Re: Culture & symbols

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 14:06:54 -0500

On Thu, 1 Aug 1996, Robert Snower wrote:

> At 02:20 PM 8/1/96 +0000, thomas w kavanagh wrote:

> >["universality of kinship system" and "ethnic colelctivism"] are
> >synonyms only insofar as both are cultural fictions useful in
> >organizing disparate populations. Both are subject to political
> >manipulation -- defining who is and who is not -- and neither is deeply
> >grounded in any non-cultural (i.e. 'biological') reality.

> I agree with the second sentence absolutely, and the first except for the
> "only insofar."
> >
> >>><snip>[re Cadwallader Colden's comment re sachems giving away all the
> >proceeds of raids...]
> >> Is it invalid? In priniciple, or just in detail?
> >
> >As I said, it is, perhaps, invalid in detail.
> But definitely valid in principle?

The principle that there are redistributional systems is valid; the detail
that the Iroquois has a redistributional system is probably invalid.

> A transcient society. Very interesting.

Yes, society is transient.

> Redistributional system implies
> collectivist system. If it is redistributional, then it is collectivist.

I do not see this at all.

> The common identity, transient as it may be, is itself created by the
> redistribution.

Once again, there is nothing in the process of redistribution which
creates a common identity. Participation in such a system (or in any social
interaction) may become the basis for a later identification, but
that participation does not create identity.

> And kinship (including the metaphorical kind) is the basis for all societies.

And since we agreed above that neither kinship nor ethnicity "is deeply
grounded in any non-cultural (i.e. 'biological') reality," therefore
sociobiology can be of little help in the analysis of society above the
nuclear family.