I stumbled on this book when I searched for a reasonable voice after feeling frustrated by G.S.Kirk's "Myth" and "The Nature of Greek Myths." Kirk sounds so careless in his claims against, and erroneous in his assessments of, the earlier anthropologists that I felt a great need for some rational explanation of his "attitude." There is such an impertinent assertion of individualism and defiance against almost everyone he quotes that it almost renders his books irrelevant to the subject at hand. Not that G.S.Kirk is such a great scholar that I feel obligated to plow through no matter what, it's just that I happen to be interested in the subject matter that he writes about. But his weird attitude makes me doubt the validity of his views.
Of course there could be many reasons behind Kirk's misbehavior. But I only need one, and I found it after reading Evans-Prithard's "Theories of Primitive Religion." Apparently the French school of anthropologists (Durkheim, Levy-Bruhl, etc.) in the late 19th and early 20th century emphasizes the "social" approach and despises the English school's intellectualist/psychological approach. To the French School anthropologists, the English School made an error in speculating on primitive religion with their own reasoning (if I were a primitive, I would have thought or felt this way or that way becuase of this or that). Furthermore, to these socio-minded French anthropologists, an individual has no choice but to conform to the social customs or collective representations -- just as one has no choice in the language one speaks. This I guess grinds on individualistic minded people such as G.S.Kirk.
Unfortunately for Kirk, he was too emotionally involved in defending his individualistic position to form any concerete or logical offence. Evans-Pritchard scored one when he pointed out, very logically, that in the final analysis, Durkheim himself derived the totemic religion (of the Australian Blackfellows) from the emotional excitement of the individuals brought together in a small crowd -- exactly a psychological approach which he would have found unacceptable in others! Evans-Pritchard further pointed out, again very logically, that it is not a long jump from Durkheim's theory to Trotter's biological explanation of religion as a by-product of the herd (gregariousness) instinct.
The book is full of insights such as those mentioned above. As long as you can get over the long winding, broken up sentences that contain these great insights, you are in for a treat.