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Book: How to Do Things with Myths

Chapter: Müller’s Legacy, Broken: Malinowski and the Pragmatist Theory of Myths

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44971


Based on intense fieldwork in New Guinea, Malinowski theorizes that myths ‘perform’ – they act as tools for sustaining the social order; they do not ‘explain’ anything. His resort to a subjective method of concept-formation breaks with heretofore prevailing passive empiricist approaches to ‘discovering’ the definition of myth. Attention is given to Malinowski’s major intellectual influences -- Darwin, Wilhelm Dilthey, Durkheim, J. G. Frazer, Freud, Ernst Mach, Nietzsche, Mauss, Radcliffe-Brown, Wilhelm Wundt.

Chapter Contributors

  • Ivan Strenski ([email protected] - istrenski) 'University of California Riverside (retired)'