Re: Reality Check Redux

Robert Snower (rs219@IDIR.NET)
Mon, 8 Jul 1996 10:01:55 -0500

At 03:15 PM 7/7/96 -0400, Ronald Kephart wrote:
>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.
>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
>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.

But you can't do this properly without advocacy--for both sides. Sympathy
for alternative solutions must be utilized in teaching, in order to achieve
understanding, a somewhat difficult task, and, it is my impression, almost
utterly lacking in current anthropology. But of course, it is never a pure
opposition of equality versus hierarchy.

Best wishes. R. Snower