Re: What Matriarchy?
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 19:03:41 -0700

sgf wrote:

> However, that's beside the point, because in these cultures there rarely
> is on person or persons that has enough power for the group to be
> considered an "-archy" of ANY sort. In h/g societies, leaders lead only
> because the rest of the group lets them, and anyone who tries to exert
> power over others is likely to be laughed out of office.

You are implying that '-archy' relates to the centralization of
political authority?

Here I can see the link between the control of productive goods and
political authority. As specialization increases, those with favorable
access to productive goods can accumulate and control more wealth. This
control would, in turn, lead to greater political power.

However, the term matriarchy applies to the social systems of animals
who certainly lack anything closely related to a centralized political
system. I would think that the anthropological term would be associated
with that used in other social studies, ie the group which holds greater
corporate power.

For this purpose, I do not see why political authority by virtue of
election should be considered as less powerful than authority
established by force or coersion. In fact, I would expect that when it
came time to 'exert power over others' the elected leader would have a
much easier time than the one who utilizes force or coersion.

Actually, the concept that a leader leads 'only because the rest of the
group lets them', seems inaccurate. I cannot picture any !Kung desiring
to be headman. In this, and many other hunter-gatherer societies there
is absolutely no advantage (or very little advantage) to political
status. I would say that in these cases a leader leads because he feels
obliged to. (In more centralized political systems, of course, there are
plenty of benefits to political authority which would encourage many to
desire it).

Also, it seems that solidarity based on age is universal. And, in every
society I can think of, the senior generation has the greater corporate
authority. (Obviously, as greater experience is invaluable). I wouldn't
think age divisions would be very useful then for identifying the source
of corporate control.

It is possible that at some time age was the only basis for solidarity,
but it seems highly unlikely. There are some physical reasons for the
existance of female/male solidarity; ie childbirth and infant nurturing.
It is this solidarity which would lead males to dominate the political
organization. Just because the political authority is held by males does
not mean that females are any less important or take a lesser role in
decision making. Obviously, when corporate decisions are to be made,
every bit of experience is useful. It seems likely then that most of the
corporate decisions in a small band would be made as a group. However,
there would still be a need to have someone to head the discussions and
finalize decisions. Males, especially an elder male, would have had more
time to dedicate to such a function.