chapter  5
12 Pages

Beliefs and Values

SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS have always had to take some account of the beliefs and values of the peoples they study. Although functional theory has in some respects tended to distract attention from this field, in other respects it has greatly advanced our understanding of other people’s ways of thought. It has done so mainly because of its emphasis on fieldwork, and on the necessity to understand the social institutions of simpler cultures ‘in the round’, and in the context of wider networks of social relationships in which they are embedded. This understanding implies reference to what people think, for as I have stressed, no human social institutions or relationships can be adequately understood unless account is taken of the expectations, beliefs and values which they involve. Nevertheless, with a few notable exceptions, systematic field studies of people’s modes of thought, their values and beliefs, have only recently begun to be made.