POLITICS AND ECONOMIC LIFE


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Archaeological and Anthropological Tripos Part 1

Paper 3 – Human Societies: The Comparative Perspective

Politics and Economic Life

Prof. Alan Macfarlane
Lent Term, Weeks 1-4: Tuesdays and Fridays 10am

Introductory overviews:Economic Anthropology.
C.Hann, Social Anthropology (1998) chaps. 5-9 [hereafter cited as Hann]
George Dalton, Tribal and Peasant Economies (1967)(a useful reader with a wide range of theoretical and case studies) [hereafter cited as Dalton]
Edward E.LeClair and Harold K. Schneider, Economic Anthropology (1968) (another useful reader with theory and case studies). [hereafter cited as Leclair & Schneider]
Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (1974) – a classic [hereafter cited as Sahlins]

Political Anthropology
C.Hann, Social Anthropology (1998) , chaps. 10-14
David Nugent and Joan Vincent (eds.), A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (2004)
John Gledhill, Anthropological Perspectives on Politics (1994; polemical)
Simon Roberts, Order and Dispute (1979)

For specific topics it is almost always worth starting with The Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1968). Also there are some useful articles in Tim Ingold (ed), The Companion Encyclopaedia of Anthropology (1994).

Lecture 1. The production of wealth
A general framework of production systems, hunting, pastoralism and slash and burn, settled peasantries, industrial societies, and their subdivisions. Ways of making a living. The organization and nature of work. Some advantages and disadvantages of each and reasons for movement from one to another.
Hann, chapter 6; Sahlins, chs.2,3;
Karl Polanyi, ‘The Economy as Instituted Process’ in Trade and Markets in the Early Empires, eds. Polanyi et al (1958), reprinted in LeClair and Schneider, pp.122-167 (for further support for Polanyi’s views, and two counter-criticisms, see the same, pp. 168-233)

Lecture 2: The distribution of wealth
A general overview of types of property and stratification in the four major types of civilization: hunters and gatherers, tribesmen, peasants and industrialists. The normal tendencies in systems of property and stratification. The relations of production and the production of relations.
Hann, C., chapter 8.
Woodburn, J., ‘Egalitarian Societies’, Man, 1982, vol.17, no.4., pp.431-451
Hann, C.M. (ed.), Property Relations: renewing the anthropological tradition (1998)
A.Beteille (ed.), Social Inequality (1969) esp. chs. 1, 11,12,13, 17

Lecture 3: The exchange of wealth
The variations in different economic formations, including gifts, barter, reciprocity, commodities, special purpose and general markets. The embedded and dis-embedded market economies and the theories of the transition to capitalism.
Hann, chapter 7; Sahlins, chs. 4-6
Malinowski, B. Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) [essential extracts in LeClair and Schneider, pp.17-40]
Mauss, M., The Gift (reprinted 1974)
Gregory, C., Gifts and Commodities (1982)
Dalton, George, ‘Primitive Money’ and P.Drucker, ‘The Potlatch’ reprinted in Dalton.


Lecture 4: Consumption, technology and final overview
Some features of consumption, both why people consume and how their consumption shapes their world – with special reference to particular consumables. The effects of technology on our world, and how technological ‘progress’ occurs – the long curve of human technologies.
Hann, C., chapter 9; Sahlins, chapter 1
Mintz, S., Sweetness and Power: the place of sugar in the modern economy (1986)
Macfarlane, A and I., Green Gold: the empire of tea (2002)
Mokyr, J., The Lever of Riches: technological creativity and economic power (1986)
M.Douglas and B.Isherwood, The World of Goods (1979)
D.Miller (ed.), Acknowledging Consumption (1995)

Lecture 5: Theory in political anthropology and the state
A broad view of political systems in all of human history; the state and systems of law; a genealogy of political theory from Aristotle onwards; the anthropological contribution to the understanding of politics
Hann, C., chapters 10-11
E.E.Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer (1965)
Edmund Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma (1954)
F.G.Bailey, Stratagems and Spoils (1969)
Abner Cohen, Two Dimensional Man (1974)

Lecture 6. Nations, feud and war
Nations and nationalism, the invention of nations; theories of nationalism; consequences of nationalism; the invention of identities; organized violence through history; feuds and feuding; the development of war and its causes
Hann, chs. 12, 14
Thomas H.Eriksen, Ethnicity and Nationalism (2nd edn., 2002), ch.6
Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (1983)
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1991)
J. Black-Michaud, Cohesive Force (republished as Feuding Societies) (1975)
David Riches (ed.). The Anthropology of Violence (1986)

Lecture 7. Law and conflict resolution
Definitions and functions of law; how to compare legal systems; the ‘reasonable man (woman)’; status and contract systems; equality and individual rights; the rule of law; how courts work; juries and torture
Hann, ch. 13
Simon Roberts, Order and Dispute (1979) [for a more recent summary, see ‘Law and Dispute Processes’ in Ingold, Companion Encyclopedia, cited above.]
P.Bohannon, Justice and Judgment among the Tiv (1957)
M.Gluckman, Politics, Law and Ritual in Tribal Societies (1965), section on Law.
P.Bohannon (ed.), Law and Warfare (1967)

Lecture 8. Enemies and friends of the state
Bandits and the reasons for bandits; mafia type organizations and their functions; heresy and terrorism, the threats of ‘evil’; civil society – corporations, associations and the origins of freedom
Hann, ch.12
Erik Hobsbawm, Bandits (1972)
Anton Blok, The Mafia of a Sicilian Village, 1860-1960 (1974)
Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons (1975)
Charles Townsend, Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction (2002)
Chris Hann & Elizabeth Dunn (eds.), Civil Society (1996)

SOME DEFINITIONS AND TECHNICAL TERMS: ECONOMIC
(Compiled by Alan Macfarlane: for private use of students. If you would like a full version covering all of anthropology, please see Some Technical Terms used by Anthropologists. The full definitions can be printed out. The sources for these definitions in various textbooks is given there.)

Band: Basic social unit in many foraging populations. Normally includes one hundred or fewer people, all related by kinship or marriage.
Barter: direct exchange of items, without the intervention of money.
Big Man: Figure often found among tribal horticulturalists and pastoralists. The big man occupies no office but creates his own reputation through entrepreneurial expertise and generosity to others. Neither his wealth nor his position passes to his heirs.
Caste: (1) In Indian subcontinent, an endogamous social group incorporated within the stratified hierarchy of Hindu ideology. Some sociologists would apply more generally to endogamous, ranked social classes. (2) Caste system: a hierarchical system of groups with differential access to prestige and economic resources; in such a system, an individual’s position in society is completely determined at birth.
Corporate Group: (1)A social group whose members act as a legal individual in terms of collective rights to property, a common group name, collective responsibility, etc. (2) Groups that exist in perpetuity and manage a common estate. Includes some descent groups and modern industrial corporations.
Cultural ecology: the study of the way people use their culture to adapt to particular environments, the effects they have on their natural surroundings, and the impact of the environment on the shape of culture.
Division of labour: the technical and social manner in which work is organized in a society.
Domestic Group: A social group occupying or centred in a dwelling house, living (and usually eating) together, and characteristically exercising corporate control over family property.
Domestic Mode of Production: Term used by Sahlins and Meillassoux about economic systems where the bulk of production takes place within the domestic family.
Domestication: process by which people control the distribution, abundance, and biological features of certain plans and animals, in order to increase their usefulness to humans.
Ecology: the study of plant and animal populations and communities and their relationships with one another and with their environment.
Fallow: The period or process whereby the fertility of soil is regenerated after a crop has been harvested.
Forces of Production: The technology and physical resources used in production (viewed, in Marxist theory, as comprising, along with social relations of production (q.v.), the economic base of a society.)
Generalized reciprocity: (1) gift giving without any immediate return or conscious thought of return. (2) Principle that characterizes exchanges between closely related individuals; as social distance increases reciprocity becomes balanced and, finally, negative.
Globalization: tendency towards homogeneity and uniformity across the world (e.g. McDonald’s, Coke etc.)
Horticulture: Cultivation of crops using hand tools (e.g., digging stick or hoe).
Hunter-Gatherers: Human populations that rely in subsistence exclusively (or almost exclusively) on wild foods, hunted and collected. Some modern hunter-gatherers receive subsistence food from governments or missions or do minimal cultivating.
Kula ring: a ceremonial exchange of valued shell ornaments in the Trobriand Islands, in which white shell armbands are traded around the islands in a counter clockwise direction and red shell necklaces are traded in a clockwise direction.
Lineage: descent group based on demonstrated descent.
Market: The abstract relationship of supply and demand in the buying and selling processes of a money economy.
Marketplace: A physical setting within which buying and selling (and barter) take place.
Maximization: A theoretical assumption that individuals (or groups or firms) will make decisions rationally in such a way as to achieve maximum reward (whether in money, power, etc.); an assumption underlying classical and neoclassical economics and formalist economic anthropology.
Means of Production: In Marxist analysis, the resources used in the process of production (tools, land, technological knowledge, rare material, etc.); Social Classes are defined with reference to their differential relationship to the means of production (e.g. owners vs. wage labourers).
Mode of Production: In Marxist theory, a complex of productive relationships: e.g., capitalist, entailing relationships between wage labours and employers; or feudal, entailing relationships between serf and lords, etc. two or more modes of production may coexist within the same society (in Marxist theory, a social formation).
Money (general purpose): Currency that functions as a means of exchange, a standard of value, and a means of payment; opposed to special-purpose money (e.g. tea or cowrie shells)
Neolithic: “New Stone Age”: the level of technology, marked by food producing and the use of ground and polished stone tools, characteristic of much of the “tribal” world before the advent of colonialism.
Nomadism: A mode of life based on the shifting of population to move with livestock (in accordance with needs for pasturage).
Palaeolithic: “Old Stone Age”: the vast period marked by chipped and flaked stone tool industries.
Pastoralism: A mode of life where herding (of cattle, sheep, camels, goats, horses, etc.) provides the major subsistence.
Peasant: A member of an agrarian social class or estate whose productive labour supports an elite (characteristically urban) as well as providing for subsistence.
Potlatch: A feast marked by distribution and destruction of valuables, as a demonstration of wealth and status, characteristic of the Kwakiutl and some other Northwest Coast Indians.
Rank society: a society having no socially structured unequal access to economic resources, but having socially structured unequal access to status positions and prestige.
Rationality: (1) the tendency to justify or explain actions by emphasizing their efficient contribution to ends. (2) Max Weber classified social action as (a) instrumentally rational, where object and persons are used as relatively efficient instruments or means for attaining one’s own rationally pursued and calculated ends; (b) value-rational, where an end is pursued for its own sake, regardless of its prospect of success (c) affectual, determined by emotion, (d) traditional, determined by ingrained habit.
Reciprocity: A mode of exchange marked by continuing obligation to reciprocate particularly in kind: governs exchange among equals.
Redistribution: Major exchange mode of chiefdoms, many archaic states, and states with managed economies.
Relations of Production: In Marxist theory, the social relationships through which production (and distribution and consumption) are organized in a society (relations of production and forces of production. q.v. together define a mode of production, q.v.)
Slash and burn: Form of extensive horticulture in which the forest cover of a plot is cut down and burned before planting to allow the ashes to fertilize the soil.
Social Class: A division of society, defined in terms of its relationship to the means of production, within a system of such classes, hierarchically ordered, and marked by a consciousness of their collective identity and interests.
Social mobility: the process of changing status in a system of stratification
Social Stratification: Division of society in terms of inequality; differential ranking or status of social groups, classes, or categories.
Swidden: See “Slash-and-burn”.
Technology: (1) ‘traditional effective action’ (Mauss). (2) the skills and knowledge by which people make things and extract resources.
Transhumance: Seasonal movement of nomadic peoples according to the availability of pasturage.
Tribe: (1) Form of socio-political organization generally based on horticulture or pastoralism, more rarely on foraging or agriculture. Socio-economic stratification and centralized rule are absent in tribes, and there is no means of enforcing political decisions. (2) A small-scale society characterized by a distinctive language and culture with a political identity but not central, hierarchical institutions.
Urbanization: The movement of rural or small-town populations into cities, the growth of cities.
Wealth: objects or resources that are useful or that have exchange value.
World system: A social system encompassing the entire world and entailing a single division of labour.


SOME TECHNICAL TERMS USED BY ANTHROPOLOGISTS; POLITICAL

Acephalous society: Literally a “headless” society. Refers to a highly decentralized and relatively egalitarian form of political organizations.
Association: a social group based on shared interest or voluntary participation.
Band: Basic social unit in many foraging populations. Normally includes one hundred or fewer people, all related by kinship or marriage.
Big Man: Figure often found among tribal horticulturalists and pastoralists. The big man occupies no office but creates his own reputation through entrepreneurial expertise and generosity to others. Neither his wealth nor his position passes to his heirs.
Bureaucracy: the specialized administrative organization concerned with the day-to-day running of the state.
Cargo cults: revitalization movements that attempt to gain European goods (cargo) by magical imitation of European behaviour and technology; typical of Melanesia.
Charisma, charismatic: a quality, coming from a person rather than from an office, that inspires intense loyalty and devotion; often has religious significance, linking prophet and followers.
Chiefdom: (1) Form of socio-political organization based on food production, usually agriculture or intensive horticulture, in which kinship remains important and generosity is associated with political office. Often a transitional form between tribal society and state. (2) a political system in which kin groups are linked together through a hierarchy of political and/or religious leadership.
Civil society: there are several meanings. One, derived from eighteenth century Enlightenment thought, refers to all associations and activities which lie between the State and its organs on the one hand, and the individual or citizen on the other (e.g. colleges, clubs, sects, firms etc. etc.)
Contract/Status: as used by lawyers (esp. Maine), the difference between relations based on choice, some kind of agreement, and those based on birth or non-choice. The movement to modern societies often thought to be the movement from status to contract based systems.
Corporate Group: (1)A social group whose members act as a legal individual in terms of collective rights to property, a common group name, collective responsibility, etc. (2) Groups that exist in perpetuity and manage a common estate. Includes some descent groups and modern industrial corporations.
Ethnic boundary markers: any overt characteristics that can be used to indicate ethnic group membership.
Ethnic group: (1) People whose particular customs and cultural heritage differ from other such groups and from the main body of society (2) a named social group based on perceptions of shared ancestry, cultural traditions, and common history that culturally distinguish that group from other groups.
Feud, feuding: (1) Continuing hostility, enmity, and recurrent aggression between social groups. (2) violent extralegal conflicts that occur between subgroups of the same society.
Feudalism: a social and economic system whereby land is held, by conferred right, by members of a privileged class, who can command the labour of a lower class that works the land.
Hydraulic society: an advanced agricultural society making use of irrigation and tending to have a high degree of political centralization.
Ideology: (1)A cultural belief system, particularly one that entails systematic distortion or masking of the true nature of social, political, and economic relation. (2) values and beliefs about how the world is or should be ordered that are consciously and systematically organized into some form of program.
Law: a body of social norms in a society, which its members must abide by and which may be enforced by an agency recognized as having political authority in that society.
Millenarian movement: a social movement espousing a belief in the coming of a new world (a millenium), in part through supernatural action.
Nation-state: socio-political system with a government and sharp contrasts in wealth, prestige and power.
Nationality: an ethnic group which claims a right to a discrete homeland and to political autonomy and self-determination.
Neo-colonialism: The process whereby industrial nations control the political and economic life of nominally independent countries through investment and support of local elites.
Race: a category based upon physical traits.
Racism: the explanation of a people’s behaviour in terms of genetic endowment, usually associated with a belief in the innate superiority and inferiority of particular groups.
Rank society: a society having no socially structured unequal access to economic resources, but having socially structured unequal access to status positions and prestige.
Revolution: a fundamental change in the rules governing social, political and other relations, an overturning (as changing cricket to football), as opposed to ‘rebellion’, which is just changing the players.
Secret societies: groups that restrict their membership and maintain secrecy about their rituals, group practices, and special esoteric knowledge.
Segmentary: Of descent systems, defining descent categories with reference to more remote apical ancestors so that the descent categories form a treelike structure (including successively wider ranges of descendants).
State: (1) A political entity that exercises sovereign rights over a territory and exercises power through centralized, hierarchical political institutions of control, revenue extraction, and enforcement of law and civic duty. (2) A political unit with centralized decision-making affecting a large population. Most states have cities with public buildings; full-time craft and religious specialists; and “official” art style; a hierarchical social structure topped by an elite class; and a governmental monopoly on the legitimate use of force to implement policies.
Succession: Assumption of an office that has been vacated; the pattern whereby successors are chosen.
Tribe: (1) Form of socio-political organization generally based on horticulture or pastoralism, more rarely on foraging or agriculture. Socio-economic stratification and centralized rule are absent in tribes, and there is no means of enforcing political decisions. (2) A small-scale society characterized by a distinctive language and culture with a political identity but not central, hierarchical institutions.
Voluntary associations: organizations like burial societies, social clubs, and trade associations that people join.
Warfare: Formalized armed combat by groups representing rival political communities.
World system: A social system encompassing the entire world and entailing a single division of labour.