Cultural Materialism

Cultural Materialism Sociology Definition

Definition of Cultural Materialism

According to cultural materialism, material factors are the essential explanations for many aspects of human civilization. It serves as a conceptual framework and a research methodology to analyze the connections between society’s material and immaterial components.

Sociological Explanation

The writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels served as the foundation for the development of this materialist ideology. Marx and Engels offered a historical model of society based on a materialist viewpoint. 

Anthropologists and sociologists have increasingly relied on materialist explanations as they examine society’s evolution and social problems in the latter part of the 20th century.

The Development of Anthropological Theory by Marvin Harris, published in 1968, served as the anthropology community’s initial introduction to and popularization of cultural materialism.

Marvin Harris developed a theory of how culture and cultural commodities fit into the larger social order by building on Marx’s notion of base and superstructure. He contended that technology, economic output, the built environment, and other factors impact the structure’ of society, social organization, and interactions. The worldviews, values, and ideas make up the superstructure. According to the theory of cultural materialism, infrastructure, structure, and superstructure are the three stages of a social system.

Sociologists may develop a critical knowledge of a period’s values, beliefs, and worldviews via rigorous examination of cultural goods by employing cultural materialism as a research approach. They can see the connections between these ideals and societal structure, trends, and issues. To achieve this, sociologists must consider the historical setting in which a component is developed, examine its symbolism, and determine how the commodity fits into the larger societal structure.

According to Raymond Williams, it is a theory of the particularities of material, cultural, and literary creation within historical materialism.

According to cultural materialism, society’s pervasive class-based disparities are tied to cultural production. The current theoretical criticisms of the connection between culture and power are used by cultural materialism.

The mechanisms through which dominant forces in society adapt canonical and historically significant writings, such as the plays of William Shakespeare and the Manu Smriti in Hinduism, are the subject of cultural materialist analysis.


Hindus revered and preserved cows and created a culture around them because it was more practical to use them as draft animals than as food. 

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