A critique of cultural relativism by an ethnologist and anthropologist of longstanding high repute, Robert B. Edgerton’s Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony
(1992) has implications not only for how one might evaluate the pre-modern, non-Western folk-societies (primitive societies) studied by professional ethnographers and anthropologists, but for how one might understand both institutions and social practices – and perhaps even political ones – more generally. Sick Societies
provoked moderate controversy when it appeared, but probably few remember the book today. Nevertheless, Sick Societies
deserves not to disappear into the oblivion of the library stacks. Revisiting it nearly twenty years later indeed holds promise of intellectual profit. Sick Societies
might well be a meditation on culture urgently relevant to the current phase of the West’s seemingly interminable crisis at the end of the first decade of the Twenty-First Century.