Over on Savage Minds, Kerim Friedman asks if it would make sense for anthropologists to try to formulate a list of fundamental unsolved problems, analogous to the 23 problems proposed by mathematician David Hilbert in 1890. In response, I have written
Question No. 1: Is culture enough? Especially if analyzing culture is defined as attempting to answer the question,
“What are the cultural logics that make X actions thinkable, practicable, and desirable?”
Am currently reading Mike Davis (1999) Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, which is, among other things, a compelling demonstration of what can happen when cultural logics run up against material conditions in a space where sudden, wide fluctuations in those conditions are the local norm.
No question about it that the interpretive anthropological critique of simplistic x therefore y models of material, social or economic explanation were important and have lead to richer understanding of many cultural phenomena. One wonders, however, if even our thickest descriptions aren’t too thin without close attention to more than the cultural logics of thoughts, practices and desires.