By William Roseberry
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Extra info for Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy
T h e r e the basic p r e m is e offers m o re possibilities for a n u n d e r s tan d in g of culture: T h e premises from w hich we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from w hich abstraction can only be m a d e in the imagination. T h e y are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under w hich they live, both those w hich they find already existing and those pro duced by their activity. . T h is mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the in d iv id u als.
Unfortunately, the text as m e t a p h o r effects precisely this separation. The e m p h a s is on cultural creation brings out two aspects of culture that are m is s in g from Geertz’s work. T h e first is the presence of social a n d cultural differentiation, e ve n w it h in an apparently u n if o r m text. Referen ce to differentiation is, in part, reference to the connections betw een culture a n d rela tions of po w er a n d d o m in a t io n , as im p l ie d in the previo us c o m ments on state a n d status.
It treats culture a n d other aspects of a p r e s u m e d “ su perstructure” s im p ly as ideas. It therefore m akes room for, in d e e d requires, idealist critiques that share the ideational defi n itio n but d e n y the m aterial connection or, as in the case of Geertz, that reject the ideational d efin itio n in favor of one that sees a socially constructed text that is, nonetheless, r e m o ve d from the social process by w h ic h the text is created. In contrast, W il l ia m s suggests that cultural creation is itself a form of m a t e rial pro ductio n, that the abstract distinction betw een material base a n d ideal superstructure dissolves in the face of a material social process thro ugh w h ic h both “ m aterial” a n d “ ideal” are constantly created a n d recreated.