The People of the Sierra

The People of the Sierra

The People of the Sierra

The People of the Sierra

Excerpt

This book is about a Spanish town. More precisely, it examines the social structure of a rural community in the mountains of southern Spain. To demand the reader's attention for a whole volume in order to interpret to him the habitual goings-on in so insignificant a place might be asking too much of him, but that in order to do this it has been necessary--or, might I say, through doing this it has been possible?--to say a good deal about the nature of Andalusian society, and even to sketch certain hypotheses of sociological theory. Yet this is not a discourse on the principles of social organisation. On the contrary, my concern is to set forth facts and only such general formulations as are required in order to relate them one to another. For I believe that every description of social life carries in the method and terms it employs an implied theory of society, while on the other hand theories which aim to lay down the principles of sociology, however great their potential value, remain until an observer can make use of them in a particular instance something uncertain, unassessable as an unopened seam of gold which may not, when brought to the surface, repay the cost of mining it.

Nevertheless, there is one point of theory to which I would like to draw attention before I begin, and that concerns the meaning of the term "social structure", since this is used by some writers in quite another way. They use it to mean the composition of a society in terms of percentages of persons belonging to one or another category of age, sex, monetary income or status, and so on. This is not what a social anthropologist means by social structure. For him the word "structure" implies something composed of interdependent parts, and the parts of a social structure are not individuals but activities or institutions. A society is not an agglomeration of persons but a system of social relations.

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