What is an Ethnie (4) – Social Structures and their Implications

I would like to briefly discuss on the different social arrangements that may happen in a given ethnie. In doing so I will use the constructs that are I described in figures 2 and 3. One of the arrangements or social structure that is particularly relevant in the present day is the so called individual rights and community rights. I understand that these two issues are always discussed as opposites or to put it in another word – there is a trade-off between individual rights and community rights. This perspective is too simplistic.

One must also discuss the power-relationships between members or subgroups within the ethnie. One way of visualizing this is to think that the elites enjoys power within the ethnie are able to define society’s (the ethnie) values, shared beliefs and also influence the traditions of that ethnie. The elites hold to power within the society (ethnie) are influenced by several factors. One is the unity of the elites themselves. If the elites are united, then they are able to present a coherent set of values, shared beliefs etc. Also, another related factor is the ability of the elites to enforce social rules. So within an ethnie there will be a group of individuals who are given the tasks of enforcing the norms of the ethnie as defined by the elite. This is shown in figure 4.

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Shot at 2007-07-12

Now, figure 4 is just an illustration that describes one way of how a social arrangement in a given can be enforced. It is actually not necessary for a given ethnie to have individuals with a formal task of enforcing social norms. Usually in more traditional societies (or in ethnies that exhibit traditional social structures), social norms are enforced by a complex set of mechanisms: usually involving village chiefs and down to heads of families. Even wives and mothers can enforce social norms – i.e. to their children. And brothers and sisters too – they can enforce social norms to their younger siblings. Usually in these so called traditional societies, the core values, shared beliefs and tradition are extremely difficult to change.

So that’s it for now. I will continue discussions on this matter in future entries.


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