Friday, April 21, 2006

STUDIES IN PEASANT LIFE: COMMUNITY AND SOCIETY (Clifford Geertz. University of Chicago)


The peasant is an immemorial figure on the world's social landscape, but anthropology noticed him only recently. Although some of the classic figures from which the science traces its descent--Maine, Maitland, and Fustel de Coulanges--were concerned with peasant life, the research focus of the men who actually set its course-Morgan, Tylor, Boas, Malinowski, and Radcliffe-Brown-was overwhelmingly upon tribal society. Even in regions almost totally dominated by peasant culture, anthropologists searched out tribal peoples: in India, Rivers studied the Toda, Mandelbaum the Kota; the major ethnographic workin Ceylon was that of the Seligmans on the Veddas; in Morocco, Coon ignored the village Arabs and concerned himself with the more virile tribes of the Rif; Du Bois sailed past civilized Java to primitive Alor; and in Luzon, Barton, with scarcely a glance (and that a disapproving one) at the Tagalog or Illocano, headed for the Ifugao highlands. Only since World War II, with the entrance of the major peasant-based nations of Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America onto the stage of international politics, has any notable shift of interest toward the study of peasant life occurred. Even as late as 1948, Kroeber, in his monumental survey (68) * of the state of the discipline, could dispose of peasantry in a single paragraph (p. 284).

Yet, characteristically enough, in this lone paragraph Kroeber managed to formulate most clearly and exactly what has turned out to be the recurrent theme in subsequent anthropological studies of peasants: namely, that they constitute part-societies with part-cultures. Peasants, he said, are definitely rural, yet they live in relation to market towns. They form a class segment of a larger stratificatory system, within which they are far from being the dominant group. They lack the isolation, political autonomy, and self-sufficiency of tribal populations, yet their local units nevertheless retain much of their old identity, integration, and attachment to soil and cult, to parochial custom and folk art. It was mainly the European peasantry of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth that was in Kroeber's mind as he wrote; but his stress on the fractional, incomplete quality of peasant society and culture has reappeared in virtually every anthropological study of peasant life from Mexico to India, as well as in every theoretical treatise on the subject, that has since appeared. The nature of the larger whole of which the peasantry is a part, the definition of the peasant as such within that larger whole, and the relations between the peasantry so defined and other subunits of the wider society--the gentry, the clergy, the trading classes, townsmen, and the like--have been the major analytical concerns of the hordes of researchers who, in the last decade or so, have turned to this by now extremely popular field of investigation.

Of the three men who have most directly shaped and stimulated this recent florescence of interest in peasant societies--Robert Red­field, Julian Steward, and the sinologist cum universal historian and political ideologist Karl Wittfogel--each has tended to emphasize a somewhat different aspect of the problem of the nonindependent, symbiotic status of the peasant. Although Redfield, an incurable eclectic, was nothing if not catholic in his approach, he mainly stressed the cultural dimensions of the issue. To peasantry he opposed gentry, defining this difference largely in terms of his concepts of great tradition and little tradition (114), in turn an outgrowth, revision, and even partial retraction of his earlier and more famous contrast between folk and urban cultures (113). "The culture of a peasant community," he wrote, "is not autonomous. It is an aspect or dimension of the civilization of which it is a part" (114, p. 68). And so he contrasted the systematized and abstract great tradition of the reflective few with the irregular and concrete little tradition of the unreflective many, the "high culture" of the whole of India, China, or Mexico with the "low culture" of the individual Gangetic, Yellow River, or Yucatecan village. The essential problem is to discover how these two sorts of tradition interact--how they communicate with and modify one another and how sophisticate and folk culture are interrelated within the larger culture that composes the civilization as a whole. "Peasant" for Redfield is thus fundamentally a cultural status. Its most distinctive features lie in the realm of world-view, of value, of style of life-features which, again, need to be seen against the background of the related gentry culture in order to be clearly outlined and properly defined.

For Steward, the major emphasis is ecological and economic (142). In his system, the various part-societies of a complex or compound society are divided into vertical segments, horizontal segments, and formal institutions (141). Vertical segments are local units of various sorts, such as villages, neighborhoods, households. Horizontal segments are special subsocieties, occupational, class, ethnic, and the like, which, like local units, may have a somewhat distinctive way of life, but which cross-cut localities. And formal institutions include the monetary system, the law, education, and organized churches, which run through the whole society, "binding it together and affecting it at every point." In this type of categorization, as most explicitly developed by Wolf, Steward's student (152; see also 101), the peasantry is a horizontal segment defined largely in terms of the economic activities of its members. The peasant is said to be: (1) an agricultural producer (rather than a fisherman, trader, etc.); (2) a landed proprietor with effective control of the land he works (rather than a dependent tenant, field hand, etc. ); (3) a subsistence-oriented cultivator, who, though he may sell crops, does so in order to meet everyday needs and to maintain an established status (as opposed to a farmer who sells his crops for reinvestable profits). Similarly, the external relations of the peasant with the wider society tend also to be phrased in economic terms, in particular in terms of his relation to the market and to outside capital. For Steward and Wolf, then, "peasant" is fundamentally an occupational status, only derivatively characterized by a more or less specific way of life. Its defining elements lie in the realms of technology, land use, property holding, and trade, and the main axis of the peasant-nonpeasant contrast is not between folk and sophisticate, but between the agricultural producer and the landlord, government official, businessman, or wage worker.

Wittfogel, whose magnum opus, Oriental Despotism (151), has been both extravagantly praised (96) and sharply criticized (33b, 69) by anthropologists, is mainly concerned with the differences in power that result from unequal access to the governmental apparatus in agrarian societies, so that the fundamental social contrast appears as the one between the rulers and the ruled. His own work is dedicated to establishing the supposed absoluteness of this contrast in irrigationbased societies, which he opposes to what he takes to be the much greater diffusion of power in feudal Europe. But whatever the validity of his thesis, the argument that "peasant" can be conceived of as a political status and as therefore demanding an analysis of traditional state organization for its comprehension is less debatable, and has proved to be a useful approach in the hands of some of Wittfogel's less obsessed followers, as, for example, in Carrasco's study of Tibet (16). From this perspective, the ties of the peasant to the outside world are traced along the lines of his political obligations to lord, bureaucrat, priest, or king that are usually, though not inevitably, implicit in the system of tenure under which he gains access to land. It is the legal framework of the polity that basically defines the peasant's status, and he is contrasted not so much with those more sophisticated than he, or those who follow other occupations, as with those to whom he owes obedience, support, and service.

Of course, the cultural, occupational, and jural views of the peasant are not in irresoluble conflict with one another, nor have they been taken to be so by those who have adopted mainly one or another of them. They are interrelated dimensions in terms of which the boundaries of both the part-society and part-culture of the peasantry can be demarcated, and the relation of the peasantry to the wider civilization within which it exists can be delineated. In attempting to face the problem, vexing to some, of whether or not there are peasants in Africa, Fallers (35) has, in fact, argued that Dahomean, Ashanti, and Baganda cultivators may be said to be peasants in the economic and political sense of the term, but not in the cultural. Owing to the absence of literacy, of a sharp social contrast between town and country, and--until recently, anyway--of critical and systematic religious and philosophical thought, the bifurcation of culture into high and low, sophisticate and folk, has been very weak. In view of their cultivating activities and relations to an interlocal monetized market system, and in view of their subordinate political status with--in a comprehensive, hierarchical, and relatively centralized traditional state, some Mricans are, by any reasonable definition of the term, peasants. But with respect to their cultural status, to the degree to which they are participants in a differentiated little tradition clearly set off from a similarly differentiated great one, they are at most proto-peasants.

In this matter of preliminary definition, there is, however, not only a "proto-peasant" problem, but, at the other end of the scale, a "post­peasant" one. Most of the rural people commonly referred to as peasants in Western Europe, Japan, and much of Latin America stand in complementary relationship not to a classical great tradition, a bazaar-type market system, or a traditional hereditary elite, but to modern mass culture, a highly industrialized economy, and a thoroughly bureaucratized government. Banfield (5), for example, attributes the extreme weakness of social ties which he found in a southern Italian village to the fact that the larger society, centered in the industrial north, has prevented the peasantry from developing (or, presumably, from maintaining) locally based moral, political, or economic institutions of any real vigor. There is evidently no way by which these folk-like people can relate themselves meaningfully to a Roman bureaucracy they encounter mainly in the form of the cabinieri, an absentee landlord class whose attitude toward agriculture is narrowly capitalistic, and a national culture whose avatar is neither the priest nor the nobleman but the movie star. And so they are reduced to what Banfield calls an "amoral familism," by which he means that aside from concern with the material, short-run advantage of the nuclear family, there are no solidly institutionalized normative guides to action. Reporting on a similar village somewhat nearer Rome, Pitkin (107) describes a comparable pattern: "Outside of a few friendship cliques there is no middle ground of community organizational life between family and nation [so that] individuals are turned in upon family roles, and there is no real social existence apart from them."

Elsewhere this "depeasantizing" process--if one may offer a neologism to match detribalization--is less advanced. In Japan, for example, Beardsley and others (6) report that their village in the Okayama plain has not only maintained but may even have increased its already high degree of corporate unity and cultural definition within a rapidly industrializing and modernizing nation. And the reverse, "peasantizing" process may also occur; in parts of the Caribbean, particularly in those highland regions into which capital-intensive plantation agriculture has not been able to penetrate, a thin sort of peasantry has arisen as a secondary development since the end of slavery in the nineteenth century (88). But, in general, an alteration toward modernity in the larger society naturally tends to destroy or prevent the emergence of a stable balance between a traditional peasantry and a traditional gentry, priesthood, trading class, or whatever, and so inevitably to produce in the countryside more modem, at best quasi-peasant, rural types of the sort described by Steward and others (143) for Puerto Rico: rural proletarians, cash-crop farmers, and the like.

The effort to define a type construct of "peasant" or "peasantry" has thus moved simultaneously along two lines: a factoring out of the distinctive features of the proposed type and a testing of the limits of the applicability of the type so constructed with respect to actual cases. In the first instance, there has been general agreement on the partii:ll nature of peasant society and culture, setting it off from the presumably complete-in-itself character of tribal society; but decisions as to which dimension-cultural, economic, or jural-is to be taken as the most critically discriminating have varied. In the second instance, questions about the applicability of the type have been raised with respect both to politically developed nonliterate peoples and to traditional agriculturalists enclosed in an otherwise modernized society. Next to these still quite unresolved issues of simple definition, however, the most worrisome problem for anthropologists who have turned from tribes to peasants has been to determine the proper methods of study.


The outstanding methodological issue has been the usefulness of the community-study approach-since Malinowski the hallmark of anthropological research-for the analysis of peasant life. With increasing frequency, both anthropologists and other social scientists looking at the work of anthropologists have raised a disquieting question: is not the intensive study of very small, territorially localized groups of people apt to be as misleading as enlightening so far as the comprehension of a complex society is concerned, or even of a peasantry as part of such a society?

In a review of Japanese studies by American anthropologists, for example, the ethnologist Sofue (131) complains that when Americans have used their findings from a particular, closely studied village as a basis for discussing the wider range of Japanese culture or general aspects of Japanese society (including the nature and role of the peasantry), serious mistakes of interpretation have occurred. He pleads for a greater use by American anthropologists of historical, quantitative, and distributional material presented by Japanese scholars in Japanese, rather than sole reliance on field work in specific communities. Similarly, the French sociologist Dumont (31), writing about recent field work in India, attacks "the uncritical choice of a number of anthropologists of the village as the frame of inquiry," arguing that this approach is a simple heritage of the discipline's classic, tribe-inspired, overemphasis of local territorial ties at the expense of those which range more widely. And, from yet another perspective, the development economist Higgins (60), frustrated by the extreme difficulty of determining how far the results of community-based studies of economic change in one region of rural Java may be generalized to refer to Indonesia as a whole, complains impatiently:

If anthropologists are to be genuinely helpful to economists seeking to understand the relationship between culture and economic behavior, their scope and method must be substantially changed ... [They must] find short cuts to generalization. The traditional methods of the anthropologists confine them to intensive and prolonged study of small geographic regions. If their scientific standards are to be met, that cannot be helped. But some training in statistical methods, and particularly in sampling techniques, might enable them to distinguish the strategic variables which correlate highly with everything else in the culture and thus characterize it. Thus armed, anthropologists would need less time to find out whether neighboring [communities] are different or the same. If they are the same, the anthropologist can move on; if they are different, more prolonged study may be necessary (p. 773).

Similar complaints have arisen from within anthropology as well, although (naturally enough) they have been rather more equivocal and their proponents somewhat more torn. In a general consideration of the methodological problems involved in the study of "intermediate societies" (a term the writer employs as a "more neutral" equivalent of "folk" or "peasant" society), Casagrande (17) points out that anthropology has by now pretty much given up the "rather naive" view of the community as a microcosm of the whole, and is at present in the process of abandoning the more tenacious idea "that we can somehow arrive at a complete description of even a very complex society if we can only make enough intensive studies of representative communities and place them side by side." Detailed community studies give us, he says, only the bricks and not the mortar of the social edifice; they leave us in ignorance of "the complex lattice of connections between countryside and village, village and village, village and town, town and city, city and nation." As anthropologists move, as they must, to investigate this lattice of connections, they will inevitably come into closer alignment with sociologists, demographers, political scientists, economists, historians, and other social scientists who have specialized in the study of such societies. Yet, perhaps with the uncomfortable sense that some rather eminent ancestors are beginning to stir in their graves, Casagrande hastens to reassure us as to his loyalties: "I am not suggesting that we sell our birthright for statistics and surveys. Both can be instructive, but our distinctive research contribution and our particular strength lies in the intensive study of small groups and I assume that our work will continue to be anchored to the natural community."

In a paper addressing itself to this issue as it appears in Caribbean studies, Manners (76) also shows himself to be of two minds.

On the one hand:

Communities which exist in isolation from other communities certainly demand different conceptual tools and methodological techniques of analysis than do those [such as the Caribbean] which are in contact with or dependent upon a larger social, economic and political universe than is comprised within the area of their "daily" contacts ...

Every community study in the area ... will in some measure have to take notice of the past effects and cultural end-results of the vagaries of sugar production, or coffee, or cacao, or cotton, or indigo; of the production and sale of rum; of the shifting periods of mercantilist and capitalist forms of exploitation; of the presence or lack of gold deposits in the earlier contact period; of the activities of missionaries of all kinds; of the West Indies' geographical position with regard to the mainland; of trade, smuggling, barter, and the like ...

on the other:

My comments should not be construed as in any sense demanding an end to community studies as such. I believe the relatively small local community unit ... is the "natural habitat" of the anthropologist and the proper unit upon which he should concentrate his studies.

On the one hand:

What would happen to community life in Puerto Rico if the United States suddenly decided to drop tariff preferences on Puerto Rican sugar, or suspend coastwide shipping laws, or allow Puerto Rico to buy rice in the world market without payment of import duties ... or to retain the excise tax on all Puerto Rican rum sold in the United States rather than returning it to Puerto Rico?

on the other:

I am not, of course, advocating that each community study undertaken in the Caribbean begin, for example, with an analysis of the American tax structure, or patterns of alcohol consumption in large urban centers east of the Mississippi, or child-rearing in an Israeli kibbutz.

Manners' dilemma arises from a simultaneous perception that a great many things, indeed, have something to do with the price of rum in Puerto Rico, and that the community-study technique of the anthropologist brings him into contact with only a very few of them. In an acute discussion of Manners' paper, Arensberg (3) suggests that his worries are largely unfounded and overdrawn. Manners, Arensberg says, fails to realize that the anthropologist is after all a specialist, that the community-study method is not a method of analysis but a method of gathering data, and that it is not the only such method known to cultural science. The anthropologist can no more be expected to study all aspects of the particular problem with which he is directly concerned than can any scientist; the "holistic" approach in anthropology involves an attempt to see the phenomena that are selected for study as an interrelated system, not an effort to study "everything." Further, in any anthropological study, of a simple as well as a complex society, some highly relevant data must of course be gathered by means of methods other than the community studyby historical inquiry, statistical surveys, or whatever--and will not be found immediately within the field situation. But this is no reflection on the validity of the community-study method, which rests on the fact that it unearths indispensable data that cannot otherwise be obtained, and not on the supposition that the data so unearthed are the only ones that count and are theoretically sufficient unto themselves. The analysis of peasant life will inevitably lead the anthropologist into all sorts of ancillary investigations and force him to attempt all sorts of novel methods of research; but nevertheless with community study so deeply entrenched in our science as to be one of our chief methods, and with community studies justifying themselves repeatedly in their successful application to countries in the swim of modernity such as India, the United States, England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Brazil and the Caribbean islands, it is good to remember that this method, to which we owe so much of the new and deeper understanding of culture, both simple and complex, is continuing to permit us to operate our science-even away from the small tribes where it was born.

The special complexities of cultural and social organization encountered in the investigation of peasants and the societies in which they are found, has, however, tended to lead to a greater number of experiments in method than has been characteristic of tribal studies. On the "hard data" side, Ryan (118) has used a questionnaire approach to the determination of the attitudes of Sinhalese peasants toward modernization, surveying some 100 household heads in a village near Colombo, with respect to their opinions concerning both traditional practices and possible innovations. The Youngs (157, 158) have administered a "structured" questionnaire to community officials in twenty-four Mexican villages in connection with their study of rural reactions to the growth of a government-planned industrial city in one of the states of the Central Plateau. They then use the results--as well as various types of census data--to construct items for a Guttman scale of economic contact between various villages and the factory center, to set up indexes of absolute and relative social change in the villages, and to obtain an objective measure of village "morale." Marriott (80) uses both the results of a survey he himself conducted of the opinions of some 300 persons in two Uttar Pradesh villages as to the ranking of thirty-six locally represented castes, and a correlation based on data from secondary sources of population size and number of castes in 151 villages from five regions in India and Pakistan, in his discussion of the way in which patterns of caste ranking are affected by the structure of the local community in which they appear. And Skinner (126) has supplemented the usual sort of work with informants by sociometric and other ingenious quantitative techniques in his study of the Bangkok Chinese, which although not in itself a peasant community is a more or less typical example of the sort of ethnic-minority, "bazaar-economy" trading group endemic to peasant societies in so many parts of the world.

The use of documentary materials is also increasing, as is--at last skill in handling them. Beidleman (7) relies wholly on published sources in his comprehensive description and analysis of the Hindu jajmani system, coming to rather more realistic, less sentimental judgments concerning the balance of rewards in the system and the supposed organic harmony of it all than have many who have studied it at first hand in the field. Although three important studies are by anthropologists and employ anthropological concepts as their interpretive frame, they are purely historical in method: Palmier's (104) study of the role of the Javanese nobility as intermediaries between the Dutch and the peasantry, Mintz's (90) study of the effect of changes in the scale of commercial sugar growing on the peasantries of Jamaica and Puerto Rico in the early nineteenth century, and Cohn's (24) study of the decline of local power-holders in Benares, owing to a shift of landownership from lineages and local chiefs to civil servants, merchants, and bankers, following the establishment of British administration. On a larger scale, Skinner ( 125) has written a full-length "analytical history" of the Thailand Chinese as a background to his previously noted synchronic study of them, commenting that "it was the need for historical depth in analyzing field data on contemporary Chinese society in Thailand that prompted me to undertake a diachronic inquiry." All the studies in the theoretically very significant volume by Polanyi and others (110) on trade in the early empires are based on the published literature, both historical and ethnographic; so too are the previously mentioned monographs by Carrasco (16) on Tibet and by Gullick (52) on the indigenous states of western Malaya.

Finally in the area of what might be called the case-in-point approach, Lewis (72) has presented a description of peasant life in Mexico in the form of a day in the life of a single family in "Azteca," a village near the capital, this "day" then being placed next to similar ones of various sorts of urban families to give a synthetic picture of what he calls "the culture of poverty." And Mintz (93), focusing even more narrowly, has used the life history of a single Puerto Rican cane worker to similar purpose, not for psychological analysis but as a "history within history," a human frame within which to see the social and cultural pattern of change in a coastal plantation barrio during this century. In Don Taso's bitter account of working all night in the fields when he "was a kid-just a kid," nine or ten years old, and developing a hernia in the process, is reflected the rapid expansion of sugar cultivation as the efficient American corporation replaced the decadent Spanish hacienda. In his fitful, personally unrewarding, yet boldly nonconformist political activity in first the Socialist and then the Popular parties is reflected the social revolution of the still continuing Puerto Rican "New Deal." And in his surprising, also nonconformist, conversion to revivalistic Protestantism is reflected the heightened feeling of loneliness, meaninglessness, and unfulfilled ambition that characterizes a thoroughly "depeasantized," rural proletarian existence. Taso, says Mintz, is not an "average" anything--"neither an average man, nor an average Puerto Rican, nor an average Puerto Rican lower-class sugar cane worker," but nonetheless, "the events in Taso's life run parallel to the major changes going on about him, and so offer a faithful reflection of these changes. Like Conklin's (26) briefer attempt to view the culture of the Philippine Hanun60 by sketching a day in the life of a young girl, and Hitchcock's (61) similar study of a Rajput judge, Mintz's work represents an effort to transform Zola's maxim that character is culture seen through a temperament into a scientific tool for the study of peasantries, their nature, and their vicissitudes.


The view that a peasantry is only one element in a larger civilization presents the anthropologist who would study it with two rather divergent tasks: (1) the description and analysis of the peasantry in itself; (2) the characterization of the over-all sociocultural whole within which the peasantry exists. Those for whom the first task has been uppermost have tended to engage in microsociological studies, focusing on one or more local units in an attempt to present a rounded and circumstantial picture of the major aspects of everyday life in the countryside. Those who have been mainly concerned with the second task--often, of course, the. same people in another moodhave tended to review material drawn from different regions, levels of society, or types of subculture in an effort to isolate the common features and connecting links that shape these diverse segments into an at least somewhat coherent unit. The first approach involves an intensive investigation of the specific pattern and immediate quality of peasant life; the second, an extensive investigation of its general form and broader setting. Where for the first the primary object of study is the peasant community, for the second it is peasant society.

One of the more interesting recent attempts to provide a theoretical rationale for the microsociological analysis of particular peasant communities is Pitt-Rivers' (108) nonchalant essay on "the closed community and its friends." Setting out from a distinction between an open society, in which, among other things "neighbors do not ... borrow from each other, speak to each other, know each other's name, know each other by sight," and a closed one, in which, also among other things, "people greet each other even if they are not acquainted ... everyone knows everyone whom everyone else knows ... [and] gossip is more powerful than law," Pitt-Rivers proceeds to address himself to the problem of just what the factors affecting the degree of closure or openness in a peasant community might be. In the first place, he finds two parametric conditions to be necessary to the continuing existence of a largely closed community: (1) members must have habitual personal contact, which implies living in the same place; (2) members must share a homogeneity of culture and values. Given these two conditions, the other repeatedly noted characteristics of the closed peasant community would seem to follow: the emphasis on strict cultural conformity as an absolute prerequisite to community acceptance; the intense degree of ingroup solidarity and identification vis-a-vis les autres; the marked tendency toward egalitarianism, particularly on the ideological level, but to some degree on the socio­economic as well; the heightened consciousness of mutual dependency in terms of subsistence, and so on. In Europe today, Pitt-Rivers sees much of this as changing. Formerly closed peasant communities are "opening up," owing to improved transport, communications, and the like, with the result that allegiances are coming to be defined not only, or even mainly, in terms of local attachment, but occupationally, politically, religiously, or whatever. The distinctiveness and homogeneity of the culture of the closed community is engulfed by the generalized heterogeneity of the national culture, and the "wevillagers-against-the-world" pattern of social solidarity dissolves into local factionalism: clericalists against laicists, traditionalists against modernists, agriculturalists against nonagriculturalists, young against old.

Other writers, using other dichotomous concepts, have examined this problem of the ability of some peasant communities at least to maintain intense social unity and marked cultural distinctiveness against the background of a nationally centered society. Sibley (121) has used the contrast between internal and external systems of social relationships in his analysis of the Visayan village of Malanad, showing that although the villagers have a great many political, commercial, religious, occupational, and (real or ritual) kinship ties cutting across village boundaries, most of these ties are intermittent in frequency and impersonal in quality, and seem, in fact, to be designed as much to hold the the outside world "at arm's length" as to forge any intimate bonds with it. A high rate of village endogamy, elaborate intra-village work patterns (see also 120), great enthusiasm for village fiestas, and a general (reciprocated) indiHerence toward the national government all aid in this perpetuation of the dominance of internal over external ties in the face of the existence of welldeveloped intercourse with the wider Philippine world. (In a Peruvian highland village, Stein [139] found that even temporary migration outside the community to work in the lowlands was "acculturationally irrelevant" and served to reinforce rather than undercut internal ties.)

H. Geertz (47) has similarly employed the concepts of centripetal and centrifugal forces implicit in diHerent types of village institutions in her attempt to account for the greater resistance of Balinese as against Minangkabau peasant life to the nationalizing processes in Indonesia. The commercial orientation of the Minangkabau, which grows naturally out of their traditional customs of marriage and landholding, impels the young men to try themselves in foreign market places, so that today they may be found in every city and town on the archipelago, and have consequently tended to be disproportionately represented in the cultural, economic, and, until the recent civil war, political elites of the nation. On the other hand, Balinese institutions, particularly ritual institutions, hold their members close to their villages, or periodically draw them back, with the result that the Balinese are as underrepresented in the national elites as the Minangkabau are overrepresented. And so, in contrast to the Minangkabau, who as often as not never get around to returning home permanently, "until the essential forms of local social organization change, the primary reference for personal and social identity for mose Balinese will be their local communities, not the Indonesian nation." Gould ( 51 ), a student of village life in Uttar Pradesh, employs the same conceptual opposition but discusses the problem in more general terms, asking--"the peasant village: centrifugal or centripetal?"­-and answering, with seemly prudence--"both."

Descriptions of peasant communities by anthropologists have consistently engendered debate about whether in the last analysis we may speak of the form of social life as characteristically "isolated" and "self-contained," or as characteristically tied up with wider regional, national and international social structures which prevent it from enjoying any real measure of autonomy. I suggest that the answer to this dilemma lies in the fact that the dilemma itself accurately represents the true empirical character of peasant village communities. Such communities are to a very real extent both centripetal and centrifugal in their manner of operation with the result that they can be made to look "self-sufficient" or "interdependent" depending upon which aspect of them the observer consciously or unconsciously chooses to emphasize.

Given the continued persistence around the world of a great many well-bounded, self-centered, culturally distinctive peasant communities, we are bound to find studies of them continuing. Certainly the most thoroughly detailed field study of one to appear in recent years--in fact one of the most detailed ever to have appearedis the study by Beardsley, an anthropologist, Hall, a historian, and Ward, a political scientist (6), on Niiike, an Inland Sea "buraku" in Japan. A settlement of 130 people living in twenty-four houses clustered at the base of a small hill, its rice terraces spread out fan-wise on the small plain before it, "Niiike is a clearly defined, natural sociocultural unit, large enough to be the setting for most situations and events that are the basic stuff of a way of life, yet small enough to let us see this way of life at close quarters." And the authors give this sociocultural miniature the full treatment. They trace its historical background and that of the region in which it is located from the prehistoric period on, with particular stress on the long, consolidative Tokugawa period, during which the village was itself born and took definitive form. They describe with a careful, matter-of-fact precision practically all the elements of its contemporary pattern of life, from house types, farm tools, and menus and costume to land use, kinship, domestic economy, the life cycle, local government, and religion. And they present a comprehensive discussion of the role of Niiike in the wider national political system that is a model demonstration of the value of a microscopic approach to the study of macroscopic social processes. Aside from the extraordinary scale on which it was conceived and executed, Village Japan, in its balanced and rounded treatment of peasant life as a whole, in the highly circumstantial quality of its description, in its almost extravagant thoroughness (and also, alas, in its general lack of theoretical vigor, sophistication, and originality) is quite characteristic of the peasant-community monograph genre as it has developed in recent anthropology.

In the past few years, similar monographs have continued to appear, in a slow but steady stream, treating virtually all of the important peasant regions of the world: Latin America (1,59,63,73); Southeast Asia (39, 66, 74); the Far East (6, 156); South Asia (4, 33a, 71, 75, 118); Europe (5, 55, 155); and even Oceania (99). Only the Middle East seems, for some reason, to have been relatively neglected with respect to community studies in English. (For the period prior to 1957, Chiva's [20] UNESCO review of the literature on rural communities is indispensable, so far as the intensive approach to the study of peasant life is concerned. Much more broadly conceived than the present survey, Chiva's listing includes nearly 400 selected references, from von Maurer's mid-nineteenth-century studies on the German "Mark" onward, on all types of rural communities, from tribal to modem, published in virtually any European language, including Russian, and not only in the field of anthropology, but in history, sociology, law, geography, and economics as well. Further, Chiva divides his subject into various problem areas--demography, economic life, social organization, religion, "the psychological environment," community development, and so on--and then introduces each such division with a brief, one-page essay.)

Almost all the English studies we do have combine routine, dutiful empiricism and a sedate, intellectual conventionality. Admittedly, there are some partial exceptions to this stricture. Lewis (71) presents a novel and interesting analysis of the dynamics of intracaste faction formation, operation, and dissolution in the midst of his otherwise largely orthodox study of a Delhi village. Similarly, Wylie (155) offers an intriguing chapter on the relation of the pedagogical techniques and theories employed in the school of his Vaucluse village to the abstract, deductive, rather cerebral moralism of French culture generally, though elsewhere his analysis tends to be less bold; and notice has already been taken of Banfield's (5) somewhat ad hoc attempt to use the concept of "amoral familism" to account for the seemingly invincible "backwardness" of the southern Italian peasant. Both Frazer (39) and Adams (1) formulate relatively concrete models of cultural change at the end of their generally humdrum descriptions of life in a Malay and an Andean village. And so on. But, in general, for all its undoubted descriptive value, its usefulness as a compendium of indispensable ethnographic data, the monographic literature on peasant communities is not, at the moment, a very likely place to look for ideas, and certainly not for systems of ideas.

In addition to the general monographs on peasant community life, there have, of course, been a great number of specialized studies, some of which have been rather more conceptually oriented. In particular, village-level studies of one or another aspect of that most peculiar of institutions, Indian caste (9, 19, 22, 70, 79, 80, 82-84, 137, 138), and of the closely related jajmani system (50, 58) have continued unabated and are beginning to yield important theoretical advances in the interpretation of social organization in traditional civilizations. In the main, these studies have involved a shift in emphasis from a heavy concentration on the cultural framework of caste--notions of ritual purity, dharma, reincarnation, and the like--to a greater concern with its actual mode of operation, such as the distribution of power and wealth, the patterning of social interaction among individuals and groups, and the exchange of symbolic acts and objects. Like the phenomena of "clan" and "nomadism" before it, "caste" is in the process of being transformed by the growth of direct empirical inquiry into its functioning from an ethnographic curiosity into a sociological reality.

One product of this greater interest in the social dynamics of caste is Srinivas' (138) concept of a locally dominant caste (one which "preponderates numerically over the other castes ... and wields preponderant economic and political power"), a concept that has proved to be an increasingly valuable tool in the analysis of rural social structure in India. In the multi-caste village of Rampura, for example, the Okkaligas are the largest of the 22 castes, having 735 members, as opposed to 225 for the second largest, 179 for the third largest, and so on. They count most of the big landlords among their members and as a group own more land than all the rest of the castes put together. They are the most literate, most highly educated, wealthiest, and most powerful politically, holding the village headmanship and acting as local ''bosses'' with respect to extra-village elections. And, despite the fact that they are not very high in ritual rank--being only Shudras in the Varna system--they receive great respect even from those nominally above them, such as Brahmins and Lingayats. Thus, nearly the whole of public village life revolves about them: they control the village council, settle disputes between castes and even, at times, internal disputes within other castes, and generally exploit the nondominant castes whose members "may be abused, beaten, grossly underpaid, or their women required to gratify the sexual desires of the powerful men of the dominant caste." (For a similarly dim view of the stereotype of caste as a nicely equilibrated, sacredly sanctioned and so popularly accepted system of equitable inequality, see Berreman [9].)

Using this same concept of "dominance," Mayer (83) found, for the Central Indian village of Ramkheri, that the caste at the apex of secular power, the Rajput, was in fact the second largest in the community (in Cohn's Senapur [22], Uttar Pradesh, the dominant Thakurs are out-numbered by the depressed Camars, 636 to 436). But despite this, and despite the fact that they differ from the largest caste, the Khati, in not being vegetarians, the Rajput form «the pivot of village structure," holding a firm grip on both landownership and political office. But when one turns to Dewas Senior, the region in which Ramkheri is located, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to extend the concept of caste dominance to this higher level of sociocultural integration, as Steward would call it. There is no one caste that is dominant throughout the area, on the intervillage or state level, and the locally dominant caste varies from village to village. In other, more homogeneous areas, however--Mayer cites earlier studies by Cohn, Majumdar, and Dumont--dominance of a single caste does extend over the whole of the region, with the dominant caste holding power in each of the villages and dominating state politics as well, and he suggests that this dimension of contrast may prove a useful one for the analytical characterization of different parts of India.

On the specifically economic side, a similar attempt to see the dynamics of caste free of orthodox, Brahmanical formulations has led to a more realistic, less simplistic, analysis of the relation between caste and occupation. In his study of a Madhya Pradesh village, Mathur (82) demonstrates that the rigid, one-to-one view of the relation between caste and calling is inadequate, as, of course, any thoughtful consideration of "the functional prerequisites of society" would convince one on merely a priori grounds. Thus, although in Mathur's village as elsewhere each caste is traditionally associated with a certain occupation, this link proves to be quite complex and variable when one turns to actual practice. In the first place, of the 283 adult men, only about 60 per cent are following their traditional callings exclusively, while the rest find it possible or convenient to do so only "primarily" or "subsidiarily," or simply not at all (20 per cent). Second, despite the fact that there are "cultivator" castes, agriculture is actually "caste free," and evidently always has been, with members of all castes, down to the lowliest untouchables, cultivating land. And finally, there is a certain equivalence of occupation in status terms, which lends to the system the sort of flexibility it must have in order to function: "Blacksmithy as an occupation is

All this is not to deny that occupations are ranked in essentially religious, "pure" vs. "impure" terms--for Mathur's central thesis is that castes are morally bound to cling to their caste's traditional calling if at all possible and that there are quite strict limits as to what alternative occupations the various castes will permit themselves to pursue. But it does point up the fact that if we conceptualize the occupational system as something analytically separate from the ritual hierarchy, rather than as a mere reflex of it, we introduce a healthy note of realism into the analysis of village economics. Similarly, Harper (58), in his study of "two systems of economic exchange in village India," shows that in the Malnad area of South India, even the typical pattern of stable intercaste patron-dependent ties characteristic of the jajmani system are not found, and the correlation between position in the caste hierarchy and occupation is even looser. Further, "in economic relationships occupation, not caste, is the important category"--a situation that is in no way a recent innovation, but rather reflects dependence on the traditional cash crop, areca nuts, rather than the usual subsistence crop, grain.

Finally, Marriott (79) has attempted to extend this generally more inductive line of thought into the area of caste theory itself. The received theory, which he calls «attributional," sees caste ranking as resting on a series of classically established norms against which the way of life of each caste is measured. The observation of certain sanctified standards of behavior with respect to occupation, diet, marriage, sexual practices, and the like, is said to determine a caste's rank; its behavior is evaluated qualitatively in terms of essentially religious values dating back as far as the Code of Manu. Marriott points out a series of practical difficulties involved in the actual application of this theory--reversals such as meat eaters outranking vegetarians in some places, the difficulty of arranging the various attributional characteristics into a single, uniform scale, the fact that castes observing identical standards of behavior may yet be ranked vis-a-vis one another, and so on-and offers an alternative, "interactional" theory. In his Uttar Pradesh village, people base their caste rankings, he says, not on attributional evaluations, which they invoke only as secondary rationalizations, but on actually existing and established ritual interactions of two main kinds: the ritualized giving and receiving of food and the giving and receiving of ritualized services. It is the actual hierarchy of ritual interactions that determines rank in the eyes of the villagers-- "emphasis in this system of ranking is not on qualities, but on transactions; not on purity but on purification" ( Marriott's italics).

And in another paper (80), Marriott has attempted to apply this interactional approach to the more general problems of differences in the elaboration of caste ranking from region to region in village India. He argues that a high elaboration of ranking--for example, many highly differentiated castes--is positively correlated with the number of local ethnic groups, the degree of regularity and consistency with which high castes initiate activity to low ones in all fields of social activity, and the extent to which such group-stratified interaction controls individual behavior, forcing it into strict conformity with the corporate system, and it is also correlated positively with the degree to which conflicting interaction patterns outside the local village system are minimized, i.e., the degree to which the village is "self-contained." The large, highly self-sufficient, multi-ethnic villages of Kerala, with their complex and rigorous caste hierarchies, and the small, ethnically more or less homogeneous, diffusely organized, "centripetal" villages of the Bengal delta, with their simple, less pervasive ranking systems, illustrate the two poles.

Yet a wholly behavioristic view of caste would not seem to be really tenable, because the problem of the mechanisms in terms of which interaction patterns are shaped remains, and the conclusion that the Indian philosophical tradition is somehow involved in these patterns not as a mere secondary rationalization but as a determinant force is rather difficult to avoid--even Marriott concedes that the attributional theory may prove indispensable in accounting for the extreme status of Brahman and untouchable. In his introduction to the Cambridge series of papers on caste in India, Pakistan, and Ceylon, Leach (70) in fact insists that caste "denotes a particular species of structural organization indissolubly linked with ... panIndian civilization" and that "those who apply the term to contexts wholly remote from the Indian world invariably go astray." Essentially, caste consists of a unique pattern of external relations between groups such that the separation between the groups is absolute and intrinsic--"people of different castes are, as it were, of different species--as cat and dog." Each caste has its special privileges, the same principles apply from the top to the bottom of the system, and social status and economic security are so related that only by accepting a :6xed de:6nition of the former can the latter be achieved. All this in turn is, at least in part, a reflex of "caste ideology," itself related, directly or indirectly, to the Hindu philosophical scheme, in Moslem Pakistan or Buddhist Ceylon as well as in Hindu India.

Not even all the contributors to Leach's symposium--Gough on Tanjore, Banks on Jaffna, Yalman on Kandyan, and, particularly, Barth on Swat--entirely agree with his position; and Berreman (9) has recently shown that many of the relationships between castes in North India and races in the southern United States are similar, despite the differences in cultural context. Such an extension of caste beyond the limits of the Indian world, however, may in fact not obviate the culture-social structure problem, but rather complicate and intensify it. And, from the other way round, what is one to make of the situation Niehof (97) reports for the migrant Indian plantationworker community of Trinidad, whose members conceive of themselves as arranged into a named hierarchy of prestige groups roughly identical to North Indian castes, and who follow some residual associated customs of diet and deference, but among whom occupation is not tied to caste and marriage only partly so? Or of "Hindu" Bali (44), where «caste ideology" exists in the form of the Varna system and numerous related ideas and caste endogamy is nearly complete, but where castes are not in themselves corporate groups, do not have assigned occupations, and are but marginally concerned with such issues as diet and pollution? In these instances caste, as an aspect of Hindu culture, is at least to some degree present, but structural relationships vary; as, contrariwise, in rural Mississippi social patterns seem to fit Leach's «cat and dog" model rather closely without the assistance of an Indic world-view.

Another topical area of peasant community life that has recently received a significant amount of attention (perhaps all too predictably) is kinship. Some work in this area has consisted of the more or less straight-line extension of the highly refined modes of analysis developed by the British structuralists in their work on Mrica and Oceania to unilineally organized peasant peoples in China ( 40), India (32, 84, 145), and Israel (116). This work, though clearly of value both for the comprehension of rural life in those areas and for the theory of formal kinship organization, has not produced much in the way of conceptual novelty that can be traced very directly to the fact that the peoples studied represent "part-societies with part-cultures." And the same can be said for more ethnographically-oriented studies, such as Filipovlc's (37) of «vicarious paternity" in Jugoslavia, Pitt-Rivers' (109) on ritual kinship in Spain, or Gallin's (43) on extra-clan relationships in Taiwan. Somewhat more relevant in this respect, however, is the marked increase in work on so called bilateral systems--a highly unsatisfactory residual sort of category--which the intensified interest in peasant people has clearly played an important part in stimulating (21, 29, 36, 49, 67, 94, 95, 128, 129, 132-34). This is particularly true with regard to analyses concerned with the «matrifocal" family, which indeed seems characteristic of those groups which form dependent parts of a wider, more complex society.

A matrifocal family has generally been defined as one in which the "mother" is the de facto leader whereas the "father" is at best a marginal figure, if indeed he is physically present at all. It is a woman­centered pattern that may, on occasion, span as many as three generations to produce something which in formal terms looks rather like a matrilineal extended family, except that there is no matrilineal descent rule, and the highly institutionalized obligations between a man and his sister characteristic of true matrilineal systems are lacking. Holding this to be a widespread type of family structure in the Caribbean, as well as in various other parts of the world (including such distinctly nonpeasant types as the families of East London workingmen and Scotch miners), though perhaps never the norm for the entire society, R. Smith (128) has argued that it reflects the fact that within the wider context of the total society the adult male has a fixed, subordinate, and economically insecure role, which undermines his position as family head. Thus the pattern is characteristic (industriat societies aside) of the quasi-peasant sort of situation--of plantation workers, sharecroppers, field hands, marginal farmers, and the like--particularly where ascriptive status elements, such as the color bar, are present; and it would in fact tend not to develop "in a situation where ownership, control, and the use of real property is the sole basis of family economy as it is in a true peasant society." Murra (in the midst of a plea for historical analyses to supplement the synchronic approach of the structuralists) underlines this point by reference to the stable, patrifocal households characteristic of the true peasants of highland Puerto Rico, Martinique, Haiti, and Jamaica (95).

Further, Murra's shift here to the term "household" is not accidental. For "among the many contributions made [by] Dr. Smith ... there is a conceptual one which deserves special notice: he focuses our attention on the Caribbean family, not in its legal definition or even in its conjugal or child-bearing function ... but in its operation as a household" (Murra's italics). This approach to the analysis of Caribbean domestic institutions also dominates Clarke's (21) study of two Jamaican settlements, and its theoretical implications have been worked out in more explicit and systematic terms by Solein (133) on the basis of her Black Carib work. In the interests of clarity, Solein argues that the term "family" should be reserved for groups bound together by kin ties, at least one of which is conjugal, and the term "household" for a unit of common residence, economic cooperation, and socialization of children. In these terms a matrifocal family is not, properly speaking, a family at all but a particular form of consanguineal household.

In the area of peasant religion, intensive analyses based on village studies have been relatively infrequent recently, and, again, have mostly concerned India (aside from those contained as chapters in the inventorial monographs already noted or in discussions of cultural tradition at the general societal level to be discussed below). Opler (100), attacking the scepticism of Lewis (71) and others concerning the central role typically attributed to religion in Indian village life, reports that a detailed record made of daily activities in the Gangetic village of Senapur by a nine-man field team showed that over a 366-day period "there were 302 days of the year when religious activity occurred somewhere in the village," and on many of these days more than one such activity occurred. Reviewing generally the extraordinarily large number of different sorts of rituals that made up this record, Oplerconcludes that "the important place of religion will not be banished by denying it," and that if village Hinduism does weaken, it will only be because new culture patterns arise that can fulfill the same functions. On the level of belief, Harper's (57) rather pedestrian description of "a Hindu village pantheon" in Mysore points in the same direction: in addition to "a very large number" of Hindu great tradition gods known to at least some members of the village, there are abput thirty names for local, little tradition deities and spirits. And finally, in an interesting paper on witchcraft in another Mysore village--a subject, as she points out, peculiarly neglected in anthropological accounts of contemporary Indian communities. Epstein (34) shows that black-art religious belief and practice are also prevalent, and relates them to the pattern of local tensions generated by the recent entrance of women into money-lending activities.

A number of other recent topical papers based on village-level investigations of peasant community life also bear upon problems of culture change (10, 14, 23, 28, 103,119, 150), applied anthropology (27, 30, 54, 85, 102), and linguistics (53). And finally, Freedman ( 41) has given us a note on rural organization near Djakarta, and Tripathi (146) some notes on a Central Javanese village; and Carrasco (15) has addressed himself to some aspects of peasant life in India and Mexico.


"Can the mind take hold of so large, complex and changing a thing as a civilization?" Robert Redfield (115) asked in one of the last papers he wrote, adding ruefully: «He who tries to do so may answer." And, in fact, the comprehensive definition and analysis of a total civilization is perhaps the most refractory, as well as the most aweinspiring, of the tasks imposed upon recent anthropology by the increased concern with peasants. As a result, not only have the attempts to accomplish it been relatively few, but they have lacked the decisive, secure, almost self-satisfied confidence one tends to find in works dealing with the everyday life of a few hundred village families. Actually, some of the boldest recent attempts to define a peasant civilization whole and entire have come from outside anthropology, in particular from historians--by repute, a hyper-cautious lot--as in Bodde's (12) heroic, and in many ways successful, attempt to define China's cultural tradition and its prospects in ninety pages, Phelan's (106) skillful tracing of the Hispanic influence in the shaping of Philippine national culture, and T. Smith's (130) masterful analysis of the agrarian origins of modem Japan. For Indonesia, perhaps the most thoroughgoing attempts to outline the total sociocultural system have come from a sociologist, Wertheim (149), and an Islamicist, van Nieuwenhuijze (98). And on the interdisciplinary side, there has been the series of handbooks and country surveys sponsored by the Human Relations Area Files (e.g., 11, 48, 77, 105, 140, 147), which though extremely uneven in quality and closer to being catalogs than unified studies, have at least addressed themselves to the general societal level of organization.

Those anthropologists who have tried to take hold of a civilization have found themselves with a double problem on their hands: Brst, what is it that makes Hispanic America, India, or--though no one has dared this yet--the Arab World, a recognizable identity? Second, by means of what mechanisms, structures, processes, and the like, is this identity created and maintained? On the one hand, the task is one of defining the unique characteristics, or pattern of characteristics, which allows us to draw a line, however wavering and indistinct, around something and call what lies within it a civilization. On the other hand, it is one of tracing out the diverse and involved socioculturallinkages that in fact account for this integration--loose, fragile, and multipartite as it may be--and through which it is mediated and sustained. These are, in fact, old and chronic problems in anthropology, even on the tribal level; but when one comes to deal with such units as Malaysian, Sinitic, Islamic, or even Iberian civilization, they have a tendency to swell to such dimensions that the mind--at least the anthropological mind-boggles.

One area of the world in which a number of anthropologists have been making some effort to define the wider sociocultural context within which the peasant village is set is Middle America, i.e., Mexico and Guatemala. A region of over two hundred languages, in which Olmecs, Mayans, Toltecs, and Aztecs laid the foundations of a multifarious great tradition only to have it swept away by the imposed uniformities of the Spanish Conquest and colonization--uniformities that have themselves increasingly yielded in turn to a mestizo-carried modernism--it offers a fit challenge for such an effort. Wolf (154) has attacked the problem historically, concerned, as he puts it, not to outline a detailed chronology but to trace the lifeline of a culture. The synthesis he presents, however, is more evocative than conceptual, and he never really undertakes to state very systematically or abstractly what "the Middle American world" that "has survived many destructions" in fact is.

In a work primarily directed toward problems in cculturation theory, Foster (38) has approached a determination of the historic contribution of "the Spanish way of life" to Hispanic America through a study of the culture of contemporary Spain. (His analysis is, of course, relevant to South America as well as Middle America and is so conceived; but his own field work has been in Mexico.) Arguing that the cultural conservatism of Spain makes it possible to speculate fruitfully about the nature of sixteenth-century Spanish culture on the basis of contemporary ethnography, Foster draws a number of interesting comparisons between related aspects of Iberian and Hispanic-American civilization which serve somehow better to define them both: in America, the plaza is the center of community life, in Spain it seems almost to be avoided; in Spain, godparent relationships tend to be established between relatives, in America they are chosen from among friends. From the reverse perspective, Masden ( 81) has similarly sought to establish the contribution of the nonHispanic, Indian cultural tradition to contemporary Middle American civilization. Reconstructing both pre-Colonial Aztec religion and sixteenth-century Catholic Christianity, and then comparing them with the actual pattern of beliefs and practices found in a present-day Valley of Mexico village, he argues that 'indian culture in the Valley of Mexico today retains its ancient supernatural orientation ... Catholic forms of worship and a number of Catholic beliefs [have been incorporated] but the basic patterns of supernaturalism are Indian."

Finally, for Mexico alone, Edmonson (33) has collected three previously published studies--Carrasco's paper on religious-political factionalization among the Tarascan, Fisher's on a UNESCO rural reconstruction project, and Wolf's on regional development in the Bajlo area in the eighteenth century--and, using them as a base, has attempted to construct a general characterization of the country's culture, or at least to indicate how such a characterization might be constructed. He distinguishes five '1evels of cultural analysis" that yield five types of culture (factional cultures, class cultures, regional cultures, ethnic cultures, and national cultures), and argues that by studying these various sorts of cultures and the diverse ways in which they are integrated with one another, we can get a picture of over-all Mexican culture that does not "remain aloof from [its] complexities." Aside from wondering just how much work the concept of culture can be expected to do, however, one may question whether such an eclectic approach will take us very far toward a systematic understanding of these complexities.

In the immediately neighboring region of the Caribbean, the problem of defining the broader sociocultural setting of peasant life is quite unlike that in Middle America, because at the time of the Conquest the Indian population, sparse to begin with, was largely wiped out and replaced by slave labor from Africa. Thus, not only has there never been any indigenous civilization in this region, but

there is, properly speaking, no "native" cultural tradition of any sort, but at most whatever elements of the African heritage may have survived the forcible transportation to the New World. Consequently, Wagley ( 148) has proposed to call this region--enlarging it to include the northern part of Brazil, the Guianas, and the southern United States--the "Plantation-America culture sphere," pointing out that a number of general traits characterize it throughout. The plantation system, with its associated labor practices and its one-crop agricultural system is, of course, the major one. But rigid class lines, largely of a have and have-not variety, multiracial populations and the employment of folk-race concepts as important social categories, weak community structure and a lack of a clearly demarcated village life, and matrifocality are others. And so, too, is an impoverished, and apparently not overly skillful peasantry, which attempts to make ends meet by engaging both in small--plot subsistence agriculture and in petty-cash-crop farming, and often in seasonal work on plantations or even in industry as well. In fact, Wagley goes on to argue, "in no other New World area are the peasants ... so much like the European peasant as in Plantation--America:' Perhaps. But one may still question the depth of the similarity. For, as an almost exclusive product of a foreign-created, specifically economic institution--largescale commercial farming--and (aside from possible Mrican influences) relatively uninformed by deeply rooted indigenous traditions on either the folk or gentry levels, Plantation-America peasant society (if that is what it is) is obviously of a rather special variety.

In the Orient, too, a number of anthropologists have been trying to define total civilizations or aspects of them. Singer (124) has edited and introduced a volume on traditional India that approaches the problem by presenting a collection of essays (not all of them by anthropologists) on an extremely diverse range of subjects in Indic culture--on the Brahman tradition, on oral poets, on methods of popular religious instruction, on the industrialization of tribal peoples, on the classic traditions of Indian craftsmen, and on the literati in metropolitan Madras, as well as on such more recondite topics as "The Indian Hero as a Vidyadhara" --out of which, it is argued, "the underlying unity and continuity of Indian civilization ... emerges cumulatively with the recurrence of basic themes in the different papers." Following Redfield's lead, Singer divides the papers into three groupings: "The Social Organization of Tradition"; "Cultural Performances and Cultural Media"; and "Some Problems and Processes of Cultural Change." Under the first rubric are included synoptic papers on each of the four varnas (as well as one on a specialized caste of mythographers in Gujerat), which demonstrate that each of these broad and diffuse status groups "cultivate a distinctive variant of the Great Tradition, with special provisions for training and initiating the young, internal organization, and myths and legends which explain origins and justify function and status." Under the second are included studies focusing on the one hand on particular cultural events--"performances" such as weddings; temple festivals, recitations, plays, dances, and musical concerts--and on the other hand on oral or recorded traditions--"media" such as folktales, myths, legends, songs, sayings, and proverbs. The notion of "cultural performances" in particular promises to be very useful in the analysis of whole civilizations, for, as Singer observes, "Indians, and perhaps all peoples, think of their culture as encapsulated in such discrete performances, which they can exhibit to outsiders as well as to themselves." And in the last section are included a series of analyses of the processes that are tending to transform traditional India into, if not modem, at least nontraditional, Indian--urbanization, industrialization, and the cultural process known as "Sanskritization" (first formulated by Srinivas [135]; for critical discussions of the concept, particularly in relationship to the concept of "Westernization" (see 75,111,136), in which all-India, high-caste patterns come increasingly to replace local, low-caste ones. Finally, on a more applied level, the pedagogical implications of this approach to "thinking about a. civilization" have been investigated in another volume edited by Singer: Introducing India in Liberal Education (123).

In Indonesia, which is part not only of the Indic sphere of civilization, but also of the Islamic, and which has a distinctive Malaysian tradition of its own as well, C. Geertz (46) has attempted to give a general picture of Javanese religion--defined so broadly as to be nearly identical with culture as a whole. Although mainly based on a field study of a small town and the surrounding region in the East Java rice plain, his analysis is not primarily microcosmic but is concerned to isolate major religious variants found throughout the Javanese culture area. He discriminates three main subtraditionsthe folk-religion, little tradition of the majority of the village peasantry, the more or less orthodox Islamic great tradition of the urban trading classes, and the Hindu-Buddhist great traditions of the only nominally Moslem urban civil service elite--and traces their interactions, both conHictual and integrative. For Bali, the Tropical Institute in Amsterdam has recently translated a series of "studies in life, thought and ritual" (144), most of which were written before the war but have been available only in Dutch; and Belo (8) has written a carefully detailed and vivid monograph on Balinese trance, perhaps their most characteristic--and certainly their most interesting--religious practice. Elsewhere in the East matters remain mysterious, however, and little has recently been done by anthropologists toward defining civilizations on a comprehensive scale (although Hori [62] has given us a valuable extensive study of Japanese folk religion, cast in Redfieldian terms and related to the general nature of rural social structure in Japan, and Mendelsohn [86] has presented an interesting, if abbreviated, discussion of the relationship between Buddhism and modern politics in Burma).

Turning to the second major task area so far as extensive analyses of whole societies are concerned--defining the mechanisms by which over-all integration is maintained at some minimal level--work is also still in an embryonic stage. For India, Cohn and Marriott (25) have distinguished between two sorts of supra-local integrative patterns: "networks" and "centers." Networks are widely spread, diffuse patterns of social relationships formed by trade, locally exogamous marriage, extra-village political affiliation, religious pilgrimage, etc. Centers are foci upon which such networks tend to converge in dense concatenations of relationships--markets, shrines, governmental seats, and the like. In traditional India, networks were enormously complex, cross-cutting one another in a hopeless tangle of dissimilar threads, whereas centers were heterogeneous, multiple, and surprisingly noncoordinate in their ranges of inHuence; but today both sorts of pattern are being altered in the direction of simplification and standardization (78). Borrowing a concept devised for Mexico by Wolf (153), C. Geertz (45) has analyzed the way in which the rural Islamic scholar acts as a "cultural broker" between the Javanese village and the national Indonesian political system, and Friedl (42) has examined the role of kinship as a channel for national culture to rural villages in Greece. On the political side, Adams (2) has collected nine descriptive reports of recent political changes in various Guatemalan villages and endeavored to trace the relationship between these changes and the course of events in the national political system; and Skinner (127) has gathered together five Indonesian village reports with more or less the same aim, though here the notion of "loyalties"--to village, ethnic group, or nationforms the conceptual focus.

Leaving aside these vagrant exploratory forays, however, by far the most systematic and cumulative effort has been directed toward the study of trade in peasant societies. In the first. place, there has recently been a theoretical contribution of exceptional significance in this area: Polanyi, Arensberg, and Pearson's Trade and Market in the Early Empires (110), which, despite its title, is not wholly concerned with ancient states, and certainly not of relevance to them alone. The argument of the book--a product, actually, of cooperation between anthropologists, sociologists, and economic historians--revolves about the necessity of distinguishing between trade in general and market trade in particular. Trade may exist in the absence of markets, as in the reciprocative trade of the Kula Ring sort, in which goods flow between matched partners whose relationship is fixed by institutional arrangements and regulated by established custom, or as in the redistributive trade of many traditional states, in which goods flow from the periphery to the religious and/or political center and then back again to the periphery, the whole process also being embedded in general social forms and governed by over-all cultural values. In fact, it is Polanyi's thesis at least (it is not altogether clear just how far his anthropological colleagues follow him on this) that such market-based forms of trade did not appear in world history until about the time of Aristotle, and that until the past two centuries they played a very secondary role at best in human economic life virtually everywhere.

In their attempt to substantiate this independence of trade from market institutions in traditional civilization, Polanyi et al. develop the useful concept of the "port of trade," a town or city--not necessarily on the coast or a river--which serves as a relatively neutral meeting place of foreign traders, under the aegis of an established independent political authority who awards monopolies, administers prices, ensures commercial justice, and so on. And they then describe this sort of specialized political-economic social organism as it seems to have existed in ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, and Middle America, and along the eighteenth-century Guinea Coast (although in the last two instances, at least, free markets for local domestic trade seem also to have been present). In the Berber highlands, on the other hand, the high development of indigenous free or quasifree markets is so apparent as to be undepreciable, and in an incisive paper Benet traces their relationship with the extremely decentralized, individualistic, and egalitarian social organizations of the Atlas, emphasizing the extreme fragility of the "peace of the market" among these volatile groups and the consequent necessity for geographical, social, and cultural isolation of the market from the immediate context of village life. Thus, although even the empirical evidence quoted in the book itself does not entirely support the view--to which Neale says its authors are "tentatively committed"--that self-regulating markets are unique to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the more fundamental argument that the conceptual separation of trade from market institutions leads to greater clarity and a reduction of ethnocentric bias with respect to the investigation of pre-modern and non-Western economic systems is quite conclusively demonstrated.

In any case, whatever the situation in the past, markets, particularly for petty domestic trade, are very prominent in most of the world's peasant societies today, and studies of them are becoming increasingly frequent. There have been analyses of market types (92, 122), of market roles (64, 65, 87), of interethnic trade patterns ranging out from the market to the hinterland (56), and perhaps most interesting from the point of view of over-all social integration, of the way in which the market serves as a cockpit for the clash of interests among social and economic classes or groups (13, 89). As Mintz argues in a general summary of recent work in this area (91), the market is in fact one of the most strategic places in which to observe the broader dynamics of a peasant society in action:

The study of the tangle of interests that animates the peasant market ... brings into the open numerous connections between regions, classes and groups. Traditional anthropological studies, which focus on small, local groups, cannot yield comparable insights into such large, differentiated societies such as those of India and Nigeria or even Haiti. Courts and legislatures provide good settings for observation of the competing elements in a society. But the market place reveals far more because it allows these elements so much greater freedom to express themselves.

But, whether it be market, temple, law court, school, or voluntary organization, the arena in which the peasantry encounters the wider civilization of which it is a part is clearly in the process of becoming a primary object of study for anthropologists concerned to understand either the peasant community or the peasant society.


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STUDIES IN PEASANT LIFE: COMMUNITY AND SOCIETY, in: Biennial Review of Anthropology, Vol. 2 (1961), pp. 1-41.


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