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Human Types by Raymond Firth

Human Types (edition 1958)

by Raymond Firth

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891207,824 (3.67)3
Based on a wide range of field studies, Sir Raymond Firth discusses the geographical and historical factors that determine the development of racial groups; shows how culture is an out-growth of natural environment; and describes how various societies have solved the economic, technological, social and sexual problems that confront them. The book provides a framework for understanding all human societies and interpreting the changes that take place within them.… (more)
Title:Human Types
Authors:Raymond Firth
Info:The New American Library (1958), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Human Types: An Introduction to Social Anthropology by Raymond Firth


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I would highly recommend this book to anyone curious about the topic as it makes a quick read of a subject that touches each and every one of us. You will certainly learn to appreciate the basic principles laid out within this book and it will put your own existence on this Earth into much better perspective, once you appreciate the bigger picture that is the whole Human race of which you are a small part of. I wish I had come across this book years ago as it would have given me a clear picture of a subject I have always struggled to relate to. Once you understand more primitive cultures it is easy to understand how we came so quickly to the complex society we barely relate to today and struggle to survive in.

Raymond Firth was a very far-sighted man for his time. He travelled the planet and witnessed first hand many political and social environments such as the Segregation system in the US and Apartheid in South Africa. The first chapter 'Racial Traits and Mental Differences' comments on these issues heavily.
The book was designed to educate the common man who, in the UK, may not have fully grasped what these oppressive regimes entailed or why they existed in the first place, especially if living in a relatively liberal country like England which, at that time was far more progressive than America or South Africa.

The second chapter 'Man and Nature' has a very nautical theme focusing on Canoe building techniques throughout the South Sea islands to demonstrate how primitive human communities came up with varying inventive solutions to solve the same problem depending on what materials were available to them on individual islands which may have had diverse and unique natural resources available to the boat builders. This demonstrates that high intelligence and problem solving are not unique to any one social group but exist across the board regardless of race. A rather obvious statement perhaps, but this chapter rebukes the misconception that tribal cultures are less advanced than civilised western communities.

Chapter three 'Work and Wealth of Primitive Communities' attempts to equate the value tribes from around the world have for certain groups of objects such as shells, coconuts and cattle etc. which are bartered within the community; and the status and spiritual value they also hold for these individual tokens of wealth - which reaches far beyond how we in the civilised world guard money as purely a means to an end.

Chapter four 'Principles of Social Structure' was very interesting as it focused on the family and the different definitions of the term throughout the world. It covered social groups, kinship, clans, casts, sex division (male and female roles), monogamy, marriage dowries, paternity, extended sexual relationships within marriage (including polygamy), inheritance law; and, patrilineal and matrilineal societies. ( )
  Sylak | Jan 13, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond Firthprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vroemen, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In greeting each other the Englishmen shake hands ; Frenchmen in exalted moments embrace and kiss on both cheeks ; a polite Austrian salutes a lady's hand witn his lips ; and Polynesians press noses.
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