By Claude Levi-Strauss

First released in 1987. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.

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Human social arrangements, taken as givens, can be seen to affect breeding habits and consequently the frequency of certain genes in the population; the spread of disease through a human population can be found to obey rules found for nonhuman species. Man can be viewed as one organism among many with regard to a particular food chain or competition for resources in a particular locale. In these cases it is quite possible to see man as another natural species functioning within the general milieu, and there is no reason to cease such inquiries.

However, these limitations do not come from an abstraction, "culture," but from concrete institutions, and of course from human behavior itself; and this same behavior provides the means to modify the outcomes. The basic question is to what extent the outcomes can be controlled and the society still retain a degree of political liberty. 9 The case for traditional subsistence systems as superior modes of adaptation to (particularly) specialized environments has been set forth repeatedly by anthropologists, but without the forcefulness the issue deserves, considering its significance for the uncritical worship of "development" among the Western nations and the new "emerging countries" alike.

Are the increasing pressures on the environment traceable to the need to support a growing population at higher levels of living? Surely population pressure is not the only cause of environmental deterioration, since both increasing wants and technological innovation for its own sake play a large role in the process. But the Malthusian argument is not one that the anthropologist can dismiss, with his lengthy time perspective, because even its critics recognize that population cannot increase indefinitely.

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