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Lecture 26

ANTHR101 Lecture 26: Chapter 12

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Brent Hammer

Chapter 12- How Do Anthropologists Study Political Relations? Big Business in the Roman Empire - Pompeii’s People o Eruption of Mt Vesuvius 79 AD o Using advanced technology to uncover daily life and how people engaged in economic activity - Social organization o The 1% and the 99% o Social classes - Economic activities o Production o Distribution o Consumption - Capitalism o “The world’s oldest profession” - Human societies are able to organize human interdependency successfully only if they find ways to manage relations of power among the different individuals and groups the comprise - Power- transformative capacity; the ability to transform a given situation o Social power- when the choice affects an entire social group ▪ Wolf describes 3 different modes of social power: • Interpersonal power- involves the ability of on individual to impose their will on another individual; • Organizational power- highlights how individuals or social units can limit the actions of other individuals in particular social settings • Structural power- organizes social settings themselves and controls the allocation of social labour How Are Culture and Politics Related? - Political anthropology- the study of social power in human society o Current approaches date to the 70s and 80s when attention was turned to broad questions about power and inequality o History of political anthropology has been divided into 3 phases: ▪ Formative era (1851-1939) ▪ Classic era (1942-1971) ▪ Modern era (1970s-present) - The cross-cultural study of political institutions reveals the paradox of the human condition – open cultural creativity allows humans to imagine worlds of pure possibility; on the other hand, all humans live in material circumstances that make many of those possibilities profoundly unrealistic - Because the resources available in any environment can be used to sustain more than one way of life, human beings must choose which aspects of the material world to depend on o This is why questions about human population growth and economic activity are intimately intertwined with questions about the distribution of power in society ▪ Some suggest that population growth is a constant aspect of the human condition that determines forms of social organization – however, population pressure determines nothing more than the number of people that can be supported when the environment is used in a particular way ▪ Members of a society can respond to that pressure in any of various ways: • Try to get along on less • Intensify food production by inventing new technology • Reduce their numbers by inventing new social practices • Migrate elsewhere How Do Anthropologists Study Politics? Coercion - Early in 20 century, strongly influenced by Western philosophers who assumed that the state was the prototype of “civilized” social power – for them, the absence of a state could only mean anarchy (disorderly struggles for power among individuals; “the war of all against all”- Hobbes) o This view assumes that power is best understood as physical force, or coercion ▪ Power is coercive and persuasive o State authority vs. chaos - Although states that monopolize the use of force often perpetrated injustice or exploitation as a side effect, Hobbes and others viewed this as the necessary price for social order - Their assumption was that co-operative social living is not natural for human individuals because they are born with free agency o Free agency- the freedom of self-contained individuals to pursue their own interests about everything else and to challenge one another for dominance - Discussion as power as coercion tend to see political activity as competition between individual free agents over political control o When free agents make decisions, no larger groups, no historical obligations, no collective beliefs can or ought to stand in their way - Power is an independent entity that exists outside human beings – power does not belong to all humans; more a case of trying to gain access to power - Kinship institutions can organize orderly social life in societies without states – social obligations What are Domination and Hegemony? - Anthropologists who consider both coercive and persuasive forms of power have to come to terms with the ambiguity of power both as a concept and as a phenomenon threaded into the fabric of everyday life - Ideology- a world view that justifies the social arrangements under which people live o Marx argued that rules consolidate their power by successfully persuading their subjects to accept an ideology that portrays domination by the ruling class as legitimate – dominated groups who accept the ruling class ideology were said to suffer from false consciousness ▪ The concept of false consciousness is problematic because it views people as passive beings incapable of withstanding ideological indoctrination o Gramsci pointed out that coercive rule (domination) is expensive and unstable; rarely sufficient for social control – distinguished coercion from hegemony ▪ Domination- ruling with coercive force ▪ Rulers do better if they can persuade the dominated to accept their rule as legitimate, both by providing some genuine material benefits to their subjects, and by using schools and other cultural institutions to disseminate an ideology justifying their rule ▪ If they achieve all this, while also ensuring that none of these concessions seriously undermines their privileged position, they’ve established what Gramsci calls hegemony • Hegemony- the persuasion of subordinates to accept the ideology of the dominant group by mutual accommodations that nevertheless preserve the rulers’ privileged position o Mutually accommodates some of their needs/desires o Doesn’t allow for different ideologies that threaten the ruling one – often through institutions to restrict them o Is never absolute but always vulnerable to challenges – struggles may develop between rulers trying to justify their domination and subordinate groups who exercise agency by challenging “official” ideologies and practices that devalue or exclude them- may develop counterhegemonic cultural practices ▪ Counterhegemony- subgroup within a population that bands together and gains enough organization strength to put forth their own different and recognized (by people and government) ideology ▪ Goal is to overthrow ruling class, change the government - Concept of hegemony is attractive to many anthropologists because it draws attention to the central role of cultural beliefs and symbols in struggles to consolidate social organization and political control - In attempting to extend Gramsci’s insights to non-state settings, anthropologists are able to avoid some of the implausible accounts of power that depend on fear of punishment or false consciousness Michael Foucalt (1926-84) - Social thinker and author - Studied exe
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