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Marshall Sahlins
Born December 27, 1932(1932-12-27)
Chicago, Illinois, United States

Marshall Sahlins is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Chicago. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954 where his main intellectual influences included Karl Polanyi and Julian Steward. He returned to teach at the University of Michigan and in the 1960s became politically active, protesting against the Vietnam War. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

Quotes-66.gif The world’s most ‘primitive’ people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilisation. It has grown with civilisation, at once as an invidious distinction between classes and more importantly as a tributary relation.Quotes-99.gif

— Marshal Sahlins, 1972

He has been particularly concerned to demonstrate that culture has a unique power to motivate people that is not derived from biology. His early work focused on criticising the idea of 'economically rational man' and to demonstrate that economic systems adapted to particular circumstances in culturally specific ways. After the publication of Culture and Practical Reason in 1976 his focus shifted to the relationship between history and anthropology, and the way different cultures understand and make history.

See Also