Sociology and Anthropology Monday: Lawrence Krader

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Sociology and Anthropology Monday
April 21, 2014
Lawrence Krader (1919-1998)

Lawrence Krader was born in New York City and died in Berlin, Germany. He was known in Anthropology as one of the world’s leading experts on the peoples of Soviet Central Asia, having both written a leading textbook on the subject and leading many expeditions to that part of the world. He was the first Western anthropologist after World War II allowed into Central Asia. He was also known for his edition and transcription of the Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx – a collection of Marx’s unpublished notebooks on the writings of Lewis Henry Morgan, John Budd Phear, Henry Sumner Maine and John Lubbock.

Krader was part of a politically activist group of students at CCNY in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s who occupied Alcove 2 in the cafeteria of the City College. What linked them was their commitment to some form of socialism/anarchism and their fierce opposition to Stalinism (the pro-Stalinist students met in Alcove 1). Although small in number, these students went on to influence the directions in American social science and the humanities. Their number included, along with Krader: Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Seymour Lipset, Seymour Melman, and Philip Selznick, among others.

Krader studied philosophy with Morris R. Cohen, Abe Edel, and Phil Wiener at City and then spent a year (1939) as a student of Rudolf Carnap at the University of Chicago before returning to graduate from City, serving as a research assistant to the logician, Alfred Tarski.  Meetings with Franz Boas and his students at Columbia University helped turn his interest to linguistics and anthropology, which he studied after his release from the US Merchant Marine at the end of WWII. He studied linguistics with André Martinet and later with Roman Jakobson and taught linguistics while a doctoral candidate at Harvard in the early 1950s.  Krader worked with Karl A. Wittfogel at the Far Eastern Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle and then completed a PhD at Harvard University on the Altaic speaking peoples of the Asian Steppes. His path to field work in that area was eased by his having received a medal from the Soviet government for his participation as a member of the US Merchant Marine in the perilous Murmansk run to supply the Russians who were besieged in Stalingrad.

Krader taught at several American universities, including Ohio, Syracuse, CUNY and served as chair of the joint sociology-anthropology department at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. From 1972 until his retirement as emeritus professor he was the director of the InstitutfürEthnologie at the FreieUniversität Berlin. Both an expert on and a critic of Marx he published works related to Marx’s anthropology, and classical and contemporary economics. His posthumously published magnum opus, Noetics, (published in 2010) which he began writing as a student in philosophy in 1937, is a work which encompasses many fields including: aesthetics, epistemology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, the history of mathematics and mathematical logic, the history of philosophy, logic,  philosophical and empirical anthropology, and the philosophy of science, among others.

In 1998 the Lawrence Krader Research Project was established at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to publish some of his many unpublished manuscripts in conjunction with contemporary scholarship in aesthetics, anthropology, history, linguistics, mathematical logic, philosophy, sociology and related disciplines.  Fluent in all the major European languages as well as in classical Greek and Latin, he lectured widely across Europe.

References:

The Lawrence Krader Research Project (lawrencekrader.com)
http://www.germananthropology.com/short-portrait/lawrence-krader

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