The Stranger: A Study in Social Relationships

By Margaret Mary Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE PRINCIPLE OF AUTHORITY

1. ANCESTOR WORSHIP

AMONG the simpler peoples the basis of the social organization was seen to be some form of kinship grouping which, growing out of consanguinity, had evolved into an order of society. Within this order the relationships were largely of the sentiment type and the various duties, privileges, obligations and restrictions associated with these were carefully defined by custom. Such a system was by its very nature relatively inflexible and hence better adapted to smaller more isolated groups. Frequent contacts with outside groups or a considerable increase in the numbers of the group itself would place a strain upon a social order of the kinship type and necessitate changes within it and the development of new forms of relationships if the group was to maintain its integrity and at the same time to expand. This need was met in part through the establishment of trade relations with neighboring peoples. Desired goods were obtained in this way rather than by force. Interest relations, however, if based wholly on utility and devoid of ties of sentiment, do not constitute a strong cohesive bond. Groups may trade with one another without merging their identities or sharing a sufficient measure of common life to overcome their distrust of one another. To bring together or to hold together in a functional unity large numbers of people whose varied material interests are often opposed as well as complementary, utilitarian relationships must be embedded, as it were, in an

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