survival


survival
/seuhr vuy"veuhl/, n.
1. the act or fact of surviving, esp. under adverse or unusual circumstances.
2. a person or thing that survives or endures, esp. an ancient custom, observance, belief, or the like.
3. Anthropol. (no longer in technical use) the persistence of a cultural trait, practice, or the like long after it has lost its original meaning or usefulness.
adj.
4. of, pertaining to, or for use in surviving, esp. under adverse or unusual circumstances: survival techniques.
[1590-1600; SURVIVE + -AL2]

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      in cultural anthropology, a cultural phenomenon that originates under one set of conditions and persists in a period when those conditions no longer obtain. The term was first employed by the British anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in his Primitive Culture (1871). Tylor believed that seemingly irrational customs (custom) and beliefs, such as peasant superstitions, were vestiges of earlier rational practices. He distinguished between continuing customs that maintained their function or meaning and those that had lost their utility and were further thought to be poorly integrated with the rest of culture. The latter he termed survivals.

      The Scottish evolutionist John Fergusson McLennan (McLennan, John Ferguson) used the term to mean symbolic forms of earlier customs (e.g., mock battles in nuptial rituals were said to be survivals of an earlier stage of marriage by capture). Some writers did not view survivals as useless but rather as having a transformed use. They emphasized the change in function and its integration with the rest of culture.

      The Polish-British anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski (Malinowski, Bronisław), however, entirely rejected the suggestion that any part of culture could have no function or could be disconnected from the rest of the cultural system.

      The term survival is still used in connection with cultural change or stability and with cultural evolution. Survivals of previous forms are said to result from cultural lag and are used to reconstruct historical sequences.

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Universalium. 2010.

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