Chapter 6 (pt.4)


Gluckman's terminology was intended to distinguish the considerable extent of overlap in role-sets in small-scale societies from their relatively discrete character in larger industrial societies. He suggests, for example, that one

effect of this relatively 'exaggerated' development of custom is to mark off and segregate roles in social groups where they may be confounded. (1962, p. 28)

His usage of the prefix 'multi-' connotes something different from Parsons' diffuseness, however. It emphasizes the extent to which the various overlapping role-sets are, for the purposive actor, and perforce for the analyst, discrete.

The village's, the kinship group's, even the nation's, social system embodies several sub-systems of purposive relations -- familial, productive, distributive, consuming, educational, religious, organizing. In industrial society these purposive relations constitute separate sub-systems. But the multi-purposive relations of tribal society are for the outside observer divisible in terms of these several purposes. And they are in fact divided culturally from one another, each tending to be marked by highly specific conventional modes of behaviour and sometimes by ritual. There is a marked occurrence in these societies of ritual at each change of activity and each change of role. (1965, p. 290)

This is very Parsonian language, and it is an exaggeration. It is an exaggeration not of the overlap of roles nor of its importance, but of the extent to which one can validly sort these into separate activities and 'sub-systems'. It is important among the Tallensi that a person's familial, productive, distributive, consuming and so forth relations are commonly and mutually determined, not merely involved with the same set of others. Thus when Gluckman says

Because men and women in tribal society play so many of their varied purposive roles with the same set of fellows, each action in addition is charged with high moral import, (1962, p. 28)

the point is that all of their multiple roles are implicated in the single action; action based on one status cannot be ritually or otherwise very readily segregated from action based on another. It is in part for this reason that we argued in chapter 5 that role should not be seen as automatically following on status but should be applied to the concrete actions of social individuals. Thus Gluckman finds his analysis supported by

those many situations in modern life where we find 'pockets' of social relations which resemble those of tribal society in that there are 'groups' whose members live together in such a way that their relations in one set of roles directly influence their performance of other roles. (1962, p. 43)

Another way of putting this would be to say that they have fewer roles than do those in more fragmented situations. Multiplexity of relationship necessarily involves -- when viewed sociologically -- not only an overlap in which persons relate to each other in many or diffuses ways, but also the implication of these factors or characters of relation by each other. In other words, among the Tallensi there is much greater convariance of attributes of relations and formal relations than in an alienated larger-scale society. Kinsman implies co-worker; the two do not vary independently. As a population variable multiplexity can not long obtain in any considerable extent if the various filaments of relation do not co-vary.

Gluckman's distinction is explicitly an elaboration of Durkheim's thesis regarding mechanical and organic solidarity. Where the latter emphasized collective consciousness as a crucial variable (1893), the former notes that "roles are not differentiated by material conditions and fragmented associations" (1962, p. 49). We will take this then as a variable measuring the extent to which ego's social personality implies multiple role-sets, or more accurately, the extent to which such implication exists for all the egos in a population. These of course yield the monoplexity pole of the variable. It is apparent that the extent of multiplexity positively influences the tendency toward hierarchical inclusivity. This it does only through indirect implications, and in particular, through its influence on group solidarity. In the first place, the extent to which there are solidary social groups is clearly a factor in the extent to which groups can be included in other groups, as discussed above. Group solidarity is implied by other factors, other variables than multiplexity, however. But group solidarity based on multiplexity is the most influential in hierarchical inclusivity. This is because social groups based on multiplexity may readily be organized (as are Tale patrlineages) in a hierarchy governed by common rules of transformation of level. Further, the density and socio-geographic containment which multiplexity implies lends itself to inclusion in larger categories since it provides for ready bases of identification (e.g., propinquity).

The common organization of the system as a whole -- as opposed to fragmentation of roles in specialized sub-systems -- is very important to traditional authority, both through its support of social stability and in its reduction of the number of possible conflicting definitions of situations. In this way it provides for the security of the social order, which in turn may allow for the working out of certain structural conflicts in socially contained ways, as opposed to the necessity for their forceful suppression. This idea is at the core of Gluckman's discussion of rituals of rebellion. Among other things he is concerned with the fact that in many situations communal interests may be in conflict with the interests of particular individuals, a classic problem in collective action theories (see Olson, 1965, for discussion). His analysis is not of the role of coercion, however, but of ritual resolution to the conflicts as felt by individuals, a resolution which incorporates the conflicts as normal into the social order (see Calhoun 1973). In these rituals the authority of the order -- as order -- is affirmed in the very way it meets its inevitable structurally determined challenges. Rituals, as Gluckman has emphasized, bring out conflicts of social significance (cf. Gluckman and Gluckman, 1974).

Conflicts between individuals and the political order as a whole are demonstrated in the ritual of rebellion. Everyone, including the king himself, is restrained by the order's authority against his individual gratification. (Gluckman, 1954, p. 135)

The ritual of rebellion can only operate in a social order characterized by considerable authority, stability, and internal cohesion:

In order to make my analysis by contrast, I have suggested that modern political ceremonies may not take this form because our social order is itself questioned. Clearly this contrast only skirts the problem. There are tensions between too many diverse political and other groups in our society to be dramatized simply, and, paradoxically, because of the very fragmentation of our social relationships we do not have as well-developed or as frequent rituals which involve the appearance of persons according to their social roles. (op. cit.)

The fragmentation of our social relationships produces tremendous instability and diversity of social identities among persons. The stability which Gluckman saw established patterns of succession as providing is no longer possible in comparable degree:

For succession in all systems involves not only orderly transmission of property, but also orderly maintenance of an established arrangement of social relations between a large number of people: when a man dies, the structure of social relations is maintained by substituting another for him. 'The king is dead, long live the king.' (Gluckman, 1956, p. 65)

It is difficult to find someone who can be substituted for the multiplicity of statuses and attributes which are salient in any individual's social personality. At the same time, the old individual's place in society may no longer be so relevant that filling it -- that is, any particular position -- would be of social significance. We are so different that we are the same. In other words, none of our differences are as much a part of us as they could ne, or are for others in other societies. With the exception f the 'power elite' only the grossest of categories matter. Group solidarity and the multiplexity of social bonds have been replaced by alienation; authority has been replaced by power.

The Dynamics of Independence: Power and Alienation

From the 18th Century to the present there has been a growing concern in social thought with the exercise of power, the nature of community, and the similarities and differences among men. One might actually say with as much accuracy that these have been central themes in the growth of social thought itself and in its emerging independence. They overlap closely with what Nisbet has called the 'unit-ideas of sociology' (1966). Despite all this concern, their usage is far from unambiguously established; neither empirical research nor philosophical and theoretical discussion has 'settled' many of the issues that they provoke. As Luke has said of power, they remain 'essentially contested concepts'(Lukes, 1974, following Gallie, 1955-6; see also, 1964). This is so because they are concepts whose academic usage is indissoluble from the user's apprehension of the 'real (or life-) world, his evaluations, and his plans for action or inaction in it. In this chapter and the next we shall develop a perspective on these concepts in the context of our consideration of social order, but this development will be far from thorough. There is prima facie reason for not dwelling on these points because we have described the nature of Tale communities and the social similarities and differences among Tallensi in some detail already. Further, these concepts are in some senses a counterpole to those of authority, multiplexity, solidarity, and stability discussed above, for here we shall speak of power, alienation, the mass, and instability. It is precisely for this reason that some discussion is necessary, however. These variables, for which we have described primarily one pole, cannot be well understood without a look at the other, even if that is the one least correlated with the Tale social organization. Further, if we are to improve our understanding of social order itself, we must have all the relevant factors in our model. As we shall see, especially in chapter 8, the paths of influence of all the variables of social order are important for understanding of each. When we treat alienation as a variable, we see that it does not simply not exist among the Tallensi; specific factors limit its extent. And, in terms of our discussion that they do this is not incidental to the nature of these 'factors'. It is essential to it.

The key concepts around which we shall organize this discussion are power and alienation. The two are essentially -- and positively -- related. The exercise of power is likely to be greater where alienation is greater; the exercise of power is likely to be alienating. In this usage I differentiate myself at a stroke from both Parsons and Marx, and what they share that I reject is important. It is a view of power as inhering in structured patterns of sociation. For Marx, the development of the species-being is a development of its power. Though the concept of species-being is taken from Feuerbach, at the root of this notion in Marx is Hegel's idea of realization, of the progressive coming into being, in particular in self-conscious man, the progressive bringing of one-self into being. Marx merely transposes this to a consideration of the special being of mankind. Power is thus at once ability, which develops, and potential, which is present from the beginning (cf. Mészáros, 1970, pp. 280-2; Ollman, 1971, pp. 76-7; the former stresses potential, the latter ability). In either case, as Ollman has indicated, power is, for Marx, closely linked to the idea of needs. Power is the effective counterpart of human needs; need is the conscious precondition for the realization of power:

'Need' is always attached to 'power' in Marx's writings as the means through which man becomes aware of the latter's existence. Each power is coupled in man with a distinctive need for the objects necessary for its realization, to make itself known and allow for its development as a power. Likewise, a power is whatever is used that 'fulfills' a need. (Ollman, 1971, p. 78)

The problem with this sociated concept of power is that it over-stresses the optimistic view of history. It emphasizes an implicit development at the expense of considering the concrete mechanics of change. Power becomes not an influential or critical variable in a model of statics and dynamics, but one of a number of descriptions in a relation of identity with a stage of socio-cultural development. One can interpret Marx's usage of power as stemming from a desire to avoid an overindividualist conception. Species-being stresses the transitory aspect of 'man as he is' and elaborates the idea of liberation as a necessarily historical process in opposition to a notion of liberty as a characteristic of the alienated individual. Valid as such objections are, they should not be allowed to obscure the everyday language usage of power as relationship.

This is only partially a question of determinism vs. voluntarism, or of the role of the subject in Marxist theory (cf. Lukes, 1974, pp. 52-4). With or without any postulate of a voluntaristic subject one may suggest that power has the character that where it does not exist events are different than where it does exist. This implies that power is concrete, and thus that it may be seen as a (theoretically) observable variable. It has effects in social situations. Even if class conflict is seen as a strictly determined result of structural conditions (i.e., with no will implicit), the vicissitudes of the class struggle imply changes in power. Only tenuously may one explain this as purely a matter of the growing 'power' of the system in the course of its revolutionary transformation. The element of power becomes apparent because of the conflict, which in turn implies not the structurally determined power of a single system (which logically would have to be all history, past and future), that is, the 'ability' of mankind at that time, but rather the opposition of potentialities for suppression or disruption of competing systems. To the extent that any organization (or structure, or system) can be conceptualized as distinct or discrete (that is, has 'autonomy' in Sorokin's term) it implies a given operation (over a given 'structural duration', Gluckman, 1968). Any other similarly discrete organization which is brought into concrete relations with the first will have a varying potential for disrupting or suppressing that operation and vice versa . Its power is this potential, and can only be expressed in terms of the total of its concrete relations at (or over) any given time, that is, it does not inhere in the organization in isolation. To specify the power of two organizations relative to each other in abstraction from their other relationships would be misleading since the potentialities of each are determined by its situation. All this is true whatever the level of the organization, that is, whether it is a man, a class, a corporation, or whatever, and all of it is true independent of any imputation of voluntarism.

As it happens, I do postulate (partially) voluntaristic subjects, and I think, despite what we have seen of Marx's usage of the term power, he was ambivalent on the point. Certainly he saw it necessary to underpin the inevitable with effort, and he had no illusions that the other side of the revolution would bring to bear any less than all the 'force' it could muster. What remain unclear are the roles of consciousness and decision in what are clearly conceived of as actions. Consider the following passages on the class struggles in France:

The Paris proletariat was forced into the June insurrection by the bourgeoisie. This in itself sealed its fate. It was neither impelled by its immediate, avowed needs to fight for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by force, nor was it equal to this task. (1850, p. 60)

And, conversely:

By making its burial place the birthplace of the bourgeois republic , the proletariat forced this republic to appear in its pure form, as the state whose avowed purpose it is to perpetuate the rule of capital and slavery of labour. (1850, p. 61)

What is immediately clear is the characteristic of force as relationship, in a way that seems quite compatible with our usage of power. It is apparent that neither the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat acts independently of the other. The question is, to what extent is the dependency of this action determined by awareness or conceptions of the other, and, given this, to what extent by voluntaristic choice among alternatives. To the first part of the question the answer seems definitely in the affirmative. Marx notes the 'avowed purpose' of the state, and indeed he goes on to emphasize both this awareness on the part of the bourgeoisie, and its counterpart or reaction:

Permanently aware of its scarred, irreconcilable and invincible enemy -- invincible because its existence is a precondition of its own life -- bourgeois rule, freed from all fetters, was inevitably transformed, all at once, into bourgeois terrorism. Now that the proletariat was temporarily removed from the stage and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie officially recognized, the middle of strata of bourgeois society, the petty bourgeoisie and the peasant class, were obliged to ally themselves with the proletariat, as their own situation became more intolerable and their antagonism to the bourgeoisie sharper. As they had earlier sought the cause of their misfortune in the rise of the working class, they were now compelled to find it in its defeat. (op. cit.)

'Obliged', 'inevitably', 'compelled', it would appear that there was no choice in the matter for either side, precisely because the struggle heightened their contraposition and consciousness.

But perhaps there is a paradox in that last statement. Something was done, by each unit, by each side. If the effect of struggle was polarization, if conflict does indeed heighten consciousness then might we not suggest that the inevitability was a result of the conflict? In other words, the options were reduced, the situation clarified, so that each actor would be less likely to decide against his/its interests. We shan't resolve the ambivalence in Marx -- or at least in possible interpretations of Marx. But the discussion has developed an important point. The extent to which options are available for choice varies among social situations. Further, it varies not only as a function of the extent to which stable social determinacy of dependency obtain, but also, in situations of conflict or contradiction, of the extent of polarization. In some ways, of course, this is a special case -- albeit an unstable one -- of determination. We shall argue, however, that this polarization and the power which it engenders are a concomitant of alienation, not of organization overcoming alienation among, say, the proletariat. Before coming back to this, though, and before giving our reasons for assuming partial voluntarism regarding the use of power, let us very briefly review the way in which Parsons has constructed a sociated concept of power (see Giddons, 1968 for a more general discussion).


The Dynamics of Dependence - Authority - The Dynamics of Independence

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