Wax and Gold

Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture

Donald N. Levine

Wax and Gold

Donald N. Levine

350 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1965
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226215440 Published October 2014
In Abyssinian poetry, the “wax” is the obvious meaning, the “gold” is the hidden meaning. In Wax and Gold, Donald N. Levine explores mid-to-late-twentieth-century Ethiopian society on the same two levels, using modern sociology and psychology to seek answers to the following questions: What is the nature of the traditional culture of the dominant ethnic group, the Amhara, and what are its enduring values? What aspects of modern culture interest this society and by what means has it sought to institutionalize them? How has tradition both facilitated and hampered Ethiopian efforts to modernize? Enriched by the use of Ethiopian literature and by Levine’s deep knowledge of and affection for the society of which he writes, Wax and Gold is both a scholarly and a personal work.



1. Introduction: Amhara Tradition and Ethiopia's Modernization

2. The Legacy of Manz and Gondar

3. The World of the Amhara Peasant

4. The Emerging Adolescent

5. The Old and New Elites

6. Orality and the Search for Leadership

7. Individualism and the Quest for Social Progress

Note on Transliteration

Review Quotes
New Yorker
“A superb book.”
Robert D. Kaplan | New York Times
"A classic work of area studies."
Times Literary Supplement
“Ethiopia’s abiding problem is the symbiosis of her autochthonous civilization with the demands of an uncompromising modern world. . . . Nobody has yet described the dilemma, its origin, its magnitude and possible ways of resolving it with greater ability and understanding.”
Chicago Tribune
“Both a sociological work and an entertaining travel narrative.”
Library Journal
“The literature on Ethiopia is conspicuous for the absence of studies attempting to combine comprehensiveness of coverage with true analytical depth. [Wax and Gold] fills this gap and does it so effectively that for most readers sampling it will be equivalent to discovering a new world. . . . Not to be missed.”
American Journal of Sociology
“An important, insightful, and excellent book. . . . With remarkable freedom, virtuosity, and success [Levine] forays from his own base as a sociologist into the domains of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, and linguists.”
American Sociological Review
“Levine performs the most ancient scholarly task well, that of the sage, who leads us to see the eternal wisdom hidden behind the veil of everyday concerns.”
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