Our Common Denominator: Human Universals Revisited by Christoph Antweiler

By Christoph Antweiler

Because the politicization of anthropology within the Nineteen Seventies, so much anthropologists were reluctant to method the subject of universals—that is, phenomena that ensue on a regular basis in all identified human societies. during this quantity, Christoph Antweiler reasserts the significance of those cross-cultural commonalities for anthropological study and for all times and co-existence past the academy. The query offered here's how anthropology may help us procedure humanity in its entirety, knowing the area much less as a globe, with an emphasis on modifications, yet as a planet, from a vantage element open to commonalities.

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She ties individual human rights to the national right of self-determination and argues that cosmopolitan norms in democratic systems are finding their way into law all over the world. Moral universalism could well be joined to the principle of a federal institutionalized (or legal) cosmopolitanism (Benhabib 2008). This alleviates any suspicion that a new kind of Western imperialism has developed, an imperialism packaging “human rights” with cultural values. Specific cultural explanations and metaphors 20 | Our Common Denominator used to legitimize human rights would thus contribute to the goal of fostering human rights throughout the world.

The uniqueness of the work lay in the comparative quality of how data were indexed according to categories. Sumner shared the same interest and worked until the end of his life on a project to publish a comparative representation of the whole range of human cultures. The last volume of his four-volume work was completed by Keller (Sumner and Keller 1927) and included ethnographic case study examples that, through an index, referenced the other three volumes. This index served as the model for Murdock’s comparative study on kinship and family structures from 250 societies (his Social Structure of 1949) and for the categories in his Outline of Cultural Materials, first published in 1938 (Murdock et al.

Even the work of anthropologists often holds a normative understanding of universals, sometimes explicitly laid out. ), written for an encyclopedia of anthropology, Xanthopoulos defines universals as the cumulative artistic and intellectual achievements of humanity. He considers the topic of universals to be especially significant at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a time when the concept of human may need redefining, and he emphasizes that such universals do not emerge simply through the sum of great works of art but rather through 24 | Our Common Denominator the “global experience” of appreciating these works of art (Xanthopoulos 2006: 2244).

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