Political Anthropology: An Introduction

Political Anthropology: An Introduction

Political Anthropology: An Introduction

Political Anthropology: An Introduction

Synopsis

Unique in its field, this book offers a comprehensive overview of political anthropology, including its history, its major research findings, and its theoretical concerns both past and present. Significantly updated and expanded with extensive changes in many chapters, three additional chapters, and a new conclusion, this second edition provides the basic text and structure for a full course.

Excerpt

In a 1959 review article, political scientist David Easton charged that political anthropology did not really exist because the practitioners of this nondiscipline had utterly failed to mark off the political system from other subsystems of society. The judgment was then generally accepted with the humble mortification proper to a young science being criticized by one much older and wiser. It was not until almost ten years later that anthropologists had gained sufficient confidence to protest that Easton had completely misunderstood the nature of political anthropology and had construed its greatest virtue into a vice (Bailey 1968; A. P. Cohen 1969; Southall 1974). In the societies in which anthropologists have traditionally worked, politics cannot be analytically isolated from kinship, religion, age-grade associations, secret societies, and so forth, because these are precisely the institutions manifesting power and authority. In many societies government simply does not exist. This recognition, and the specification of the manner in which the idiom of politics is expressed through the medium of apparently nonpolitical institutions, may be the primary contributions of anthropology to the study of comparative politics. Recently, political anthropologists have carried this idea into the sacred domain of the political scientist by demonstrating that informal organizations and relationships may be more important than formal institutions even in such modern governments as those of the United States and Israel.

Two decades ago, Ronald Cohen (1970: 484) could still agree with Easton to the extent that "there are, as yet, no well-established conven-

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