Re: Culture & symbols

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 04:53:25 +0000

At 11:18 PM 7/30/96 +0000, thomas w kavanagh wrote:
>On Tue, 30 Jul 1996, Robert Snower wrote:

>> Ethnic collectivism is the theme of prehistoric culture
>If, by this you mean that 'prehistoric'/non-modern/"tribal"
cultures had clearly defined social/cultural/political boundaries and that they
>included ethnocentric xenophobias, I would disagree. The belief that
>ethnic boundedness is/was a basic feature of 'non-modern' cultures is an
>unfounded stereotype.

Well, I would think you would know. But let's start with animals in general:

"The strongest evoker of aggressive response in animals is the sight of a
stranger, especially a territorial intruder. This xenophobic principle has
been documented in virtually every group of animals displaying higher forms
of social organization. . . .
(E.g.) the appearance of a newcomer is the single most effective means of
increasing aggressive behavior in a troop of rhesus monkeys, most of the
hostility being directed against the stranger." (Edw. O Wilson, 1975}

Now it is the premise of sociobiology that ALL sociality is based on
biological kinship.
Admittedly, we cannot argue from this point directly to the social groups
with which you are familiar. But doesn't anthropology present not only an
interest in kinship systems, almost from the beginning, and doesn't this
reflect a feeling for the fundamental nature of this tie? Even before the
careful analysis of kinship systems got underway, there was talk about
incest taboos, by such as Robertson-Smith, and of course Freud jumped on
this as confirmation of his central theme for the psychology of human
beings, the Oedipus complex.

Malinowski, (1927): " . . . the endurance of family ties beyond maturity is
the pattern of all (human) social organization. . . . In man, culture
creates a new need, the need to continue close relations between parents and
children for the whole life."

I think he has it backwards here. Culture did not create that need.
Rather, the need to transcend the close relations between parents and
children created culture. But he gets it exactly right when he says,
"Culture then, creates a new type of human bond for which there is no
prototype in the animal kingdom." This bond is expressed in the tribal
kinship system which transcends the biological.

I am sorry you cannot confirm any of this. But I think perhaps you can. In
your excellent post of a few days ago you quoted Franklin as follows:

Their great Men, both Sachems and Captains, are generally poorer than
the common people, for they affect to give away and distribute all the
presents or plunder they get in their Treaties or War, so as to leave
nothing for themselves, If they should once be suspected of selfishness,
they would grow mean in the opinion of their countrymen, and would
consequently loose their authority.

That is prototypical economic collectivism. And I am sure it was
xenophobic, too: they didn't give it away to the gang on the other side of
the plain.

Best wishes. R. Snower