Title: Crime and Custom in Savage Society.
Author: Bronislaw Malinowski.
Genre: Non-fiction, anthropology, sociology, crime, law, religion, suicide, occult, shamanism.
Publication Date: 1926.
Summary: A study of crime and customs and primitive law and restoration of Order of the rapidly vanishing savage races. Contents include primitive law and order, rules of law in religious acts, law of marriage rules of custom, defined Melanesian economics, primitive crime and its punishment, sorcery, and suicide factors of social cohesion.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ It lies in the nature of scientific interest, which is but refined curiosity, that it turns more readily to the extraordinary and sensational than to the normal and matter-of-course. At first, in a new line of research or in a young branch of study, it is the exception, the apparent breach of the natural law, which attracts attention and gradually leads to the discovery of new universal regularities. For - and here lies the paradox of scientific passion - systematic study takes up the miraculous only to transform it into the natural. Science in the long run builds up a Universe well-regulated, founded on generally valid laws, driven by definite all-pervading forces, ordered according to a few fundamental principles.
Not that wonder, the romance of the marvellous and mysterious, should be banished by science from reality. The philosophic mind is ever kept on its course by the desire for new worlds and new experiences, and metaphysics lures us on by the promise of a vision beyond the rim of the furthest horizon. But the character of curiosity, the appreciation of what really is marvellous has been changed in the meantime by the discipline of science. The contemplation of the great lines of the world, the mystery of immediate data and ultimate ends, the meaningless impetus of ‘creative evolution’ make reality sufficiently tragic, mysterious, and questionable to the naturalist or student of culture, if he chooses to reflect upon the sum total of his knowledge and contemplate its limits. But to the mature scientific mind there can be no more thrills from the unexpected accident, no isolated sensation of a new, unrelated landscape in the exploration of reality. Every new discovery is but a step further on the same road, every new principle merely extends or shifts our old horizon.
♥ It is easy, however, to poke fun at the litany-method, but it is the field-worker who is really responsible. There is hardly any record in which the majority of statements are given as they occur in actuality and not as they should occur or are said to occur. Many of the earlier accounts were written to startle, to amuse, to be facetious at the expense of the savage, till the tables were turned and it is more easy now to be facetious at the anthropologist’s expense. To the old recorders what mattered really was the queerness of the custom, not its reality. The modern anthropologist, working through an interpreter by the question and answer method can again collect only opinions, generalizations, and bald statements. He gives us no reality, for he has never seen it. The touch of ridicule which hangs about most writings of anthropology is due to the artificial flavour of a statement torn out of its life-context. The true problem is not to study how human life submits to rules - it simply does not; the real problem is how the rules become adapted to life.