COWS, PIGS, WAR AND WITCHES: The Riddles of Cultures [Marvin Harris] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches has ratings and reviews. Paquita Maria said: There are several reasons why I wasn’t going to review this book. On. Pig farming was a threat to the integrity of the basic cultural and natural But cows, pigs, wars, or witches, the answers to our riddles do not lie.

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This book challenges those who argue that we can change the world by changing the way people think. The author shows that no matter how bizarre a people’s behavior may seem, it always stems from concrete social and economic conditions.

It is by isolating and identifying these conditions that we will be able to understand and cope with some of our own apparently senseless l. It is by isolating and identifying these conditions that we will be able to understand and cope with some of our own piga senseless life styles.

In a witche attack on the shamans of the counterculture, the author states the case for a return to objective consciousness and a rational set of political commitments.

Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture by Marvin Harris. It is by isolating and identifying these conditions that we will be able to understand and cope with some of our own apparently senseless l This book challenges those who argue that we can change the world by changing the way people think.

Paperbackpages. Published December 17th by Vintage first published December 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witchesplease sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches. Lists with This Book. Dec 28, Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it Shelves: There are several reasons why I wasn’t going to review this book. One, I am not an Anthropologist.

I took some anthropology courses in college, but contrary to the opinions of some of the undeservedly arrogant, Newsies-hatted forever-virgin dudes in my Philosophy I course, that doesn’t make me an expert or automatically mean anyone cares what I have to say loudly, and with so much “ergo”, so much “thusly” on the subject.

Two, despite the fact that this book is slim, it is pretty much huge-mong There are several reasons why I wasn’t going to review this book. Two, despite the fact that this book is slim, it is pretty much huge-mongous-full as far as content is concerned, enough so that covering it all would require a much longer review than I assume pretty much anyone is willing to read. Two leads into three, the fact that leaving something out or inevitably explaining something insufficiently is basically like setting out a saucer of milk for the trolls.

Given the argumentative stance of the author, and the fact that things like socioeconomics, cultural materialism, counter-culture v. And masochistic I am not. Then I thought “Hey, this is my little corner of the internet. I don’t have to be an expert on the Yanomamo to publicly conclude that their culture is cowx misogynistic and backwards any more iwtches I have to witces a published author before I can write a book review on goodreads. Tracing spiritual beliefs and practices back to rational, pressing earthly concerns like food, land, and the perpetuation of the species does not make you the Antichrist.

Non-believers like Marvin Harris and the differently-believing-from-you culturee every bit as much right as believers of various faiths do to study and discuss with authority any and all religious riddless.

Just ask Reza Aslan. I am going to attempt to outline some highlights of this book. Said outline will not encompass the entirety of the arguments pugs forth in pis book, because this review is not the book, and I am not Marvin Harris. I’ve made it moderately oc where I stand in relation to Harris’ views, and so will henceforth attempt to just be surgical, though opinions will most likely slip in to my summary because that’s what they do.

Please don’t hit me. What I mean by a banal or vulgar solution is that it rests on the ground and that it is built up out of guts, sex, energy, wind, rain, and other palpable and ordinary phenomena. With that, Harris goes on to explore and link, amongst others, the following “riddles” of various cultural and spiritual practices around the world. Why do Hindus have a spiritual ban on the consumption of cattle meat?


India coes a family-farm based economic system with too high a population and too small an industrial infrastructure to piigs a meat-packing industry like we see in America. If one were to go through India and swoop up all the “useless” cows in order to grind ’em up for food, a massive influx of farmers and their families would be forced into the already overburdened cities looking for work which simply does not exist at sufficient levels.

The long-term result would be greater poverty and class division. A coww ban on cow consumption is basically an insurance policy that the lower-classes won’t make the short-sighted decision to take their shit to the pawn shop.

Pig Lovers and Pig Haters: Jews, Muslims, and early Christians adapted the view that swine is filthy and inconsumable due to pigs’ similar, competing nutritional needs to humans. Given the arid terrain and constant movements inherent to the war-torn history of monotheism in the biblical Holy Lands, pig farming was impractical bordering on dangerous.

On the opposite end of things, the Maring of Papua New Guinea have the appropriate climate for pig farming, and will breed them to excess for about a decade at a time, up to a point where they risk losing too much forest, at which time they will witcnes almost every single one in order to conduct a giant feast in search of tribal allies.

Wars will be fought and lands will be conquered, leaving the tribes with new patches of forest for slash-and-burn farming.

Review of “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture” | The End of Capitalism

During the time that new farms are being set up and preparations made for the next great feast, the old farms will be granted a sufficient resting period so that they may be re-conquered and reused decades later.

A religion-based truce is established during this time, guaranteeing that the cycle is allowed to continue unabated, to the benefit of all. Culturs Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island were known to conduct a sort of ceremony referred to as “potlatch”, in which tribal elders competed with one another to show off their wealth and greatness by giving it away to the competition.

Coming from different pockets of land with varying animal life and naturally limited huntable populations, this constant back and forth chest-puffing pretty much guaranteed not only that resources would not be drained from certain areas, but also that a trade system would be established creating a healthier and more versatile diet, as one elder may show his wealth in animal furs and meats, while the other may use foraged fruits, vegetables, and dried fish.

A natural cycle coinciding with the seasons is additionally created, ensuring consumables year-round. Probably the most controversial sections of the book culhure themselves with the roots of military-messianic beliefs and the eventual adoption of a non-violent spiritual figurehead, i. Harris argues that constant warfare between pockets of ostracized Jewish people and the all-powerful Romans led to the embracing of multiple warlord Messiahs who manifested themselves as means to rally soldiers to fight for land and goods being taxed from under them by their pagan oppressors.

Harris believes that the non-violent Christ fhe later embraced by Christianity was actually just such a militaristic messiah, and that his modified image was an attempt on the part of some Jewish peoples to separate themselves from the violent rebels in order to avoid direct conflict with the Romans. I could go on and on about these thought-provoking sections, but damn this review is already sooo long, and these chapters are definitely the meatiest of the bunch.

Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Cows, pigs, wars & witches : the riddles

If nothing else, I recommend at least checking out this chunk of the book. The Church created an Evil Force which only it could conquer, thus terrorizing the impoverished masses into distraction from the real source of their various sufferings: That doesn’t sound familiar at all, right?

You absolutely could not look back on history with this framework and replace the word “Witch” with: Smokescreens by resourceful magicians. Add to that confessions elicited through torture, and you have yourself quite the patsy.

Harris explains why this belief may have existed, and where the broomstick thing came from: Basically, a psychedelic herbal concoction similar to the one used by Carlos Castaneda was applied to a stick and vaginally inserted for maximum and more immediate effects. Yes, some of these ladies “traveled to Sabbats” much like so many of the more experimental people I’ve known have had stimulating English language conversations with their pets. The final bits of the book deal with counter-culture’s embrace of pseudo-science and Eastern spirituality, of defiance of the scientific method in favor of internal transcendentalism.


Given that Harris wrote this book inhe does come off a bit “damned hippies” bitter, though his point still holds water.

To say that political and social responsibilities are transient, superfluous earthly matters, and that changing the way you thiiiink maaaaan insiiide yourself about yourseeeelf maaan is all it takes to exist in the world in a meaningful way, is beyond just missing the point. To him, the counter-culture movement is and was just another manifestation of spirituality ruling out in favor of rationality, and that the rejection of science when it comes to human behavior, particularly through blanket cultural relativism, is dangerous and irresponsible for all concerned.

And that is a “summary” of Marvin Harris’ book. Whether you agree or disagree with Harris’ stance, you will still find so much fascinating information here which begs for additional reading, I promisepromise you that.

Review of “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture”

Sam Harris, Marvin Harris. If you read this entire review, you are a fucking saint and I love you forever, even if you’re about to leave a really mean comment. View all 55 comments. Jun 10, Alex rated it it was amazing Shelves: Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork? Why ridles thousands of witches burned at the stake during late medieval Europe?

These and other riddles are explored by famous anthropologist Marvin Harris, and his conclusions are simple: Harris is especially good at explaining how s Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork? Harris is especially good at explaining how societies create elaborate rituals to avoid harming the natural ecosystems they depend on, which clarifies the Middle Wotches ban on pig products. It turns out the chubby animals compete with humans for the same foods.

Raising witcyes in large numbers would place great strain a land made fragile by thousands of years of deforestation and desertification. Better to ban them entirely and not risk further ecological damage. This logic is then extended to elucidate why the institution of warfare probably first arose in areas where it’s difficult to feed large numbers of people.

In Harris’ words, “In most primitive societies, warfare is an effective means of population control because intense, recurring intergroup combat ridd,es a premium upon rearing male rather than female annd. This discussion of patriarchy leads to an exploration of class. The emergence of “big men”, chiefs, anc finally the State is explained as a cascading distortion of the original principles of reciprocity into the rule of redistribution. Chiefs similarly pursue prestige, and plan great feasts to show off their managerial skills, but they ridddles harvest little food.

Finally “we end up with state-level societies ruled over by hereditary kings who perform no basic industrial or agricultural labor and who keep the most and best of everything for themselves. But only at the State or Imperial level is this hierarchy enforced not by prestige but by force anv arms, to stop the poor and working classes from revolting and sharing the fruits of their labor.

The most provocative sections of the book deal with revolutionary movements that fought for this ware, within the context of the religious wars of Biblical Judea and Late Medieval Europe. First, Harris tackles the Messiah complex by showing that Jews around the time of Jesus waged near-constant guerrilla warfare against their Roman rulers and oppressors.

Perhaps half a million people died, in probably hundreds of Jewish uprisings, all led by religious insurgents called Messiahs. Whether Jesus was one of these revolutionary warriors is disputed, but Harris argues that the “peaceful messiah” idea only gained prominence cowss during Roman backlash, as a way to distinguish between the “harmless” Christians and the rebellious Jews.

Later on, when Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, its emphasis shifted once more to be compatible with evangelizing the largest military on Earth as it colonized the Mediterranean and killed insurgents.