Thursday, April 29, 2010

QOTD: Thinking about political complexity

I've been doing some research into the Middle Atlantic Contact period lately as part of a project I've been working on. It's a very complex time period. Below is a quote I read during my research; you know when you think you know about something, and someone comes at it a different way, and your blinders fall off, and the possibilities just explode? Yeah, like that!

To date, the almost unconscious assumption of hierarchy-as-order remains unexamined among social scientists, especially in the area of complex society. Class relations are cognized as social hierarchies: "marrying up" or "beneath oneself," "climbing the social ladder." Ironically, societies not as pervasively ranged (not as complex) then appear "closer to nature," fostering elitism and rationalizing political and cultural hegemony.... This conflation of hierarchy with order makes it difficult to imagine, much less recognize and study, patterns of relations that are complex but not hierarchical." -- Crumley, Carole L. (1995) Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 6(1); 1-5

Oh... and those tales they told you in high school (and hopefully NOT in university) about the Indians ALL leaving the Middle Atlantic states? Is bunk. A lot of the people who didn't die did leave, either by force or as voluntarily as it can be when you're being pushed out by another group, but there were those who stayed behind.


RPS77 said...

If anything, I would think that less hierarchical societies can be more complex politically, or at least more difficult to understand, because there's no clear chain of command with a single person or small group making the most important decisions.

Digger said...

I agree, that for our culture interpreting others, this is probably true. For more consensus-oriented or heterarchical societies, our way of doing things probably confuses the heck out of them!