Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology
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Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  163 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Can there be a society that is not divided into oppressors and oppressed, or that refuses coercive state apparatuses? In this landmark text in anthropology and political science, Pierre Clastres offers examples of South American Indian groups that, though without hierarchical leadership, were both affluent and complex. In so doing, he refutes the usual negative definition...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 4th 1989 by Zone Books (first published 1974)
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Demelza
Is Clastres the red-headed step-child of anthropology? I've got two anthro degrees, and had to come to him via Tiqqun. While I've been forced to read a good chunk of the French anthro canon, nary a word of Clastres. I don't think it's quite a conspiracy, but I question this strange "hiding" of anthro texts that hint at anarchism (like Clastres, I also had to read Graeber on my own).

Clastres'anthropology is SO GOOD, but can still be critiqued. At times I felt like he was homogenizing, what he ca...more
blake
Having read Clastres´ later Archeology of Violence (you can see my review here), I was prepared to be blown away by this one (after all, the production/jacket is much higher end stuff, which means it's better, right?).

But I was instead disappointed. He says essentially similar things, but in more theoretical ways than he does in the other book. This made it harder for me to stay interested. Additionally, there were a couple of spots where he seemed to romanticize the indigenous people, giving t...more
Nina
Clastres main thesis through this book is that stateless societies are not under-developed, but a result of conscious and active organization against statist structures.

Even though some of his ideas are a bit dated by now and come across as typical arrogancy of a western scholar, Clastres does deserve credit for being one the first western intellectuals to seriously point out that maybe people living in these societies actually choose their lives.
Lee Foust
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bryn Hammond
I came to this through Christopher Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. For early human politics, I'd say, go there, which builds on Clastres, and had told me Clastres' main message, about how early-style societies defend themselves against that perceived evil power - how they prevent power. Boehm dives into primate behaviour too to link up with our species (he's a primatologist turned anthropologist).

Still, I'm glad I read this. It's a set of essays. Once his...more
Joe
Comment:


I have read Society against the State and it is quite good; I really need to read more books by this author! In this book Clastres argues that the first States were not products of tribal 'bigmen' or 'chiefs' but, rather, a product of the tribal Shamans. Why? The reasoning is that only the Shaman had, in these 'primitive' societies, a monoply on fear - and thus power. In these pre-civilized societies the chiefs had no army or police to enforce their whims, but the shaman had superstition...more
Sarah Price
I wouldn't have gotten as much out of it if I didn't have a professor and students helping to expand on the ideas in this book...but I did and so I enjoyed it. While I don't agree with most things written in this book, I like ideas that challenge my own because it allows me to look at them from all sides and I am better able to explain (to myself and others) why I feel the way I do about culture.
Mirza  Sultan-Galiev
Some very interesting examination of non-state societies conscious
maintenance of a diffuse distribution of power, ( inscription of law on the body etc).
However patriarchal relations are hardly interrogated at all, and the sketchy speculative vagueness of the whole thing is a bit tiresome.
Mabrouk
كتاب يعتبر من أمهات كتب الأنثروبولوجيا السياسية وفيه وضع كلاستر تصوراته حول السياسة كما تمارسها المجتمعات البدائية
Joanna
Currently re-reading this book. Beautifully written and insightful ethnography. Translated by Paul Auster (!).
Klelia
exceptionally good read.
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Pierre Clastres, (1934-1977), was a French anthropologist and ethnographer. He is best known for his fieldwork among the Guayaki in Paraguay and his theory on stateless societies. Some people regard him as giving scientific validity to certain anarchist perspectives.[1]

In his most famous work, Society Against the State (1974), Clastres indeed criticizes both the evolutionist notion that the state...more
More about Pierre Clastres...
Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians Archeology of Violence L'anarchia selvaggia Devlete Karşı Toplum Mythologie Des Indiens Chulupi (Bibliotheque De L'ecole Des Hautes Etudes) (French Edition)

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“It is not a scientific proposition to determine that some cultures lack political power because they show nothing similar to what is found in our culture. It is instead the sign of a certain conceptual poverty.” 3 likes
“La historia de los pueblos que tienen una Historia es la historia de la lucha de clases. La historia de los pueblos sin Historia es, diremos con la misma verdad, la historia de su lucha contra el Estado.” 2 likes
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