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to make the scale and orientation of attainable generalization in historical geography a

little clearer.

University of British Columbia


JOHN BRINCKERHOFFJACKSON,Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven: Yale

University Press, 1984. Pp. xii+ 165. $16.50)
The work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson is both stimulating and disturbing; stimulating
because of the insight that he brings to the observations and analysis of landscapes,
disturbing because the reader feels reproached for not seeing a particular landscape in
the way that -Jackson has. Unlike most professional writers on humanized landscapes
Jackson attends to the everyday world and provokes us to appreciate it and speculate
about it.
Discovering the Vernacular Landscape is an excellent compilation of Jackson commentaries. He defines the vernacular landscape as "one where evidences of a political
organization of space are largely or entirely a b s e n t . . . By political I mean those spaces
and structures designed to impose or preserve a unity and order on the land, or in
keeping with a longrange, largescape plan." He goes on to say that in the vernacular
landscape, there is a "distinct way of defining and handling time and space . . .
organizing and using spaces in [a] traditional way and living in communities governed by
custom, held together by personal relationships". (p. 149-150) It is clear that this kind of
landscape is the most attractive to J. B. Jackson, although he gives considerable ink and
thought to the political landscape as well in this volume.
The chapters on etymology "The Word Itself" and " A Pair of Ideal Landscapes", are
classic Jackson in that they explore the complex meanings of landscape terms and their
evolution. His love of language and its potential utility in the comprehension of the built
environment is supported in part by his opening thoughts in "A Pair of Ideal
Landscapes": "Those of us who undertake to study landscapes in a serious way soon
come up against a sobering truth: even the simplest, least interesting landscape often
contains elements which we are quite unable to explain, mysteries that fit into no known
pattern. But we also eventually learn that every landscape, no matter how exotic, also
contains elements which we at once recognize and understand." (p. 11) Words are
elements of that understanding, and the development of key words such as forest, wood,
silva, road, dwelling, chattel, countryside and even landscape itself are analysed in these
Jackson's current fascinations, the trailer court and the mobile home, are given good
treatment in "The Movable Dwelling and How It Came to America". The role of the
box house is tied to the early--and continued--mobility of Americans. Movement is the
subject of one of the closing exhortations in his last chapter: "I would like to think that
in the future the profession of landscape architecture will expand beyond its present
confines . . . and involve itself in making mobility orderly and beautiful. This would
mean knowing a great deal about land, its uses, its values, and the political and economic
and cultural forces affecting its distribution." (p. 155) The focus on movement runs
through much of Jackson's writing and in this book he attempts once again to convince
specialists in landscape design to give serious attention to the artifacts of a mobile, fickle
A constant concern of Jackson is to make the vernacular landscape seem worthy of
analysis. In a strong piece on "The Origin of Parks" he demonstrates that while the
political landscape of the formal parks set aside by royalty and landlords alike has
aesthetic and historical significance for scholars of the past, the real vitality of social
groups has been more often expressed in informal gathering spots along rivers, in the
woods, at the edge of cultivated land. He asks "is it not time that we acknowledged the
need for (another kind of park): the ample, unstructured, unbeautiful, multi-purpose



public playground where adolescents can assert themselves and become social beings,
defending and serving some youthful concept of community?" (p. 130).
In all the book is a delight. For new readers of J. B. Jackson, this volume provides a
good introduction to his concerns and his craft. For those who know Jackson's work it is
a volume to add to that thin segment of one's library that you turn to when a bright, but
uninitiated friend asks " W h a t is it you geographers do? How could you give over your
life to something as mundane as geography?"

University of California, Los Angeles


MATTHEW St'RIGGS (Ed), Marx&t Perspectives in Archaeology (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1984. Pp. vii + 158. s
Marxism has had relatively little influence on the development of archaeology in the
West. Earlier this century V. Gordon Childe brought a broadly Marxist perspective to
the study of British and European prehistory, yet while well respected, he had few
significant followers. The "New Archaeology" of the 1960s and 1970s was essentially
functionalist and positivist in orientation, and Childe's theoretical contributions were
ignored in the fashionable reaction against his modified diffusionist paradigm. This
volume appears after Childe's rediscovery and rehabilitation. Yet it contains much that
is far removed from the approaches which he articulated. The twelve contributions
display considerable diversity of both subject-matter and theoretical orientation. In the
Introduction, Matthew Spriggs stresses that the volume is not intended to represent a
unified Marxist school of archaeology; he argues that "such a project is both impossible
and undesirable".
Some of the contributions represent Marxist analyses of specific archaeological
problems. Others are more philosophical, abstract discussions of the application of
Marxist theory to archaeological data, or of the role of ideology in the contemporary
practice of archaeology. But it is the diversity of perspective rather than of subject which
is most striking. This, in part, is due to the failure of Marx or Engels to provide a
comprehensive theoretical account of pre- or non-class societies. "The history of all
hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles", says the Communist Manifesto
of 1848. But Engels, in a footnote, qualified this: "That is all written history".
The consequence, as Antonio Gilman suggests in his stimulating chapter 'Explaining
the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution', is that "Marxists today must make their own
prehistory aided by only the most general guidelines provided by historical materialism." The necessary modifications of Marxist theory are both ingenious and varied, so
varied in fact that it can sometimes be unclear what is specifically Marxist about a
particular contribution. Despite this, however, a certain broad unity of approach is
discernible. There is agreement that social structures should be interpreted as dynamic,
dialectical systems; that social reality is contradictory reality; and that contradiction and
conflicts of interest are major factors in social change in pre-class as in class societies.
Several of the contributions also stress the social basis of present knowledge of the past.
But in terms of the general development of current archaeological theory, the most
significant aspect of this shared orientation is the rejection of crude economic determinist, base-superstructure models of society. In 'The Spirit and its Burden'. Susan Kus
forcibly presents Marxist approaches as viable alternatives to the economic or technological determinist perspectives of other theoretical orientations in archaeology. In line
with approaches formulated by Marxists in other fields, and in particular anthropology,
most contributors emphasize the interpenetration of base and superstructure, and the
crucial rather than epiphenomenal role of ideology in social change.
On a theoretical level, such departures from simple base-oriented perspectives may be
welcome. Unfortunately, when applied to archaeological data, they deny the practical
advantages which less sophisticated Marxist approaches appeared to offer. For the