What to Call Them

Wed, 11 Jan 1995 10:21:03 CST

"people who inhabited small societies." Since the bands, villages, and
chiefdoms of the past all have been engulfed by relatively populous
state societies, people strictly meeting this description no longer
exist. I suspect our preference for the term "small-scale society" over
simply "small society" is a half-conscious effort to avoid the fact that
there is no agreed-upon way to delimit societies, and therefore no
agreed-upon way to distinguish a large from a small one. For this
purpose I, following especially Gerhard Lenski--and, more remotely,
Herbert Spencer--advocate delimiting societies on the basis of political
autonomy, and measuring their size by estimating the number of people in
them. --Bob Graber