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Chapters 10-12. Social Stratification and Political Organization. Norms. Laws. Social Control. Exists to ensure a certain degree of social conformity Some people may resist conformity. Most non-state societies have a comparatively high degree of personal security…why?.

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chapters 10 12

Chapters 10-12

Social Stratification and

Political Organization

social control


Social Control
  • Exists to ensure a certain degree of social conformity
  • Some people may resist conformity
most non state societies have a comparatively high degree of personal security why
Most non-state societies have a comparatively high degree of personal security…why?
  • Small size of the bands and villages
  • The central importance of domestic groups and kinship in their social organization
  • The absence of marked inequalities in access to technology and resources
descent groups and social organization beyond kin
Descent Groups and Social Organization Beyond Kin
  • Clans and other complex descent groups expand the basic family relationships of kin groups to provide a wider set of social structures welded together by obligations
  • Sources of conflict between these larger groups are numerous
  • Practices and institutions to mitigate these conflicts become necessary
social control in small scale societies
Social Control in Small-scale Societies
  • In foraging societies, formal laws are rare
  • Punishment is often through naming and shaming
  • Punishment is legitimized through belief in supernatural forces
  • Capital punishment is rare
social control in states
Social Control in States
  • Increased specialization of tasks relating to law and order
  • Process is more formal and based on law
  • Use of capital punishment
political anthropology
Morality and law

Bases of power

Abuses of power

Political Anthropology

Who has it; who doesn’t


Political Anthropologists address the area of human behavior and thought related to power

Degrees of power

Social conflict and social control

Political and religious power

social inequality and the law
Critical legal anthropologists examine the role of law in maintaining power relationships through discrimination against indigenous people, women and minorities.Social Inequality and the Law
why kin groups aren t the answer to all our problems
Why Kin Groups Aren’t The Answer to All Our Problems
  • Optimal Size of Kin Groups is small, about 200 people
  • Kinship ethics don’t always levy adequate sanctions (there are social reasons against it)
  • Long-term and immediate problems in relationships between kin groups are difficult to solve: Intermarriage is the only really permanent “glue”
social conflict
Social Conflict
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Banditry
  • Feuding
  • Ethnic conflict
  • Revolution
  • Warfare
  • Nonviolent conflict
interpersonal conflict
Interpersonal Conflict
  • Covers verbal arguments to murder
  • Between neighbors over resources or territory, e.g. Gwembe Valley
  • Between neighbors over dogs, e.g. middle-class Americans
  • The most universal form of inter-group aggression
  • Based on revenge
  • Some cultures experience more feuding because of economic change






The Waiteri





nonviolent conflict
Nonviolent Conflict
  • Gandhi
    • Non-violent resistance
    • Public fasting
    • Strikes
    • Celibacy
  • Weapons of the weak
    • Foot dragging, desertion, false compliance, humor
mobilizing public opinion
Mobilizing Public Opinion
  • Within Kin-Based systems disputes are settled on the basis of who has the most kin support (public opinion)
  • The general principle of dispute settlement, and leadership, is mobilization of public opinion
  • How far claims can be pressed depends on an individual’s willingness to suffer social penalties and his/her social backing
  • Example: Inuit Song Contests
social control of behavior
Social Control of Behavior

Ways societies deal with abnormal behavior and conflict:

  • Gossip and ridicule
  • Fear of witchcraft accusations
  • Avoidance
  • Supernatural sanctions
  • Law is found in every society.
  • In complex societies, functions of law belong to legal institutions, such as courts.
  • Law addresses conflicts that would otherwise disrupt community life.
Aboriginal Youth and Justice
  • More likely to receive the most severe outcomes from criminal justice decision-makers than white youth
  • More likely to be classified as “undependable”
  • More likely to appear in court rather than Children’s Aid Panels
      • - Gale 1990
politics and the social contract
Politics and the Social Contract

Social Contract - a public contract where people agree to band together for some purpose - often highly structured in the realm of what we call "politics“

Politics - the spatial aspect of social force

  • Institutions control the use of force within a territorial framework (chiefdom or state)
  • The power to bring about results through authority or influence
    • through possession of forceful means
  • A human universal?
    • No, politics only emerged with increase in private property
    • Yes, there is no boundary between how kinship and political organizations organize power
in political analysis you must understand
In Political Analysis You Must Understand:
  • the territorial extent and organization of the society
  • how space and resources are divided
  • the social system through which force is allocated to and by different individuals playing different roles
  • how that system is viewed by those living in it
  • the institutional control of force by warfare: the maintenance of territory from outsiders
  • the institutional control of force by law enforcement: maintenance of territory from insiders
egalitarian societies
Egalitarian Societies
  • No individual or group has more access to resources, power, or prestige than any other.
  • No fixed number of social positions for which individuals must compete.
  • Associated with bands and tribes.
shamans and public opinion
Shamans and Public Opinion

Shamans: Part-time religious, healing, or magic specialists

  • Shamans may attribute forces to enemies, both within and without
  • Shamans may prescribe social solutions in the guise of magic
  • Shamans may organize the group around perceptions and supernatural commands.
  • Headmen are individuals whose opinion carries more weight than others. They lead by example
  • A good headman can judge the prevailing opinions and gauge his statements to them
  • Motivation by example is the chief tool of the headman
the leopard skin chief
The Leopard Skin Chief
  • The Leopard Skin Chiefs are an institution among the Nuer (Sudan).
  • Mediate the disputes arising out of homicide
  • Can ritually cleanse

the murderer

  • Negotiates


  • Curses those

who would break

the settlement

non kin associations sodalities
Non-kin Associations: Sodalities

Sodality: A non-kin group or association within a society organized around kinship groups

  • Age Grade Associations
    • Provides convenient way to teach youth
    • Allocates civic responsibilities
  • Single Sex Associations (often combined with other factors, e.g. age)
  • Agreement or Voluntary Groups
    • Vary widely in form
    • Organized for almost any purpose imaginable
    • Slight differences in the structures of parallel organizations
rank society
Rank Society
  • Institutionalized differences in prestige but no restrictions on access to basic resources.
  • Individuals obtain what they need to survive through their kinship group.
  • Associated with horticulture or pastoral societies with a surplus of food.
  • Associated with chiefdoms.
stratified society
Stratified Society
  • Formal, permanent, social and economic inequality.
  • Some people are denied access to basic resources.
  • Characterized by differences in standard of living, security, prestige and political power.
stratified society1
Stratified Society
  • Economically organized by market systems (usually).
  • Based on intensive cultivation (agriculture) and industrialism.
  • Often associated with a form of political organization called the state.
social stratification
Social Stratification

Societies place people in categories. Social groups relate differently to each other depending on their status.

Achieved Status

Ascribed Status





dimensions of stratification
Dimensions of Stratification
  • Power—control resources in one’s own interest.
  • Wealth—accumulation of material resources or access to the means of producing these resources.
  • Prestige—social honor or respect.
ascribed vs achieved status
Ascribed Vs. Achieved Status
  • Ascribed StatusSocial position into which a person is born. (sex, race, kinship group)
  • Achieved StatusSocial position that a person chooses or achieves. (professor, criminal, artist)
social class in the united states
Social Class in the United States
  • Status depends on occupation, education, and lifestyle.
  • “The American Dream,” is based on the democratic principle of equality and opportunity for all.
  • Social class in the United States correlates with attitudinal, behavioral, and lifestyle differences.
caste system
Caste System
  • System of stratification based on birth.
  • Movement from one caste to another is not possible.
  • Castes are hereditary, endogamous, ranked in relation to one another and usually associated with a traditional occupation.
hindu caste system
Hindu Caste System

Four caste categories

  • Brahmins - priests and scholars
  • Kshatriyas - ruling and warrior caste
  • Vaisyas - the merchants
  • Shudras - menial workers and artisans
  • Harijans – “untouchables”
u s racial stratification systems
U.S. Racial Stratification Systems
  • Race is constructed on the basis of skin color and presumed ancestry.
  • Divides people into “blacks” and “whites” ignoring the reality of the skin color spectrum.
  • By the 20th century, the system of race in the American south was very similar to the caste system in India.
race stratification in the u s and brazil
Race Stratification in the U.S. and Brazil
  • Two largest multiracial societies in the Americas.
  • In both societies the legacy of slavery continues in the form of racial inequality.
  • Brazil: 45% of nonwhite families and 25% of white families live below the poverty line.
  • U.S.: 30% of nonwhite families and 8% of white families live below the poverty line.
types of social groups
Types of Social Groups
  • Friendship
  • Clubs and fraternities
  • Counterculture groups
  • Work groups
  • Cooperatives
  • Activist groups
Friendship amongst the urban poor

A cultural universal

Can be gender and race segregated

Institutional relationships (e.g. prison)


Usually between social equals

Sometimes based on shared story-telling

clubs and fraternities
Clubs and Fraternities
  • Define membership on shared identity
  • Can serve economic and political roles
  • Men’s clubs featuring male-male bonding activities are common
    • often involve objectification and mistreatment of women
    • some US college fraternities
counterculture groups
Counterculture Groups
  • Feature in industrialized societies
  • Members desire to be identified with a special group
    • youth gangs
      • initialization rituals
      • a leader
      • special clothing
    • body modification groups
work groups
Work Groups
  • Organized to perform particular task
  • Prominent in horticultural and agricultural communities
  • Often made up of youth groups
  • Surpluses are shared among the members
  • One person, one vote
  • Farmer cooperatives
    • e.g. in western India
  • Craft cooperatives
    • e.g. in Panama
activist groups
Activist Groups
  • Formed with the goal of protesting certain conditions such as political repression or human rights violations
    • e.g. CO-MADRES
  • Also formed because of concerns about personal problems
    • e.g. AA
civil society
Civil Society
  • Diverse interest groups that operate outside the government to organize aspects of life
    • the Church
    • Trade Unions
    • Environmental groups

“We conclude that the concept of “race” has no validity as a biological category in the human species. Because it homogenizes widely varying individuals, it impedes research and understanding of the true nature of human biological variations.”

AAA Statement on Race, 1996

types of political organizations

Headman / Big-man


King/Queen/ President

Types of Political Organizations





band societies summary
Band Societies ~ Summary
  • Related by blood or marriage
  • Live together and are loosely associated with a territory in which they forage
  • Egalitarian
  • Foraging groups
  • Comprises a small group of households
  • Between 20 and a few hundred people
  • Membership is flexible
  • Leader is “first among equals”
  • Leader has no power, only authority and influence
band societies leadership
Band Societies: Leadership
  • Decision-making is by consensus.
  • Leaders are older men and women.
  • Leaders cannot enforce their decisions; They can only persuade.
  • Sharing and generosity are important sources of respect.
band societies social order
Band Societies: Social Order
  • Maintained by gossip, ridicule, and avoidance.
  • Violations of norms are sins.
  • Offenders may be controlled through ritual means such as public confessions.
  • Offender is defined as a patient rather than a criminal.
tribes summary
Tribes ~ Summary
  • Members consider themselves descended from the same ancestor.
  • Found primarily among pastoralists and horticulturalists.
  • Egalitarian
  • Leadership: Bigman
big man societies
Big-Man Societies

Big Man: A local entrepreneur who successfully mobilizes and manipulates wealth on behalf of his group in order to hold feasts and enhance his status and rank relative to other leaders in the region.

He has no formal authority or power, nor does he necessarily have more wealth.

tribal societies
Tribal Societies
  • Horticulture and pastoralism dominant, sometimes limited agriculture
  • Comprises several bands, each with similar lifestyle, language and territory
  • Leadership combines both achieved and ascribed statuses
  • Leader resolves conflict
  • Leader relies on authority and influence
Big-man, big-woman
  • Personalistic, favor-based leadership
  • Heavy responsibilities in regulating internal affairs
  • Often, sons of big-men are big-men too
  • Common in Papua New Guinea
      • - Sahlins 1963, Strathern 1971
chiefdoms summary
Chiefdoms ~ Summary
  • Allied tribes and villages under one leader
  • More centralized and complex
  • Heritable systems of rank
  • Social stratification
  • Chiefship is an “office”
  • Achievement is a measure of success
chiefdom societies
Chiefdom Societies


  • Monumental architecture
  • Distinct ceremonial centers
  • Elaborate grave goods reflect high social status
  • Larger settlements by smaller villages
  • Cultivators and pastoralists
definition of a state
Definition of a State
  • A formal organization of roles in which legal and military authority is vested and in which authority is considered by the members of the state to be its primary function
  • A special group charged with allocating authority to use physical force to achieve peace and conformance with law and custom and to maintain territorial integrity against external threats
state societies
State Societies
  • Central government with monopoly over the use of force.
  • More populous, heterogeneous, and powerful than other political organizations.
  • Able to organize large populations for coordinated action.
  • Defend against external threats.
characteristics of states
Characteristics of States
  • Define citizenship and rights
  • Maintain law and order
  • Maintain standing armies
  • Keep track of their citizens
  • Have the power the tax
  • Power to manipulate information
  • Hierarchical and patriarchal
political change in states today
Nation v. State

The Kurds

Transnational Nations

Puerto Rico


Soviet Union

Women in politics

Become “like men”?

Political Change in States Today



Armed conflict between groups of people who constitute separate territorial teams or political communities

  • Some groups seldom, if ever, war while with others it is endemic
  • Interpersonal violence and armed conflict are a tendency of all societies when certain internal or external pressures arise
war is
  • A significant factor in demographic and political change within the last 10,000 years
  • Attested to by a great deal of archaeological evidence worldwide
  • Not innate per se, but in historical terms it seems to be one of the universally recurring realities of human existence
  • all Hell, as General W.T. Sherman once noted
warfare among hunter gatherers
Warfare Among Hunter-gatherers
  • Depending on the circumstances, low-level conflict can and does occur between foragers
  • Yet hunter-gatherers seldom try to annihilate each other. Why?
    • The loss of 2 male individuals per generation in a band of 30 represents more than 10 percent of all adult male deaths
    • Small bands cannot sustain fatalities at these levels and survive.
    • Protection of women from violent death is even more critical from the biological standpoint. Why?
warfare among hunter gatherers1
Warfare Among Hunter-gatherers
  • Armed conflict between simple hunter-gatherers usually takes the form of personal feuds between individuals; typically older men who have long-standing conflicts.
  • Just as in other social animals, conflict between groups of hunter-gatherers is more frequent during periods of population pressure and environmental stress.
warfare among sedentary village societies
Warfare Among Sedentary Village Societies
  • Warfare is much more common among sedentary populations than with foragers
    • The more people have invested in fixed elements in their environment the more likely they are to defend it.
    • Sedentary groups cannot resolve disputes by moving off to another location.
  • Example: Among the Yanomami almost 33% of all male deaths and 7% of female deaths were due to armed conflict.
why war
Why War?
  • War as instinct:
    • War is innate.
    • Not all societies are warlike, and most societies only war occasionally.
    • There are alternatives to war which are often chosen.
    • If it were deeply instinctive, the complex means of conflict resolution and social organization would not evolve.
why war1
Why War?
  • War as sport and Entertainment
    • Martial arts, war movies, war games, guns and military paraphernalia, are all very popular. People are fascinated with war
    • In the United States the majority of people do not have any concept of what war is really about. And, in large part, some of modern warfare has been “sterilized” through the use of stand-off weaponry.
    • No one who has been in direct combat views it as entertainment. As historian Stephen Ambrose puts it, it is the worst experience a human being can find themselves in.
    • In the past people had to kill others with their bare hands. It was brutal, direct, and required an immense amount of courage.
    • War is terrible destructive, especially to non-industrial societies. The cost in resources is very high in most cases.
why war2
Why War?
  • War as revenge:
    • This is frequently the stated motivation in many non-state conflicts.
    • However, all societies have ways to circumvent war for revenge, and all societies have ways in which the aggrieved parties can choose not to retaliate indefinitely
    • So revenge may be an emic explanation, but it is not an underlying and universal cause for warfare.
why war3
Why War?
  • War as a struggle for Reproductive Success
    • The warriors get the girls, and the successful warriors (who live, and gain prestige as well as plunder) get more of the girls. Warriors have status and are intimidating to others.
    • HOWEVER, those who live by the sword usually die by the sword. Men who are aggressive warriors typically die young, and are often pre-occupied with the conflicts to the detriment of their family life.
why war4
Why War?
  • War as a Struggle for material benefits
    • In general warfare is expensive in terms of human costs, but the larger the society the more able they are to absorb these costs.
    • The immediate material gains of war may be significant despite the casualties.
    • less than 1% of male deaths in Europe and the U.S. have been battlefield deaths in the last century, and that includes WWI where almost ¼ of the Entire European male population died, and WWII where over half a billion people were killed.
why war conclusions
Why War: Conclusions
  • Band and village people go to war when they lack alternative solutions to conflicts related to procuring resources in response to population pressure and environmental depletion.
  • Chiefdoms and States go to war because it is the primary means by which the ruling elite solidifies control, gains resources, and acquires territory.