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Political Organization and Social Control
Transcript of Political Organization and Social Control
Refers to the way in which power is distributed within a society so as to control people's behavior and maintain social order.
Societies differ in their political organization based on three dimensions:
The extent to which political institutions are distinct from other aspects of the social structure.
For example, in some societies political structures are hardly distinguishable from economic, kinship, or religious structures.
The extent to which legitimate
is concentrated in specific political roles.
is the power or right to give commands, take action, and make binding decisions.
The level of
, meaning the size of the territorial group that comes under the control of the political structure.
These dimensions are the basis for classifying societies into four fundamentally different types of political structure:
band societies, tribal societies, chiefdoms, and state societies.
Types of Political Organization
The least complex form of political arrangement is the band, they have small nomadic populations of food collectors and there size can range from twenty to a few hundred people.
They are characterized by being kinship based and having no permanent political structure.
Band societies have very little role specialization and are extremely egalitarian since there are few differences in status and wealth.
They are small-scale societies made of up autonomous political units that share common linguistic and cultural features.
Tribal societies are usually found among food producers. Since plant and animal domestication is much more productive than foraging, tribal societies tend to have populations that are larger, denser and more sedentary than bands.
The biggest difference between bands and tribes is that tribes have certain
such as clans, age grades, and secret societies that cut across kinship lines and integrate all the local segments of the tribe into a larger whole.
Chiefdoms are an intermediate form of political organization in which integration is achieved through the office of chiefs.
Chiefdoms differ from bands and tribes in that they integrate a multitude of local communities in a more formal and permanent way.
Unlike bands and tribes, chiefdoms are made up of local communities that different from one another in both rank and status.
Chiefships are usually hereditary, and the chief and his or her immediate kin constitute a social and political elite.
The state system of government is a bureaucratic, hierarchical form of government composed of various echelons of political specialists.
It is the most formal and complex form of political organization. A state governs many communities within a large geographic area. They collect taxes, recruit labor for armies and civilian public works projects, and have a monopoly on the right to use force.
They are large bureaucratic organizations made up of permanent institutions with legislative, administrative, and judicial functions.
In a state, governments organize their power on a supra-kinship basis. Meaning that a person's membership in a state is based on his/her place of residence and citizenship as opposed to direct kinship.
Theories of State Formation
Even though the rise of state systems of government was a significant development, there is little consensus on why these complex forms of government emerged.
Through the examination of ancient and contemporary societies, anthropologists and social philosophers have attempted to explain why some societies have developed state systems and others have not.
Voluntaristic Theory of State Formation
This theory (put forth by archaeologist V. Gordon Childe in 1936) suggested that stable systems of state government appeared because people voluntarily surrendered some of their autonomy to the state in exchange for certain benefits.
Hydraulic Theory of State Formation
This theory was suggested by Karl Wittfogel in 1957. According to Karl, stable systems of state government arose because small-scale farmers were willing to surrender were willing to surrender a portion of their autonomy to a large government entity in exchange for the benefits of large-scale irrigation systems.
Coercive Theory of State Formation
In 1970 Robert Carneiro suggested that the existence of the state is the direct result of warfare. He stated that, "force, and not enlightened self interest, is the mechanism by which political evolution has led, step by step, from autonomous villages to the state."
Democracy is a type of political system that involves popular participation in decision making. Thus power is exercised (usually through representatives), by the people as a whole.
Autocracy is a form of government that is controlled by a leader who holds absolute power and denies popular participation in decision making.
Changing State Systems of Government
The global historical trend during the last several decades has been toward
and away from
According to Freedom House (www.freedomhouse.org), an organization that tracks political trends across the world, by the end of 2005, 122 of the world's 192 governments were electoral democracies, an increase from 66 countries only eighteen years earlier.
Social control refers to mechanisms found in all societies that function to encourage people not to violate social norms.
Statelike societies, like the U.S., have a large variety of formalized mechanisms in order to keep people's behavior in line. Such as laws, judges, prisons, execution chambers, and police forces.
Smaller-scale band societies, such as the Inuit or Ju/'hoansi, have no centralized political authority but still maintain order through informal mechanisms of social control.
Social norms are the expected forms of behavior in any given society. They serve as behavioral guidelines that help the society operate smoothly.
Deviance is a term used by social scientists to refer to the violation of social norms.
One must remember that deviance is relative to the culture. What is deviant in one culture may not be deviant in another.
Sanctions are both positive and negatitive, as people are rewarded for behaving in accpetable ways and punished for violating the norms.
Positive sanctions are mechanisms of social control used to enforce a society's norms through rewards.
Such as a simple smile of approval up to being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Negative sanctions are punishments for violating the norms of a society.
This can include anything from a frown of disapproval to the death penalty.
Informal Means of Social Control
When compared to complex states, bands and tribes have little that appears to be government in the Western sense.
They have low levels of political integration, few specialized political roles, and little
is the capacity of a political system to enforce its will on the general population.
Socialization is the process of teaching young people the norms of a society.
For example in North America, we learn that people wear clothes in public and that we should as well.
Degradation ceremonies are deliberate and formal societal mechanisms designed to publicly humiliate someone who has broken a social norm.
An example would be how when Military officers found guilty in a court-martial are often ceremoniously stripped of their insignia of rank in order to publicly humiliate them.
Corporate lineages play an important role in most small-scale societies. They are kinship groups whose members often live, work, play, and pray together. Property is controlled by the lineage, and it's members derive their primary identity from the group.
Acting like a small corporation, the lineage has a strong impact on the everyday lives of its members and can put extreme pressure on people to conform to the social norms.
Public opinion is what the general public thinks about a given issue.
When public opinion is brought upon an individual, it can influence his or her behavior.
Supernatural Belief Systems
A powerful mechanisms of social control in headless societies. Involves the belief in supernatural forces that transcend the natural, obervable world. Such as gods, witches, and sorcerers.
People will refrain from certain behavior if they believe that some supernatural force will punish them for it.
Ancestor worship involves the worship of deceased relatives. These souls are considered supernatural beings and fully functioning members of a descent group.
This is the practice of a living person (usually an elder) calling forth the wrath of ancestor-gods against an alleged sinner.
Another form of social control by ghosts in which the ancestor-gods inflict sickness on the guilty people directly, without having to be invoked.
Belief in Witchcraft, which is common in small-scale societies, also discourages people from engaging in socially deviant behavior.
It is the use of inborn, involuntary, and often unconscious powers to cause harm to other people.
Formal Means of Social Control
A means of settling disputes over wife stealing among the Inuit involving a public contest using derisive songs and lyrics.
Some societies use intermediaries to help resolve conflicts. They are mediators of disputes among individuals or families within a society.
Moots are informal hearings of disputes for the purpose of resolving conflicts, they are usually found in small-scale societies. Unlike more formal court systems, moots are held in the homes of the complainants as opposed to public places.
Council of Elders
A formal control mechanism composed of a group of elders who settle disputes among individuals in a society.
Oaths and Ordeals
is a declaration to a god to attest to the truth of what a person says.
is a painful and possibly life-threatening test inflicted upon someone suspected of wrongdoing to determine guilt or innocence.
Courts and Codified Law
State systems of government possess a monopoly on the use of force. Through a system of codified laws, the sate both forbids individuals from using force and determines how it will use force to require citizens to do some things and prevent them from doing others.
is a cultural rule that regulates human behavior and maintains order.
When laws are violated, the state has the authority, through its courts and law enforcements agencies, to fine, imprison, or even execute the wrongdoer.
A rebellion is an attempt within a society to disrupt the status quo and redistribute the power and resources.
An attempt to overthrow the existing form of politcal organization, the principles of economic production and distribution, and the allocation of social status.
Just as societies have ways for regulating the social relaionships of people within their own society, they also have mechanisms for managing external relationships with other groups.
One such mechanism is warfare, which is systematic, organized, and institutionalized fighting between different groups.