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Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  541 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In this seminal, founding work of political anthropology, Pierre Clastres takes on some of the most abiding and essential questions of human civilization: What is power? What is society? How, among all the possible modes of political organization, did we come to choose the monolithic State model and its accompanying regimes of coercion? As Clastres shows, other and differe ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Zone Books (first published 1974)
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Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sosyoloji
Antropolojiye olan ilginizin yanında devlet haricinde alternatif var mı sorusu için mutlaka okunmalı.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bu kitabın ezberbozan bir yanı vardı. En azından benim için. Toplum olarak kendimizi aradığımız [yanardöner gibi bir devir batılılaşıp bir devir doğululaşarak] bir dönemde, örnek aldığımız dayanaklarımızı sorgulatan bir kitap oldu. Batı benmerkezciliğine net bir eleştiri bu. Devlete dair daha çok soru sorduracak bir kitap.

aklıma gelen 3 alıcı grubuna kişisel notum:

- devleti, bir de devletsiz toplumlarla karşılaştırma yaparak anlayayım diyenlerin okuması gerekli. [Uzmanı değilim, nacizane görüşüm
Paul Ataua
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Oldie but goodie! A Little bit outdated, but well worth the very stimulating read. Eleven short essays (all about 20 pages long), which represented the state of the art political anthropology around 1974. The first and last essay express his major concern with western ethnocentrism and how the west designed the field to reflect their own command/obey version of state power that meant that many of the small societies in the study were define as pre-political and not really demonstrating power rel ...more
Xantha Page
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book. Based on field experience and examination of the ethnographic and historical record, Clastres argues that "primitive" or "tribal" societies, despite being without a state or a leader whose demand of obedience is backed by force, are not alien to politics: in fact their very social organization was deliberately designed to prevent such a separation of power from the whole social body from occurring. Even if this thesis is totally wrong it is still interesting as a speculative ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-must-read
def have to re-read
Aug 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: anth-sosh
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
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthro
The chief crazy enough to dream of the abuse of a power he does not possess, as of the use of power, the chief who tries to play chief, is abandoned. Primitive society itself, and not the chief, is the real locus of power

That European observations of and conclusions about 'other' people's social, political and economic organization, from the early writings of Jesuits to travelers and explorers and the early ethnographers and anthropologists, is marred with a strong Western ethnocentric prejudice
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
'Society against the State' is the name of the last essay, which I head read before, and the reason why I decided to read the whole book. The topic of each essay is different, but the line connecting them would be 'power' - what is power in South American autochtonous societies, what is it source, its place, its limites, who wields, etc. But more often than not, this addressed indirectly, by tackling seemingly unrelated topics like the myth of the jaguar, the singing of warriors, the pre-Columbi ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Truly fascinating, deeply enlightening. Helped me destroy all the derogative preconceptions about the so called 'primitive' societies. I think this book should be read by everyone. The best work of non-fiction I've ever read. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
لطالما كان موضوع أصل الدولة شاغل بالنسبة لي ومع محاولاتي الإطلاع على الكتب والمراجع والدراسات التي تتطرق لاصل ونشأة مفهوم الدولة فكنت أتعب في إلتقاط ماكنت أبحث عنه وهو أصل الدولة وكيف نشأ ذلك الجهاز أو المفهوم بالأحرى لان هناك فرق بين أن تبحث عن نشأة الدولة كجهاز وعن نشأتها كمفهوم أو فكرة وهذه الأخيرة يكاد تجد دراسات أو بحوث وصينة تتطرق لموضوع كهذا فكان هذا الكتاب لبيار كلاستر الفضل في تتبع هذا المفهوم ( الدولة) حيث وبعد الانتهاء من قراءة الكتاب يصبح التفكير في الدولة كمفوم وأصل غير ذي قبل وليس ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
À en croire Pierre Clastres, les sociétés primitives refusent le travail superflu. Elles sont « fainéantes », dans le sens ou elles refusent de s'adonner à des activités productives au-delà de ce qui est nécessaire à leur survie. Elles passent ainsi le plus clair de leur temps dans l'oisiveté, où à s'adonner à leurs passions (notamment la guerre)... sans pour autant être sous la menace constante de famines ou pénuries.

Lorsque Pierre Clastres établit cette différence entre la société sans État de
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Politik Antropolojiye yabancı olanlar için dahi anlaması kolay, kısa ancak derin bir kitap. Beşeri bilimlerle bir şekilde hasbihal olan herkesin okuması gerekli diye düşünüyorum.
Currently re-reading this book. Beautifully written and insightful ethnography. Translated by Paul Auster (!).
Yoann Negre
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La première partie de l'œuvre se concentre sur la critique de l'anthropologie, dont l'ethnocentrisme des chercheurs a conduit à de nombreux biais cognitifs à propos des civilisations dites "archaïques" et de leur organisation. En effet, elles sont définies comme étant en retard, du fait de leur économie de substance, donc qui se "contente" de répondre aux uniques besoin de la population en opposition à l'économie de marché où il faut produire un maximum pour faire mieux que le concurrent. Le rai ...more
Ahmed Ali
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
يرى بيار كلاستر في كتابه مجتمع اللادولة ، وعلى خلاف الماركسيّة، أنّ “الاغتراب البشريّ الأصليّ هو اغتراب سياسيّ وليس اقتصاديّ، فالأوّل هو الذي يحدّد الثّاني. فمجتمع الهنود الحمر كان يعيش اقتصادا كفافيّا، أي أنّه كان ينتج ما يحتاجه لاستهلاكه الحيويّ الطبيعيّ عبر الوسائل التقنيّة التي تتيح له السّيطرة على المجال الطبيعيّ المحيط بشكل متناسب مع احتياجاته؛ إنّه غير ملزم بإنتاج الفوائض، ولم ينتجها؟ طالما أنّ السّلطة الجائرة المنفصلة المؤهّلة لمراكمتها وإقامة علاقات الاستغلال البشريّ على أساسها غير موجو ...more
Tiago Saraiva
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este livro é um ensaio sobre a existência do estado e a sua necessidade. Pierre Clastres estuda as sociedades indígenas da América e a sua forma de organização sem estruturas de poder, sem estado, sem hierarquias, sem propriedade. Mostra a forma que as tribos se organizam para evitar que qualquer estrutura de lei e poder se crie no seio da tribo, uma organização anarquista consciente, com objetivo de não criar qualquer desequilíbrio dentro do grupo.
É também desconstruída a ideia de que estas so
Apr 16, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hay 3 o 4 capítulos verdaderamente interesantes en todo el libro (al principio y al final). El resto es difícil de seguir. Los objetivos y las relaciones causales son confusas.

Pero el capítulo final es *chef's kiss*. Las conclusiones son interesantes y muy diferentes de todo lo que conocía sobre el tema -como que la aparición de un poder centralizado es la causa directa de la aparición de una sociedad de mercado y no al contrario; que la sedentarización no tiene nada que ver en la aparición de
Jan 09, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important book in anthropology because Clastres could appreciate the political refinement of societies with no state, especially those in South America, and challenged radically euro-centric political anthropology. But he seems not being able to get over his own eurocentrism and misogyny, repeating to talk about the things that the Guayakis are "unconscious" about as he falls into an obstinate and incurable freudianism -what he learned well from his mentor Levi-Strauss- . Stuck in a euro-centric ...more
Zhen Hao
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The best chapters are “The Bow and the Basket” and “Society Against the State”.

Interesting take on the sciences that have examined primitive society and exposing the ethnocentrism inherent in their negative view of primitive society as primarily exhibiting a lack (lack of a State, lack of a market economy). And for illustrating the agency/ choice of primitive societies to reject the advent of a State, the division of the world into societies with states and societies without a state, and critiq
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Brutal—in a very good way—political anthropology of the aesthetic of refusal. 'Society against the state' as an idea resonates very well with Sahlin's affluent society in Stone Age Economics. If Sahlin theorised the economy of stateless tribal derived from formalist v substantivist debate, here Clastres provides us with a fascinating idea of how a stateless society practice politics while at the same time criticising the notion of subsistence economy that usually used to identify these societies ...more
Swrang Varma
Apr 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
"However that may be, the majority of lndian leaders hardly project the image of a do-nothing king: quite the contrary, the chief, obliged as he is to respond with expected generosity, must constantly think of ways to obtain gifts to offer to his people. Barter with other groups can be a source of goods; but more often the chief has to rely on his own ingenuity and labor. Curiously enough, in South America it is the leader who works the hardest"

wouldn't it be funny if we brought that here huh
Lee Foust
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ms Kelly Ardens
Quest'opera di Pierre Clastres getta degli spunti molto interessanti, in particolare quando conduce una critica all'antropologia etnocentrica. Essendo degli anni 60-70 è comunque un'opera con un linguaggio desueto, ma comunque è stato interessante studiarla. Consiglio a chi vuole uno sguardo più critico sull'antropologia amerindiana del periodo. ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Très belle collection de recherche sur les populations primitives d'Amérique du Sud et leur opposition à l'instauration de l'État et de l'économie ...more
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Massive Eye opener!!
Boris Farías Hunt
Un ensayo lúcido, que deja de lado el antropocentrismo, analiza de forma certera las sociedades amazónicas generando vínculos con nuestros actuales modelos. No se encierra en el academicismo.
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
Very insightful anthropological concepts that help us to understand the principles behind our current system (democracy) as well as its core problems
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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

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