When Durkheim’s book on methodology was published, there appeared an essay by Franz Boas entitled, “The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology”. Boas contested the arguments of Durkheim that the latter had made only sweeping generalizations.
Despite this criticism, Boas did not, at least in principle, declare himself against the comparative method.
After Durkheim Radcliffe-Brown pleaded the usefulness of the comparative method in social anthropology. In his Huxley Memorial Lecture of 1955 he argued that comparative method was highly useful in reconstructing human social history.
When anthropologists make comparisons, they find both similarities and differences in human society. At a later stage, Evans-Pritchard took up the theme of comparative method at his Hob House Lecture in 1963.
He argued that despite all its scientific pretensions, the comparative method as used by Radcliffe-Brown and many others was little more than the illustrative method.
Now, a question arises: If social anthropology tries to find out similarities and differences in comparative studies, what has it gained for a hundred years since the days of Boas and Haddon to Radcliffe- Brown and Evans-Pritchard? This question was also asked in the Chicago seminar of 1937.
The findings of the seminar suggest that nothing substantial has been gained by social anthropology by way of the comparative method. No uniformities or differences in human society have come out, which suggests the hollowness of the comparative method.