Alfred Louis Kroeber's Theory Of Organic Development
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Alfred Louis Kroeber was born in New Jersey in 1876 and later grew up in New York City where he attended a New York prep school. Kroeber was not only well-educated as a child, but he was also multilingual. It was arguably this strong educational background and history of assiduousness and discipline that contributed to Kroeber’s later success in an academic setting and in the field of Anthropology.
By 1917, Alfred Kroeber was already flourishing in his field. By 1897, Kroeber received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English from Columbia College. He then spent the summers of 1899 and 1900 in Wyoming studying and living among the Arapaho, Shoshone, Ute, and Bannock peoples. Also in 1900, Kroeber became the curator of the California Academy…show more content… He first states, “Human civilization or progress, which exists only in and through living members of the species, is so unmistakably similar to the evolution of plants and animals, that it has been inevitable that there should have been sweeping applications of the principles of organic development to the facts of cultural growth.” He then goes on to contrast the two in a way that is reminiscent of the modern-day debate of nature vs. nurture. He states, “Everyone is aware that we are born with certain powers and that we acquire others.” At this point, he emphasizes the role of mentality in evolution by explaining that, while the mental is caused by the organic, culture, on the other hand, operates on its own accord. Mentality, according to Kroeber, is simply the biological component from which culture is…show more content… He explicates that geniuses and individual innovations are only created when culture is equipped to accept them. Here, his opposition of “the great man theory of history” is made clear when he emphasizes the idea that culture, as opposed to individuals, shapes human behavior.
In Configurations of Culture Growth, Kroeber expanded upon his idea of individual nature from “The Superorganic.” He looked at historical ‘greats’ from all of the major world civilizations and found that ‘greatness’ occurred in clusters throughout history. Most notably, he found that these clusters were temporally parallel to culture growth, evidence he used to support his idea that geniuses are created in the context of culture. He also noted that individual achievements accentuate, but do not explicate, what he called ‘cultural