chapter
Anti-evolutionist interlude
Pages 4

At the end of the nineteenth century the evolutionary paradigm lost its attraction to anthropologists. Even among its adherents criticisms were advanced. Lack of reliable data on the one hand, and rather rigid schemes on the other, produced many errors. Interest shifted to other approaches. Inquisitive scholars went out to visit ‘primitive’ peoples themselves, and it was felt necessary to develop theoretical and methodological tools for the new technique of *fieldwork. Interest in speculative theories about the past came to a temporary end. In the USA, *Franz Boas called for demonstrability instead of probability; but his neverending search for details prevented him from the construction of more-embracing syntheses. His student, †Robert Lowie, tried to obliterate evolutionism definitively in his Primitive Society (1920) but, by following Morgan’s argument closely, in fact ended up with a kind of revised evolutionism. For example, his contention that the †clan had been invented four times in North America, was something of an improvement on Morgan’s view, rather than its annihilation. In *British anthropology, scholars such as *Malinowski, and *A.R.Radcliffe-Brown called for protracted fieldwork. This interest led to the development of British structural-functionalism. This school, with its emphasis on †holism and *functionalism, and its dislike of ‘conjectural history’, was not interested in developing evolutionary theories.