more can be gained by confronting “thengrand actuality” than by wishing it awaynin a haze of “forceless generalities andnfalse comforts.”nAs a spokesman for the trend in anthropologynemphasizing symbols andnmeanings, Geertz is highly regarded. Henstudied at Harvard, MIT, and Stanfordnand has taught at Berkeley, Chicago, andnOxford. He is now a professor at Princeton’snInstitute for Advanced Study. Henhas written six books treating thencultures of Bali, Java, Indonesia, andnMorocco, and his award-winning ThenInterpretation of Cultures {1915) hasnbeen widely read. Local Knowledge, asnthe subtitle indicates, is a continuation ofnthat 1973 collection of essays. Amongnthe subjects treated are the recentnblurring or mixing of genres in intellectualnlife, the nature of anthropologicalnunderstanding (to what extent can wensee “from the native’s point of view”?),nart and common sense as cultural systems,nthe ethnographic analysis ofnmodem thought (various disciplines arenreally ways of being in the world), andnthe relation of fact and law in a comparativenperspective. As might be expected,nmost of the pieces have appeared previously;nonly the last, a long, three-partnessay titled “Local Knowledge: Fact andnLaw in Comparative Perspective,” isnprinted here for the first time. As alsonmight be expected, the author claims innhis introduction that although the essaysnwere prepared for various occasions andnaudiences they are unified by a generalnprogram. In this case the claim happensnto be true. Recurring attitudes, concepts,nand terms inform the essays and marknthem as “interpretive anthropology” asnGeertz practices it.nWhat is interpretive anthropologynand how does it relate to local knowledge?nGeertz’s concept of culture isnessentially a semiotic one. He hasnconsistently defined culture with somenversion of this formula: “Culture is ansystem of meanings embodied in symbols.”nBoth “meaning” and “symbol” arendefined broadly. As he explains in then16inChronicles of Culturenintroductory essay oiTheInterpretationnofCultures:nBeUeving, with Max Weber, that mannis an animal suspended in webs ofnsignificance he himself has spun, I takenculture to be those webs, and thenanalysis of it to be therefore not annexperimental science in search of lawnbut an interpretive one in search ofnmeaning. It is explication I am after,nconstruing social expressions on theirnsur&ces enigmatical.nHe aligns himself with the symbolicnaction theorists and views culture as ann”acted document” or “text” written innthe examples of behavior. He believesnthe interminable debate among anthro­npologists as to whether culture is subjectivenor objective is misconceived. If wenview human behavior as symbolic actionn—^action that signifies—^then the debatenloses sense. And in interpreting signifiersnin social phenomena, the emphasis shouldnbe on particular context and specificndetail, or, in other words, local knowledge.nFor Geertz, the interpretive studynof culture is an attempt “to come tonterms with the diversity of the waysnhuman beings construct their lives in thenact of living them.” The principle challengenis to steer between overinterpretationnand underinterpretation.nDispassion, generality, and empiricalngrounding have been the elusive aims ofnthe determinative ^proach. To achievennnsuch aims it has posited a radical distinctionnbetween description and evaluation.nGeertz’s cultural hermeneuticsnfinds that distinction problematic. In hisnview, the importance of an ethnologicnaccount lies not in the author’s ability ton”capture primitive facts in farawaynplaces and carry them home like a masknor a carving” but in the degree to whichnhe is able to interpret and clarify what henhas observed. It is a process of translation,ncloser to “what a critic does tonillumine a poem” than to “what an astronomerndoes to account for a star.” Indeed,none of the essays in Local Knowledgendraws an explicit parallel between whatnLionel Trilling did in criticism and whatnGeertz does in anthropology. Both arenconcerned with the social context of thenmoral imagination. Just as Trilling, fornexample, “translates” the world of JanenAusten for the 20th-century reader,nGeertz “translates” Balinese culture fornthe Western reader.nThe interest in interpretation—conceivingnof human behavior and itsnproducts as texts to be analyzed andnexplicated—^touches nearly every realmnof cultural study. Geertz calls attentionnto the frequent mixing of genres innintellectual life and claims it is producingna “refiguration of social thought.” Thensocial sciences are undergoing a “deprovincialization”nthat is leading them awaynfrom the models of positivistic science.n”The penetration of the social sciencesnby the views of such philosophers asnHeidegger, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, ornRicoeur, such critics as Burke, Frye,nJameson, or Fish, and such all-purposensubversives as Foucault, Habermas,nBarthes, or Kuhn makes any simplenreturn to a technological conception ofnthose sciences highly improbable.”nMore and more, he says, the socialnsciences are turning to the humanitiesnfor models and explanatory analogies.nThis is evidence both of the turn toninterpretation and of a refigiuration thatnis altering not only theory, method, andnsubject matter but also the very aims ofnthose disciplines.nSuch a shift in aims is reflected inn