Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION
TO THE READINGS

In the excerpts presented here, several aspects or types of patrimonial systems are analyzed. These systems are characterized by the development of a relatively strong political center, which combines institutional differentiation from the periphery with structural similarity in terms of consanguinity ties. One type of such center is analyzed in Krader's "Principles and Structures in the Organization of the Asiatic Steppe-Pastoralists."

Krader sums up the nature of the system by saying, "The society of the steppes is a consanguinal unity with which a politico-territorial unity was combined and interwoven.... [Yet] the Mongol or Turkic princes had a clear distinction between the public fiscus and their private wealth."

Coe's article, which compares the Classic Khmer in Cambodia with Classic Maya civilization, illustrates that patrimonial political systems developed independently in various parts of the world and shows how in all these cases there existed a close connection between social differentiation and the production of surplus. He also indicates the existence in such systems of a relatively high differentiation within the cities (the center) with a relatively undifferentiated periphery.

Heine-Geldern explores the relations of the conceptions of kingship in Southern Asia with the basic cosmological picture found in many such systems and points to the broad possibilities of dynastic change in the framework of the basic traditional legitimation. He analyzes also the nature of the political center in these empires and the congruence between the political autonomous center and the structure of the central religious ideas. In this context he shows the importance of the differentiated capital as a structural and symbolic center in these empires.


18
Principles and Structures in the Organization of
the Asiatic Steppe-Pastoralists

Lawrence Krader

The social organization of these peoples is a complex one, in which the social structure has a double facet, the consanguineal and the political. The consanguineal is exclusively patrilineal-agnatic; the political is identical with it both in general and in detail.

We distinguish in our thought between a given form or structure and a principle which underlies it, which is exemplified embodied in it; e.g., the principle of democracy is embodied in a given parliamentary institution. 1 In like manner, the Altaic pastoralists differentiate in their thought between a principle of

social organization, e.g., the principle of patrilineal descent, and a particular social structure, e.g., the clan. The specific, concrete social units are labelled as such by these peoples, in addition to being named groups. That is, these peoples have words for structures which we identify as the extended family, the kin-village, the clan, etc., and each one of these in turn has a proper name. The existence of native terms for these units is usual and not surprising. Less usual and more surprising is the fact that the natives also have a concept and a term for a principle of social organization, such as patrilineal descent. A principle is on a "higher" level of abstraction than a social unit. The clan as a social structure can be observed to function; a family has a visible life; not so

____________________
From Lawrence Krader, "Principles and Structures in the Organization of the Asiatic Steppe Pastoralists," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, XI (1955), 68-85. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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