Re: from bands to states?

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 13:31:16 -0500

On Thu, 15 Aug 1996, Wade Tarzia wrote:

> Just a detail that a previous post jogged me into -- if Fried thought
> tribes (meaning chiefdom here, or the tribe based on earned-and-ephemeral
> leader roles??) developed only through contacts with nearby states, then
> how would he explain the assumed jump from mesolithic-era band society to
> developing neolithic-era tribes and chiefdoms before any state can have
> existed? -- wade

He didn't.

Remember, Fried was as much arguing FOR his own sequence of egalitarian -
rank - stratified as he arguing AGAINST what he perceived as "after race,
the most egregious case of meaninglessness in anthropology."

Moreover, much of his argument in the Problem of Tribe essays (republished
three times in as many years (1966-68) in different venues, and then twice
more between (1975-77), with but little changes in wording) is polemic
rather than academic. Therefore he did not have to deal with nagging
problems like that.

Part of the problem is simply terminological: Service and Sahlins' taking
the lay term "tribe" -- meaning unit of primitive culture -- and using it
for a very specific kind of socio-political unit, residence group +
sodality, which Fried did not really address.

[Quick aside: re your comment,
> tribes (meaning chiefdom here, or the tribe based on earned-and-ephemeral
> leader roles??)

You have hit upon another problem in the Service-Sahlins B-T-C-S scheme.
Whereas Fried used on a single variable -- the evolution of inequality --
each level in B-T-C-S is based on different criteria. That is, the B-T
transition is social organizational (sodalities), but the T-C transition
is economic (redistribution), while the C-S is political (state monopoly
of coercive force). Moreover, the Chiefdom range of Big-Man to Kingly
Chief can overlap the B-T range on the one hand (the classic PNG Big Men
live in what may be called 'tribal villages' (houses linked by sodalities))
and the C-S range on the other.