Re: Culture & symbols

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 11:22:51 -0500

It is a long way from the universality of kinship systems to "ethnic

On Wed, 31 Jul 1996, Robert Snower wrote:
> Now it is the premise of sociobiology that ALL sociality is based on
> biological kinship.

Which is why sociobiology collapses above the nuclear family:
sociopolitical organizations above the nuclear family are based on
factors others than biological kinship.

> This bond is expressed in the tribal kinship system which transcends
> the biological.

There is no such thingie as "the tribal kinship system."

> 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.

First: As I noted, Franklin didn't write this, Cadwallader Colden did.
Second, as I noted, it is unattested elsewhere (I left unstated the
implication that it was an invalid characterization of the Iroquois,
which thereby raises questions about whether the 'most knowledgeable
person on the colonies' knew what he was talking about).

Even so, redistributional systems are political, and they are economic,
but there is no "collectivism" involved. They are the actualizations of
the individual social relations between the center (big men/"chief") and
the periphery, and there is no necessity that the periphery has any other
social existence. Indeed, it is the often involvement in a
redistributional network which gives identity, not vice versa. Moreover,
people change identities, become involved in other networks, etc., and
pragmatic politics sometimes does involve "the gang on the other side of
the plains."