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In: Social Issues

Marvin Harris: Cultural Materialism perspective
Theory: A model of human behavior.
Model involving a logical explanation of some phenomenon
Model tries to generalize about social behavior
A theory in social sciences must be empirically testable or supported by evidence
Materialist versus Idealist views of Culture
Food as Feed (required for physical existence/survival)
Food as symbolic: as Status/prestige, Health, class, group identity, sexuality, gender, power, ritual, protest
Why don=t Hindus eat beef? Or, why don’t Jews and Muslims eat Pork?
MATERIALIST: ABecause it is more profitable to preserve the cow=s for other uses”
IDEALIST : ABecause they consider the cow sacred, and will not kill it for food”
Theories are based on Assumptions
Materialist View: Humans are rational beings. They will weigh the costs and benefits of actions. Biological needs such as food, sex are more important than other needs. Work is less desirable than leisure. Behaviors influence ideas.
Idealist View: Human seek meaning in action. Symbolic understanding orients all human action, including the satisfaction of biological needs. We cannot understand human behavior without understanding the system of meanings that govern behavior from the actor’s point of view. Ideas influence action.

Harris= materialist explanation of the Asacred cow@ in India
Beef was consumed in the past and only later prohibited in Hindu diet. Early scripturesB do not condemn beef. Population growth makes beef a more costly food. Shift from animal protein to grains. But cow still a very useful animal (plough ,transportation, fuel, milk). A living cow is more valuable than a dead one. In other words, a rational adaptation to a changing environment. Religious prohibition of cow slaughter by...

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