Status and Role of Formation Theory in Contemporary Archaeological Practice
Since Binford appropriated the term “middle-range theory,” it has signified the process of reasoning from the extant material record to the cultural past. Merton's sociological concept of middle-range theory is relevant to archaeology, but does not mean what Binford denoted by it. More accurately, Binford's domain should be called “formation theory.” By whatever name used, archaeologists differ greatly in our views of its role and status. Somehow, formation theory has come to be viewed as method but not theory, and as intrinsic to materialism, but irrelevant if not antithetical to other ontologies. Yet it is as critical to the contextual understanding of the past sought by many archaeologists today—a role that, among others, belies formation theory's marginal status in academic practice.
Journal of Archaeological Research
Shott, Michael j., "Status and Role of Formation Theory in Contemporary Archaeological Practice" (1998). Anthropology Faculty Research. 425.