James George Frazer

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Frazer, James George

 

Born Jan. 1, 1854, in Glasgow; died May 7, 1941, in Cambridge. British anthropologist and historian of religion; professor (Cambridge University, from 1921).

Using the comparative historical method, Frazer systematized an enormous mass of material about primitive beliefs, totemism, animism, and taboo. He demonstrated the genetic link between these primitive beliefs and the religions of class-structured societies, such as Judaism and Christianity (particularly as illustrated through the cult of the “resurrected god”). According to Frazer, human consciousness evolved from the domination of magic concepts in the age of magic to the personification of supernatural forces in the age of religion and finally to the age of science. Frazer incorrectly juxtaposed magic to religion and drew a parallel between magic and science as methods of acting upon nature and derived ideologies from individual psychology (associative thought). A number of Frazer’s theories have been overturned by modern science, but his works contain a great deal of factual information.

WORKS

Totemism and Exogamy, vols. 1–4, London, 1935.
Zolotaia vetv’, vols. 1–4, Moscow, 1928. (Translated from French.)
Fol’klor v Vetkhom Zavete. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931. (Translated from English.)