HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article on Scottish anthropologist Adam Ferguson, by Robert Launay.
Launay, Robert, 2021. “Savagery in 18th-Century Scotland: An Intellectual Portrait of Adam Ferguson,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
An eminent representative of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Ferguson (1723-1816) was one of the most important theoreticians of progress of the era and author of the famous Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767). He was one of the very first thinkers to propose a theory of the origins of civilization in four stages (hunting, pastoralism, agriculture, trade). In his Essay, he defined “savagery” as not a state but a stage. Just as much as so-called “civilized” people, savages were portrayed by Ferguson as fully social beings. He insisted on the importance of the economy in characterizing social organization – private property, social inequalities and division of labor being decisive criteria in defining a society. In this challenging article, Robert Launay rediscovers Ferguson’s work, which was admired in the twentieth century by E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Ernest Gellner.