Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru

Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru

Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru

Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru

Excerpt

The data of anthropological investigation can be analyzed in many ways, and it is characteristic of anthropologists that they often allow the nature of the field materials to suggest the theoretical basis of their approach. So it is in this case--among the multitude of social and cultural phenomena apparent in the historical and ethnographic materials from the Ica valley, one stands out in particular. It is the change in the structure of society that is most striking and therefore convenient as the orienting factor in description and analysis.

How can the structure of a society, and of society in general, be studied? One of the means of analysis lies in the recognition of social ranking--the fact that some individuals in a society (or the roles they play) have a higher status than others. Social status, however, is far from a simple phenomenon and seldom can be explained in terms of a unitary concept. Nadel, for example, has suggested that the over-all structure of a society is made up of two substructures, one of wealth and one of authority (1957). The wealth structure is one in which individuals are ranked according to their control over the means of production or purchase. The authority structure is one in which individuals are ranked according to their control over the actions of others. Nadel's theoretical discussion of these substructures is a fuller development of the long-standing recognition by social anthropologists that there is not one "social structure" in a human group but several, that the locus of wealth in a society is not always the same as the locus of authority, and that assessment of social status often depends on independent description of both characteristics.

Nadel's two-fold approach seems adequate for structural analysis among many of the human groups traditionally subject to anthropological investigation. The data of complex societies, however, suggest that social status is not composed merely of a varying balance between position in the substructures of authority and wealth, but that at least one other factor is necessary for description of the total social scheme. That factor is prestige, and the arrangement of individuals according to their possession of it constitutes the prestige substructure. Prestige, like authority, is an intangible good, so that it is more difficult to define its substructure than it is that of wealth. In simplest terms, prestige consists of the recognition of value . . .

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