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Bateson, Gregory (1904–1980)

William K. Rawlins

Subject Anthropology, Psychology
Social Psychology » Interactional Sociology, Socialization

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics identity, psychoanalysis

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Gregory Bateson was a Cambridge-educated anthropologist whose life's work spanned and influenced many academic fields, including anthropology, communication, education, psychotherapy, and sociology. Using cybernetic concepts to theorize human–environmental interaction in holistic and recursive ways, Bateson developed sophisticated and continually evolving accounts of reflexive relationships among culture, consciousness, communication, levels of messages, social and biological contexts, epistemology, and learning. Bateson's early fieldwork with the Iatmul in New Guinea resulted in Naven (1936), a book that presaged three enduring concerns of his scholarship. First, he endeavored to describe and analyze the culture holistically, involving inextricable interconnections among all aspects of their life (e.g. food production and consumption, emotional expression, cosmology and religious beliefs, performances of gender, social organization, etc.). Second, he introduced the concept schismogenesis, which formulated cultural activities as dynamic patterns of interaction occurring across time. Two such patterns of progressive differentiation were termed symmetrical – the exchange of similar behaviors, like boasting, commercial rivalry, threats, or warlike posturing and arms development, which can escalate until the interacting system breaks down; and complementary – the exchange of different ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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