Early Civilization: An Introduction to Anthropology

By Alexander A. Goldenweiser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
SOCIETY (Continued)

THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY (Continued)

In looking back upon the impressive array of social forms passed in review in the preceding chapter, one fact stands out with great clearness: society has seized upon a large number, if not all possible, kinds of relation, spatial, temporal and organic, of man to nature and of man to man; and on the basis of these relations, social divisions have grown up. First, there is the spacial relation, the territory occupied by the group. This is the foundation of local groups, villages, towns, tribal territories and states. Then there is the organic relation, which appears in two forms, actual blood relationship and assumed or fictitious blood relationship. Actual blood relationship is represented in the ties connecting children with their parents in a family,1 or the members of an Iroquoian maternal family, or the individuals comprised in one of those loose groups covered by a system of relationship. Fictitious or assumed blood relationship is represented in such groups as the clan, the gens, the dual division (in many instances) and the Australian classes and sub-classes. Then there is the grouping based on sex. And finally come the two forms of temporal relation of man to man, as comprised in the principles of age and generation.

Now, the units based on these different principles all perform multifarious functions in society. In fact, the civilizational status of a social division is no more and no less than the sum total of its functional relations to society. As aforesaid, a social unit is what it does. For this reason

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1
Of course, it must be remembered, as noted before, that only the relation of parents to children and vice versa, is strictly organic or biological. The relation of the parents to each other, on the other hand, unless they happen to be blood relatives, is a reciprocal functional relationship, such as is implied in the sex tie and the correlated psychological attitudes.

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