KINDLE ❄ Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture Author Marvin Harris – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk

Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture This Book Challenges Those Who Argue That We Can Change The World By Changing The Way People Think The Author Shows That No Matter How Bizarre A People S Behavior May Seem, It Always Stems From Concrete Social And Economic Conditions It Is By Isolating And Identifying These Conditions That We Will Be Able To Understand And Cope With Some Of Our Own Apparently Senseless Life Styles In A Devastating Attack On The Shamans Of The Counterculture, The Author States The Case For A Return To Objective Consciousness And A Rational Set Of Political Commitments


10 thoughts on “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture

  1. says:

    I m still at the stage of review to come The book has immense depth over many disciplines, I just don t know how to condense it into a few paragraphs Everyone should read it, everyone The breadth of the author s explanation of the world enlarged mine immensely The chapter on Jesus and messiahs has little to do with religion and much to do with history, the Romans, the times the turmoil of one not very sophisticated culture butting up against a tremendously advanced, authoritarian and blo I m still at the stage of review to come The book has immense depth over many disciplines, I just don t know how to condense it into a few paragraphs Everyone should read it, everyone The breadth of the author s explanation of the world enlarged mine immensely The chapter on Jesus and messiahs has little to do with religion and much to do with history, the Romans, the times the turmoil of one not very sophisticated culture butting up against a tremendously advanced, authoritarian and bloody regime I do want to write a review because I think everyone should read the book, and I need to find a way to explain why, how everyone who reads will be enriched in their understanding of the world.______________Phenomenal The last 10 star book of the year probably The chapter on the historical Jesus from extant sources rather than gospels written many decades after Jesus demise placing him as a historical figure and a reason for why he is called the messiah is brilliant It s not going to please anyone who would denigrate or ignore all facts to maintain their unquestioning faith, but for those both Christian and not, it is really interesting.____________________________________ w hy some people believe in Messiahs while others believe in witches This really defines the book so far Why one culture does one thing and another a different one I would rate this book a 10 star on the first chapter alone In it the author explains why, in detail, in practical terms that of the national economy, food production, and appropriate technology, just why cows are sacred in India Genius to have worked it all out


  2. says:

    There are several reasons why I wasn t going to review this book One, I am not an Anthropologist I took some anthropology courses in college, but contrary to the opinions of some of the undeservedly arrogant, Newsies hatted forever virgin dudes in my Philosophy I course, that doesn t make me an expert or automatically mean anyone cares what I have to say loudly, and with so much ergo , so much thusly on the subject Two, despite the fact that this book is slim, it is pretty much huge mong There are several reasons why I wasn t going to review this book One, I am not an Anthropologist I took some anthropology courses in college, but contrary to the opinions of some of the undeservedly arrogant, Newsies hatted forever virgin dudes in my Philosophy I course, that doesn t make me an expert or automatically mean anyone cares what I have to say loudly, and with so much ergo , so much thusly on the subject Two, despite the fact that this book is slim, it is pretty much huge mongous full as far as content is concerned, enough so that covering it all would require a much longer review than I assume pretty much anyone is willing to read Two leads into three, the fact that leaving something out or inevitably explaining something insufficiently is basically like setting out a saucer of milk for the trolls Given the argumentative stance of the author, and the fact that things like socioeconomics, cultural materialism, counter culture v science, and The Dreaded Religion Debate are directly addressed, and that I found myself generally agreeing with him on these matters, I am basically begging to be yelled at by strangers And masochistic I am not Then I thought Hey, this is my little corner of the internet I don t have to be an expert on the Yanomamo to publicly conclude that their culture is horrifyingly misogynistic and backwards anythan I have to be a published author before I can write a book review on goodreads Stating overt disapproval of cultural practices which are at direct odds with basic Human Rights does not make you ethnocentric Tracing spiritual beliefs and practices back to rational, pressing earthly concerns like food, land, and the perpetuation of the species does not make you the Antichrist Non believers like Marvin Harris and the differently believing from you have every bit as much right as believers of various faiths do to study and discuss with authority any and all religious beliefs Just ask Reza Aslan.I am going to attempt to outline some highlights of this book Said outline will not encompass the entirety of the arguments set forth in this book, because this review is not the book, and I am not Marvin Harris I ve made it moderately clear where I stand in relation to Harris views, and so will henceforth attempt to just be surgical, though opinions will most likely slip in to my summary because that s what they do Please don t hit meeven the most bizarre seeming beliefs and practices turn out on closer inspection to be based on ordinary, banal, one might say vulgar conditions, needs, and activities What I mean by a banal or vulgar solution is that it rests on the ground and that it is built up out of guts, sex, energy, wind, rain, and other palpable and ordinary phenomena.With that, Harris goes on to explore and link, amongst others, the following riddles of various cultural and spiritual practices around the world.Mother Cow Why do Hindus have a spiritual ban on the consumption of cattle meat Harris concludes India is a family farm based economic system with too high a population and too small an industrial infrastructure to support a meat packing industry like we see in America Many families have nothan a couple of cows, these being their mainstays, the sources of milk, energy via their droppings ,cows, and power to plow their farms since tractors aren t exactly falling from the sky Even when a cow is dry or ill for seasons at a time, it would be certain death to the small scale farmer to sell its meat for food, since there s still a chance of recovery and or impregnation If one were to go through India and swoop up all the useless cows in order to grind em up for food, a massive influx of farmers and their families would be forced into the already overburdened cities looking for work which simply does not exist at sufficient levels The long term result would be greater poverty and class division A spiritual ban on cow consumption is basically an insurance policy that the lower classes won t make the short sighted decision to take their shit to the pawn shop.Pig Lovers and Pig Haters Jews, Muslims, and early Christians adapted the view that swine is filthy and inconsumable due to pigs similar, competing nutritional needs to humans Given the arid terrain and constant movements inherent to the war torn history of monotheism in the biblical Holy Lands, pig farming was impractical bordering on dangerous On the opposite end of things, the Maring of Papua New Guinea have the appropriate climate for pig farming, and will breed them to excess for about a decade at a time, up to a point where they risk losing too much forest, at which time they will slaughter almost every single one in order to conduct a giant feast in search of tribal allies Wars will be fought and lands will be conquered, leaving the tribes with new patches of forest for slash and burn farming During the time that new farms are being set up and preparations made for the next great feast, the old farms will be granted a sufficient resting period so that they may be re conquered and reused decades later A religion based truce is established during this time, guaranteeing that the cycle is allowed to continue unabated, to the benefit of all.Potlatch The Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island were known to conduct a sort of ceremony referred to as potlatch , in which tribal elders competed with one another to show off their wealth and greatness by giving it away to the competition Coming from different pockets of land with varying animal life and naturally limited huntable populations, this constant back and forth chest puffing pretty much guaranteed not only that resources would not be drained from certain areas, but also that a trade system would be established creating a healthier andversatile diet, as one elder may show his wealth in animal furs and meats, while the other may use foraged fruits, vegetables, and dried fish A natural cycle coinciding with the seasons is additionally created, ensuring consumables year round.Messiahs The Prince of Peace Probably the most controversial sections of the book concern themselves with the roots of military messianic beliefs and the eventual adoption of a non violent spiritual figurehead, i.e Jesus Christ Harris argues that constant warfare between pockets of ostracized Jewish people and the all powerful Romans led to the embracing of multiple warlord Messiahs who manifested themselves as means to rally soldiers to fight for land and goods being taxed from under them by their pagan oppressors Harris believes that the non violent Christ figure later embraced by Christianity was actually just such a militaristic messiah, and that his modified image was an attempt on the part of some Jewish peoples to separate themselves from the violent rebels in order to avoid direct conflict with the Romans I could go on and on about these thought provoking sections, but damn this review is already sooo long, and these chapters are definitely the meatiest of the bunch If nothing else, I recommend at least checking out this chunk of the book.Broomsticks and Sabbats The Great Witch Craze Basically, the argument here is that witches were used, particularly throughout The Inquisition, as a means to create a sort of spiritual scapegoat for the ills of the time, in order to save the Catholic Church State from blame for crop failures, severe weather, over taxation, large scale class division, etc The Church created an Evil Force which only it could conquer, thus terrorizing the impoverished masses into distraction from the real source of their various sufferings The Church That doesn t sound familiar at all, right You absolutely could not look back on history with this framework and replace the word Witch with Jew, Gay, Democrat, Terrorist, Atheist, Immigrant, Pro Choicer, Communist, etc, etc, etc Smokescreens by resourceful magicians Add to that confessions elicited through torture, and you have yourself quite the patsy I say create despite the fact that there probably were cases of people who believed themselves to be witches who traveled on broomsticks to Sabbats Harris explains why this belief may have existed, and where the broomstick thing came from Trippy Dildos Basically, a psychedelic herbal concoction similar to the one used by Carlos Castaneda was applied to a stick and vaginally inserted for maximum andimmediate effects Yes, some of these ladies traveled to Sabbats much like so many of theexperimental people I ve known have had stimulating English language conversations with their pets Meaning they didn t.The final bits of the book deal with counter culture s embrace of pseudo science and Eastern spirituality, of defiance of the scientific method in favor of internal transcendentalism Given that Harris wrote this book in 1974, he does come off a bit damned hippies bitter, though his point still holds water To say that political and social responsibilities are transient, superfluous earthly matters, and that changing the way you thiiiink maaaaan insiiide yourself about yourseeeelf maaan is all it takes to exist in the world in a meaningful way, is beyond just missing the point To him, the counter culture movement is and was just another manifestation of spirituality ruling out in favor of rationality, and that the rejection of science when it comes to human behavior, particularly through blanket cultural relativism, is dangerous and irresponsible for all concerned.And that is a summary of Marvin Harris book Whether you agree or disagree with Harris stance, you will still find so much fascinating information here which begs for additional reading, I promisepromise you that Side note what s up with the Harrises and their reason and their science and their non religious stances Sam Harris, Marvin Harris It s Harris y Badum chiiii.If you read this entire review, you are a fucking saint and I love you forever, even if you re about to leave a really mean comment Also, sorry


  3. says:

    Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork Why were thousands of witches burned at the stake during late medieval Europe These and other riddles are explored by famous anthropologist Marvin Harris, and his conclusions are simple people act within social and ecological contexts that make their actions meaningful Put another way cultural ideas and practices that seem strange to us may actually be vital and necessary to the people of those cultures.Harris is especially good at explaining how s Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork Why were thousands of witches burned at the stake during late medieval Europe These and other riddles are explored by famous anthropologist Marvin Harris, and his conclusions are simple people act within social and ecological contexts that make their actions meaningful Put another way cultural ideas and practices that seem strange to us may actually be vital and necessary to the people of those cultures.Harris is especially good at explaining how societies create elaborate rituals to avoid harming the natural ecosystems they depend on, which clarifies the Middle Eastern ban on pig products It turns out the chubby animals compete with humans for the same foods Raising them in large numbers would place great strain a land made fragile by thousands of years of deforestation and desertification Better to ban them entirely and not risk further ecological damage.This logic is then extended to elucidate why the institution of warfare probably first arose in areas where it s difficult to feed large numbers of people In Harris words, In most primitive societies, warfare is an effective means of population control because intense, recurring intergroup combat places a premium upon rearing male rather than female infants Since the rate of population growth depends on the number of healthy women, privileging males by making their larger bodies necessary for combat is a way of reducing the pressure to eat the forest Not that male supremacy and violence is the BEST way to reduce population, just that it s one ritual societies have adapted to meet that goal.This discussion of patriarchy leads to an exploration of class The emergence of big men , chiefs, and finally the State is explained as a cascading distortion of the original principles of reciprocity into the rule of redistribution Big men work harder than anyone in their tribe to provide a large feast for their community with the only goal being prestige Chiefs similarly pursue prestige, and plan great feasts to show off their managerial skills, but they themselves harvest little food Finally we end up with state level societies ruled over by hereditary kings who perform no basic industrial or agricultural labor and who keep the most and best of everything for themselves At the root of this construction of inequality is the impetus to make people work harder to create larger surpluses so that greater social rewards can be given out to show off the leader s generosity But only at the State or Imperial level is this hierarchy enforced not by prestige but by force of arms, to stop the poor and working classes from revolting and sharing the fruits of their labor.The most provocative sections of the book deal with revolutionary movements that fought for this liberation, within the context of the religious wars of Biblical Judea and Late Medieval Europe.First, Harris tackles the Messiah complex by showing that Jews around the time of Jesus waged near constant guerrilla warfare against their Roman rulers and oppressors Perhaps half a million people died, in probably hundreds of Jewish uprisings, all led by religious insurgents called Messiahs Whether Jesus was one of these revolutionary warriors is disputed, but Harris argues that the peaceful messiah idea only gained prominence later during Roman backlash, as a way to distinguish between the harmless Christians and the rebellious Jews Later on, when Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, its emphasis shifted onceto be compatible with evangelizing the largest military on Earth as it colonized the Mediterranean and killed insurgents Christianity would come full circle and provide the ideological backing for revolutionary movements against the dominant social order of Europe during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries At the time feudalism was in crisis and huge peasant movements like the Anabaptists, led by messiah like zealots, were gaining large followings against their noble and clergy overlords These Christian messiahs called for breaking up large land estates and providing for the poor masses, suffering from unnecessary poverty and disease The threatened defenders of Church and State needed some kind of distraction to be cooked up to divide the population, while authorizing to executions of revolutionary leaders who were mostly female.Witchcraft fit the bill nicely With the Pope s approval, the accusation, torture, and execution of hundreds of thousands of witches effectively disrupted the enormous peasant movements and brought legitimacy to the forces of law and order Harris explains, The clergy and nobility emerged as the great protectors of mankind against an enemy who was omnipresent but difficult to detect Here at last was a reason to pay tithes and obey the tax collector If this crackdown on an invented evil parallels the spectre of terrorism today and the war on anti American Islamist movements, then perhaps Marvin Harris effort to explain the seemingly insoluble mysteries of distant cultures can also come full circle to help us make sense of our own society If Washington is the new Rome, then who are the new messiahs Or, in a secular sense, who are the people concerned for the poor majority that suffers unnecessarily in our own time


  4. says:

    Marvin Harris intends to apply scientific theory to some of the great cultural riddles of the world Why do Hindus love cows Why do Jews hate pigs Unfortunately, like an evolutionary biologist trying to explain why humans have pinky toes, he comes across as making up just so stories The theories are plausible, but that doesn t make them accurate The truth in a just so story is always in what it tells us about the storyteller In this case, he s a 1970s academic Onething Since I m not Marvin Harris intends to apply scientific theory to some of the great cultural riddles of the world Why do Hindus love cows Why do Jews hate pigs Unfortunately, like an evolutionary biologist trying to explain why humans have pinky toes, he comes across as making up just so stories The theories are plausible, but that doesn t make them accurate The truth in a just so story is always in what it tells us about the storyteller In this case, he s a 1970s academic Onething Since I m not an expert on all matter historical, I usually factcheck history books by spot checking the stuff I do know If Marvin Harris s account of the religious landscape of first century Palestine is any indication, then his historical research was pretty shoddy His proof that Jesus was really a warrior messiah is abysmally threadbare four verses from the Gospels, two of which he apparently doesn t realize are parallel synoptic accounts.I m giving this book three stars because it kept me entertained, and gave some interesting ideas to chew on However, I wouldn t go to it as a foundation for my philosophy or anthropology


  5. says:

    Civilizations, even the most advanced among them, are invariably strewn with mythologies, folklore, and recherche taboo While the contemporary United States would itself provide enough material for a multi volume study of this kind, Marvin Harris focuses mostly on pre scientific and pre literate peoples to answer questions like Why do Hindus not eat cows, while Jews avoid pork instead How do you explain the concept of the Messiah Why was the belief in witches in medieval Europe so prevalent, Civilizations, even the most advanced among them, are invariably strewn with mythologies, folklore, and recherche taboo While the contemporary United States would itself provide enough material for a multi volume study of this kind, Marvin Harris focuses mostly on pre scientific and pre literate peoples to answer questions like Why do Hindus not eat cows, while Jews avoid pork instead How do you explain the concept of the Messiah Why was the belief in witches in medieval Europe so prevalent, and why were people so afraid of them These bald facts have received many anthropological and sociological explanations in the past, including the one that suggests that they are simply irreducible and, therefore, unable to be analyzed But Harris, a Marxist by conviction, necessarily must see a materialistic explanation He looks for answers to these questions in the everyday lives and concerns of the people that entertain these beliefs Because of this, his answers, in most instances, seem to have some bitexplanatory force than those that have preceded him According to Harris, the reason why we see Hindu cow love his words, not mine as odd is because we live in a very fundamentally different position with respect to cows in our day to day postindustrial lives No matter the exigencies or problems in the lives of the market or our family, we can always go to the grocery story and purchase milk, butter, and meat all from a cow However, Hindus and he is mostly talking about Indian Hindus here have acquired the need for an adaptive resilience in its agricultural order that we have long since shed our need for Hundreds of millions of Indian peasants who have only one cow know that animal as the only source of milk to make it through a dry season And if they are lucky enough to make it, it is the only thing that can pull a plow once it is time to plant or harvest crops In short, because of the way their economy is localized around the family unit instead of our food industrial complex, they place a different value on the cow.Another topic Harris considers is the first century Palestinian Judaism with its concomitant messianism The history of this period, mainly through Josephus two reliable books Jewish Antiquities and Bellum Judaicum, informs us that Jesus was not unique in having the mantle of the Messiah Between 40 B C and 73 A D., Harris mentions Athrongaeus, Theudas, an anonymous scoundrel executed by Felix, a Jewish Egyptian false prophet, and Manahem Josephus was so used to this political apocalypticism that there are evenof these figures that he does not even bother to name A long line of Jews fashioned themselves as restorers of the Jewish state and wished to free it from the caprice of Roman satraps, with Jesus and John the Baptist being the two whose names have survived the ravages of history Harris explanation of witchcraft is appealingly commonsensical During the early middle ages, witchcraft was not especially looked highly upon, but was never considered heretical Over time, the Church found that they could use these beliefs to scapegoat hailstorms, outbreaks of disease, crop failure, and other ominous signs, therefore stopping people before they reached the heterodox conclusion that God might be involved in all of these negative circumstances, too Instead of the Catholic Church wishing to root witches out of society, they used the common folkloric beliefs in sorcery to the Church s advantage By co opting sorcery as a heresy, the Church was able to blame the evils of society on itsmarginal, lower members, while at the same time seeming to want to keep both the Church and society pure Two birds with one stone I can certainly appreciate the broad appeal a book like this has for non specialists and non scholars That having been said, if I could change one thing about this book, it would be that Harris had taken a less flippant approach andfully fleshed out his sources, or had a full bibliography Off the cuff expressions like cow love and pig hate really tend to draw away from the authority that Harris has proven through his other work he rightly deserves


  6. says:

    Unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most though provoking and fascinating cultural studies I ve ever read Everyone should have a few horizon wideners on their book list this should be one of them.


  7. says:

    Cows are inefficiently raised and devoured in the United States, while in India, people would rather go hungry than eat cow flesh In the Jewish and Moslem tradition, pigs are unclean and cannot be consumed while in others, gargantuan pig feasts areholy than the Thanksgiving turkey Is this just part of the inexplicable side of human nature, or are there understandable reasons for these cultural curiosities Harris shows that these bizarre displays of cultural variety play an important an Cows are inefficiently raised and devoured in the United States, while in India, people would rather go hungry than eat cow flesh In the Jewish and Moslem tradition, pigs are unclean and cannot be consumed while in others, gargantuan pig feasts areholy than the Thanksgiving turkey Is this just part of the inexplicable side of human nature, or are there understandable reasons for these cultural curiosities Harris shows that these bizarre displays of cultural variety play an important and understandable role in the cultures environments


  8. says:

    One of my favorite quotes regarding culture comes from an ecclesiastical leader named David R Stone He said Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on One of my favorite quotes regarding culture comes from an ecclesiastical leader named David R Stone He said Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on how we approach procreation and moral issues All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is cool I am fascinated by culture, the own I am a part of and the various ones around the world and throughout history Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches by Marvin Harris is a book written just for me All of the books I have read that have dealt with culture in one way or another, whether that be The Hero with a Thousand Faces or People of Paradox A History of Mormon Culture, has had enough interesting things to say that I felt they were worth reading, even if I didn t agree with some portions of them Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches falls in that same category interesting, thoughtful, sometimes right, and sometimes wrong, in my opinion Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches selectively explains, but the author purposefully mentions his intent is not to explain everything, a few cultural attributes that existed in the world at different periods of time and attempts to give a reasonable and rational reason for their being a part of the culture Harris does this with a fine academic mind and from a secular perspective More often than thought, I was able to follow the author s reasoning and understand, at least, the conclusions he came to and how he got there At other times, such as his explanation of the true character and history of Jesus Christ, left me scratching my head I have read the New Testament four times, and I was highly skeptical of some of Harris s interpretations and conjectures There is plenty here to discuss and debate.The book ends with a commentary on the culture of Harris s time, which was several decades ago, that took some of the momentum away from the book since it was so topical for the time it was written but no so much today I enjoyed Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches because it gave me plenty to think about It also proved to me, once again, how much we don t know as opposed to how much we do Culture is deviously complicated, but Marvin Harris s attempt to explain it is interesting enough to be read.http thethousanderclub.blogspot.com


  9. says:

    Today, while lamenting the sidelining of fiction in favor of informational texts to the exclusion of just about anything else in English classes with a friend, I mentioned that no one had ever learned to love to read by reading a textbook However, I had to immediately correct myself by adding except for Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches and


  10. says:

    This book is required reading for my Political Science 101 class, and for once a professor has managed to select an interesting book This is an interesting look at some of the cultural riddles that tend to mystify Westerners like Cow Love in India, Pig Hate in the Middle East, Cargo Cults, etc Harris explains how these seemingly ridiculous to us behaviors are actually perfectly sensible and successful adaption strategies A short and pleasant read, well researched and written I highly rec This book is required reading for my Political Science 101 class, and for once a professor has managed to select an interesting book This is an interesting look at some of the cultural riddles that tend to mystify Westerners like Cow Love in India, Pig Hate in the Middle East, Cargo Cults, etc Harris explains how these seemingly ridiculous to us behaviors are actually perfectly sensible and successful adaption strategies A short and pleasant read, well researched and written I highly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in cultural adaptation strategies or just cultures in general


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