Constraints and (implicitly) possibilities
1 - Hoes vs. Plows: Patterns of inheritance
Men begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistance...
The form of the intercourse of individuals with one another is again determined by production
Karl Marx The German Ideology Chapter One, First Premises of materialist Method)
A typical example is the work of ??? on the !Kung of the Kalahari desert, or of Jack Goody
() on the difference that types of soil, best adapted agricultural tool (plow/hoe) makes in the
development of kinds of kinship system (particularly in relation to parental controls over
their children marriage and rates of divorce between sub-Saharan cultures and Euro-Asian
Much of this is implicit in Segalen's work though she also talks (by implication at least) of "ideology" as a constraint since there is no clear evidence for an ecological/technological determination of most unilineal descent systems apart from their own history
see the fight between Kroeber (and eventually D. Schneider) and
Rivers et al.
Things get more complex when (ecology/technology) lead to
large increases in population;
differentation in access to resources;
specialization and bureaucratization;
increase in relations between populations;
most of what is written about "rural" families (dowries, controls of children and their marriage, extended/stem households, etc.) implies a land-holding unit of some sort (a) what about the landless?
an urban anchor: what happens there
various specialized craft and merchant
Every evidence points to the fact that all such divided populations will offer different conditions with different opportunities for and constraints on the organization of household, families, descent groups, etc.
Note that this has major implications for descriptive purposes: what are we to count together when doing statistical studies (e.g. of the comparative size of households)
Notes also that all this says little about the place of ideology (religion, myth, custom, etc.) as a possible constraint/possibility in urban societies. Think of the difference between:
confucianism in China
slavery in Rome
caste in India
feudalism in Europe
Such principles of analyses make it more difficult to make any easy generalization about the impact of
the evolution of Euro-American (judeo-christian/liberal
Goody, "diverging devolution"
and the plow.
co-occurence (i.e. determination vs. historicism)
feedback loops (i.e. determination vs. systematicity--Bateson, etc.)
positive (contradiction, "change" and/or move towards higher levels
possibilities/constraints (and thereby ideological differentiation-- India/Europe)
"social reproduction" as a major issue in contemporary sociology/anthropology of education