Goody has pioneered the comparative anthropology of literacy, attempting to gauge the preconditions and effects of writing as a technology. He also published about the history of the family and the anthropology of inheritance. More recently, he has written on the anthropology of flowers and food.
Goody died on 16 July 2015, aged 95. His funeral was held on 29 July at the West Chapel, Cambridge City Crematorium.
Jack Goody explained social structure and social change primarily in terms of three major factors. The first was the development of intensive forms of agriculture that allowed the accumulation of surplus – surplus explained many aspects of cultural practice from marriage to funerals as well as the great divide between African and Eurasian societies. Second, he explained social change in terms of urbanisation and growth of bureaucratic institutions that modified or overrode traditional forms of social organisation, such as family or tribe, identifying civilisation as "the culture of cities". And third, he attached great weight to the technologies of communication as instruments of psychological and social change. He associated the beginnings of writing with the task of managing surplus and, in a paper with Ian Watt (Goody and Watt 1963), he advanced the argument that the rise of science and philosophy in classical Greece depended on the invention of the alphabet. As these factors could be applied to any contemporary social system or to systematic changes over time, his work is equally relevant to many disciplines.
1956 The Social Organisation of the LoWiili (London, HMSO), 2nd ed. 1976, London, published for the International African Institute by the Oxford University Press
1962 Death, Property and the Ancestors: A Study of the Mortuary Customs of the LoDagaa of West Africa, Stanford, Stanford University Press ISBN0-422-98080-3
1957 Fields of Social Control Among the LoDagaba The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jan. – Jun. 1957), pp. 75–104 doi:10.2307/2843972JSTOR2843972
GOODY, J. 1959. The Mother's Brother and the Sister's Son in West Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 89:61–88 response
1961 Jack Goody Religion and Ritual: The Definitional Problem The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Jun. 1961), pp. 142–164 doi:10.2307/586928JSTOR586928
1963 Jack Goody, Ian Watt The Consequences of Literacy Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Apr. 1963), pp. 304–345 JSTOR177651
1969 Adoption in Cross-Cultural Perspective Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Jan. 1969), pp. 55–78 JSTOR178288
1972 Taboo WordsMan, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Mar. 1972), p. 137 JSTOR2799863
1973 Goody, J. [Polygyny, economy and the role of women]. In J. Goody (Ed.), The character of kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973
1977 Ethnology and/or Cultural Anthropology in Italy: Traditions and Developments [and Comments and Reply Vinigi Grottanelli, Giorgio Ausenda, Bernardo Bernardi, Ugo Bianchi, Y. Michal Bodemann, Jack Goody, Allison Jablonko, David I. Kertzer, Vittorio Lanternari, Antonio Marazzi, Roy A. Miller Jr., Laura Laurencich Minelli, David M. Moss, Leonard W. Moss, H. R. H. Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, Diana Pinto, Pietro Scotti, Tullio Tentori. Current Anthropology, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Dec. 1977), pp. 593–614 JSTOR2741501
1989 Futures of the Family in Rural Africa Population and Development Review, Vol. 15, Supplement: Rural Development and Population: Institutions and Policy (1989), pp. 119–144 doi:10.2307/2807924JSTOR2807924
1991 Towards a Room with a View: A Personal Account of Contributions to Local Knowledge, Theory, and Research in Fieldwork and Comparative Studies Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 20, 1991, pp. 1–23 JSTOR2155791
1994 Jack Goody, Cesare Poppi Flowers and Bones: Approaches to the Dead in Anglo-American and Italian Cemeteries Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jan. 1994), pp. 146–175 JSTOR179330
1996 Comparing Family Systems in Europe and Asia: Are There Different Sets of Rules? Population and Development Review: 22 (1).
1996 Cognitive contradictions and universals: creation and evolution in oral cultures Social Anthropology Volume 4 Issue 1 Page 1-16, February 1996. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8676.1996.tb00310.x
2002 The Anthropology of the Senses and Sensations La Ricerca Folklorica, No. 45, Antropologia delle sensazioni (Apr. 2002), pp. 17–28 doi:10.2307/1480153JSTOR1480153
^Keesing, Hilary (2012). "Death, Property, and the Ancestors: A Reconsideration of Goody's Concepts". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 40 (1): 40–49. doi:10.2307/1157567. JSTOR1157567.
^Zaretsky, Eli (1 January 1985). Goody, Jack; Mitterauer, Michael; Sieder, Reinhard; Segalen, Martine (eds.). "New Work on the History of the Family". Theory and Society. 14 (3): 371–379. doi:10.1007/bf00161283. JSTOR657120. S2CID144075629.
^Moore, Sally Falk (1 January 1997). "Review of The Expansive Moment: The Rise of Social Anthropology in Britain and Africa, 1918-1970". American Ethnologist. 24 (1): 211–212. doi:10.1525/ae.1918.104.22.168. JSTOR646577.
Goody, Jack (1 November 2006). "HEIDEGGER, RORTY AND THE EASTERN THINKERS: A HERMENEUTICS OF CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING. By WEI ZHANG. pp. 127. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2006". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 16 (3): 330–332. doi:10.1017/S1356186306326478. S2CID162596558.