Political Authority According to Ed and Fred

Both Edmund Leach (“Ed”) and Fredrick Barth (“Fred”) disputed the British Structuralists conception of society as a socially cohesive, culturally homogenous and territorially bound entity that used coercion (military force) to maintain itself. In their fieldwork, both anthropologists found proof of inherently unstable and diverse societies that used other means than coercion to maintain the political authority of its leaders. The following essay will compare and contrast each of their explanations of the forces that underwrote power and authority in Kachin and Pathan tribal societies respectively. Leach, who did his fieldwork during World War II in the Kachin society of Highland Burma was an mentor to Barth at Cambridge University. Barth did his field work with the tribal Pathans of the Swat Valley in highland Pakistan in the late 1940s. Continue reading

Resistance & Post-Modernism

Post-modern theorists Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault had different notions of the roles of culture and power in society. Both of these researchers were influenced by the Marxist view of inequality in societies as being concealed and justified by dominating ideologies. They both protested social injustice during the socially tumultuous late Sixties and early Seventies. They both believed that governments were created to serve the interests of the political and economic elite. The following paper will attempt to explain how these hugely influential social scientists differed in their perspectives of the relationships between the powerless in society and the powerful. Continue reading