Anthropologist Franz Boas was a stalwart fighter for human rights and against racism. He was passionately concerned about individual liberty, freedom of inquiry and speech, equality of opportunity, and the defeat of prejudice and chauvinism. His Anthropology and Modern Life shows how Boas uses science in the service of humanity, hoping to break down racial and cultural barriers.
From the book's very opening, Boas shatters the myth that anthropology is simply a collection of curious facts about exotic peoples and their customs and belief systems. He asserts that a clear understanding of the principles of anthropology illuminates the social processes of our own times and may show us the book's what to do and what to avoid. Boas proceeds to discuss issues that have had resounding significance in our own time: the problem of defining race; the subjective view of racial types; heredity versus environment; alleged physiological and mental differences between races; the significance of intelligence tests; the importance of one's cultural experience; open versus closed societies; nationality and nationalism; the mixed descent of European nations; eugenics; social conditions versus heredity in the committing of crimes; intolerance; and the influence of race and sex on a successful education. While he outwardly acknowledges that his book runs contrary to popular prejudices, Boas was an optimist, and hoped that dissenters, in reading Anthropology and Modern Life, would come to reexamine their own viewpoints dispassionately and critically.
This new edition of Anthropology and Modern Life is enhanced by an extended introduction by Herbert S. Lewis, who details Franz Boas' life, influence, and ideals. This volume will be a welcome contribution to the libraries of anthropologists, sociologists, and those concerned with human rights.