By F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard (eds)
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Additional info for Material Culture and Other Things: Post-disciplinary Studies in the 21st century
This relates to the scientific debate on methodological collectivism or methodological individualism – the difference between determinism and free will. Methodological collectivism or individualism: An archaeological approach Methodological collectivism and individualism are two ideal types of historical explanation; the first is holistic and the latter is individualistic. The first principle states that human behaviour can be explained by being deduced from (a) macroscopic laws which apply to the social system as a whole and (b) descriptions of the positions or functions of the individual within the whole.
Childe said “man makes himself” (Childe 1936). Archaeology is, like any social and human science, concerned with culture. From Tylor’s anthropological definition of “culture or Civilization” as “taken in its widest ethnographic sense, [it] is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871), social studies have aimed to study all facets of human beings and mankind. Archaeology is no exception, rather the contrary.
It has been a truism in cultural ecology that “culture” is man’s means of adaptation to his environment, but this is problematic for two reasons. On the one hand, if culture is systems of symbols which man exposes to the external world, then the environment which they are exposed to must be empty or without significance; meaning is thoroughly culturally constructed. On the other hand, if culture is a means of adaptation, and environment is in a state of flux, devoid of form and meaning prior to the ordering through cultural categories, then logically culture is adaptation to nothing at all (Ingold 1992:39).