Re: Reality check

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 10:54:29 -0500

On Tue, 2 Jul 1996, Ronald Kephart wrote:

> In message <Pine.SUN.3.92.960701181825.26674A-100000@Ra.MsState.Edu> "William
> M. Loker" writes:
> > Does anyone (besides me) still use the B-T-Ch-S typology in teaching?
> Yes. I find it very useful, although I am constantly pointing that these are
> leaky categories and that particular aspects of, say typically band-tribal
> religion or economics tend to persist into chiefdoms and states, but become
> marginalized to the more typical characteristics of state-level societies.
> Another useful categorization is small-scale (bands, tribes) vs. large-scale
> (chiefdoms, states).
> Somehow, the admonition to abandon these notions missed me, maybe because I'm a
> linguist.

I use the btcs, but as Ron says, they are "leaky ...typical [traits] tend
to persisit into ch and state.. ". I would say rather that the definitions
of btcs are "multi-dimensional," that as opposed to Fried's "egalitarian,
ranked, stratified" which are ranges on a single scale of "political
society", that is on increased inequality, while the minimal difference
between bands and tribes is the presence of sodalities (a social
structural feature which exist in states), the point between tribes and
chiefdoms is redistribution--an economic feature, while the difference
between chiefdoms and states is political-legal (monopoly on the use of

Remember also that there are ranges within each of the btcs. That "bands"
range from fairly small groups to the several hundred person size, that
the number and functionality of the sodalities which link "tribes" can
vary--with the resulting "tribes" being either fairly looseor very tightly
bound; that redistribution can range from uncentralized (the chaotic food
redistribution in a Hopi village during a katsina dance) thru Big Men
(single, multiple) to centralized kingdoms; states can range from city
states to regional states, etc.

(BTW, I find little useful in the generalizations about "tribal" society
such as is in Sahlins little book "Tribesmen." They certainly rarely
apply to Native North America.)

I have a brief discussion of the dynamics of "tribes" in my book
"Comanche Political History" {a shameless plug :-)}