attend to an even deeper tragedy. Disillusioned by all attempts to discover a sociological method grounded in stable intuitions, social theorists in the second half of the last century began to look for ideas with increasing desperation almost anywhere, creating texts about culture that go wildly beyond the dull world in which everyday culture is produced and transmitted. We become distracted by the suggestiveness of our own language through the creation of jargon and stylistic innovations and we decorate the limited interpretations of informants with vastly more fanciful and appealing interpretations of our own. In this runaway inflation of ideas, almost anything goes, as long as it is new and different. Soon the idea of interpreting culture is not enough, it must be experienced, lived, embodied, or, as one leading anthropologist has recently suggested, "enwinded".

We can only escape this descent into absurdity by finding a robust and encompassing scientific framework on which to construct our questions and pursue answers. Such a framework is unlikely to have intuitive appeal and partly for that reason will likely be hard to spread and sustain. By way of illustration, consider the discovery (by social anthropologists Alan Fiske and Nick Haslam – see here) that recurrent features of cultural rituals closely resemble the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (or OCD), a correspondence that Pascal Boyer and Pierre Lienard have recently sought to explain in terms of the workings of a specialized cognitive system (dysfunctional in OCD patients) concerned with triggering precautionary responses to potential hazards. While this new body of research may significantly advance our understanding of some features of ritualized behaviour, it certainly does not (and is not intended to) explain in general terms why people perform rituals or why they vary in frequency and emotionality, or why they recruit various ideas about the involvement of supernatural agents, and so on. So easily is this point misunderstood, that that authors of the hazard-precaution theory of ritual were tempted to forewarn readers that they were offering not a theory of ritual but a theory of "XB23" (a random string of letters and numbers chosen to represent the specific aspects of ritualized behaviour picked out by their theory). There is little intuitive (or even culturally familiar) about this procedure. While that may be a problem in communicating the value of scientific approaches to wider audiences, it is also a great strength if we are dealing with phenomena that conflicting intuitions have led us to argue about so unproductively.

6 Comments

  • Olivier Morin
    Olivier Morin 8 June 2009 (03:12)

    It’s really nice to see some sociology of the social sciences written from a cognitive point of a view – but in this case, I am not convinced by the claim you make. Your claim, if I understand it well, is that the social sciences have failed because people’s naïve intuitions about social facts are not merely strong and misleading (we have strong and misleading intuitions about more or less anything), but also numerous, conflicting and overlapping. As a result, the competing research programmes that plug into these intuitions get stuck into their prejudices, disregard the competition, and one day or another, are overthrown by another school of thought fed by another, conflicting set of intuitions. Again, it is a nice and elegant hypothesis, but I can think of several successful scientific enterprises where a way aroud this difficulty was found (or where, far from being a difficulty, rivalling schools and competing intuitions fuelled scientific progress). Medicine, one might argue, has had to cope with a conflict between two very strong, equally intuitive systems dealing with how we work (not being a specialist, I’m drawing, among others, on the work of historian of medicine and fellow blogger Noga Arikha). There is an intuitive vitalistic way of thinking about the human body : it is imbued with material substances that also have somewhat mental, active characteristics (for example, they are involved in emotions, they constitute our mood, they cause us to do and think certain things, feel in certain ways, etc.). What’s inside our body does not just allow life to happen – it is life. The stuff that we breathe, eat, drink, the fluids we gain or loose, influence who we are and how we feel. On the other hand, you have the equally intuitive dualistic/mechanistic vision of the body. Our body is a tool that we use – in this respect there is little difference between a fist and a hammer. It can get broken and repaired just like other tools. As tool-manipulators, we cannot be confounded with our body : we are a mind distinct from it. Distinct, competing theories have been plugged into these competing sets of intuitions for millenia, but I’m not sure that their opposition (in itself) hindered the progress of medicine in a significant way. And even if it did, you have to admit that in most domains, medicine brilliantly overcame the difficulty. This is all extremely tentative speculation, of course, but this is all you and I have for the moment. If conflicting intuitions don’t explain the failure of social science, then what does ? Well, in my view, social scientists just aren’t quite so bad at what they do. Judged by your standards of cumulativity, coherence, inter-professional agreement, the hard sciences do not fare so well. Physicists have to endorse two radically incompatible theories, with (as of today) no hope of a reconciliation in sight. Biology has had a very hard time becoming cumulative (think of the complete dismissal of Darwin in the early XXth century), and it lacks, among other things, a coherent theory of speciation. Also, you have to consider that physics, biology, maths and other objects of our (perfectly understandable) envy, have been around for a long, long time, and above all, that during that long time, the object they studied has changed very little. Social science has been done systematically and extensively for at most two or three centuries, and during that time, human societies have undergone the most sudden changes that ever happened to them. No wonder the social sciences didn’t grow cumulative. I’m not even mentioning the obvious discrepancies in financial means, social status, etc. Hopefully this will be a mild balm for the science envy that we all suffer from ;o)

  • Brian Malley
    Brian Malley 8 June 2009 (14:30)

    Thanks for this interesting post, Harvey. One cause of anthropology’s seemingly perpetual (and celebrated?) state of crisis is, I think, its success as an empirical science. Anthropology was founded on the assumptions that humans could be divided into more-or-less discrete groups and that those groups are characterized by distinctive physiological morphologies and “cultures.” [i]Culture[/i] was a placeholder for all kinds of mental and behavioral phenomena, which even early anthropologists like Edward Sapir struggled to define. Anthropologists have been very successful at showing something rather profound: that the underpinnings of anthropology were false. I think this shows a level of systematicity and empiricism that was certainly not guaranteed by the discipline’s organization or methods, and is something for which the anthropologists of the early and mid-twentieth century deserve much credit. Unfortunately, since then anthropologists have been unable to agree on any construal of the discipline’s subject matter, and what we have today seems to me largely the result of bureaucratic inertia: “Well, we have an [i]anthropology department[/i], so there must be such a thing as [i]anthropology[/i].” One can see this very clearly by examining Intro textbooks. I have taught both Introduction to Anthropology and Introduction to Psychology, and there is an enormous difference: the Psychology textbooks are incoherent but present greatly simplified models of things upon which the majority of psychologists agree; the Anthropology textbooks are incoherent and just outright lie, describing a body of “knowledge” that is not in fact shared by anyone except Intro Anthro students. The anthro texts are generally better in biological anthropology than in cultural anthropology, but clearly they struggle to present a unified view of a discipline that does not really exist as such.

  • Nicola Knight
    Nicola Knight 9 June 2009 (15:00)

    Thank you, Harvey, for this interesting piece. I think that a distinction between models and metaphors could prove useful here. As far as I understand Durkheim (that is, not far at all), the organic image has never been used in more than an evocative sense. As in the chains of associations that Brian Malley and I have described elsewhere, a subset of properties is felt to be shared by two objects, with important cognitive consequences (more frequent or spreading activation, etc.). The relevant point here is that only a [i]subset [/i]of properties is understood to matter. I don’t think that we are justified in talking about models when this relative similarity is exploited to illustrate or illuminate the workings of social or cultural phenomena. Perhaps ‘metaphors’ is a more appropriate term. Let me elaborate. The organic metaphor calls our attention to the fact that two complex systems, i.e. a body and a social grouping, appear to share some striking, but superficial, properties: viz., bodies tend not to self-disintegrate (in spite of our best efforts), just as societies, by and large, tend to cohere (again, in spite of our best efforts) – at least in the short run. Beyond these associations, very little is shared between the objects ‘body’ and ‘social grouping’. The organic model cannot really be used to make predictions of a useful sort beyond the initial illustration of similarity. The hazard-precaution model, on the other hand, has very little metaphorical import, and can be rightly considered a model. So can the epidemiology of representations; in spite of the fact that much of its terminology is borrowed from medical epidemiology, its application to socio-cultural matters is not metaphorical (or at least mostly not so). Note that models do not have to be ‘good’ (i.e., cognitively plausible, having high predictive power, etc.) to be models: the memetic view of cultural transmission is an example. The question, then, is whether we should reject bad metaphors or all metaphors in our efforts to explain socio-cultural products and dynamics. I think that, as with the organic metaphor, the current tropes of embodiment, enwindment, etc. will fail; not because they do not capture some relevant aspects of socio-cultural life – they do, in many cases – but because there is little to be gained for the anthropologist beyond an initial spark of intuition. Of course, the discussion so far assumes that most mainstream anthropologists actually feel that (1) their discipline is in crisis, and (2) that this is a bad thing. Are we sure that this is the case?

  • Yohan John 9 June 2009 (21:20)

    While evolution provides the best-yet distal cause of biodiversity and speciation, it is yet to provide a proximal cause — a completely specified physical mechanism by which complex behaviors such as those exhibited by humans can be affected by random mutation and natural selection. In the absence of mechanism, evolutionary “explanations” are little more that just-so stories (a topic worth examining here!). What is “our evolutionary endowment”? The fossil record gives us broad anatomical information, but little or nothing about behaviors and practices. Our timeline of cultural evolution can be thrown off by a single archaeological discovery. As for the problems of social science, you could use Kuhn to argue that these “sciences” are pre-scientific (rather than unscientific) in that the lack a paradigm within which to conduct “normal science”.

  • Joshua Cullick 10 June 2009 (22:28)

    This was interesting article and comments. Please accept my rambling contribution: I would like to propose something along the lines of: The social sciences as yet haven’t been able to get any real traction because there has been a lot of confusion and disagreement on the development of a(some) normative mutual ontologies. They seem to be still working on that, which is fine, up to a point. The important thing about the process of science is that the whole ontological system is well-defined, fairly fixed discursive system on the/a plane of reference. (Deleuze) Math and biology work very well this way. The social sciences both suffer and benefit from their contact with the liberal-arts/humanity, which are perhaps more, properly speaking, arts, in that the practitioners don’t worry too much about couching all of their expressions within a pre-defined framework. This is ok, this is good. A literary artistic mode is an effective way of describing reality, and a lot of what anthropologists and many historians do is narrative/literary, it’s really art, in that they are constantly creating novel expressions– effective novel expressions– to describe the reality that they observe. So, there’s really two different flows going on, there’s the social sciences, and then there’s the social-arts, the liberal arts, (and maybe the social philosophies(on the Deleuze/Guattari rubric). I think the failure has been to disentangle and differentiate the two. They are both effective, but when combined you get something ridiculous; the flows/activities of the science especially are decohered. In this context, we can reply to Yohan John/Kuhn along such lines as: well, maybe “these ‘sciences'” are partly unscientific, to the extent that they are working along the traditions of the humanities as liberal arts. To say that they are “pre-scientific” is to imply that the arts are ultimately reducible to the sciences, primitive with respect the the sciences, et cetera, which seems a pretty foolish proposition to me. Maybe would be more advantageous to think along lines such that these are complementary and irreducible domains, which can mutually inspire and inform, they just don’t mix well directly. To be more direct in the process of closing: the development of a science depends above all on rigour, things must be well-defined. In this sense, the social sciences have a confusion platter of many many multiple competing paradigms and formal ontologies, none of which can properly speaking get off the ground, partly because of the decohering of the semiotic chain by continual contact/mixing with new forms of expression developed in the artistic mode, and partly because even when people do actually try to get formal, rigourous, and well-defined, there are quite a few competing systems going around… So, I’ll end with a proposal,(a grant proposal, to hire lots of grad students!) : take a good look at Wolfram Mathworld, a perfect example of a discursive system of reference. All the objects are well-defined in terms of other objects within the system; it’s a work in progress, a totalizing system of sorts. We propose that the social sciences attempt to formalize their ontologies on very similar software platforms to Mathworld. Since we all hate normatives and despotic signifiers so much we should encourage the proliferation and creation of such formal totalizing ontologies in distinct and separate systems, on different sites. So there would be a lot of them, or at least different competing schools of them. It’s very important that they be online, so that people can immerse themselves in these formal ontologies to the point of being fluent in them, such that they can be well understood in the sense of forming their propositions within adherence to the constraints of the system. This would promote the development of a social science, properly speaking. It(science) begins to happen(begins to be possible) at the point that there is widespread shared understanding within a sophisticated and articulate paradigm. … So to recap main points: 1: The social sciences as we know them are largely decohered by the social humanities (arts)(all in the same department), which are valuable in their own right as modes of reality description, but must be well differentiated from activities which are properly scientific. Again, we believe that both of these modes are equally powerful and valuable, but that we must be aware of which we are dealing with at any given time. Such distinctions will actually help both.. Science is what (can) happens when the signifiers stop slipping. In art the signifiers never stop slipping, all expressions are novel.. 2: The social sciences don’t lack a paradigm. They have many of them, but each of the ‘schools’ surrounding a given paradigm may not have had the organizational energy to formulate/publish/legislate totalizing-ontologies(paradigms) sufficiently. In this regard, the web constitutes a golden opportunity for global cooperation/communication in the formulation/publishing of new, large, formal ontological systems (see Mathworld). 3.Reiteration: Anthropologists need to realize that they have and constitute two separate disciplines, (which may be encouraged to dance round one and other like a taoist symbol.. rather than trying to destroy/reduce one to the other) Roughly speaking, these are the science and art. Or maybe science and art/philosophy. The expression of the rubric is less important than making realization of what it is that allows for the development of a science, and then channeling the resources to make that happen, without attempting to reduce the artistic/philosophical aspects/activities, which are valuable in their own right.

  • Joshua Cullick 11 June 2009 (00:33)

    “Since we lack dedicated cognitive machinery for reasoning about social complexity, we are prone to borrowing intuitions proper to alien ontological domains. Consequently social scientists at turns reify institutions, biologize social categories, anthropomorphise offices, and mentalize corporate groups. Consider the following examples in scholarly sociologizing.” We also lack dedicated cognitive machinery for reasoning about most of modern mathematics and physics. That stuff is totally alien. Actually I take that back (and this is where it gets interesting), that ‘stuff’, which is totally alien to our inate ‘hardwired’ cognitive modules (this is what you are implying, yes?), actually has some affinity for the even more alien patterns of modern music and art. The creation of new cognitive machinery is or has been developed largely in the domains of art. (I think(*)see below). At that point it’s just forms, which may be assimilated into the cognitive structure as material and resources for developing intuitive connections. The real work (see Einsteins comments on the(tortuous) path from intuitive perception of a problematic framework to formalized explication thereof) at that point consists in locating the formal expressions, very often necessitating the construction of novel ontological frameworks. Yes even (especially) in mathematics and physics. So my point is that this is no excuse for the social sciences. Mathematics and physics have been dealing with equally alien patterns for some time now, and dealing with them succesfully by careful application of rigourous axiomatic methods. *: So, in term of artistic creation and human cognitive plasticity/potential, this is the question right? What are the inherent limitations on biological (human) intelligence? To what extent can we simultaneously construct/create novel linguistic/ontological/cognitive structures to deal with the demands of novel problems? The problem of formulating a new, more sophisticated, and more articulate technical vocabulary or technical language is simultaneously a problem of rewiring/reorganizing our brains/cognitive structures into configurations more adept at tackling the ‘problems’ at hand. It is in this sense that art, science etc are in fact physical and athletic disciplines, though the action takes place at subtle levels of physical manifestation, or if one prefers, at an abstracted level. Same thing. Concretely and in conclusion/reiteration: What the social sciences face in terms of problematics is no more alien than what the physicists have faced over the last 200 years, but the application of the scientific axiomatic on rigourous grounds has not been adhered to in the social sciences. As mentioned in the above comment, I think there are good reasons for this, especially that the socials have an intertwining relationship with the humanities, which proceed by processes which are strictly speaking, artistic(literary especially). This is good for anthropology; a lot of the absolute best fieldwork is actually composed literature. That’s raw empiricism. It’s raw art really. Which is fine and excellent. It can provide material for a science, but of course it does not constitute a science. To get the ‘Royal/State’ science working one would need to develop machines built around totalizing ontologies capable of assimilating such work into formal frameworks, which is a process I suppose has been going on to some extent, but maybe just in fits and starts. (These totalizing structures are to some sense despotic signifiing regimes, which may explain their lack of development over the past few decades… but I think that is something people should get over, especially by encouraging an open and competitive framework for the development of such regimes, in the web-based and cooperative framework, which allows for an exterior of artistic unformalized (raw empirical) activity(thinking especially fieldwork). Does this make any sense as a model for the future of anthro/social sciences? …Maybe it makes no sense whatsoever; if so, I apoligize. It’s been fun to think about, though. So, thank you.