Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


(1897-1958) American anthropologist who studied and taught at the University of Chicago and pioneered the anthropological study of peasant communities and urbanization.

Best known for his extensive fieldwork among Mexican peasants, Redfield worked diligently to broaden the focus of anthropology from the exclusive study of tribal peoples to the comparative study of advanced civilizations, epitomized in his "folk-urban continuum." He made a distinction between the "moral order" of "folk society" of indigenous societies and peasant communities in complex societies, and the "technical order" of civilization. Whereas the moral order is based on human sentiments as to what is right, the technical order bases social relationships upon expediency and sometimes coercion. With respect to humanity's relationship with the supernatural, the former manifests itself in the "Little Tradition" of folk religion and the latter in the "Great Tradition" of world religions.

While these categorizations inspired—and continue to inspire—considerable debate among anthropologists of religion, they have had a profound influence on the study of religious change and processes of modernization.

Hans A. Baer and Stephen D. Glazier

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500