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The Sacred Cow and the...
Marvin Harris
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The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig: Riddles of Food and Culture

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,807 ratings  ·  211 reviews
El propósito de esta original y sorprendente obra de Marvin Harris es dar respuesta a una serie de curiosos enigmas. ¿Por qué un tabú religioso prohibe a judios y musulmanes comer carne de cerdo? ¿Cuál es el motivo de que los hindúes adoren a las vacas? ¿ Por qué surgen los movimientos mesiánicos? ¿Cómo interpretar el machismo o la belicosidad de ciertas culturas? La estra ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published January 1st 1987 by Simon & Schuster (first published December 1st 1974)
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,807 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: truthiness
There are several reasons why I wasn't going to review this book. One, I am not an Anthropologist. I took some anthropology courses in college, but contrary to the opinions of some of the undeservedly arrogant, Newsies-hatted forever-virgin dudes in my Philosophy I course, that doesn't make me an expert or automatically mean anyone cares what I have to say (loudly, and with so much "ergo", so much "thusly") on the subject. Two, despite the fact that this book is slim, it is pretty much huge-mong ...more
Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork? Why were thousands of witches burned at the stake during late medieval Europe? These and other riddles are explored by famous anthropologist Marvin Harris, and his conclusions are simple: people act within social and ecological contexts that make their actions meaningful. Put another way: cultural ideas and practices that seem strange to us may actually be vital and necessary to the people of those cultures.

Harris is especially good at explaining how s
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الكتاب بشكل ما يوضح فكرة أننا نجهل أمورا كثيرة وأن تلك الأمور قد ترتبط بشبكة من الأسباب والنتائج بعيدة تماما عن تلك التي نتخيلها..الكتاب يقدم وجهة نظر قد تقنعنا أحيانا وقد لا تفعل ليكبر السؤال أكثر وربما هنا تحديدا تكمن أهمية الكتاب أن نطرح الأسئلة.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Daha iyi bir tercümeyi hak eden bir kitap.
Hameed Younis
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, history
....هذا الكتاب تحفة، بدون مبالغة
أن تقرأ عن ثقافات غريبة، لماذا يقدس البعض الخنازير ويمقتها البعض الآخر؟ ولماذا تفتعل الحروب البدائية؟ وما بالك في تفسيرات جديدة لا تستند على تفسيرات فرويد التقليدية. ماذا عن شعوب اليانومامو غريبي الأطوار؟ ما تفسير ثقافة المنقذ المخلص في كلّ الثقافات؟ وما الحاجة لها؟ ما السحر؟ القديم منه والحديث؟
وما رأيك أن تجد جميع هذه الأجوبة بأسلوب يجمع بين الانثروبولوجيا وعلم النفس والاجتماع والتاريخ؟ بعد أن قرأت هذا الكتاب زاد إيماني بفكرة أن الوعي العميق في ثقافات المجتمعات.
Nov 08, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, nonfiction
Marvin Harris intends to apply scientific theory to some of the great cultural riddles of the world. Why do Hindus love cows? Why do Jews hate pigs? Unfortunately, like an evolutionary biologist trying to explain why humans have pinky toes, he comes across as making up just-so stories. The theories are plausible, but that doesn't make them accurate. The truth in a just-so story is always in what it tells us about the storyteller. In this case, he's a 1970s academic.

One more thing: Since I'm not
Sarah ~
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
مقدسات ومحرمات وحروب: ألغاز الثقافة

Jesus (Ego)
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Es sorprendente este libro. Marvin Harris enlaza muy bien temas que a priori no tienen mucho que ver pero con hilo conductor que se va entendiendo conforme avanzas. Aborda algunas costumbres, mitos y movimientos de diferentes culturas y grupos sociales a lo largo de la historia y los analiza en su sentido práctico, característica del materialismo cultural en el que suele enmarcarse el autor. Llamativas tradiciones y ritos sobre la alimentación y la guerra en diferentes grupos, Jesucristo y los m ...more
David Gross
Jun 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cows are inefficiently raised and devoured in the United States, while in India, people would rather go hungry than eat cow flesh. In the Jewish and Moslem tradition, pigs are unclean and cannot be consumed; while in others, gargantuan pig feasts are more holy than the Thanksgiving turkey. Is this just part of the inexplicable side of human nature, or are there understandable reasons for these cultural curiosities? Harris shows that these bizarre displays of cultural variety play an important an ...more
Dec 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone as fascinated with human behavior as I am
Unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most though-provoking and fascinating cultural studies I've ever read. Everyone should have a few horizon-wideners on their book list -- this should be one of them.
John David
Civilizations, even the most advanced among them, are invariably strewn with mythologies, folklore, and recherche taboo. While the contemporary United States would itself provide enough material for a multi-volume study of this kind, Marvin Harris focuses mostly on pre-scientific and pre-literate peoples to answer questions like: Why do Hindus not eat cows, while Jews avoid pork instead? How do you explain the concept of the Messiah? Why was the belief in witches in medieval Europe so prevalent, ...more
One of my favorite quotes regarding culture comes from an ecclesiastical leader named David R. Stone. He said:

"Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty. It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on
Ivonne Rovira
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Today, while lamenting the sidelining of fiction in favor of informational texts to the exclusion of just about anything else in English classes with a friend, I mentioned that no one had ever learned to love to read by reading a textbook. However, I had to immediately correct myself by adding "except for Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches and The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed the Truth."

I read Marvin Harris' scintillating book in 1978. Although an accessible paperback desi
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book is required reading for my Political Science 101 class, and for once a professor has managed to select an interesting book.
This is an interesting look at some of the cultural riddles that tend to mystify Westerners - like Cow Love in India, Pig Hate in the Middle East, Cargo Cults, etc. Harris explains how these seemingly ridiculous (to us) behaviors are actually perfectly sensible and successful adaption strategies. A short and pleasant read, well researched and written. I highly rec
Federico Sosa Machó
Otro interesantísimo texto de Marvin Harris, con puntos particularmente altos en lo referente a la guerra (y la violencia asociada a los varones) y las brujas. La perspectiva antropológica es el materialismo cultural, y los esfuerzos se encaminan a mostrar cómo costumbres o prácticas aparentemente incomprensibles o caprichosas responden en realidad a causas que tienen que ver con los sistemas de producción, variables económicas o intereses políticos. Como en otras de sus obras, Harris es ameno, ...more
Marcos Ibáñez Gordillo
Lectura obligada, a mi entender. Un estudio antropológico de actualidad en muchos puntos a pesar de remontarse a 1974. Se aprende una barbaridad.
Aparte, hace literalmente siglos que no leía nada desde una perspectiva de positivismo y objetividad que se mantiene al servicio de la humanidad eminentemente subjetiva como es, muy a lo siglo XVIII.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book very much because it is written really well and it explains some very strange concepts,,, i learned many bizarre facts from it that i can mansplain to other people now which is very exciting.
Un libro ameno, a ratos muy interesante (para mi sobre todo en los primeros capítulos) en su propósito de divulgación antropológica. De ellos se desprende que peculiaridades culturales de distintos grupos humanos que a nuestros ojos 'occidentales' les pueden resultar chocantes provienen de adaptaciones razonables al entorno y no a una arbitrariedad inescrutable.
Lo que no me queda claro es si el autor atribuye estas adaptaciones a una o varias inteligencias individuales o a alguna especie de 'int
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cow, Pigs, Wars and Witches is an interesting book on anthropology that attempts to make sense of things like the Hindu reverence for cows, Jewish prohibitions on swine flesh, tribes that burned goods in a show of wealth, cargo cults and the like. I wasn’t convinced, though. The author, Marvin Harris, argues that each of these oddities – and many others discussed in the book – arose as a means for the culture involved to adjust to its specific ecological surroundings, sometimes to preserve the c ...more
Emre Sevinç
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All those religious traditions that seem utterly stupid, confounding, and sometimes surprising as well as the events in history such as 'witchcraft' whose root causes we generally don't know, is the main topic of this book. What a book such a motivation makes!

I won't give any spoilers but I want to say, if such a strong ambition to search for truth doesn't deserve respect, then I don't what does. After so many years, I've yet to come across such a book, and I keep on seeing Marvin Harris as a m
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jose Carlos
Jan 16, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Dice Marvin Harris, en las primeras líneas de su libro, que “trata de las causas de estilos de vida aparentemente irracionales e inexplicables” y crea en el lector la falsa expectativa de que el autor será, verdaderamente, capaz de desvelar semejantes misterios. Bien pronto, se viene abajo el horizonte de expectativas creado, pues tras un enorme aparato teórico y práctico, en donde se levantan un sin fin de teorías avaladas por estudios y observaciones, resulta qu
Someone recommended this to me when I first went back to school -- eight years ago! I was originally majoring in cultural anthropology. That came to an end when I realized I wasn't extroverted enough. Anyway, this book has been sitting on my "to read" list all this time. I finally checked it out. And it turns out I have no interest in reading it, at all. I can't get into the writing style, and reading a 43-year-old anthro book doesn't appeal to me.
ياسمين خليفة
هذا الكتاب الموجه إلى القارىء الغربي بالاساس هدفه التوصل إلى اسباب منطقية ومقنعة لكثير من المحرمات والمقدسات في الثقافات المختلفة
افضل فصلين في الكتاب هما اول فصلين حيث يتحدث المؤلف عن السبب الاقتصادي الذي يجعل تقديس الهندوس للبقرة مفيدا للمجتمع الهندي وللفلاح الهندي
وفي الفصل الثاني يتحدث عن سبب تحريم اليهود والمسلمين لتناول لحم الخنزير إذ ان المناخ الساخن الصحراوي الذي تتميز به منطقة الشرق الاوسط
يجعل تربية الخنزير عملية شبه مستحيلة وتجعله عاجزا عن تناول العشب مما يجعله يأكل فضلاته وهذا ما يجع
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and engaging read until the last couple of chapters. Wouldn't have easily guessed this was written in the mid 1970s until later on. Marvin Harris makes pretty plausible explanations for many cultural norms such as why the cow is holy in India and why certain cultures/religions don't touch pork while others revere its consumption. I am all for anchoring behavioral phenomenon in practical roots, and that's what Harris does really well in the first few chapters where he breaks down ...more
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up again last week and enjoyed it greatly. Harris does great job of describing the material bases for numerous cultural phenomena, beginning with the sacred cows of Hinduism, and moving on through the roots of the worship and hatred of pigs, messianic military leadership and Christianity, to witchcraft, anti-witch pogroms, and the counter-culture. Something I really enjoyed about Harris' voice in this book is the sense of barely contained anger that imbues it.

The main thing Harris
What an entertaining book. While I don't agree with all of Marvin Harris' conclusions, I can say that the scientific way that he approaches problems typically viewed only in a just-so light was both informative and fascinating. His precise evaluation of each question was both thorough and scientific and offers much to anyone fascinated in anthropological (or even political) theory.

While the author is very much the product of the time in which the book was written (the 1970's) the methods that ma
Víctor Llig
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sin duda, un libro que cumple su objetivo: exponer las teorías de su autor de manera argumentada y entendible.

Totalmente recomendable para cualquiera que disfrute de una lectura desenfadada y gratificante, esta obra es un ensayo antropológico que -ni más ni menos- cumple su fución didáctica sin dejar de lado una prosa que mueve al lector a abrirse a la información dada por el escritor.

Este no es otro ensayo rimbombante e intelectualoide, sino una lección de antropología y objetividad expuesta d
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A very fascinating read. I really like the author's perspective that cultural behavior can be explained by real and concrete things. Like the history geek that I am, I found myself wanting to read further about the history of some of the topics. Considering current world events, I also found the sections about the middle east to be quite enlightening. It's an area of ancient world history I have previously not had much interest in.
Amanda Hood
Harris is an "Anthropologist" and uses judgmental words such as bizarre and maniacal in the same sentence. My problem with the book is not the inferences made about certain practices, but the way in which they are discussed. It saddens me to see someone supposedly dedicated to the study of culture discuss in such a negative manner.
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American anthropologist Marvin Harris was born in Brooklyn, New York. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism. In his work he combined Karl Marx's emphasis on the forces of production with Malthus's insights on the impact of demographic factors on other parts of the sociocultural system. Labeling demographic and production factors as infrastructure, ...more
“Las explicaciones de los estilos de vida son como las patatas fritas. La gente
insiste en comérselas hasta acabar con toda la bolsa.”
“Counter-culture celebrates the supposedly natural life of primitive peoples. Its members wear beads, headbands, body paint, and colorful tattered clothing; they yearn to be a tribe. They seem to believe that tribal peoples are nonmaterialistic, spontaneous, and reverently in touch with occult sources of enchantment...” 0 likes
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