Thee Vague Concept of ‘Primitive’: The Change in Perceptions from Barbarism to Wisdom


This study focuses on the usage and effect of the ‘primitive’ concept in social sciences. This concept, which is used to express both people who lived in the deep past and people who did not come into contact with modernity, has a rather ambiguous world of meaning. It is possible to say that non-Western societies are coded as ‘primitive’ in this approach, which is basically based on the Western and other dichotomy. The Western mind, which sees itself at the top of the line of progress, people who did not come into contact with modernity as irrational, unaware of his surroundings, and lacking many values and institutions. It can be said that the ‘theory of primitive society’ plays a dominant role in the background of transferring democracy and prosperity to ‘developing societies’. This article also discusses the transformation of the ancient human, coded as barbarian and savage, under the influence of the progressive approach, into a creature with knowledge and wisdom, with the effect of romance over time. The concept of ‘primitive’, which continues to find a place for itself in the literature despite some criticisms, has a influence of domain beyond what is thought. The criticism of the ‘primitive’ contributes to the correct understanding of both the ancient human and the traditionally expressed contemporary societies.


History of religions primitive primitive religion progressivism 19th century dichotomy anthropology archaeology Western-centrism.