In short, its publication created a minor scandal and helped precipitate the crisis of anthropological conscience that anticipated the postmodern turn in the discipline.The damage to Malinowski’s reputation was only fully restored after the passing of his pupils’ generation with a dawning realization that the was an iconic text that pointed the way towards a more self-aware and reflexive anthropology.Although Freudians did not take kindly to this interpretation, Malinowski triggered a debate which continues to this day.
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His insights into the working of ‘the principle of reciprocity’ in everyday exchanges and his pioneering use of the case method laid the foundations of legal anthropology.
As an Enlightenment project, the Science of Man must lead to ‘tolerance and generosity, based on the understanding of other men’s point of view’.
And Malinowski famously defined the ‘final goal’ of the Ethnographer: ‘to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world’.
The ultimate aim of social or cultural anthropology is to convert knowledge of other modes of life into wisdom: Though it may be given to us for a moment to enter into the soul of a savage and through his eyes look at the outer world and feel ourselves what it must feel to him to be himself – yet our final goal is to enrich and deepen our own world’s vision, to understand our own nature and to make it finer, intellectually and artistically.
In grasping the essential outlook of others, with the reverence and real understanding, due even to savages, we cannot but help widening our own.