[Marxism] Leslie A. White

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Mon Aug 23 15:19:32 MDT 2004

Leslie White's theory of evolution was focussed on human energy capture and
the 2nd law of thermodynamics.



Leslie A. White 
Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology

By William J. Peace

Cloth: 2004, xix, 292, CIP.LC 2003016612 
ISBN : 0-8032-3681-6
Price: $55.00 
Few figures in modern American anthropology have been more controversial or
influential than Leslie A. White (1900-1975). Between the early 1940s and
mid-1960s, White's work was widely discussed, and he was among the most
frequently cited American anthropologists in the world. After writing
several respected ethnographic works about the Pueblo Indians, White broke
ranks with anthropologists who favored such cultural histories and began to
radically rethink American anthropology. As his political interest in
socialism grew, he revitalized the concept of cultural evolution and
reinvigorated comparative studies of culture. His strident political
beliefs, radical interpretive vision, and often combative nature earned him
enemies inside and outside the academy. His trip to the Soviet Union and
participation in the Socialist Labor Party brought him to the attention of
the FBI during the height of the Cold War, and near-legendary scholarly and
political conflicts surrounded him at the University of Michigan.

Placing White's life and work in historic context, William J. Peace
documents the broad sociopolitical influences that affected his career,
including many aspects of White's life that are largely unknown, such as the
reasons he became antagonistic toward Boasian anthropology. In so doing,
Peace sheds light on what made White such a colorful figure as well as his
enduring contributions to modern anthropology.

William J. Peace is an independent scholar and lives in Katonah, New York.
He has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University.


Leslie Alvin White
Leslie White was an American anthropologist best known for his ideas about
cultural evolution (White, Leslie A). He was influenced by the Marxian
economic theory, Darwinian evolutionary theory, and by what he learned while
attending school ( gee whiz - CB)  and participating in fieldwork. 

When White got out of the Navy, he went to Louisiana State University, then
to Columbia University, and lastly to the University of Chicago. He received
a Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree in Psychology from Columbia
University and a Ph. D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Early
on, White did fieldwork in the American southwest with the Keresan Pueblo
Indians. He then taught at the University of Michigan . He spent the last
years of his life working at the University of California, Santa Barbara in
the anthropology department. 

Throughout his life, White was interested in general evolution. He strongly
supported the ideas of the 19th-century writers Herbert Spencer, Lewis H.
Morgan and Edward Tylor. He adopted many of their ideas and gave them a
fresh approach. He is known for developing the term "culturology". White
coined this term because he believed that cultures should not be explained
in terms of psychology, biology, or physiology, but rather in its own
category. Culturology is defined as "the field of science which studies and
interprets the distinct order of phenomena termed culture" (Anthropological

White was especially interested by technological developments. When speaking
of technological advancements pertaining to how it affects culture White
states, "culture advances as the amount of energy harnessed per captia per
year increases, or as the efficiency or economy of the means of controlling
energy is increased, or both" (Anthropological Theories). White felt that
technology is a main factor within a cultural system. 

White presented many great ideas to the field of anthropology through essays
and lectures, but what is most widely accepted as his greatest contribution
is a series of essays called "The Science of Culture." 

This picture reprinted by permission of the American Anthropological

"White, Leslie A" Britannica Online. 

Smith, Karen. "Anthropological Theories." University of Alabama. 

Written By Janet Nusser

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