What is cultural materialism?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Cultural materialism is a concept that is related to the writer Marvin Harris.  It is a materialist approach that implies that culture emerges as a product of things.  Consider this; when thinking about the things that our society finds as having value.  People strive to attain things they value.  Yet, the things that we have available to strive for set the stage for that which we work for and desire.  A shovel has value to dig.  If a person is a farmer having the need for a shovel would propel him into working to afford to own one.

Harris developed his theories in two of his books Cannibals and Kings written in 1977 and Cultural Materialism written in 1979.  He explained the idea by stating that in India the non-killing of cattle is a religious vessel but it is also an economic move that is related to cultural needs that help stabilize their economy.


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