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Monday, 13 December 2021

Worldview

 

Worldview

Worldview  is the set of cultural and psychological beliefs held by members of a particular culture; the term was borrowed from the German Weltanschauung. It is a concept derived in part from the WHORFIAN HYPOTHESIS, which posited that highly habituated forms of language structured thought and thus, as Edward SAPIR (1929a: 210) argued, "The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds not merely the same worlds with different labels." The term fell out of use, or was replaced by "ideology," as anthropologists realized that all members of a society did not in fact share the same cultural values and points of view, and that the creation and contestation of cultural belief systems were never static (Hill & Mannheim 1992).

Background

The concept of world view is closely tied to an ambitious effort made in the early 1950s by a group of scholars at the University of Chicago, guided by Robert Redfield. In Redfield’s book The Folk Culture of Yucatan (1941), he expressed an embryonic concern with the concept of world view. Redfield’s encounter with an Indian culture which was at grips successively with Spanish and modern urban cultures aroused his interest in the evolutionary process and in sociocultural change. He was impressed by the incurable wound inflicted on the Indian past and, throughout his career, thought of primitive culture as a broken thing, persisting here and there and striving to defend itself. This view caused Redfield to stress the positive aspects of the primitive condition and to see any evolution therefrom —in spite of reconstructive attempts—as essentially disruptive and negative. In approaching modern urban culture via the peasant culture which is its rural counterpart, Redfield sought to rediscover the purity of folk culture and, indeed, to reimpose it by a concern with the good life and by an interest in the cause of peace and understanding among nations. In its final metamorphosis, influenced by the theories of orientalists, the concept of world view merged with the concept of “Great” and “Little” traditions, which contains a more balanced evolutionary view of the loss of purity. Redfield’s original concern with levels of understanding among individuals who hold diverse world views developed into the study of interactions between high and low, intellectual and lay, urban and village cultures within a great civilization.

Theoretical development

In a seminal paper, “World View and Social Relations in Guatemala,” Sol Tax (1941) distinguished world view from social relations, although he suggested that perception of the latter enters into the “mental apprehension of reality” that is world view. Tax observed that Guatemalan Indians, who do not acculturate to Ladinos or to each other, continue to have a primitive world view, although they appear to have had a “civilized” type of impersonal, market-oriented system of socioeconomic relations since pre-Columbian times. The first explicit elaboration of the concept occurred in Redfleld’s article “The Primitive World View” (1952). Here he clearly emphasized the individual: self is the axis of world view, which is the way a man in a particular society sees himself in relation to everything around him. Redfield was primarily interested in world views that characterize whole peoples and have been generally developed without the assistance of the specialized philosopher; he distinguished these from a “cosmology,” or the systematic reflections of the specialized thinker. He hypothesized that there are certain universal elements of world views. Every world view distinguishes (a) part of the self from another part, thus establishing, as it were, a dialogue within the self; (b) a human nature from that which is nonhuman; (c) classes and categories of the human, i.e., social persons (e.g., groupings of persons who are intimate and similar, others who are far and different); and (d) an entity called nature and another described in shorthand as God, within the nonhuman. Further, every world view includes (e) an orientation of the self in time and space by means of major natural phenomena; and (f) a similar orientation to life crises in human existence. The first explicit elaboration of the concept occurred in Redfleld’s article “The Primitive World View” (1952). Here he clearly emphasized the individual: self is the axis of world view, which is the way a man in a particular society sees himself in relation to everything around him. Redfield was primarily interested in world views that characterize whole peoples and have been generally developed without the assistance of the specialized philosopher; he distinguished these from a “cosmology,” or the systematic reflections of the specialized thinker. He hypothesized that there are certain universal elements of world views. Every world view distinguishes (a) part of the self from another part, thus establishing, as it were, a dialogue within the self; (b) a human nature from that which is nonhuman; (c) classes and categories of the human, i.e., social persons (e.g., groupings of persons who are intimate and similar, others who are far and different); and (d) an entity called nature and another described in shorthand as God, within the nonhuman. Further, every world view includes (e) an orientation of the self in time and space by means of major natural phenomena; and (f) a similar orientation to life crises in human existence.

In its current connotation, worldview is seen as a combination of the following information which social scientists can gather from the field (E. M. Mendelson 1956):

1.       Cognitive systems at the level of the scientific world view

2.       Natural (biology, chemistry, physics)

3.       Social (psychology, sociology, communications, history, cosmology)

4.       Parasocial (theology, comparative religion)

5.       Attitude systems at the level of any world view (mineral, animal, vegetal, human, para-natural)

6.       Action systems at the level of direct behavioral observation (medicine, agriculture, technologies, ritual, etc.)

Further reading: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/world-view

Further reading for research:

Bunzel, Ruth 1952 Chichicastenango: A Guatemalan Village. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

Durkheim, Emile; and Mauss, Marcel (1903) 1963 Primitive Classification. Translated and edited with an introduction by Rodney Needham. Univ. of Chicago Press. First published as “De quelques formes primitives de classification” in Volume 6 of Annee socio-logique.

Geertz, Clifford 1957 Ethos, World-view and the Analysis of Sacred Symbols. Antioch Review 17:421-437.

Guiteras-Holmes, Calixta 1961 Perils of the Soul: The World View of a Tzotril Indian. New York: Free Press.

 

Horton, Robin 1960 A Definition of Religion and Its Uses. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 90, no. 2:201-226.

Kluckhohn, Clyde 1951 Values and Value-orientations in the Theory of Action: An Exploration in Definition and Classification. Pages 388-433 in Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils (editors), Toward a General Theory of Action. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Leslie, Charles M. 1960 Now We Are Civilized: A Study of the World View of the Zapotec Indians of Mitla, Oaxaca. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne Univ. Press.

Mendelson, E. M. 1956 World-view. Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Chicago.

Mendelson, E. M. 1958 The King, the Traitor, and the Cross: An Interpretation of a Highland Maya Religious Conflict. Diogenes 21:1-10.

Mendelson, E. M. 1959 Maximon: An Iconographical Introduction. Man 59:57-60.

Mendelson, E. M. 1965 Los escandalos de Maximon. Seminario de Integracion Social, Publication No. 19. Guatemala City: Ministerio de Educacion.

Redfield, Robert 1941 The Folk Culture of Yucatan. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Redfield, Robert 1952 The Primitive World View. American Philosophical Society, Proceedings 96:30-36.

Redfield, Robert 1953 The Primitive World and Its Transformations. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1957.

Redfield, Robert 1955 The Little Community: Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole. Univ. of Chicago Press. A paperback edition, bound together with Peasant Society and Culture, was published in 1961 by Cambridge University Press.

Redfield, Robert 1956 Peasant Society and Culture: An Anthropological Approach to Civilization. Univ. of Chicago Press. A paperback edition, bound together with The Little Community, was published in 1961 by Cambridge University Press.

Tax, Sol 1941 World View and Social Relations in Guatemala. American Anthropologist New Series 43: 27-42.

 

 

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