22 Facts About Leslie White


Leslie Alvin White was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of the theories on cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.


Leslie White volunteered to fight in World War I, serving in the US Navy before enrolling at Louisiana State University in 1919.


Leslie White's interests were diverse, and he took classes in several other disciplines, including philosophy at UCLA, and clinical psychiatry, before discovering anthropology via Alexander Goldenweiser courses at the New School for Social Research.


Leslie White spent a few weeks with the Menominee and Winnebago in Wisconsin during his Ph.


Leslie White's thesis proposal was a library thesis, which foreshadowed his later theoretical work.


In 1927 Leslie White began teaching at the University at Buffalo.


Leslie White developed an interest in Marxism In 1929, he visited the Soviet Union and on his return joined the Socialist Labor Party, writing articles under the pseudonym "John Steel" for their newspaper.


Leslie White went to Michigan when he was hired to replace Julian Steward, who departed Ann Arbor in 1930.


Leslie White remained here for the rest of his active career.


Leslie White brought Titiev, his student and a Russian immigrant, to Michigan as a second professor in 1936.


Over time, Leslie White's views became framed in opposition to that of Boasians, with whom he was institutionally at odds.


One of Leslie White's strongest deviations from Boas's philosophy was a view of the nature of anthropology and its relation to other sciences.


Leslie White understood the world to be divided into cultural, biological, and physical levels of phenomena.


Leslie White believed that phenomena could be explored from three different points of view: the historical, the formal-functional, and the evolutionist.


Boas claimed his science promised complex and interdependent visions of culture, but Leslie White thought that it would delegitimize anthropology if it became the dominant position, removing it from broader discourses on science.


Leslie White viewed his own approach as a synthesis of historical and functional approach because it combined the diachronic scope of one with the generalizing eye for formal interrelations provided by the other.


For Leslie White, culture was a superorganic entity that was sui generis and could be explained only in terms of itself.


Each level rested on the previous one, and although they all interacted, ultimately the technological level was the determining one, what Leslie White calls "The hero of our piece" and "the leading character of our play".


Leslie White spoke of culture as a general human phenomenon, and claimed not to speak of 'cultures' in the plural.


Leslie White's theory, published in 1959 in The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome, rekindled the interest in social evolutionism and is counted prominently among the neoevolutionists.


Leslie White differentiated three components of culture: technological, sociological, and ideological.


Leslie White argued that it was the technological component which plays a primary role or is the primary determining factor responsible for the cultural evolution.