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Chapter 10

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ANTH 1150

Chapter 10 Law and Order in Band and Village SocietiesDespite the presence of conflict simple huntergatherer societies enjoy a high degree of personal security without having any rulers or law and order specialistsBand and village societies are embedded in the subsistence economy and are small in size equal access to resources and technology similar and selfsufficient households and all households produce all their needs by means of a division of labour by age and sexAn egalitarian society lacks formalized differentiation in access to and power over basic resources among its membersThe subsistence economy is essentially the household economy it is organized at the household level to meet basic needs like food clothing housing defense and technologyThe political economy regulates the flow of goods in large multifamily settings and supports existing power relationshipsAs communities grow and the landscape becomes more crowded the political economy expands and so does the power of its leadersIn band and village societies all adult shave access to the rivers lakes beaches and oceans the plants and animals and the subsoil and soilNeighbouring bands contain many intermarried kin and therefore commonly share access to resources as a result of mutual visitingEveryone among the Kung is recognized as entitled to the necessities of life by right of being a member of societyThe 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 ownerThe 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 deniedWhen disputes occur in small egalitarian societies the disputants rely on the backings of their kin groups for supportThe important thing is to mobilize public opinion on one side or the other decisively enough to prevent the outbreak of largescale feudingThe Inuit song duel is a classic example of how public opinion influences the support that disputants can expect from their respective kin groupsAmong 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 laughterThey have no police or military specialists so the court decisions cannot be enforced and sometimes wife swapping leads to murder
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