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I.6.(b) Historicism

Historicism is an approach to the study of anthropology and culture. It encompasses two distinct forms of historicism: diffusionism and historical particularism.

It is developed by diffusionists to offer alternative explanations for culture change as put forth by classical evolutionists.

Historicism placed great importance on cautious and contextualized interpretation of data, as well as a relativistic point of view, and rejected the universalistic, hierarchical and over-generalized interpretations of the classical evolutionists.

The focus in the historicist perspective was on tracing the historical development of specific cultures rather than on the construction of a grand evolutionary account of the progress march of Culture.

Points of Reaction

Historicism rose out of dissatisfaction with the problems of the evolutionist school.

Historicism developed out of dissatisfaction with the theories of unilineal socio-cultural evolution with inherent assumption that Western European society was the end product of evolution and its highest attainable level of development.

An historical approach was needed for the study of culture change and development to explain not only what happened and where but also why and how as classical evolutionist failed to solve this. Diffusionism and historical particularism approach devised to accomplish historical approach to cultural investigation.

I. historical particularism- Franz Boas

II. diffusionism- represented by three distinct schools of thought: the German school, the British school and the American school.

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