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Cultural Ecology Theory

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We had just discussed the different stages of societies beginning from the foraging the petrel societies, industrial and agriculture and industrial society and in these stages of societies we happen to witness as the members of the society and increases it becomes it move on from symbol to a more complex form of relationship so in essence we can presume that there is an increase in terms of the division of labor which is more based on a specialized and skills of the individuals as we can see here.

Member starts to engage more in a different specialized role, now perhaps this specialization is more vivid and more clear in the industrial societies because this division of labor is based more or less on that level of expertise which an individual has. Now this division of labor perhaps has been the strongly discussed by Durkheim which of course we will be covering in this course but Durkheim tries to divide the differences between mechanical and organic solidarity and when he says in most of the simple and traditional societies the relationships shared among the members were more or less being mechanic and rather in the industrial and post-industrial society kind of solidarity with a group usually maintained is more less organic in nature.

Now as a result of this there is a shift from more of a movement from a military to an industrial society and now what happens in a military form of society more or less it is based on a compulsion or and a compulsory kind of cooperation of its members, you know how the military functions right. Now depending on that this form of relationship usually is maintained by a compulsive kind of corporation which is expected from the members of the group.

And secondly the industrial society is also correctly characterized by the voluntary cooperation of its members. There is a differences between the military and the industrial because in the industrial it is small as based on voluntary where in the military it is small as based on the compulsory cooperation which is expected from the members of the society. And thirdly when society in essence with the states of an ethical state common resources in essence may be part of the human character in essence they have reached a stage of perfection.

Now in this if you look at this the structural parts of how these society functions for example let us take an example of families, how they functioned they functions more or less in an independent manner, they work in a more independent and therefore this social structure in a sense work together in order to preserve or maintain the society, therefore the social fabric of the society is being stabilized based on this function.

Now moving on as we had discussed the successive stages of society we partly try to look into how the production the modes of productions operate. Now for instance humans usually a base are usually guided by the basic needs, and this basic needs in essence is central to a ways of life or maybe a social life and partly this basic needs or guiding principle is true in almost every forms of society be it the contemporary or modern period or maybe be the prehistoric period.

Now in some way or the other these sort of basic needs has been something which society has been after. Now what is this quest to meet this basic needs? Because normally these are based on the primary goals and which is being central to the attempts of human life and which of course more and more this basic needs shift and evolve, so is the society. Which in essence move on from simple to compound and more of complex kind of society. Now usually when this basic needs are met this often create to the quest or earning for further needs which means it shifts and it moves on because there is no limit to it.

Therefore, humans by nature in essence is greedy and then we tend to earn for more and more. And in this process human struggled against nature to satisfy if not gratified once needs, now therefore we tends to involve in certain kind of exploitation and abuse of nature which is being part of the ballgame in our social structure which is part of inherent in the successive states of society. And which I feel that to me this might perhaps be one of the reason why we have witness or encounter these ecological crisis and partly which perhaps might be pushed forward by the industrialization process and also because of the capitalist mode of production because we all know in capitalist mode of production goods are produces and you tend to find avenue to sell off those goods.

Now that is how with that kind of intention and with this guide by this kind of economic mode of production the resources which perhaps has been there to sustain the basic needs of humans has been to some extent being more exploited in a wider and then in a fast-paced manner. Now as we had discussed in the previous slides we in a sense tries to deal into. How this ecology and what ecology is trying to engage and look upon because ecology no doubt as we by now I assume that you all know what ecology is? It is the interactions or interrelationship which are being shared by the living beings or maybe the biotic or a non-biotic in the environment and cultural ecologists in essence is engaged in trying to record part of the traditional knowledge that is valued to the wider world.

Now cultural ecology in a sense is generally included within the disciplines of anthropology and that is anthropology is a discipline which studies human beings or the human society, now what does anthropology the discipline of anthropology look at? Let me just give a brief introduction to what anthropology is and then what the discipline of anthropology looked at? The study of anthropology includes the study of human biology, language, prehistory, religions, social structure, economic evolutions and anything else that applies to people.

Now you can actually break up all this because perhaps if you talk about culture, you can talk about the material culture, non-material culture and within religion belief, ritual and ceremonies. Now these are some of the branches or so to say the wider topics which are being usually covered within the study of anthropology. And usually people who are engaged in studying anthropology or maybe while an anthropologist engage in concentrating their work mostly on the small scale or simple societies or cultures and tend to have more of a personal contact with the people of those cultures.

By saying a personal contact we want to say they are usually been guided by the research methods such as ethnography, now in ethnographic study what people do is usually they conduct a research or fieldwork in societies which are in a sense alien to them, now there are some anthropologists who have like Malinowski, Evans Pritchard. Now they in essence engage in an ethnographic study in a longer period which is also known as longitudinal study.

Now they tend to take into account almost every nitty-gritty part of their culture and through this engagement they are able to interpret the hidden meanings which usually an outsider cannot make sense of it. Now this perhaps is one of the advantage of being an anthropologist and the kind of tools and techniques which are being used in the study of any society or for that matter because it begins with trying to look at small scale if not simple societies.

Now traditionally what anthropologists looked at is study the set of basic beliefs which usually is in the setting which is outside the domain of one's culture. Now since an anthropologist is trying to look at or study a culture of a different society, usually he or she encounter these ethnocentric feelings that is people normally engage in believing that culture that their own culture is superior than others and this kind of ethnocentric or ethnocentrism is developed as a result of one own process of socialization.

Now for instance you can have a look at the examples which I have given here. Now Americans usually tends to be non-American as being inferior with a less civilized and similarly you have that kind of feeling for instance Germans during the period of Hitler tends to see themselves as a pure race of the Aryan blood. And they have that anti-Semitic feelings against the Jews. Now these are for instance reality which exist in human minds when they tend to compare with other groups of society. Now, another conviction which an anthropologist and counter is that cultural relativism that is you tends to judge the culture and cultural practices of others based on your cultural belief and practices.

Now we have partly discussed the successive states of society and then and also how societies move on from more simple to complex one, now we will try to shift into a different topic now which I feel is important and which I put it as a cultural ecological theory and in this we will try to look into the socio cultural materialism which is being posited by Merlin Harris and how does he try to make sense of the sort of actions or how an individual or society engage into some kind of action and we will try to bring in the kind of social action which was discussed by Max Weber another German sociologist.

Now what then is a cultural ecological theory? A theory to begin with is nothing but a worldview, you form some kind of an idea or a concept and through that you are trying to look at things and you tend to in a sense test it validate it and based on that findings you develop some kind of a theory. Now usually in these exercises it involves what? Observation, which of course is pretty much being used in social sciences and of course in the discipline of anthropology. Now in these exercises you tends to engage in looking at the origins, maintenance and chains, now what then is socio-cultural materialism.

Now in this section we will try to address or examine the society from the lens of a socio-cultural materialism and socio-cultural materialism is a theory of socio-cultural systems and as I said it is a variant which is being borrowed from Marvin Harris. Now let us try to assume because a theory in a sense is also being hypothesized the worldview before you have the real context with the real world. You tend to hypothesize certain elements which in a sense guide you to interpret and make sense of what you observe. Now for instance what the first assumptions which in a sense would I ask is how the various parts of societies are interrelated.

Now it is quite interesting to see that how the parts of a body make a single body but then similarly the parts of our body in a sense are interrelated and being representing the whole or one single body. Now similarly we have different members, different groups who actually forms the larger single society and how is this interrelated and what are the kinds of functions which these members of the society are being interrelated.

Now for instance over here I give an example of an institution such as family cannot be looked at in isolation. Therefore it is important to discuss or look at the economic, the political, and the social, religious institution within which a family functions. Therefore, let us presume that when one part of the society changes it also have an impact on other parts of the society and then definitely if one part changes the other part is also going to change. Now the intensity of their change might be different in some it might be minimal and in some it might be much higher.

Now since the course is to deal with the ecology or environment, therefore let us also assume that the environmental base what we have, what human societies are interrelated? In a sense our actions, that is human actions does have an impact on the environment. Now as we begin humans are usually guided to fulfill their quest for their basic needs. Now if we tries to see society as which are interrelated parts, then obviously there will be some sort of an organizing principles.

That organizing principles will be sort of an integrating force which guides the members of the society.
Now for instance the way how a society is organized to meet certain requirements, the requirements can be infrastructure, it can be superstructure. Now usually based on that the society tends to set, that is the population tends to step or set the system, now if we take the examples of the Hindu caste system. The caste system which prevail earlier was more or less based on the Werner's system where in a particular group is engaged in a certain kind of occupation.

Now over a period of time that sort of division becomes rigid and it becomes more of a structure if not part of the Hindu caste system. Now prior to what we have now or what is being encountered today, this I mean during that period of the Werner’s system society in a sense engage in forming a system in order to meet or to stabilize their I mean structure of society based on different functions right. Now I mean a certain group of people were engaged in agricultural work, certain in the work black smithy. Here and then certain sections to be in the war front and some groups who are usually engage in more of ritual ceremonies and religious practices.

Now over a period of time that kind of profession becomes more of a scripted with the family or the caste who tends to redefine that is how society is being stratified or being divided I would rather say in order to fulfill the kind of needs which we have. Now what is the environmental constraints which human society usually encounter? Now the first and foremost is the natural resources, which is very important in order to sustain if not fulfilled the basic needs of humans.

Now why is this natural resources so much important because the availability of Natural Resources might not be similar in every part of the world and so is the carrying capacity, now if we take example of say a pollution which of course is being created by humans through certain kinds of activities maybe the industry or maybe the kind of automobiles which we use. Now these are directly or indirectly responsible for the kind of environmental mess we create that is pollution.

Now how do we, as a human tries to overcome an encounter this kind of problems because we tend to engage in finding an alternative way to modify these constraints because we cannot escape. So we will have to find a different way of an alternative which I would say the adaptive mechanism of then environmental constraints.

Now human societies in successive stages has come up with a different kind of adaptive mechanism in order to sustain if not adapt or adjust with the environment. Now similarly present contemporary period is also witnessing like issues like climate change, the ozone depletion. Now in a global form there has been different initiative taken by different reasons what could have perhaps be the possible solutions? Now when we discussed about what the infrastructure needs of humans, now human usually encounters the interface of the socio-cultural systems and environment and it is through this interface the infrastructure that society tends to utilize or manipulate its environment by modifying the types of resources which actually is being needed.

Now usually we in the previous lectures we have discussed how these resources is being controlled if not the distribution of resources is not equally distributed. And this perhaps bring some kind of an environmental injustice to different communities, now based on this idea one needs to engage in trying to find out if not the amount of consumption which usually is required.

By a group needs to be in a sense evaluated. Now the infrastructure which I discuss here consists of two parts that is the mode of production and reproduction. So in a way we can say it is the consumer and the provider. This interface is part and parcel of the ecosystem, where in sometimes when the consumer is much higher than the provider then a situation of imbalance also crop up. Now over here what is the mode of production and what is the reproduction, the mode of production and reproduction in essence attempts to strike a balance.

Because unless there is a balance between the two there will be definitely a collapse if not a destruction. Now for instance consumption of energy for instance. Usually if a particular community for example rely on fuel wood and fodder in a particular geographical area. Now they have in a sense been managing because this it also gives a space or a time for regeneration, now if that resources is being exploited through some external forces maybe which is driven by the so called market economy.
Now that might perhaps lead to a faster pace of destruction and there is an imbalance between the kind of dependence and mode of production and the reproduction. Now that becomes imbalance.

Now what is mode of production then? It in a sense consists of are part and parcel actions of humans which tries to fulfill the requirements of subsistence or so to say the basic needs. Now in this we tend to engage in looking at the technological, technology of the subsystems and the technological and at the same time the environmental relationship. Now why is this technology and environment interrelated? Because the finer and the more advanced is the technology we used in a sense it posed a threat to the environment is if not the kind of relationship which humans share with the environment changes. Now I am just trying to partly highlight which more or less we have discussed already in the previous slides.

Now how is this mode of production usually being classified or divided by mostly the anthropologist and sociologists? And in this successive states of society we have a different form of socio-cultural system. Now for instance in hunting and gathering society the socio-cultural system might not be seen as the horticulture, pastoral if not agrarian and the industrial. Because if you compare the previous four with the last one that is the industrial society.

We tend to see that there is more of specialized and division of labor based on skills. Because the
interrelationship or the parts of society becomes much finer in the kind of jobs or profession which they are engaged. Now perhaps the system of bureaucratization or bureaucratic network which is guiding us in the present times perhaps will be the best suited example how this part of the socio-cultural system or the working culture has changed over a period of time. Now it also consists of in a sense the behavior which actually is being aimed at controlling the whole members of the society and functions if we pick the hunting and gathering society what will they do or what will they engage into if they run out of food stock for example.

Now it is up on this environmental infrastructure foundation that the remaining parts of the social systems are going to be decided upon, now that is one of the reason why the environmental infrastructure tends to hold a key positions in the interface of the human and environment. Now if you look at the social system you can break up by looking at some of these sub points like.

For instance demography, the mating patterns, fertility, natality or maybe the modern forms of what contraception, abortion and infanticide. Let us assume that these are part of what the social system is and what are the kind of changes which are being witnessed. Now for instance what then is social structure? It refers to the human groups and organizations. And the social structure of human society can be perhaps divided into two that is the primary and secondary groups, now what is these primary groups it is more to do with the consisting of small group of members of the society.

Maybe in the family or which usually regulate a face-to-face kind of contact in the exchange and consumptions more or less in the domestic settings and usually this relationship which is being shared n these primary groups are more intimate and as I say it is more of encounter when mutual encounter takes place physically. Now these are some of the groups which can be classified within the primary group that is the family, the community and within this maybe some voluntary groups and some religious group or may be your friends the kind of circle you have within your peer groups.

Now in secondary organizations what do we have? We have much more of a formulas formalized kind of relationship where in the group of groups in the members in the groups are being guided by certain rules and regulations right, now that sort of relationship is formal in nature. Now for instance the institutions like the government, military, police, corporations, education, and media so and so forth can actually be put under these secondary organizations.

Now what is the need why is the need for discussing this bureaucratization? Now this very term which is being to an extent discussed by Max Weber in his trying to posit about the kind of social changes or how the social functions changes in the industrial to post-industrial society and perhaps in his quest to elaborate and understand more of this rationalization of this accent he perhaps tends to see this bureaucratization as one of the most best forms of this modern society. Now what do we have in this bureaucratization.

It the course of human evolution that is the successive states of in societies how division is being labor is being divided and how are the members of the society being divided as we had discussed there is an increasing division of labor that is from the more unspecialized to in a more specialized or from a more simple to a complex one and then this distribution or allocation of whatever is based on a psychological need and satisfaction.

And within this there emerges a class called elites, who are this elites? I will come back to the bureaucratization in the later part but for the time being let us look at what the elites is, it is based on the class, sex, race and then the status which usually exists throughout the structure of society. Now in almost every society there will be a class who are being in the upper layer of the society and which are considered to be much more garnering a lot of power. And this power elites in a sense might not be generalized and it might be different in across different societies.

This why is the privilege of the existence of elites in a sense is necessary or what are the socio cultural system which in a sense bring them into existence? Now usually because of the power relationship if not unequal distribution of wealth one section the society tends to be much more in advantageous positioned and then they tends to take control of the socio-economic if not the political system and they happens to have enjoy that particular status.

Now in what I have discussed in the previous slides human needs infrastructure and also superstructure now what is the differences between the two? Now if you look at the superstructure which actually can also be further divided into two that is the cultural and mental. Now the mental is more of psychological and it in a sense is also responsible for guiding human to engage in a certain kind of action.

Now what does this cultural superstructure includes the recreation activities, art, sports, empirical knowledge, folklore and other aesthetics products and also maybe the music, dance, rituals. So all these are part of the cultural superstructure which is embedded within a particular socio-cultural system of any society. Now the mental structures are more to do with an individual values emotions traditions and recreational. Now how is these two in a sense interrelated because an individual in a sense cannot act or function in isolation rather within the socio culture setting of a society.

Therefore it is important to look at how this individual or that is the mental structure functions. Now Max Weber a German sociologist posits the idea that there are four basic motivators for human behavior because a human the whole body is also being influenced by certain kind of motivations that is our interest to pursue a specific task or goal. Now ideal types is an actual behavior which is motivated by combination.

Now the first type of this behavior which in a sense motivate the human is the value oriented behavior, what is this value oriented behavior then? It is an action which is being guided by a value. Now you tend to pursue a goal which you feel that it has more value the value can be more, it can be based on for example if an individual attends a college because he values the life of the mind or maybe for knowledge sake, he wants to be enlighten or an educated person therefore he attends a college or pursue education.

So therefore that can be categorized as a behavior which is being motivated by a value, so also doing the right thing out of religious or philosophical ideas of right and wrong that is we humans are guided by certain kind of concerns. Now based on the kind of religious upbringing or teachings which we normally encounter and experience in life we tend to you know like avoid certain elements such as doing or not engaging in an evil or doing some work to commit certain crime. Now that can also be part of this value oriented behavior and the second is the rational action which is in relation to a value.

Now, for instance carrying forward the examples which we have cited, now attending a college because you value the life of the mind. So in a way can be cited as again not example, now the second thing is how is this the affective or emotional affective that is the emotional of human guide one's behavior. Now normally we humans differ in terms of our reactions sometimes we are pretty much being reactive when we are in the condition of anger or when we are happy. So we are not able to hide in a sense our emotions. So that in depth instances we becomes more reactive and perhaps that particular expression or action might not serve any purpose.

Now for instance you attend a college for a good time. Because your significant other attendance or maybe because you are attracted to someone or maybe you happens to be in love with someone and then that may be the primary reason why you simply go and attend colleges. Now those sort of behavior which are being guided by effect affective or emotions can be categorized under these examples. Now the next is the traditional behavior, how is a behavior in a sense influenced by one's traditions?

Now usually we have these customs and traditions if not norms and values which are pretty much embedded to every members by their group. Now these customs and traditions usually guide us if not enable human to engage in certain kinds of action which in a sense can be may be considered as a privilege or maybe which is considered to be more of appreciated by the society.

Now for instance maybe if you take the examples of the girl child education in the Indian context for example now educated parents normally encourage irrespective of gender to engage in pursuing education, now mostly in rural areas where parents are uneducated, they might not get the same preference of treatment or mostly in the pastoral kind of society now women are seem to be much more of as domestic helper and they might lose the chance of to attend or pursue any kind of education.

Now whatever it is these are actions which are usually being guided by the rules and norms or if not the belief which the society has, now this last one that is the way to rational how it does guide the behavior and action of man. This is a rational action wherein individual is guided by a specific goal that is you tell to engage in pursuing or your action is guided by a rational goal, now depending on that you tends to build certain ways to achieve that goal. Now for example your purpose of attending the college as we have discussed in the examples might not necessarily be based on your emotions or just because you are in love with someone or maybe you value education or maybe your family members have the traditions of getting education.

So apart from that keeping aside all those, now your purpose of attending a college or getting education is to get a job. So you set a certain kind of goal and this particular goal Weber has categorized it as the rational action or which is also known as Zweckrational. Now there is another example which I gave here for example building a raft to cross a river, studying to get a good grade.

Now there will be different kind of actions or proposes which human might engage into. So it might be short term, it might be long term. Now depending on that we humans engage into pursuing or engage into that mean. Now what Weber noticed as a curious phenomenon in this Zweckrational behavior is because there is an increasingly dominations of these sorts of behavior.

Now why is this so? Because we humans are guided by a certain kind of interest. Now perhaps we can say this interest can be infrastructural determinism. Now what is this infrastructural determinism? Now the in a sense, this is one of the major principles of socio-cultural materialism and in this the mode of production in a sense and the reproduction determine the primary and secondary group structure which we have discussed the kind of relations which are being shared by members of the society which in a sense also determined the cultural and mental superstructure. Now all this cannot be seen as in isolation rather it is in some way or the other interrelated.

Now what is infrastructural determination determinism? Now one of the rationale behind giving certain priorities in life is through these infrastructural practices. That in a sense society usually adapts to its environment, because we tends to find a way how to adjust and adapt to the environment and through which we engage in different kind of economic activities so to say our modes of production.

Now for ins