Anthropology and Emergent Order

Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: A Revolutionary Approach to Man’s Understanding of Himself, New York: Ballentine Books, 1972. 505 pp.

Trained as an anthropologist, Bateson’s book spills into many different fields. While using terminology wedded to the cybernetic model of homeostasis rather than emergent order, his arguments go beyond those concepts, and are highly relevant to this bibliography. Bateson writes penetratingly about the complex interaction of different levels of systems, particularly the human mind, society, and nature. He provides a description of the problems of subjecting such systems to instrumental control of which the famous critique of central planning becomes a single, albeit important, example. Also important here is his discussion of the relationship of ethics to systems theory. See particularly pp. 426-505.

Rappaport, Roy. Pigs for the Ancestors 2nd ed., New Haven: Yale. New printing by Waveland Press, 2000. 501 pp.

It is a classic case study of human ecology in a tribal society, particularly the place of religion and ritual in resource management. Rappaport applies systems theory and feedback analysis to an anthropological population. A major theoretical work grounded in extensive field work and empirical analysis.

Rappaport, Roy. Sanctity and Adaptation, Io/7 Oecology Issue, 1970. Reprinted in Richard Grossinger, ed., Ecology and Consciousness, Richmond, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1978. 30 pp.

As human beings rose to ecological dominance they simplified their environments, with potentially serious ecological implications. Ritual enabled sustainable practices within ecological contexts far too complex for rational control and management. Respect proved better able to sustain viable societies than rational ideals of knowledge and control. Building on these anthropological studies, Rappaport argues for the importance of developing models of social self-organization and adaptation capable of comprehending the complexities of the modern world.

Titles not yet annotated:

Cronk, Lee. That Complex Whole, Westtview Press, 1999.

Moore, Sally F. Law as Process: An Anthropological Approach. London, Henley, and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1978.

Rappaport, Roy. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 480 pp.

Rappaport, Roy. Ecology, Meaning and Religion. 2nd ed. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1988.

Roberts, Simon. Order and Dispute: An Introduction to Legal Anthropology. New York: Penguin. 1979.

Roberts, Simon. “The Study of Dispute: Anthropological Perspectives,” Disputes and Settlements: Law and Human Relations in the West. John Bossey, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1983.