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Tom E. Fricke photo

Culture and Causality: An Anthropological Comment

Publication Abstract

Fricke, Tom E. 2003. "Culture and Causality: An Anthropological Comment." Population and Development Review, 29(3): 470-479.

Anthropology's unique contribution to a discussion of causality is rooted in its specialization in culture rather than in methodological protocols for bolstering our confidence in correlations. This is so because causal arguments are inherently interpretive and, moreover, because human actors themselves operate in terms of meaning. The best interpretive models direct analytic attention to contexts of meaning and motivation. Because these meanings lie inside of people's heads, the interpretation of causality in these terms demands that the validity of analyses be argued for in terms of logical coherence based on highly localized criteria. As with all explanations of human behavior, demographic explanations are as a consequence open to constant reformulation based on new information and the never-ending search for coherence.

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