Sol Tax

Sol Tax (30 October 1907 – 4 January 1995) was an American anthropologist. He is best known for creating action anthropology and his studies of the Meskwaki, or Fox, Indians, for "action-anthropological" research titled the Fox Project, and for founding the academic journal Current Anthropology. He received his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1935 and, together with Fred Eggan, was a student of Alfred Radcliffe-Brown.

Sol Tax
Born(1907-10-30)30 October 1907
Died4 January 1995(1995-01-04) (aged 87)
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin (Ph.B, 1931)[1]
University of Chicago (Ph.D, 1935)[1]
Known forFox Indians
AwardsViking Fund Medal (1961)
Bronislaw Malinowski Award (1977)
Scientific career
InfluencesRalph Linton
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown
Robert Redfield
Fred Eggan

Tax grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During his formative years he was involved in a number of social clubs. Among these was the Newsboys Republic with which his first encounter was when he was "arrested" for breaking their rules. Tax began his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago but had to leave for lack of funds. He returned to school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he studied with Ralph Linton. He later taught at the University of Chicago. Tax was a mentor to noted anthropologist Joan Ablon at the University of Chicago.

He was the main organizer for the 1959 Darwin Centennial Celebration held at the University of Chicago.

He was an organizer, along with the National Congress of American Indians, for the 1961 American Indian Chicago Conference. He assisted in authoring the resulting Statement of Indian Purpose, the first major statement of the policy of tribal self-determination.

The American Anthropological Association presented to him and Bela Maday its Franz Boas award for exemplary service to anthropology in 1977. He was the association's president in 1959.[2][3]

Action Anthropology

Sol Tax is known as a founder of "Action Anthropology", a school of anthropological thought that forwent the traditional doctrine of non-interference in favor of co-equal goals of "learning and helping" from studied cultures.[4]


  • (1937, revised 1955) contributions to Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, ed. by Fred Eggan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Rubinstein, Robert A., ed. 2001. Doing Fieldwork: The Correspondence of Robert Redfield and Sol Tax, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.
  • (1953, revised 1972) Penny Capitalism; a Guatemalan Indian economy ISBN 978-0-374-97785-6. Tax is said to have coined the term 'Penny capitalism'.[5]
  • (1988) Pride and Puzzlement: A Retro-introspective Record of 60 Years of Anthropology Annual Review of Anthropology

See also


  1. "Obituary: Sol Tax, Anthropology". Chicago Chronicle. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  2. "Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology". American Anthropological Association. 2008-10-27. Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2008-10-31. The Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology, formerly the Distinguished Service Award, was established in 1976. This award is presented annually by the Association to its members whose careers demonstrate extraordinary achievements that have well served the anthropological profession. Service to the Association is commonly recognized, as are outstanding applications of anthropological knowledge to improving the human condition. Great teachers of anthropology at all levels have received this award. Although the activities of the recipients will vary from year to year, all awardees have made many sacrifices, usually without personal reward, and sometimes against personal safety. They have all used anthropology for the benefit of others.
  3. "Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology". American Anthropological Association. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  4. Hinshaw, Robert A. (1980). Currents in Anthropology: Essays in Honor of Sol Tax. USA: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-179474-7.
  5. "Ethnographic Field School in Guatemala - May 27, 2011 - July 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 21 October 2010.
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