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Dr. Dorothy D. Wills
Main components of a sociocultural system:
1. economic system
2. political organization
3. social structure
4. belief system
5. arts and leisure
PATTERNS OF SUBSISTENCE (from PowerPoint)
Economic Systems and Subsistence
Economics: study of the way production and exchange of goods utilizing scarce
(limited) resources may be developed to fulfill the needs of humankind; this
includes analysis of techniques and political-economic institutions
An economic system includes resources (natural environment), mode of production, relations of production, distribution, and consumption
Types of subsistence or Modes of production
Food collectors (band level)
3. Pastoralists (Tribe)
4. Horticulture (Tribe or chiefdom)
5. Agriculture (Chiefdom)
6. Peasant society (State or traditional civilization - based on intensive agriculture)
7. Industrial agriculture (Modern civilization)
Food collectors or foragers- Hunter-gatherers
A. Hunting emphasis (Netsilik)
B. Gathering emphasis (!Kung)
C. Balanced hunting and gathering (Mbuti)
D. Fishing emphasis (Kwakiutl)
Organization of economic behavior of food collectors
Sexual division of labor (and age)
Nomadic or semi-nomadic
Small population organized in bands (except some fishing people)
Few possessions, low specialization
Reciprocity, collective work
Characteristics of hunter-gatherers: The most ancient and original means
of subsistence of all humans, though becoming rare today.
Inhabit relatively isolated areas of low population density.
Egalitarian; little private property.
Family economic focus and basic unit of production, though men of band cooperate in hunting; family nearly self-sufficient.
Pastoralists (e.g., Sami reindeer herders, Nuer cattle herders, Basseri shepherds, many others)
Herd any domestic animal as the major source of sustenance.
They may also do some gardening, hunting and gathering, fishing, but are mainly dependent on their herds (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, reindeer, etc.). Swineherds and poultry raisers are usually primarily farmers.
Pastoralists inhabit savanna (grassland), desert, mountain pastures in a wide range of temperature.
Fluctuating territory; no fixed boundaries.
Transhumance or seasonal migration.
Division of labor by age and sex.
Interdependence beyond family to lineage, clan, age-group, camp-mates.
Raiding, feuding, and alliance patterns.
Water and soil are primary problems. These, plus nature of cultigens, determines
locales for farming.
Sedentary population, though agricultural cycle follows seasons of the year.
Horticulture and peasant farming are subsistence economies, but industrial agriculture is for profit. Intensive agriculture involves use of irrigation, fertilizers, draft animals, and possibly herbicides and mechanization.
Slash and burn (swidden) very common and successful traditional form of
farming. Land is the primary form of wealth, may be owned.
Powerful cultural significance of fertility and success of crops.
Existence of cooperative work groups.
May be extensive trade and markets.
Settlements can be nucleated or dispersed.
Peasant and intensive, industrial agriculture: More elaborate division of labor, more specialization, some exchange by contract (wage labor), patron-client.
Existence of surplus and accumulation of wealth.
Chiefdom or state governmental organization.
Inheritance follows kinship.
Can we apply the principles of formal economic analysis to understanding
of non-Western economic systems? – profit, market, supply and demand,
money, fixed price, capital, maximization …
Issues: role of ritual; maximization of prestige or alliance
Should everything be commodified?
transition from band - tribe - chiefdom - state - modern nation-state
Classification of different forms of political organization
I. Stateless society
A. Band level organization
- autonomous band
- semi-autonomous band
B. Middle range political organization (tribe)
Age group organization
B. Feudal state (kingdom)
1. segmentary state
2. kinship state
4. heterogeneous or conquest state
C. Modern nation-state
1. capitalist democracy
Functions of government
2. represent group in foreign relations
3. organize and formalize procedures for problem-solving
4. patterning of individual behavior (morality and social control)
5. solve disputes and conflicts of interest
6. keep order
Informal methods of social control
1. socialization and education
2. group pressure
3. fear of supernatural and religious justification
4. feud and negotiation
5. surveillance and threat of punishment
These do not have to be under control of the government.
Formal (state) mechanisms for social control
1. law and legislation
2. official law enforcement (police)
4. means of punishment by the state
5. council of elders or other political office
Why should we study stateless society?
1. they exist today as viable parts of larger societies
2. the mentality may remain even where the structure is gone
3. principles of this kind of political organization endure within states
4. sometimes the ancient structure recurs under new circumstances (age sets)
5. in periods of chaos, the traditional stateless structure may sustain people
6. source of revolutionary cadre
7. possible evolutionary relationship with state
8. knowledge of human behavior
9. understanding of colonial history
Social theory: distinctions and groups in society
5. association (various types)
Which are universal? kinship, age, sex/gender
Kinship - know diagramming, kin types and kin terms
- functions (inheritance, succession, marriage regulation, alliance and membership, economic cooperation, naming)
and structures related to:
1. descent rules and groups (know these)
Descent rules can be unilineal:
Double descent, or they can be
Bilateral (sometimes called cognatic).
The groups formed by using the rules are:
Clans and lineages (unilineal) and
2. marriage forms and regulations (know these)
- group marriage
- sororate, and others.
Other same-sex marriage
The definition and rate of marriage vary from culture to culture. The Garifuna have a low rate of marriage; the Kanuri a high one. The same is true for divorce. The age of marriage is an interesting issue.
Marriage is an exchange relationship between two groups.
Various rights are exchanged at the ritual, along with material goods, etc.
Brideprice or bridewealth
Moving in together
Universal incest taboo
Direct exchange (marriage groups)
3. residence rules
Concerns where married couple live
Visiting husband - rare
4. family types
Elementary or basic family
Family provides for filiation to descent group, socialization of children, care of elders, many other functions.
5. kinship terminology
Kin terms are often classes of kin (different
from kin types)
Common principles for distinction of kin include: generation, sex, lineal/collateral, age, sex of speaker, nature of connecting relative, reciprocity, condition of relative referred to
- egalitarian/hierarchical continuum; democratic/authoritarian continuum
- standard of living issue
- feudalism, class and caste
Belief systems - definitions
Shamanism - one specialist, many supernatural beings
Animism - many specialists, many supernatural beings
Olympian (pantheon) - polytheism, professional specialists in hierarchy
Monotheism - 'world religions'
These are not perfect types. Syncretism is a blend of types. Most faiths are somewhat mixed or have overlapping features.
All religions have:
- specialists or practitioners (e.g., shamans, diviners, ritual leaders, healers, witches, sorcerers, priests/priestesses, mediums, etc.)
- congregations and organization of community activities
- ritual, myth, duties, taboos, rules, norms
- supernatural beings (gods, goddesses, spirits, demons, ghosts, ancestors, etc.)
- cults and secret societies are forms of religions
Philosophical dimensions of belief systems (worldview):
- epistemology and causation
The Modern World
Issues in regional cultural analysis
2) migration and inhabitation patterns
3) colonial history
4) indigenous culture and particular events
Three big global issues that affect everyone:
1. environmental degradation, including climate change, eco-system
air/water/land pollution, ozone layer destruction, congestion, toxicity and
hormonal/genetic/antibiotic/electromagnetic/radiation exposure, dietary
shifts, depletion of fresh water, exhaustion of arable land, epidemic and "new" diseases, etc.
2. communal violence, including warfare, genocide, oppression
by state governments and/or corporations, civil disruptions, economic violence, customary violence against women and children, etc.
3. poverty, measured in terms of rates of malnutrition and hunger; relative per capita income; access to basic needs such as health care, housing, food and clothing, transportation, education; infant mortality rates; crime rates; unemployment and under-employment; inequitable distribution of resources and opportunity, etc.
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