There have been thinkers and evolutionists that have walked this great planet for years and each and every one of them have been able to give their own perspective of how life is and where life is headed. One of the newer trains of thoughts is that associated with historical particularism. All groups have their own intended path and historical particularism totally went against the grain in anthropology up until the point that it was introduced.
Historical particularism was actually founded by Franz Boas but was not given an actual name until the late 1960′s when the term historical particularism was coined by Marvin Harris. Parallel evolutionism was the theory stressed in anthropology up until Boas’s time. Parallel evolutionism argued that all societies are on the same path and they evolve the same way. Historical particularism says that each society has their own unique past and they are a representation of that past and that past dictates where that society is headed regardless of their similarity to other cultures and societies.
The question of where societies come from and where they are headed is an argument that has been around for a very long time. Cultural customs are certainly a main factor that help societies thrive and history is the main ingredient of historical particularism. The environment and psychological factors certainly influence a society but its history is one that shows the past or historical evolution of that society and like the old adage says what comes around, goes around. Certainly there are things that try and stop that circle but historical particularism shows that the past will always play a role in what happens in the future regardless.
The critics of historical particularism believe that it is biased against the factors that could impede the future because it is simply impossible to tell what could happen. Franz Boas put it simply that cultures have similar traits for various reasons, independent of any universal evolutionary process. These traits cannot be used for universal stages of cultural evolution. Simply put, Boas says that cultures and societies evolve in their own unique ways and have unique destinations of their own even though cultures may be alike in some fashion.
Social evolution is the key behind historical particularism. Boas said that cultures do not present itself naturally but dwell on what its past was and what happened in its past. He was always for cultural equality and that they certainly should be on the same page at some level but their destinations have been decided by what happened in their pasts. Some cultures and societies have been known to get along for centuries and according to historical particularism, that history will play a factor in those cultures getting along in the future.
A.L. Kroeber was another anthropologist and student of Boas that carried the historical particularism torch. Kroeber believed that history is what brings cultures together and that civilization is something that is far different than mankind. Kroeber looked for what the causes were for what made history what it was and if those causes have any effect on what happens in the future and today.
In the end, historical particularism stresses that it is history that makes cultures what they are. While all cultures are on the same level at same stage, their outcomes and destinations are different and history is what sets the stage for those predestinations and outcome.
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