Political Organization:

  • The ways in which societies are organized to plan group activities, make decisions affecting members of the group, select leadership, and settle disputes within the group and with other groups

Political Anthropology:

  • The study of ways that communities plan group actions, make decisions affecting the group, select leadership, and resolve conflicts and disputes both within the group and with other groups
  • Abstract notions - citizenship (sectional citizenship: the way you fit into society and the way one does not)

The Search for Laws of Social Organization:

  • Thinkers such as Karl Marx and Lewis Henry Morgan looked for laws through historical change - we call this cultural evolutionism
  • Biological determinists look for biological triggers
  • Cultural ecologists look to the natural environment
  • Anthropologists find that in fact, there is no law, that social organization is arbitrary

Varieties of Social Organization:

  • Power:

o Transformative capacity (Anthony Giddens); the ability to transform a given situation

o Political power: visible, hidden, invisible

o Political anthropology: the study of social power in human society

The Power to Act:

  • Coercion versus free agency
  • Gramsci argued that coercion alone is rarely sufficient for social control

Domination and Hegemony:

  • Domination:

o Coercive rule

  • Hegemony:

o A system of leadership in which rulers persuade subordinates to accept the ideology of the dominant group by offering mutual accommodations that nevertheless preserve the rulers' privileged position

Foucault and Power:

  • Michel Foucault:

o 1926-1984

o French philosopher, social theorist, and historian of ideas

o Associated with both Structuralist and post-Structuralist movements

o Extremely wide-ranging influence in the humanities and social sciences

Biopower and Governmentality:

  • Michel Foucault - also gave us Biopower
  • Biopower: reoccupied with the bodies of citizens and the social body itself

o Ex: women's reproductive rights (birth control)

  • Governmentality: the art of governing appropriate to promoting the welfare of populations within a state

Michel Foucault Major Works:

  • Madness and civilization - 1961

o About the birth of the insane asylum

  • Birth of the clinic - 1963

o About biopower - creation of this system of policing bodies

  • Archaeology of knowledge - 1969

o About the power behind knowledge production

  • Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison - 1975

o About policing of bodies - combines biopower and governmentality

o A panopticon, a prison designed by Thomas Bentham

o Self policing - idea of surveillance

  • History of sexuality (volumes I, II, and III) - 1976

o About power

  • Foucault:

o Knowledge should transform the self

o “I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone that you were not in the beginning"

■ Idea of transformation and change

o Power is everywhere

Foucauldian Power:

  • Traditional power: monolithic, hierarchal, clearly visible, embodied in the law, written, and is negative (based on prohibition)
  • Foucauldian Power:

o Localized: physical organization of space shapes the knowledge and power that are possible and can be harnessed

o Omnipresent: rather than something "invoked" on special occasions or at specific times, power is ALWAYS in play

o Dialectically related to knowledge: power draws from existing knowledge, relies on it, shapes it; knowledge influences the type and location of effective power

  • They way we see ourselves in the world is the result of power relations
  • "Where there is power, there is resistance”

o They can only exist in the strategic field of power relations

Power is Productive:

  • It was the discourses about sexuality, in Victorian times and the early 20th century, which sought to suppress certain kinds of behaviour, which simultaneously gave an identity to them, and so launched them into the public sphere...
  • The whole idea about sexuality in Victorian times (when sexuality wasn't talked about), Foucauld said when we are told not to talk about something, we end up talking about it

Power as an Independent Entity:

  • Resistance: the power to refuse being forced against ones will to conform to someone else's wishes
  • Consensus: an agreement to which all parties collectively give their assent
  • Persuasion: power based on verbal argument

The Power of Imagination:

  • Anomie: a pervasive sense of rootlessness and normlessness in a society (Durkheim)

o Feeling of not belonging in a society

  • Alienation: the deep separation that individuals experience between their innermost sense of identity and the labour they are forced to perform in order to survive (Marx)

o Leads to power problems

  • Post-traditional societies (Giddens)

o There are rules that tell us our role in society

o Rules structure society

o Traditional societies have died, so it led to post-traditional societies o Free in this post-traditional world to figure out what we want to be o Ex: pick who you want to marry (based on love)

VIDEO: Privatization of Water

  • Bolivia (1999/2000)
  • How does this relate to foucault's notion of power
  • Not matter how small a group or in what apart of the world, what they can fight to change (the government)

Types of Political Organization - Stateless Societies:

  • Bands

o Small

o Informal

  • Tribes

o Some degree of formalization of structure

o Associations

o Age grades

  • Chiefdoms

o Stratified societies organized by kinship

  • States

o Highly organized

o Centralized

o Hierarchical

o Characteristics of state societies:

  • Cities
  • Large populations
  • Specialists
  • Social control


  • State societies with elected rather than inherited leadership


  • States expanded into larger units through conquest and the occupation or annexation of new territories


  • Societies ruled by religious leaders, in which the social order is upheld through beliefs in its divine origin or sanction

Internal Political Change and State Societies:

  • Terrorism
  • Factionalism
  • Revolution

An Example of Forced Change:

  • China's one child policy
  • Implemented in 1979
  • Advocates delayed marriage and delayed child bearing
  • Advocated fewer healthier births
  • Advocates one child per couple

Exceptions to the Policy:

  • Ethnic minorities are formally excluded from the policy
  • If both parents are only-children, provided the children are spaced more than four years apart
  • Families who have children with mental or physical disabilities sometimes may have a second child

Social Issues:

  • Chinese families overwhelmingly prefer male children; as a result, female infanticide is increasing
  • Abortions are sometimes forced on women who become pregnant with their second child without authorization (these may include late term abortions)
  • There have been reports of mass sterilizations in the rural areas
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