Exam 2: Anthropology
believe government and political phenomena exist in formal political
institutions. Anth have developed a Maximalist
approach to study, done so because
realize that there are a large range of informal political institutions. They occur in
unlikely context: such as witchcraft institutions, kinship relationships, and religious
institutions. Maximilist approach treat, as a matter of principle, a very wide range of
practices as political.
process and method of making decisions for groups. Ex: group we deal with is
of societies the political groups that make decisions for groups look at religious
s. There are clans
in many societies, have clan heads may have political parties.
Look at domestic unit, the acquisition, use and distribution of power at many different
levels of society.
Political anthropology often take into account the forces
that drive the
society, forces not simply human, sometimes divine, supernatural. Important recognition
of the cardinal element, the pursuit of gain by individuals. (gain may be financial,
spiritual, authority, prestige)
: Involves the right to exercise power, the conferral of authority, a degree of
social acceptance of the right of an individual (or set of individuals) to exercise power.
c: the choice of argument an individual or group uses to acquire legitimacy.
Rhetoric is important because used by individuals to gauge whether they should put their
trust into that person. Political anth think leaders have legitimacy and offices have
legitimacy. It is strongly consensual.
Marshall Sahlin’s “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief: Political Types in
Melanesia and Polynesia”:
The contrast between developed Polynesian and underdeveloped Melanesian polities is
striking. Melanesian scheme of small, separate, and equal political blocs, compares with
the Polynesian polity which is an extensive pyramid of groups capped by the family and
following of a paramount chief.
The Melanesian Big man status: The attainment of this status is the outcome of a series of
acts which elevate a person above a common herd. In the internal sector, the Big Man has
true command ability, outside of it he only has fame and indirect influence. Two
shortcomings: a comparative instability, flux of rising and falling leaders, enlarging and
contracting factions. Secondly, the possibility of desertion inhibits the leaders ability to
forcibly push up his followers’ output which therefore constraints a higher political
Polynesian chiefdom became an extensive set of offices, a pyramid of higher and lower
chiefs holding sway over larger and smaller sections of the polity. Comparative point: the
qualities of command that had to be personally demonstrated by men in Melanesian in
order to attract loyal followers, were in Polynesia socially assigned to office and rank.
Class notes: Marshall Sahlins is trying to find out how power operates and is structured.