Re: Reality Check Redux

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sun, 7 Jul 1996 15:15:34 -0400

In message <v02130505adff5ff4a264@[]> John McCreery writes:

> Then, too, another, even more serious issue. If all that we as
> anthropologists know suggest that societies larger than a few hundred
> people wind up hierarchical, what are we doing teaching social critique
> rooted in the idea that everyone could be equal?

It seems to me that we should not be teaching that everyone COULD be equal. The
more subtle message, which we should be teaching, is that human societies have
existed which were structured in such a way that the large, structurally based
inequalities which we see in modern state-level and/or imperial societies did/do
not exist. This is not the same thing as teaching that everyone in state or
imperial societies could be equal.

> Shouldn't we be talking about the various forms of hierarchies and how they
> seem to differ empirically, instead of communicating the message that
> hierarchy=BAD?

I agree; we should be giving students the knowledge and skill needed to apply
analytic (or, if you like, etic) models to their own state level societies.
They should also be able to compare and contrast their own society, on an
analytic level, with other types of social structure such as autonomous (bands,
tribes), chiefdoms, etc., as well as with other examples of state or imperial
social organization.

Ronald Kephart
Dept of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL USA 32224-2645
Phone: (904) 646-2580