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A Theory of Culture for Demography

E. A. Hammel
Population and Development Review
Vol. 16, No. 3 (Sep., 1990), pp. 455-485
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1972832
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972832
Page Count: 31
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A Theory of Culture for Demography
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Abstract

The concept of culture has increasingly been called into play to account for the failures of purely economic explanations of demographic behavior, especially fertility. Cultural explanations generally take the form of ethnic identifications of little explanatory value, or they focus on general, overarching institutional structures or value systems. The concept of culture has in fact a very complicated history in the discipline of its origin. This article reviews the history of the concept in anthropology, concentrating on culture as a set of symbolic understandings created between social actors who strive to maximize the net social morality of their behaviorial position, within networks that are heterogeneous in their evaluations of behavior. Operationally, the virtue of ethnographic approaches for the demographic enterprise is that the actors, who know the ground, are permitted to lead the way.

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