Jack Goody’s Vision of World History and African Development Today
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The lecture is available from the Institute in a handsome print version. I am grateful pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara Chris Hann for the chance to reflect here on the debt I owe to my teacher. In a short preface to Production and Reproductionthe first in his series of comparisons between Africa and Eurasia, Jack Goody Rather he places himself as an actor in a historical period, coming of age in the Second World War, encountering the Eastern Mediterranean, escaping from a prison camp into the mountains of Abruzzo, entering Africa at the decisive moment of its anti-colonial revolution and in its epicentre, Ghana.
With European empires collapsing everywhere, he rejects the eurocentric idea that the West is special, looking instead for forms of knowledge that are more truly universal, better suited to the new world society launched by the war. As a former student of English literature, he knew something about medieval European society and culture. He wanted to connect a newly independent West Africa to the Islamic civilization he encountered briefly during the war. His subject is therefore the comparison of pre-industrial societies, past and present, an ethnographically informed juxtaposition of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
He stresses that this enquiry is an extension of his own personal experience, fuelled by social interaction and political engagement. The ultimate historical question is where human civilization is going, but the key lies in the similarity and divergence of regions with an agrarian past or present. Only a series of books could begin to address this question and this is the first of them. It is worth recalling its full title, Production and Reproduction: The focus is on how human beings produce their livelihood within families and how this influences attempts to secure their future.
But Death, Property and the Ancestors remains his key work. The time from the Second World War until now has been extraordinary, a period pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara humanity formed world society as a single interactive network for the first time.
This society is massively unequal and riddled with conflict, but now at last there is a universe of communications to give concrete expression to universal ideas. Future generations will want to study this emerging human society and they will look to us for antecedents; but they will be disappointed by the fragmented narrowness of our anthropological vision. For we have been slow to move beyond ethnography.
Jack Goody, with Eric Wolf as his only serious contemporary rival, devised and carried out an anthropological project with a scale to match the world society being formed in his day. What is his vision of the development of human culture, past, present and future? My own answers pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara shaped by his, since he was my teacher, but I depart from him in some respects.
Reproduction was always so. World society has not been formed completely in our time nor does it lack antecedents; but think what the human condition was like in and what it is now. Something tremendous has happened in between. Humanity has pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara brought closer together in dramatic ways. We have difficulty imagining the processes involved, not least because of national consciousness.
Anthropologists, in sticking with their ethnographic method, have not risen to the challenge of documenting this huge shift in civilization. In reaching for a more universal conception of human history, he knew that he was an active participant in the making of a new world.
But, even as he inserted himself into contemporary society, he chose to step back from the modern age. By focusing on pre-industrial societies in Europe, Asia and Africa, he left out any direct consideration of two centuries of machine revolution, the capitalist world economy, the New World in its entirety.
A few years after his wartime pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara in the Mediterranean basin, Jack Goody carried out research in West Africa, a region connected to the Mediterranean by Islamic civilization long before it was colonized by Europeans. On the basis of extensive fieldwork in Northwest Ghana during the decade before that pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara won independence from colonial rule, he soon established himself as a force in West African anthropology, first as an ethnographer and later as a historian Hart Goody was impressed, however, by the similarities and differences between Africa, Europe and the Islamic world.
It took him three decades to formalize the terms of comparison; but, when he did, it turned out as follows: Europe may be opposed to Asia as West to East, but the two should be seen as a single entity, Eurasia, opposed to Africa South of the Sahara.
This model contrasts with the dominant imperialist stereotype which opposes the West to the Rest. Goody was anxious to avoid any hint of racial hierarchy. Yet he concluded that African societies were fundamentally different from the others in important ways and he wanted to explain why. He started with kinship and marriage, the domestic relations though which people pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara their own reproduction and participate in the wider society.
In Death, Property and the Ancestorshe concluded that the key to variations in kinship organization lay in the transmission of property, the material link between generations constituted by patterns of inheritance and manifested in religious observances such as the ancestor cult. The book drew extensively on classical sources of British comparative jurisprudence; but Goody balked at making a systematic comparison of Africa and Europe then.
In Tradition, Technology and the Statehe questioned the habit of transferring categories from European history to the study of pre-colonial states in Pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara.
Once again his focus was on property forms. European feudalism was based on private property in land and this was absent from traditional West Africa. Shifting hoe agriculture was the norm, with the bulk of manual labour being performed by women.
In both types of society they were hoarded as wives by polygamous older men and their children were recruited to exclusive descent groups. The key to major differences in social organization between Africa and Eurasia thus lay in the conditions of production and specifically in demography, in the ratio of people to the land. Production and Reproduction takes off from this premise into a global survey of kinship, marriage and property transmission, using the data compiled by G. All of this reflects a class society.
Why should the African and Eurasian patterns be so different? I suggest that the scarcer productive resources become and the more intensively they are used, then the greater the tendency for the retention of these resources within the basic productive and reproductive unit, which in the large majority of cases is the nuclear family… Advanced agriculture, whether by plough or irrigation, permits an individual to produce much more than he can consume….
An important means of [this]… is marriage with persons of the same or higher qualifications…. Advanced agriculture [also] allows the expansion of population, another factor making for scarcity of pari gp binary options trade binary options in western sahara Ibid: The agrarian economies of all the major Eurasian civilizations conformed to this pattern. They were organized through large states run by literate elites whose lifestyle embraced both the city and the countryside.
Africa South of the Sahara apparently missed out on these developments, even though North Africa was one of the first areas to adopt the new institutional package. Goody would never countenance the standard racist explanation for this, the cultural backwardness of black people. To low population density as one explanation he now adds the barrier posed to intensive agriculture by tropical soils. By starting from the relationship between types of property transmission and forms of kinship and marriage, he arrives at a new synthesis of the agricultural roots of civilization.
By the time Jack Goody became an anthropologist, colonial empire was rapidly being dismantled and racial discrimination of the sort practised in apartheid South Africa was becoming outlawed. Yet the intellectual legacy of imperialism still underpinned the anthropology of his day.
Contrasted mentalities should rather be seen as an effect of different means of communication. The most important of these are speech and writing, orality and literacy. Most African cultures are predominantly oral, whereas the ruling classes of Eurasian civilization have relied from the beginning on literate records. The year after Production and Reproduction, Goody published his most general assault on the habit of opposing us and them, The Domestication of the Savage Mind This emerged in a specific time and place and became essential to the reproduction of Eurasian civilization, reducing the status of oral communication that still animates African cultures.
Literacy is a key feature of the institutional complex that marked the urban revolution. The Eurasian Miracle Goody sums up this thesis, but the most important text in my view is The Theft of History reviewed in Hart It makes more sense to see Eurasia as a single entity, at least since the Bronze Age, where the advantage of particular regions has been highly unstable.
In the last two centuries, the human population has increased seven times and the rate of growth of energy production has been double that of the population. Many human beings work less hard, eat better and live longer today as a result. This hectic disengagement from the soil as the chief object of work and source of life was made possible by harnessing inanimate energy sources to machines used as converters. Before almost all the energy at our disposal came from animals, plants and human beings themselves.
The benefits of modern development have been distributed highly unequally, the prime beneficiaries being the pioneers of western imperialism. Despite a consistent barrage of propaganda telling us that we now live in a modern age of science and democracy, our dominant institutions are still those of agrarian civilization — territorial states, embattled cities, landed property, warfare, racism, bureaucratic administration, literacy, impersonal money, long-distance trade, work as a virtue, world religion and the family.
Consider the shape of world society today. The rich countries, who can no longer reproduce themselves, try to stem the inflow of migrants seeking economic improvement. Our world resembles nothing so much as the Old Regime in France before the revolution, when Rousseau wrote his Second Discourse. Africa is the most poignant symbol of this unequal world. Today Africa has a population double the size of Europe and Central Asia. By Africans will be a quarter of humanity and by the end of the century over a third.
The Revisionhttp: Africa largely missed out on the first and second stages of the machine revolution, but in places it is now ahead in some aspects of digitization. This is not without its contradictions. Like Bruno Latourhe says that we have never been modern. Modern democracy is predicated on the abolition of the unequal society that ruled the Eurasian landmass for 5, years.
Goody reminds us of the durable inequality of our world and suggests that its causes may be less tractable than we think. At the same time, the rise of China and India underlines his warning against European complacency. The world is now simultaneously more connected than ever and highly unequal. The reduction of national political controls over global markets in the last three decades has accelerated the gap between the haves and have-nots everywhere, generating huge regional disparities in the process.
Redress for this situation seems further away today that it did inwhen Jack Goody set out on his post-war journey. The key to understanding social forms lies in production and that means the uneven spread of machine production today. Civilization or human culture is largely a consequence of the means of communication — once writing, now an array of mechanized forms, but always interacting with oral and written media.
The site of social struggles is property. Are nation-states still an effective instrument for enforcing global contracts? And his central focus on reproduction has never been more salient when the aging citizens of rich countries need to come to terms with the proliferating mass of young people out there.
Kinship needs to be reinvented too. Hart is a fuller version of the arguments summarized here. The general question of African development is discussed in chapter 6 of Hann and Hart