Chapter 10.docx

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10 Apr 2012
Chapter 10
Law and Order in Band and Village Societies
- Despite the presence of conflict, simple hunter-gatherer societies enjoy a high degree of
personal security without having any rulers or law and order specialists
- Band and village societies are embedded in the subsistence economy and are: small in size,
equal access to resources and technology, similar and self-sufficient households and all
households produce all their needs by means of a division of labour by age and sex
- An egalitarian society lacks formalized differentiation in access to and power over basic
resources among its members
- The subsistence economy is essentially the household economy, it is organized at the household
level to meet basic needs, like food, clothing, housing, defense and technology
- The political economy regulates the flow of goods in large multifamily settings and supports
existing power relationships
- As communities grow and the landscape becomes more crowded, the political economy
expands and so does the power of its leaders
- In band and village societies, all adult shave access to the rivers, lakes, beaches, and oceans, the
plants and animals and the subsoil and soil
- Neighbouring bands contain many intermarried kin and therefore commonly share access to
resources as a result of mutual visiting
- Everyone among the !Kung is recognized as entitled to the necessities of life by right of being a
member of society
- The members of even the most egalitarian societies usually believe that weapons, clothing,
containers, ornaments, tools and other personal effects should not be taken away or used
without the consent of the owner
- The accumulation of material possessions is rigidly limited by the recurrent need to break camp
and travel long distances on foot and most utilitarian items can be borrowed without difficulty
- The existence of private property does not lead to inequalities in wealth and power because,
according to the rules of reciprocity, people can ask openly for possessions and such requests
cannot be denied
- When disputes occur in small egalitarian societies, the disputants rely on the backings of their
kin groups for support
- The important thing is to mobilize public opinion on one side or the other decisively enough to
prevent the outbreak of large-scale feuding
- The Inuit song duel is a classic example of how public opinion influences the support that
disputants can expect from their respective kin groups
- Among the Central and Eastern Inuits, issues are settled at large public meetings, the disputants
take turn singing insulting songs and the court of public opinion responds to each performance
with different degrees of laughter
- They have no police or military specialists, so the court decisions cannot be enforced and
sometimes wife swapping leads to murder
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