Social and Cultural Anthropology
Peter Biella

Final Exam Concepts
Spring 2005
 

Primary concepts in Anthropology

Ethnography
The empirical foundation of cultural anthropology.  It is research work conducted by cultural anthropologists which involves immersing one's self in another culture and (often) language, in order to become aware of the often subtle differences that exist between cultures.  Sometimes the process that the ethnographer undergoes is described as a second childhood, since so many experiences and ideas are new.
The culture group into which an ethnographer is immersed may live on another continent or down the street.  Ethnography is conducted in the US among our multitudinous ethnic populations;  it is also conducted among the rich - a process called "studying up."
Ethnography involves long-term fieldwork, participant observation, and is often supplemented by historical and more statistical forms of research as well.  Interviews, participation in daily activities, and simple "lounging around" with informants allow the researcher from one culture to discover the nature of differences and similarities with another culture.
Ethnography is not simple osmosis - the sucking in of another point of view.  Typically ethnographic research is guided by theoretical questions - often questions that try to find what is universal and what is veriable in human life.


Ethnography as a research method

creation of fine tuned cultural description
based on fieldwork - many months
language plums the depths and therefore language mastery is crucial

assumption that one must to some extent submerge one's self into the mix and simply absorb - indiscriminately - as a child, in order to encounter unexpected (and actively resisted) truths

interviews and participant observation
Asking questions does not guarantee correct answers.  One must use "good sense" when conducting participant observation.  People may not know the truth of given subjects but still talk about them;  people may lie or say what they think you want to hear;  people may have different answers on different days or months.   People may not behave in the way they say they do.  All of these possibilities require the participant observer to be skeptical about "answers" to the questions.
the dilemma of the small sample
biologists may be able to investigate millions of bacteria, but anthropologists can only talk to so many "informants" in the period of a year or two.  Our "sample size" is small.  Frequently, anthropologists do not trust questionnaires very well, so they are limited in the number of people they can approach in that way too.  Various techniques are used to increase the so-called "reliability" of the small sample, but nothing can make it large.  Thus, anthropologists must be content with the fact that the kinds of things they are able to discover with some reliability tend to be fairly fine-grained, group-specific and historically limited.  What we do, we do well, but it is not the same kind of thing that sociologists can do with questionnaires or political scientists can do with vote tallies.


Ethnology

When broad generalizations are made about all or many cultures, these claims are called ethnological.  This is a compartive study or many cultures, not an in-depth study of only one (an ethnography).
We have explored many ethnological claims in this course:  about comparative subsistence patterns, religions, types of stratification and kinship patterns.
comparison of different cultures
search for common features

Ethnology is cultural anthropology's comparative method

based on empirical fact of vast cultural differences
premise that all cultures should be studied
realization that properties of one culture (and one's own culture) are very difficult to discern unless one is aware of alternative
Culture
fundamental importance of that which is learned after birth - culture is based on a learning model - not a biological one (or a "racial" one, whatever that might be!)
this is called "enculturation"
culture is not genetic - the capacity to learn is biological, but the culture which one learns comes from information
ideas and beliefs about the world, society, the self
Many different definitions have been proposed.  Ferraro defines this as everything that people make, think and do.  (Shared ways of thinking, making and acting.)  I am most concerned with thinking about culture as that which the human species acquires after birth - the theory of culture is a learning theory.
The human capacity to acquire culture after birth has a profound biological component.  The "big brain" of the human and the long period of infancy in which much cultural learning occurs, allow human beings the capacity and time to learn.  Ants are believed to learn little;  what they make, do (and possibly think!) is genetically determined.  What people make think and do are made possible by their biological attributes, but the thoughts, creations and behaviors vary enormously because of different learning environments - called cultures.
culture is "adaptive": capacity to survive and reproduce made possible through learning
many alternative adaptations possible - necessarily corresponding to environmental constraints
Cultural relativism
Cultural relativism is a "guiding  principle" for anthropologists.  It offers the wisdom that one's own emotionally charged beliefs (about religion, health, gender, and many other aspects of culture) are not universal;  we believe them not necessarily because they are right but because we grew up with them;  in order to understand other people from their own perspective, it is necessary to put our own beliefs aside - temporarily;  to take a relativistic stance - "different strokes for different folks" - until we take that position, we will never be able to get far enough beyond our own emotions and prejudices to understand people who are very different from ourselves
a concept intended to fight the tendency that people (anthropologists included) often have a knee jerk assumption that what they do (and their society does) is best
tolerance for the unfamiliar
reluctance to claim one system is superior to another
keep emotional and own preferences at bay
often concerning religion, sexuality, marriage -
cultural relativism fights:
Ethnocentrism -
the tendency of people and groups to believe that their ways of doing and conceiving of things are the only good ways - alternatives are wrong, evil, disgusting, etc.

Ethnocentrism is the opposite of cultural relativism;  ethnocentric beliefs but one's own cultural attitudes above those of anyone else;  unfortunately is is common world-wide.  An ethnocentric person is unable to appreciate the value of other people's beliefs, religious views, behaviors and life style.  Not only that, ethnocentrism often leads to forms of violence subtle and otherwise;  since it makes people feel that they are superior, it serves as a continuing justification for abuse - economic, political, cultural and otherwise

The otherwise is often Racism;

Race - not a biological category but a cultural and political one

biological races are not definable scientifically
certainly different physical properties can be seen and measured,  but they do not coalesce into "races"
the so-called traits themselves  "migrate" independently of each other
blue eyed, yellow haired, black skinned people (Aboriginals) are no more unusual in Australia than are brown eyed, black haired, black skinned people in sub-Saharan Africa
because  "race" is so politicized, important to state from the outset that IQ measurements reflect environmental/parental training,
no evidence of "superior" brains corresponding to any physically observable trait - hair type, eye type, skin color.
Race is a racist concept-

One type of racism is called Social Darwinism. Darwin proposed that species of animals evolved biologically through a process called survival of the fittest.   If a certain trait (like black wings on moths in industrially polluted cities) allowed greater survival and fertility, that trait tended to survive whereas others (like light colored wings) did not.  Social Darwinism says that certain "races" survive because they are more fit than others and therefore are  superior morally.  (And therefore it's OK to exploit "inferior" races.)  The argument has many flaws, the most significant of which is the fact that there is no such thing as different "races" in the human family.
Biologists and anthropologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries tried hard to discover different races in the world.  They were unable to find any proof that distince races exist.  What they found instead was that human biological variation existed with respect to various visible and invisible traits, but that these traits were not necessarily linked together;  for example, there is no "Black" race because people called Black actually differ physically from one another profoundly;

Racist ideas are commonly used in the contemporary world to justify local violence and wars, as well as an endless list of types of economic exploitation.  In this class, I have defined Ideology as ideas which justify unequal distribution of wealth.  (Other definitions exist and are also interesting!)  Ethnocentrism and racism are therefore kinds of ideology by my definition.  The concept of ideology is important because it alerts people to the fact that ideas which seem neutral, matter of fact or even natural often have economic implications.

Emic versus Etic
An emic perspective is that which makes sense to, is meaningful to, the culture-bearing individual.  We have the sounds /p/ and /b/ in English, but not /kh/ which is a phoneme in Arabic.  Arabic speakers cannot usually hear the difference between p and b;  and we cannot usually hear the difference between k and kh.  Emic understanding is also cultural;  a red light at a street corner makes sense to us, but would not be meaningful to a French peasant in the year 1200.

Etic perspectives are "scientific" in the sense that they are held by linguists or cultural anthropologists, not by most speakers of ordinary languages.  Etic studies are comparative - seeking, for example, all the phonemes that exist in all known languages.  Etic research seeks to discover properties of all languages, not just individual ones (which is the arena of Emic research).

Holism
Holism is another guiding principle in cultural anthropology.  It is the idea that no aspects of human social life can fully be understood independently from one another.  A holistic view of social life (ideally) takes "everything" into account.  To take one example, religion is related to economic ideologies;  in the US, our ideas of entertainment are related to our ideas about "just wars."

Since culture exists in the minds of every "culture bearer" - it is impossible for an anthropologist to know everything about a culture and impossible to have a "fully holistic" perspective;  still, the idea is valuable because it cautions the importance of keeping one's eyes open for unexpected connections

premise that each facet affects all facets

institutions and cultural traits (kinship, politics, economic relations, education, stratification, technology) all correspond and interconnect
commitment to broad-based description (forests, not only trees)
Epistemological questions
The nature of "theory"
broad claims about the nature of the world
all human cultures have such-and-such characteristics
so broad that they cannot be tested directly
not all cultures can be tested (or even defined)
The role of hypotheses
we would like to be like the hard sciences, with compelling tests and proofs
we would like to hold "true" theories
but  given our perceptual and intellectual limitations, we are not able simply to know the truth of the world - human activities are so riddled with interpretations and reflections of our selves that answers are enormously complex
in an effort to discover which theories are superior to others, we consider them and attempt to design ways to "test" them - even though we can't put people in petri dishes and watch them in the same way that biologists can watch bacteria grow-
we select a theory that seems promising and then concoct means to test some aspect of it
the process involves logical movement:  this theory is to big to test all at once, but if it were true, then the following testable element would have to be true
my hypothesis is that it is true, and I try to find out if the hypothesis appears to be confirmed or disconfirmed
the result of these tests help us to better refine our ideas about the nature of things - and the validity of our theories
evolutionism (discussed below) was such a theory, and many researchers went out into the globe and gathered data to test it
they concluded that much of what the theory claimed to be true was not true
and the theory was profoundly  modified
research designs in anthropology
in the past, anthropologists questioned the nature of "man" - looked for the great overarching truths of religion or law
currently, the goals are more locally based and modest
Ferraro's study of kinship networks in Kenya is one of the more modest examples of a research design that we studied
involve selecting a theory to explore  - Ferraro investigated the claim that urbanization always leads to the shrinking of kinship networks - that extended kin are increasingly ignored when people move to cities
formulating a research problem that is "testable" - since theories make claims that are too all encompassing to be directly testable, Ferraro selected a problem that was testable.  He asked if urbanization amng one group in Kenya led to the shrinking of the extended family.

formulating a research design - Ferraro interviewed urban and rural members of this group, engaged in participant observation among them (noting their genealogical relationships between people they met each day) and had people fill in questionnaires

preparing for and conducting fieldwork - over a period of 18 months, Ferraro then moved from urban to rural areas in Kenya and did this work
collating the data acquired in fieldwork - having gathered an enormous amount of data in this way, Ferraro had to make sense of it.  He added up the hours that people spent with near and distant kin, with non kin and alone.  He tabulated the responses to the questionnaires and he tried to make sense of the actions and statements of people he observed in participant observation

reaching conclusions in relation to the hypothesis and its theory -  discovering that this group did not cut down on extended kinship relations after moving to the city, Ferraro concluded that they were moved to remain in close contact with extended kin because of factors that do not pertain in the US.  Here, when people move to cities, they have no more economic ties with the country.  In Kenya, people in cities still needed the countryside fields that was controlled by their lineages.  To protect their interest in that land (among other lesser reasons) people kept in touch with extended kin.

Theories and fundamental concepts in Anthropology

19th century evolutionism - also called "unilineal" (one line) evolutionism

The first well developed theory seeking to explain and describe the vast array of cultures in the world - not sustainable by subsequent research
the original "unilineal evolutionism" proper - saw a "progress" from simple societies, with low technology, unsophisticated languages, simplistic social organizations - to advanced complex and sophisticated societies
claimed a three part evolution - hundreds of different cultural groups would be dropped into each of three categories, each with attributes
savagery barbarism civilization
supposedly all cultures that fell into a single slot were alike
Evolutionism was extremely biased
assumed on the basis of ignorance, closed-mindedness and bad data that the anthropologists' own culture was superior

This theory of evolution was accompanied in the 19th and early 20 centuries by racist theories of "Social Darwinism" - these claimed that better (whiter) cultures conquered weaker (darker) ones because of some kind of inevitable "selection" process by which the best culture (read: "race") simply just won out in any conflict.  The "best" survived, period.  I have argued in class that societies that destroy the air, water and earth of the planet may not turn out to be "best" for anyone in the long run.

Evolutionism was also extremely ignorant
superficial understanding of languages and social organization alone allowed the subtleties and complexities of non-western cultures to be called simple
superficial understanding made people say they were alike
The later, mid-20th century, theory "neo-evolutionism" did not make the same mistakes
It advocated multilineal (many lines of) evolution - we still hold this improved, limited and non-racial theory to be good
it proposed no simple, single progression through three stages
hundreds of alternate combinations

cultural traits diverge, remix, multiply

cultures may be complex in one domain (kinship, language) "simple" in another (tools)

sustainable by research because claims are more modest, based primarily on technological sophistication
Leslie White's notion of C = E  x T   (Culture = Energy x Technology)
cultures can be classified according to the amount of energy they harness

rather simplistic notion of culture since it leaves out much of the interesting stuff - nevertheless, it does get to something important and (for my money) true -

technology got more powerful in the last 10,000 years.  I just don't think technological power is the same thing as culture.  If it were, how would we explain skateboards?

Diffusionism
seeks to explain the origin of cultural beliefs, the presence of technology,  as the result of selective borrowing - not invention, not evolutionary necessity (corresponding to the three fictional stages of man)
emphasis is not on how different from but how similar cultures are to each other
the theory makes clear that it is easier (and much more common) for people to borrow than to invent
Functionalism
The anthropological theory of Functionalism is related to the guiding principle of holism.  Anthropologists who are influenced by the theory of functionalism are inclined by it to seek interconnections between social institutions.  More than that, however, they are also inclined by the theory to assume that the relations between institions lead to harmony and cultural continuity.

Thus, Ferraro describes the functionalist theory of inequality of wealth under capitalism.  This perspective sees high pay as justified by social needs;  the best people should be paid the highest because they are motivated by high pay to do good work.

Other theories, conflict based, argue that cultures are also disfunctional.  To take the most important example, the institution of capitalism has become so powerful and beyond individual control that enormous injustices have resulted from it.

Thus, the theory of Functionalism guides anthropologists in a good direction insofar as it keeps us mindful of holism;  it leads us astray when it blinds us to the realities of disfunction in society

perspective that emphasizes the integration and mutual coordination of different parts of a society and culture - Malinowski's work on the Trobriand Island "Kula Ring" is the most famous example
the exchange of "useless" art objects also served many very useful functions
analogy with a body or machine - all working toward the same end
this idea in some ways corresponds to the anthropological ideal of "holism" - the notion that our descriptions of cultures ought to be "complete" - ought to mention all significant factors - all parts of a system have influence on it

Functionalism emphasizes  cultural reproduction and resistance to change
As a theory, it is selectively blind to dysfunctional aspects of society
has a hidden political / ideological bias that change is bad

Diffusionism
This is a theory and guiding light in cultural anthropology which directs research into the ways by wich ideas, created objects and practices spread from human group to human group.  Since culture is learned, it spreads, and diffusionism suggests ways to explore the spreading.
Diffusionism suggests that people borrow more often than they invent;  it's easier and often psychologically more rewarding.  When we "keep up with the Jonses" we are just doing the same thing that we see others do.
Interestingly diffusion of culture brings about culture change in the long run and keeps people like one another in the short run.
Psychological Anthropology
Another case of cultural differences was discovered by Margaret Mead's study of Samoan youth.  Here the question was not about the universality of ideas but about the universality of psychological stages of life.

Since teenage years are so difficult in the U.S., Mead wanted to know if they were difficult in every culture.  She found that they are not.  In Samoa, her research into "youth culture" found that girls experienced relative ease in their teenage years.  The difficulties of youth that seemed "natural" in the U.S. resulted from cultural, not biological factors.

Historical materialism - Marxist Anthropology
a "radical wing" of economic anthropology
derived from Marx' analysis of capitalism, used to look back to precapitalist social formations
emphasis on economic aspects of society as "determinitive"
production, distribution and consumption key
looks at relationships between people in relation to these features - these called relations of production
in many societies these relationships are exploitive
one group finds means to further its own interests at the expense of another
military, industrial prison complex is one technique
private property in capitalist society is protected by force
Marxist anthropologists on the whole are concerned with the role of the economy in shaping cultural learning.  Some Marxists speak of economic "determinants" of culture - eg. Leslie White's idea that Culture=Energy times technology.  Such arguments reveal certain truths but are ultimately unsatisfactory because they are "reductive" -  simplistic;  as explanations they hide as much as they reveal

In general economic and Marxist anthropologists all look at production, distribution and consumption of goods

In the process, we try to make ethnological generalizations  call them values because for most of human prehistory and history they were not defined with money

Ideology is a concept developed by Marxist Anthropology.  Ideas are a primary means by which exploitation is maintained
widespread and powerful ideas that support unequal production, distribution and consumption of wealth
people are told that certain relationships are fair, and offered various proofs to convince them
one key "proof" is the Naturalization of inequality
to take two examples, we use "race" or "gender" as natural / biological realities to prove to ourselves that one group does not deserve, could not handle, more privileges
ideology  affects the self - through a process of "subjectification"
part of the work of dominant ideas is to naturalize one's sense of identity
I am Peter;  I am a man;  I am an American;  I must believe in and fight for --- [fill in the "enemy nation"]
Ethical questions
Anthropology's involvement in the military  (not on the test!)
goes all the way back to World War I
Franz Boas, founder of the first department of anthropology n the US condemns the use of anthropologists as spied
World War II and the Culture and Personality School
psychological portraits of "the enemy"
"national character" comes from child rearing
assumptions that child rearing practices are shared throughout a nation
and that because they are shared, the nation can be typified by certain personality traits derived from them
looking for weaknesses
Code of Ethics
 The AAA's website ( http://www.aaanet.org )  provides ethical guidelines for fieldwork and anthropological research in general

It states that anthropologists' primary responsibility is to their subjects - their physical and social well-being

The first obligation of the anthropologist is to her or his own "subjects" - the people studied.

For this reason, a huge scandal broke out during the Vietnam War when "Project Camelot" was discovered;  the CIA had hired anthropologists as spies in Cambodia, the Vietnamese Highlands and in Latin America as well.

Despite the fact that some anthropologist were in favor of the Vietnam war, Project Caemlot was ultimately condemned by the discipline

Not only was the profession of anthropology sullied by covert involvement which lead,  it is said, to assassinations  of indigenous leaders;  it makes people all over the world distrust the motives of anthropologist and makes ethical work very difficult to do

Unethical work makes legitimate research impossible
Applied Anthropology
Has many faces, but involves trained cultural and other anthropologists who enter the world of business, government, and many other aspects of life - typically they are trained in the same way as academic anthropologists;  they have to understand the same kind of things

Applied anthropologists have the goal of using insights into culture to improve social conditions;  since so many indigenous cultures are currently under assault with the profound economic changes of globalization, ecological decline, and capitalist exploitation, applied anthropologists are faced with many opportunities and challenges (some of which are quite overwhelming!)

Applied anthropologists advocate for indigenous wishes and rights; work on development projects; seek means to influence government and industry in assistance of  indigenous people

This class has explored many cases of applied anthropology:  one, by Dembo in Southern Florida, used anthropological fieldwork to explore how teenage crack dealers might be offered alternatives to their illegal behavior that would be attractive to them and useful to society at large

My AIDS education film also sought to use ethnographic insight to bring a new cultural awareness to Puerto Ricans and AIDS educatorsrole of applied anthropology

many professional anthropologists want to use their knowledge to reduce social suffering, contribute to well being of people and cultures
applied anthropology is a branch of cultural anthropology in which people use anthropological research and theories to shape cultural change
concepts like functionalism and holism, an awareness of the inherent problems of ethnocentrism and racist ideas, allow anthropologists  to be in a relatively good position to understand how cultures work and how they might be enticed to change
includes research, advocacy and development work
Marriage and the Family
Most cultural groups "naturalize" their own practices - they assume they are the only correct ones;  all others are immoral or disgusting
But when an anthropological perspective is taken, each term used in describing the family means something different from the standard English definitions
Family:  a group of people together in a social unit, manages child rearing, has common residence, and is involved in economic cooperation
Although heterosexuality is assumed to be a necessary component, many families over the world include, or are based on, homosexual relationships
Although the North American model is based on the concept of the nuclear family (two parents, children), extended families (with multiple generations and fictive kin) were the norm cross-culturally and in previous epochs)
Marriage:  Ferraro defines it (and then goes on to disprove the universality of his definition) in the following way:  "a socially approved union between a man and a woman that regulates the sexual and economic rights and obligations between them"
Again, although heterosexuality is part of this definition, it is not universal
Some cases, but just a few, involves marriages in which no sexual activity occurs (the Nayar case is discussed at length)
Common residence is not always the case
Marriages are not always permanent
The incest taboo has gotten a lot of attention because it seems to be (almost?) universal cross-culturally.  Offspring and their biological parents are proscribed from having sexual intercourse.  Depending on which culture one is discussing, other people may also be proscribed.
Incest taboos may prevent all cousins from marrying
They may only forbid marriage of parallel-cousins (mother's sister's children, or father's brothers' children)
but may encourage the marriage of cross-cousins (mother's brother's children, or father's sister's children).
 
Male "Ego," represented by the triangle at the bottom center, may marry his cross-cousins, his Father's Sister's Daughter (the "FSisD" circle to the left of Ego) and his Mother's Brother's Daughter (the "MBD" circle to the right.  Ego may not marry parallel cousins.  These are his Father's Brother's Daughter ("FBD," lower left circle) and his Mother's Sister's Daughter ("MSisD," in the lower right).
Other vocabulary of marriage and the family includes
Endogamy:  marrying within a group, necessary for example in caste societies
Exogamy:  marrying outside a group, necessary, for example, in the nuclear family;  lineage exogamy is required in many cultures
Levirate:  in which a widow is expected to marry the brother of her dead husband
Sororate:  in which a widower is expected to marry the sister of his dead wife
Monogamy:  the rule that allows marriage to only one spouse at a time
Polygamy:  practice that allows more than spouse to either men or women.  70% of societies cross-culturally allow this.
Polyandry:  the practice that allows a woman to have more than one husband. (This is very rare, less than 1% of all societies in the world have it.)
Polygyny:  the rule that allows more than one wife to a man.  (69% of cultures allow this.)
Bridewealth:  money given to bride's family in exchange for the bride - 46% of world cultures practice this
Dowry:  transfer of wealth from bride's family to groom's - less than 3% of cultures
Social advantages and functions of polygamy
A sign of wealth and prestige for husbands and wives
Wives contribute to amassing wealth for one family
Contributes to social solidarity of woman
Contributes the survival of the family after death of a spouse
Disadvantages of polygamy
Forbidden by Christianity and illegal in many countries
Can cause jealousy among co-spouses
Inheritance and distribution of wealth to offspring of different wives may be painful
Sex and Gender
Preliminary Definitions
An individual's sexual attributes are physiological:  they include reproductive organs, women's breasts and DNA
Sexual attributes are distinct from - but commonly related to - gender attributes:  gender is the behavioral component of "the sexes".
Ferraro quotes Schlegel's definition of gender as "the way members of the two sexes are perceived, evaluated and expected to behave"
Gender, like other non-biological aspects of culture, is learned, it is acquired
Regulation of sexuality
Cross culturally, sexual relations are subject to widely diverse controls
Chastity among unmarried young adults is enforced among the traditional Cheyenne
Among the traditional Tikopia and Trobrianders, premarital sex is encouraged
Gender is also expressed in very different ways cross-culturally
Margaret Mead's "Sex and Temprament in Three Primitive Societies "looked at three cultures in New Guinea, not far from each other as the crow flies, but separated by impassible mountains
Arapesh:  men and women were cooperative, nonaggressive, responsibe to the needs of others (traits that Westerners stereotypically consider to be feminine)
Mundugumore:  men and woman expected to be fierce, ruthless, aggressive ("manly" as stereotypically defined in the West)
Tchbuli:  women were dominant, impersonal partners;  aggressive food providers;  men were less responsible, fussed with their hair, acted "feminine"


Primary types of economic adaptations - and subsistence strategies

Ecological adaptation
Carrying capacity
Culture in conjunction with environmental constraints
Upper limit of productivity
Alters with technology
Limiting factors
Water, soil fertility, nitrogen in soil


Mode of Production Argument - Marx' main concepts about social formations

Mode of Production
Any of the three primary economic strategies of human groups: communal, tributary (or feudal) and capitalist modes
Means and Products of Production
Physical and intellectual factors needed to create valuable things;  means are useful, but only because they allow people to produce things that are valuable.  Thus, an auto assembly plant is a means of production and an automobile is a product of production
Throughout time, the most important means of production have been
land, water and human labor -  the primary means in every society
tools have become increasingly important (and increasingly complex) over the millennia and centuries as means of production -- the amount of labor needed to produce means of production has increased profoundly -- from digging stick (10 minutes) to Auto plant (probably millions of hours)
Relations of Production
Relationships between people that determine who will produce, distribute and consume which products of production
Universal bases of the relations of production are age and sex
Relations were egalitarian (non-hierarcical, very equal) during most of homo sapiens' existence;  with the transformation of means of production, the development of capitalism, the development of ways to preserve food, inegalitarian (hierarchical, inequal) relations developed and have reached their height in despotic states
I'll briefly go over the major subsistance adaptations in terms of these categories
Hunting and gathering (several million years)
The philosopher Thomas Hobbes (knowing very little about the matter) said that the life of primitive man is "nasty, brutish and short"
hunting and gathering life is not always these things
Richard Lee's study of the Kalahari Desert (in Southern Africa) Bushmen found that these hunters and gatherers in the millennia before 1950 didn't have to work as many hours as Westerners do to earn a living - Hobbes was "misinformed"

It is true that many hunters and gatherers are not as fortunate as the Bushmen, however, since the latter have mongongo nuts - a readily available source of pure protein

In regard to the "nasty" part of Hobbes' claim, the Bushmen in Lee's study were about as murderous as their American fellows - there were frequent cases of murder among Bushmen that could not be traced to "the impact of capitalism"

as a subsistence strategy, hunting and gathering
supports very small populations only
exploits existing plants and animals
wild plants, roots, animals
extremely simple means of production
digging sticks, arrows, spears, poisons for hunting, nets, bags
no major changes to the environment
no planting
no deforestation
no alteration of animal populations egalitarian relations of production
therefore self-sustainable -
"Egalitarian" relations of production;  non-hierarchical social organization
sex and age determines control over the means of produciton
private property in the Western sense (land, factories, massively expensive commodities) does not exist;  people have "personal property" only - their own belongings.
leadership is by exaple and persuasion, not power
pastoralism -- five or six thousand years
small units - kin and household based populations
egalitarian relations of production
domesticated animals are the means of production
  milk, not animal meat, is the primary product of production
nomadic or transhumant movements are common throughout the year;  pastoralists follow the seasons, the rains, the weather

their adaptation is sustainable, though it does involves some alteration of the environment -- the Serengeti Plains -- famous for the Big Five animals in East African safaris -- were created by pastoralists and their cattle

horticulture - 10,000 years
distinguished from agriculture proper because only root crops are harvested
irrigation can be part of this technique, but slash and burn techniques can exist without irrigation

began some 10,000 years ago with the domestication of plants
typically slash and burn techniques

in slash and burn, small plots of land are cleared of trees and brush, then cleaned by fire
planted for 5 or more years until the soil nutrients are exhausted
then abandoned (left "fallow") and allowed to return to forest growth
then other nearby plots are cleared and used
some 10 to 15  years later, the first plot is ready to be used again - nutrients have returned
means and products of production become more complex and more numerous, since life is not longer dependent on following weather and game;  people can make more complex and durable things (long houses, for example)

horticulture allows surplus food acquisition - hence the development of inegalitarian relations of production - concentration of power;  chiefs emerge;  lineages whose leaders have power of life and death over others;  production becomes lineage based

larger populations become sustainable as social stratification, hierarchical social organization emerge

agriculture -- 10,000 years -- tributary (forced payment of tribute by peasantry to rulers) or capitalist (extraction of profit through surplus value)
irrigation, domestication of animals, vast acquisition of surplus wealth, most pronounced social stratification (complex inegalitarian relations)
harnessing of more energy than was possible before
inegalitarian - intense division of labor
private property developed in the extreme

Within the last 500 years, class relations of production  in the modern capitalist sense begin to develop


As a mode of production, agriculture has not been environmentally  self-sustaining (though it might be)

resources have been depletion

an economic and ideological dependence on the profit motive creates one-way ecological destruction
 

Agricultural societies have had both classes and castes
class: some mobility
characteristic of Western democracies,
the mobility often called "circulation of elites" rather than open system / open induction
caste:  set from birth in options, economic and social possibilities
Industrial society - capitalist
Means of production have transformed into the complexity we have today
endless search for profit and super-profit leads to rapid transformation of the means of production also known as automation.  This makes possible cheaper means to produce commodities.

Nation states developed in their current form, with global powers coming to dominate through global wars.  The wars themselve have been sustained through transforming military means and products of production

Relations of production include global inequalities as well as local ones

The search for super-profits has made production an international enterprise

Products of production have frequently been produced through "monocrop" agriculture - the exclusive production of one cash crop in vast areas;  with cash crops, self-sufficiency of small land holders is impossible

Other types of resource extraction and production have also been forced upon dependent countries -- copper in Bolivia; once gold in Peru;  aluminum in several West African countries

The internationalization of every economy has led to the process of globalization, in which vast populations travel the globe following higher wages, or fleeing areas of massive exploitation or underemployment

Social stratification

in different societies determines many  criteria by which relations of production may be determined.  Max Weber's definitions.

Wealth (possession of means and products of production)
 land, children, cows, cars, anything locally defined as valuable
communal societies have very little distinctions of wealthy
Power
the ability to control the behavior of others, even against their will
thus, the ability to gain means and products of production
Prestige
esteem of others;  respect, admiration;  frequently received in exchange for wealth
Necessary and Surplus Value
 
The working day, 1954..............................
 

4 units, the first half of the value produced in 8 hours, goes to the worker as salary (Necessary Value, or N) supporting a given standard of living
 
 
 

The second 4 units of the value produced in 8 hours (Surplus Value, or S), goes to the capitalist as profit
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The working day, 1984

Two people now have to work to earn the same 4 units of N (2+2) to maintain the same standard of living that one person could earn before 

Since 16 units of value are now produced, and 4 units go to the workers as N, the remaining 12 units of value go to the capitalist as profit, as S. 
Marx defines the level of social suffering as S/N.  Thus, according to this definition, since the capitalists' profit (S) has tripled in thirty years while the standard of living (N) remained the same, the level of social suffering tripled in the United States between 1954 and 1984. 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Components of Marx' Labor Theory of Value and the increase of profit over a 30 year period
    This theory considers the units of time on the job and the units of value produced by a laborer in an 8-hour day.  According to the theory, labor time and value are divided into two parts.  The first, called Necessary (N), represents that portion of the time and value produced by the laborer which is returned to him/her in the form of wage.  In the 1954 case, if a laborer produced widgets for eight hours, he/she was given back the money-equivalent of four hours worth of widgets as a paycheck.  The remaining value, the widgets produced in the laborer's other four hours, is called Surplus (S), and is kept by the capitalist as profit.
    A US government report indicated that at the end of the 30 year period between 1954 and 1984, two people had to labor full time to pay for the same standard of living that one person's labor had been able to support at the beginning.  In terms of the Labor Theory of Value, this means that each worker's Necessary Value had been cut in half (from 4 to 2) and that the capitalist's level of profit, the Surplus Value, had tripled, from 4 to 12) in the thirty year period.
Films
AIDS in the Barrio
Explored reasons why HIV/AIDS incidence among Puerto Ricans is so much higher than that among "caucasions"
Economic reasons - racism and low paying jobs make drug dealing one of the most profitable occupations available;  drug dealing leads to drug use, and that use leads to dangerous behavior - the sharing of injection drugs and syranges - this providing a way to pass the virus from one person to another
Homophobia - people tend to deny that HIV could be acquired by heterosexuals - they say (falsely) that it is a homosexual disease - this makes heterosexuals feel safe from the disease even when they engage in unprotected sex
Gender roles - strong cultural role models incline men to behave in ways that are sometimes called "macho" - this involves taking risks and engaging in many sexual exploits; unfortunately both increase the risk of HIV  infection;  similarly, the gender role of "marianismo" inclines women to put up with abuse and take a passive sexual role - this too is dangerous when unprotected sex results
 
The Child the Stork Brought Home
This is a study of the relationship between social class and attitudes toward kin and parenthood
A middle class women offers to bear a child for a wealthy couple - they pay her $12,000 (and give her a valuable ring) but feel that their responsibility to her ends with their payment and her delivery of the baby;  the surrogate mother is very unhappy with the fact that this family sees nothing but finance in the exchange;  she wanted to maintain a small but on-going relationship with the baby and parents
I am a Sorcerer
A Santeria priest in New Jersey has a congregation with many needs;  he serves them by becoming possessed by many of the Seven African Powers, who then tell the congregants how they may protect themselves, become well, avoid trouble with the police and lead pure lives.
The film focuses on the priest's own history - as a Cuban whose religious beliefs were persecuted;  who married a woman that eventually became a Pentacostalist and renounced his beliefs as "satanic"
It focuses too on the congregants and their special problems - with the law; with poverty; sexuality and gender roles; and with illnesses
It also explores a process called synchronicity - this is when two religions blend into a combined new form;  here, Christianity and traditional West African religions are blended together;  in slave timies, the Spanish government in Cuba made traditional religious practices illegal;  practitioners disguised their beliefs by coloring them with Christian icons;  over time, the icons became part of the religion