Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview
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on the way in which individuals are attached to society, but on how it regulates them. Egoistic suicide results from man's no longer finding a basis for existence in life; altruistic suicide, because this basis for existence appears to man situated beyond life itself. The third sort of suicide, the existence of which has just been shown, results from man's activity's lacking regulation and his consequent sufferings. By virtue of its origin we shall assign this last variety the name of anomic suicide.

Certainly, this and egoistic suicide have kindred ties. Both spring from society's insufficient presence in individuals. But the sphere of its absence is not the same in both cases. In egoistic suicide it is deficient in truly collective activity, thus depriving the latter of object and meaning. In anomic suicide, society's influence is lacking in the basically individual passions, thus leaving them without a check-rein. In spite of their relationship, therefore, the two types are independent of each other. We may offer society everything social in us, and still be unable to control our desires; one may live in an anomic state without being egoistic, and vice versa. These two sorts of suicide therefore do not draw their chief recruits from the same social environments; one has its principal field among intellectual careers, the world of thought-- the other, the industrial or commercial world.❖


Primitive Classifications and Social Knowledge

Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss ( 1903)

The foregoing permits the conclusion that the Zuñi system is really a development and a complication of the Australian system. But what finally demonstrates the reality of this relationship is that it is possible to discover the intermediate stages connecting these extremes, and thus to discern how the one developed from the other.

The Omaha tribe of the Sioux, described by Dorsey, are precisely in this mixed position: the classification of things by clans is still very clear, and was formerly even clearer, but the systematic idea of regions is only in process of formation.

The tribe is divided into two moieties, each containing five clans. These clans are recruited by exclusively patrilineal descent; which is to say that totemic organization, properly speaking, and the cult of the totem are in decline. Each of these is sub-divided in its turn into sub-clans which themselves are sometimes further subdivided. Dorsey does not say that everything in the world is divided among these different groups. But if the classification is not exhaustive, and perhaps never really was, certainly it must have been very comprehensive, at least in the past. This is shown by a study of the only complete clan which has been preserved for us; this is the Chatada clan, which is part of the first moiety. We shall leave on one side other accounts which are probably mutilated, and which in any case give us the same phenomena but with a lesser degree of complication.

The meaning of the word used to designate this clan is uncertain; but we have a fairly full list of the things which are connected with it. It comprises four sub-clans, which are themselves segmented.

The first sub-clan is that of the black bear. It comprises the black bear, the raccoon, the grizzly bear, and the porcupine, which seem to be totems of the segments.

____________________
Excerpt from Rodney Needham, ed. and trans., Primitive Classifications ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 55-62, 81-88. Copyright 1963 by Rodney Needham.

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