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Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology

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In this seminal, founding work of political anthropology, Pierre Clastres takes on some of the most abiding and essential questions of human 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 different regimes do indeed exist, and they existed long before ours ― regimes in which power, though it manifests itself everywhere, is nonetheless noncoercive.

In such societies, political culture, and cultural practices generally, are not only not submissive to the State model, but they actively avert it, rendering impossible the very conditions in which coercive power and the State could arise. How then could our own “societies of the State” ever have arisen from these rich and complex stateless societies, and why?

Clastres brilliantly and imaginatively addresses these questions, meditating on the peculiar shape and dynamics of so-called “primitive societies,” and especially on the discourses with which “civilized” (i.e., political, economic, literate) peoples have not ceased to reduce and contain them. He refutes outright the idea that the State is the ultimate and logical density of all societies. On the contrary, Clastres develops a whole alternate and always affirmative political technology based on values such as leisure, prestige, and generosity.

Through individual essays he explores and deftly situates the anarchistic political and social roles of storytelling, homosexuality, jokes, ruinous gift-giving, and the torturous ritual marking of the body, placing them within an economy of power and desire very different from our own, one whose most fundamental goal is to celebrate life while rendering the rise of despotic power impossible. Though power itself is shown to be inseparable from the richest and most complex forms of social life, the State is seen as a specific but grotesque aberration peculiar only to certain societies, not least of which is our own.

Not for sale in the U.K. and British Commonwealth, South Africa, Burma, Jordan, and Iraq.

218 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1974

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About the author

Pierre Clastres

26 books59 followers
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 would be the ultimate destiny of all societies, and the Rousseauian notion of man's natural state of innocence (the myth of the noble savage). Knowledge of power is innate in any society, thus the natural state for humans wanting to preserve autonomy is a society structured by a complex set of customs which actively avert the rise of despotic power. The state is seen as but a specific constellation of hierarchical power peculiar only to societies who have failed to maintain these mechanisms which prevent separation from happening. Thus, in the Guayaki tribes, the leader has only a representational role, being his people's spokesperson towards other tribes ("international relations"). If he abuses his authority, he may be violently removed by his people, and the institution of "spokesperson" is never allowed to transform itself into a separate institution of authority. Pierre Clastres' theory thus was an explicit criticism of vulgar Marxist theories of economic determinism, in that he considered an autonomous sphere of politics, which existed in stateless societies as the active conjuration of authority. The essential question which Clastres sought to answer was: why would an individual in an egalitarian (eg foraging) society chose to subordinate himself to an authority? He considered the consequent rise of the state to be due to the power disparaties that arise when religion credits a prophet or other medium with a direct knowledge of divine power which is unattainable by the bulk of society. It is this upsetting of the balance of power that engendered the inequality to be found in more highly structured societies, and not an initial economic disparity as argued by the Marxist school of thought.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews
Profile Image for Demelza.
23 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2012
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 calls, "primitive" societies. Is it truly possible that every non-state society is actively fighting against statehood?

On the other hand, he's got some great ideas embodied in his text; ideas that I still need to fully think through. It's known that he was a friend of Deleuze and Guattari, and some of his ideas must have influenced Foucault's articulations of power and biopower. Clastres deserves to be read for years to come.

Profile Image for muthuvel.
257 reviews156 followers
July 11, 2021
While I ponder over my inability to fathom the implications of the insights derived from these wrecking essays, here's some of the key takeaways:

On the necessity of the decolonized gaze of the others in a world of political realities and power structures which is often appropriated as absolute inevitable necessities from 'civilized' realities especially in these times of centralized structure of global coercion vested with political and economic interests.

On the foundational biases and assumptions in field disciplines of Political Science and Political Anthropology since the days of Enlightenment and realize to some extent how dogmatic any 'science' could be taking analogies from their own time and culturally influenced 'knowledge' and 'scientific facts.'

On the Plurality of social organisation and means of social control even if it means to imagine without explicit coercion and centralized power structures in any society.

On the critique of intolerance of plurality in the original school of Marxism where the doctrinal infrastructure is digged even further underground to find its roots of economic determinism in politically coercive/ dominant environments.

On the critique and invalidity of the Nietzschean idea of 'will to power' as something instrinsic and inherent to a part of human nature. I personally enjoyed these parts where in almost every chapter he namedrops subtly or provocatively calling out the ideas from gaya scienza, ressentiment and will to power, and wrecking them in a rather spellbounding ways. And to some extent, some parts discuss on the invalidity of Machiavellian ethics as well
Profile Image for Damla.
52 reviews36 followers
November 5, 2016
Antropolojiye olan ilginizin yanında devlet haricinde alternatif var mı sorusu için mutlaka okunmalı.
Profile Image for Umut.
28 reviews12 followers
January 4, 2015
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 görüşümdür]

- arkaik kültürlerin (burada güney amerika yerlileri) günlük yaşayışlarına, mitlerine, hayatı nasıl anladıklarına dair bir ilginiz varsa kitap sizi tatmin edecektir. Misal, bu soruları merak ediyorsanız eğer: Kadınlar neden erkeklerin yaylarına dokunmaz? İlkel toplumlarda dövmenin işlevi nedir? Yerliler nelere gülüyor?

- Apocalypto filminden geldiyseniz Tenten serileri daha çok ilginizi çekebilir. Hayır, bu kitapta yerliler barbar değil.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,340 reviews123 followers
February 3, 2021
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 relationships. The rest of the essays address a variety of topics relating to how power functioned in those small societies. Obligatory reading for those trying to understand how an alternative system might deal with power relations.
Profile Image for Eslam.
Author 5 books429 followers
May 7, 2023
كتاب خطير في موضوعه
Profile Image for Andrew.
574 reviews122 followers
March 10, 2021
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 them way more credit for creating a sophisticated political safeguard than they must have deserved. Theirs struck me as a system that surely evolved much more organically than he continuously intimated. For example, from page 44:

. . . it is as though these societies formed their political sphere in terms of an intuition which for them would take the place of a rule: namely, that power is essentially coercion. . . these societies astonish us by the subtlety with which they have posed and settled the question. They had a very early premonition that power's transcendence conceals a mortal risk for the group, that the principle of an authority which is external and the creator of its own legality is a challenge to culture itself. It is the intuition of this threat that determined the depth of their political philosophy.

Now, call me cynical and "culture-ist" if you will, but to refer to the organization of primitive societies and tribes as a deep political philosophy seems a little ridiculous. (EDIT: I have clarified this statement below in the comments since I didn't word this as precisely as I now wish I had. I'm leaving the original comments here so that the below comment makes sense)

Clastres' preaching aside, he continues to raise some good points about the common modern view of "primitives." He points out the paradox of the stereotype that the primitive lived in a subsistence economy, but is also invariably considered lazy. Either he worked all day for his food, or he didn't work it all, it can't be both.

Also, there is a brilliant essay ("Elements of Amerindian Demography") where he neatly debunks the low estimates for pre-Columbian population in the Americas, convincingly arriving at a significantly higher estimate, including a shocking 90% mortality rate in the 100 years after the white arrival.

Ultimately, though, Clastres left me wanting more. In the titular essay at the end of the book, he poses some fascinating questions: All civilized people were first primitives, and the State is impossible in primitive society, so what made the State cease to be impossible? Why did some people cease to be primitives? What event allowed the Despot to emerge? "Where does political power come from?"

These are all the questions that I expected to get answered when I picked up the book. Instead, Clastres immediately follows them with a disclaimer about the impossibility of answering, followed by a weak hypothesis about the emergence of spiritual prophets who could have provided the seed for political power.

For those who haven´t read "Archaeology" and already have this one instead, I would definitely recommend it as an introduction to Clastres. Otherwise, "Archaeology" is far more interesting -- an anthropological masterpiece.

Not Bad Reviews

Profile Image for Xantha Page.
116 reviews48 followers
January 9, 2023
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 theory of institutionalized anti-politics.
Profile Image for Laszlo.
152 reviews40 followers
February 15, 2020
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 and bias is nothing new to most. However, Clastres, using his ethnographic work and applying a Marxist critique in deconstructing and highlighting the fallacies of these approaches, creates a framework for a radical reassessment of our notions of hierarchy, State and power in the history of humanity and the methods of their implementation.

In focusing on the socio-political and economic life of indigenous people of South America, focusing on the Tupi Guarani and Guayaki of Brazil and Paraguay, Clastres raises questions as to the why at all and how did we develop our current form of societal organization based on a State-centric, coercion-based form of order.

Firstly, he takes apart the preconceived notions that the indigenous people of the Americas are, societies that have ''yet to evolve'' or ''in an ''embryonic'' stage of development as they function on the basis of a subsistence economy, they have no writing, hence no laws and no real kings or forms of centralized authority. Western observers have always viewed ''the Other'' through their own racist,evolutionist framework and when confronted with societies that do not conform or resemble their own, have judged it as inferior, undeveloped or plainly, primitive. While admiring the Inca or Aztec for their centralized and bureaucratized governments, they looked down on many of the other people's of the Americas as mere primitive savages for not sharing in these characteristic of centralized statecraft.

Under this white supremacist and ethnocentric veil, are societies that, as explored by Clastres, are in fact very advanced and sophisticated from the perspective of social organization and dynamics, that have created economic systems and technological implements that are carefully constructed to fit exactly their needs and that are also designed to resist the encroachment of European hegemony and, in the case of the Tupi-Guarani have, created a philosophical and theological realm of constructing meaning and framing their worlds, that would make European thinkers eat their hearts out.

In terms of political organization, as the quote at the top shows, power is not located in the hands of singular individuals, chief/caciques, rather it is diffused amongst society and the collective of people that make the group, are the one's who have power. Chiefs role is that of a peacemaker, war leader and negotiator amongst his people, who must use his rhetorical and oratorical skills to fulfill his roles, lest he be abandoned and disgraced. Furthermore, he must be generous to the point of personal destitution and poverty in sharing his goods with others. In fact, his only perk being that he is often, the only one who is polygamous, although this helps if one needs to constantly satisfy the needs for goods of others. His technical expertise in oratory and warfare is not translated in political power, in fact the people of the tribe often ignore the chief, they are not obliged to listen to him and as such his influence is checked by public opinion and potentially vetoed by the elders of the group.

In this respect, Clastres argues that the Tupi-Guarani have maintained classless, egalitarian, anarchist structures, not out of some underdevelopment, but rather willfully in order to avoid the development of coercive structures of command and violence that, could lead to the development of states. Essentially they knowingly structured their social life and diffused political power using sophisticated social and semiotic systems, in order to maintain their status quo and avoid centralization of power.

In the economic field, although often brought up, the subsistence economy practiced by these societies is not one of excessive toil to attain the most minimal implements of survival. Rather, it is the highly efficient use of technology and environmental factors together with social labor division that ensures that typically, work is limited to 3-4 hours a day, allowing for generous amount of time to play, worship and hunt while also acquiring more than enough food to sustain themselves. As evidenced by the essay on Amerindian demographics, that clearly show large populations, despite the recurring arguments of a survival based economy. These societies see no logic in acquiring surpluses and their economy is not one of that embraces excessive leisure but one that rather rejects useless surplus. It is only, when faced with coercion, force and violence, due they toil for excess, as evidenced by the Inca empires economic system as a contrast, where the toilers labored to produce excess for their masters.

Aside from the very well constructed analysis of the dynamics and symbols of power in indigenous peoples in South America, Clastres infuses his text, both from his own writing that flows from highly technical language to almost poetic prose, with a look at the value of that the world-building that the Tupi-Guarani spiritual world plays in helping them construct meaning and endure hardships. Weather it be the song of the Guayaki hunters who lament the hardships they are compelled to endure in sharing their wives or their hunt and expressing it in late night laments that echo in the forrests to the karai, the meditative shaman-prophets of the Guarani, through whom their Gods speak and foretell their prophecies.

In describing the theology of the Guarani, we discover a theological and philosophical look at the world, that harkens back to the teaching of the Gnostic Christians such as the Cathars, the belief in the duality of the world, of the sinful and imperfect nature of the mortal realm, where, the Guarani see all things that can decay and die, that are ephemeral, be it them or nature around them, encapsulated in the notion of ''the One'' as evil, sinful, imperfect and something to be transcended, to travel to the 'Land without Evil' that they believe lies beyond the expanse of the Ocean. In having to endure their existence in the mortal realm, they even conceptualize their existential suffering in the term tekoachy ''troubled existence''. In the chapters that describe these aspects of the indigenous spiritual realm and how it relates to their reality, we find some of the most beautifully written parts of the book both from Clastres's contribution but also from the transcripts of a Guarani prayer for the Gods to channel their words through the karai:

For in truth,
I exist in a manner imperfect
My blood is of a nature imperfect
My flesh is of a nature imperfect
is is horrible, it is lacking excellence.
Thing being thus arranged
so that my blood of a nature imperfect
so that my flesh of a nature imperfect
shake themselves and cast their imperfections far from them
with bended knees, i bow down, with a valorous heart in view
And yet hear this: thou dost not utter the words

All in all, this series of essays constitutes an essential piece in the unraveling of the essence of our condition, of the reality of the history of humanity and the ways in which our world, the way in which we conceive of it, especially with the things we hold as being firm and immutable, as is the power of the State and of the way in which our reality has been constructed, are in fact very much at the whim of the will of those who construct it,the people, we, everyone, all those who constitute society, that is, if we know the true history of mankind, of where we came from and how much we can change as well as how much we stand to gain or lose by our action or inactions.

It is said that the history of peoples who have a history is the history of class struggle. It might be said, with at least as much truthfulness, that the history of peoples without history is the history of their struggle against the State
Profile Image for Cărăşălu.
239 reviews72 followers
February 5, 2017
'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-Columbian demography, etc.

In the end, what Clastres is trying to prove is that society can flourish without a State of any kind and he tries to prove it with concrete examples from South American tribal societies. Like tribes whose chiefs have no real power (according to our definition) and have to rely strictly on their eloquence and prestige. He doesn't argue that the Amerindians are more liberal or democratic or anything like it, but points out the positive aspects of a lack of state. The powerless chiefs are servants of the tribe. Literally, in the full meaning of the word, not metaphorically. Or how the lack of state is related to a lack of surplus. Those tribal people don't work more than they need. They harvest just enough food and produce enough goods to ensure confortable survival. Confortable meaning that it's not subsistence, risking starvation every other day, but enough to fulfill all biological and social needs and have a little reserve just in case.

These are just some of the things that impressed me. Clastres' analysis obviously goes into greater depth and I think this is what's anthropology is supposed to do: understanding other societies and then using that understanding to reflect on our own. Some of his essays here are more engaging because they don't deal only with family structure or religious ritual, classical topics but which are interesting only for specialists. Instead it is very political. How can society run without a state, how can people live comfortably without working or pretending to work their ass off and so on.
Profile Image for Michael.
28 reviews5 followers
March 18, 2019
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 la société avec État, alors même qu'il essaye d'établir ce qui a pu mener certaines société à se doter d'un État, je suis amené à me demander si l'esclavage pourrait avoir été à l'origine de ce changement ?

Se pourrait-il que la société avec État se soit toujours construite autour de l'esclavage, depuis les plus vieilles formes de cette institution, jusqu'au salariat, en passant par le servage, puis à ce qu'on appelle aujourd'hui l'uberisation ?
Voilà qui peut pousser à regarder sous un autre angle la naissance du concept de « valeur travail », alors mêmes que nos sociétés ont longtemps persisté à considérer les activités laborieuses comme indignes : cette considération se faisait peut-être le dernier echo de ce refus du travail superflu des sociétés primitives.
Profile Image for Sérgio Cruz.
50 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2022
Este livro foi um verdadeiro abalo sísmico nos meus estereótipos e ideias acerca das tribos índigenas da América do Sul, classificadas pelo homem ocidental "civilizado" por sociedades "primitivas".

Um trabalho notável e exaustivo que questiona as raízes da figura institucional do Estado e problematiza as limitações que este impõe à liberdade e organização social, política e económica das sociedades.

As questões que o autor expõe e deixa a remoer no cérebro de quem o lê são plenamente actuais, desconstruindo de forma brilhante conceitos antropológicos e políticos que fazem tábua rasa na forma como interpretamos as sociedades e arrasando o etnocentrismo ocidental que caracteriza tantas vezes o olhar sobre o outro e o que é diferente.
12 reviews14 followers
December 6, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Pierre-Olivier.
134 reviews2 followers
January 29, 2023
Dans ce livre ,qui est en fait un recueil d’article de Clastres à travers ses divers publications dans des revues scientifiques, l’auteur nous offre sa proposition anthropologique sur les premiers peuples sans états. Les sociétés sans états de l’Amérique du sud pré-coloniale étudié par Clastres , sont en fait en pleine possession de leur conscience ( qu’ils ont eux même fait le choix éclairé et autonome de cette économie politique ) par rapport au mode de production économique, de la création de leur matérialité quotidienne ainsi que de leur structure politique. Cette économie est principalement axé sur la satisfaction des besoins de base de la collectivité et le temps restant sert au repos, aux relations sociales, aux activités de loisirs, ou de reproduction. Ce qui donna comme vision et interprétation première des colons blanc européen ( qui est encore présente en ce moment ) comme une société de subsistances, infantiles, paresseuse ne portant peu ou pas d’attention à la surproduction, au surtravail et à l’économie de marché. L’application hégémonique de la lunette occidentale coloniale fausse alors les analyse de la liberté de décision et de l’autonomie des premiers peuples à ce niveau. Meme chose pour ce qui attrait au mode d’organisation politique basé sur la réciprocité des leaders et de l’ensemble de la société. La société en fait ne donnait de leadership à l’individu que selon ses propres besoins, sans en atomiser sa responsabilité, sans en créer une servitude envers le leader. Donc la société n’étais pas sous la domination des leaders mais bien le contraire. Ce qui en fait ne pouvait en aucun cas créer les dispositions à la création de l’état et de ses outils de coercition. Le point d’encrage selon Clastres de l’avènement de l’état : la théocratie, le métaphysique et les croyances divines incarnés dans les individus. Selon Clastres , la superstructure est totalement dissocié de la base de la structure pour utiliser les conceptions marxienne de la société, l’organisation politique est consciente et malléable selon le désir rationnel des êtres humains, le déterminisme économique des marxistes orthodoxes démantelé. Seul bémol , Le dernier chapitre se veut la colonne vertébrale de sont argumentaire et le plus intéressant selon moi, ce qui laisse un goût fade au 10 premiers , de la mon attribution de la note de 3 sur 5.
Profile Image for Bernardo Moreira.
103 reviews8 followers
December 29, 2022
A organização do livro (é uma coletânea de artigos com um texto final que sintetiza a problemática da obra do Clastres + uma entrevista ótima) é muito boa.
Sem tentar me estender ponto a ponto, vou só citar os momentos que mais gosto do livro.
"O dever da palavra", "Do Um sem o Múltiplo" e "Da tortura nas sociedades primitivas" são os textos mais importantes pra mim, por serem vias diretas de diálogo com D&G. Os problemas da linguagem e da escrita se encontram com os problemas da Lei e do Estado, da memória e da técnica, da codificação e da conjuração do Uno; nos mesmos sentidos que em D&G e do Nietzsche da Genealogia (referências citadas por Clastres). Gosto muito da forma como Clastres consegue levar a etnografia à uma antropologia que por vezes flerta com uma filosofia da história (ilustra bem o sentido de historiografia como Escrita da História - escrita que depende da palavra de ordem, do código, do Estado).
Duas questões que queria levantar tho. Acho que D&G fazem muito bem de mudar a forma como Clastres fala da "troca" em prol de falar da "dádiva/dom" na máquina social primitiva, porque permite toda uma teoria da codificação e do parentesco que afasta uma confusão com a troca monetária. Em Clastres, essa economia primitiva por vezes fica um pouco mal desenvolvida.
Outro ponto é o problema demográfico. Acho que ele só dá um bom encaminhamento na própria entrevista, descrevendo o problema como sendo o controle do fluxo demográfico pela máquina social primitiva. Ainda assim, fica um pouco em questão onde se situa o salto qualitativo das cisões como forma de controle do fluxo demográfico para o natalismo planejado do Estado (algo que D&G fazem bem). Anyhow, não é simplesmente sociedades pequenas x grandes (o que às vezes fica formulado assim em Clastres).
Enfim, muito foda.
Os momentos mais explicitamente etnográficos podem até ser meio boring, mas o conjunto justifica o brilhantismo.
Profile Image for Enrique .
315 reviews14 followers
August 29, 2021
Un gran descubrimiento que aún no podemos entender.

Incluso pensarlo es impensable: existen sociedades que no necesitan del estado y sus divisiones.

Y lo peor: funcionan muy bien.

Incluso se podría decir que los españoles ganaron a sociedades estatales, pero ante las sociedades sin estado poco valieron los fusiles.

Y eso es muy importante: ¿no puede America Latina responder al estado desde su historia sin estados?

Claro, tiene un precio alto vivir sin estados: no hay jefes, no hay lideres, y las mujeres mandan, todo lo que un tecnócrata estatal jamás permitiría.

Pierre no tuvo tiempo para explorar más, porque sin duda la pregunta clave a responder es ¿como los españoles que eran capturados por estas sociedades preferían seguir viviendo con ellos y no escapar cuando podían?

Incluso si vivían en guerra perpetua, quizás la guerra era la razón de ese nivel de compromiso: no eran sólo medios de agresión, eran rituales que mantenían el equilibrio de poderes entre los grupos, sus recursos, su crecimiento, una manera de evitar al estado y a la vez hacer frente a las múltiples calamidades.

Echa a perder a Clastres su hegelianismo (ser-para-la-muerte), es una careta que no le deja ver los detalles.

El espíritu va más allá de que el guerrero esté destinado a morir.

El guerrero está destinado a buscar opciones: una de esas, y la más radical, es su propia muerte, e igual eso no limita sus funciones.

Digamos que como individuos su recompensa es el cuero cabelludo, a escala tribal la recompensa es la obtención de más recursos, y a escala intertribal el equilibrio de los recursos que permite que entre las tribus no haya ninguna que pueda acaparar, y a la vez el conocimiento y los recursos entre ellas sea compartido.

Fantástico libro, aunque son artículos dispersos se puede leer muy bien.
Profile Image for José Coto.
22 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2021
No estoy seguro de que se merezca las 3 estrellas pero tampoco quiero excederme en la crítica, ya que a grandes rasgos su propuestas están mucho mejor desarrollados en otros autores de los que recoge directamente influencias, lo mencione o no, siendo que gran parte de lo que propone más novedoso es fruto de un pensamiento a la contra sumando con una intención excesiva de reafirmar la conclusión de la que partía: la primacía de lo "político" (el Estado) en las desigualdades. Aquellos intentos de superar el etnocentrismo se quedan muy cortos, en ocasiones interesantes pero no bien llevado a cabo hasta el final y en otros momentos como un retroceso a lo que ya otros autores aportaron, algunos citados como Levi-Strauss en "Raza e historia". Aunque algunas herramientas teóricas son interesantes, la mayoría no son solventes. Visión demasiado marcada por las teorías filosóficas y muy poco por el material etnográfico empírico, homogeneizando, esencializando y universalizando los dos modelos culturales hiper reduccionistas (estatal y primitivos). Algunas partes son salvables e interesantes, pero son menos de las que debería y requieren de hacer una criba, sobre todo entender aquello que viene de su especialidad y que sus aportes teórico, si bien tienen muchas limitaciones, tienen cierta capacidad entre las sociedades amerindias a las que se dedica. Nula atención a formas de poder no "político", especialmente reseñable que, a pesar de claramente reflejarlo en sus teorías, no considere dominación las relaciones de género.
March 10, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Rebs Pears.
12 reviews9 followers
February 1, 2023
Bastant naïve quan parla de per què les "societats primitives" estan contra l'Estat, i utilitza nocions que actualment estan obsoletes en l'antropologia, però té coses interessants i es fa amena la lectura
Profile Image for Bryn Hammond.
Author 12 books348 followers
January 7, 2015
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 age did betray him (I say with charity) when he used a smatter of pejorative terms for a cross-sexed person, whom he admits was happily ensconced in his society. He rises to heights of eloquence - in the chapters on religion, I found. There is one religion that holds the fort against any corruption by Christianty, and he talks poetry about it. In fact he gives a swathe of poetry from it, that wrenches your guts. It's a sad religion, of profundities he tries to speculatively construct from bits and pieces, and this hymn is... sorry; the Bible at least has great writing; it's like Lamentations or Jeremiah, or Job.

The text points out that things are evil. Men inhabit an imperfect, evil earth. It has always been so. The Guarani are used to misfortune. It is neither new nor surprising to them. They knew about it long before the arrival of the Westerners, who taught them nothing on the subject... They were a people relentlessly obsessed by the belief that they were not created for misfortune, and the certainty that they would one day reach the Land Without Evil. And their sages, ceaselessly meditating on the means of reaching it, would reflect on the problem of their origin. How does it happen that we inhabit an imperfect earth? The grandeur of the question is matched by the heroism of the reply: Men are not to blame if existence is unjust. We need not beat our breasts because we exist in a state of imperfection.

He makes you deeply sorry that the species has lost this religion, these ideas on evil and the human condition, other than fragments and a few faithful who call themselves The Last Men. And that's his whole campaign, though he writes on different subjects: to treat these Savages seriously... quote. Which perhaps is the language of 1974 (even with irony) but the prejudices are embedded in our heads and are structural in anthropology, and I'm sure he isn't obsolete. He wasn't to me.
Profile Image for Ahmed Ali.
4 reviews2 followers
December 8, 2018
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 موجودة أصل��، ذلك أنّ السّلطة والزّعامة عند الهنود لها ما لغيرها بالتّساوي، بل وأكثر فإنّ عليها واجب العطاء الدّائم ممّا تحوزه من خيرات وإلاّ فالإقصاء” .
وهكذا، فإنّ بيار كلاستر يرى أنّ مفتاح مسألة الدّولة ينبغي أن يبحث عنه في الجذور العميقة للواقعة الدّينيّة، “ذلك أنّ فهم السّبب الذي أراد به البشر بأجمعهم أن يكونوا مدينين لإرادت اللاّمرئيّ، والسّبب الذي جعل المجتمعات تصرّ على أن تعقل بأنّ علّة وجودها تتعلّق بشيء مغاير لها، معناه فهم السّبب الذي جعل قيام الدّولة أمرا ممكنا في لحظة من لحظات الصّيرورة الإنسانيّة الاجتماعيّة”

وبعبارة أخرى، فإنّ فهم سبب الخضوع السّياسيّ غير ممكن إلاّ بفهم مسألة الخضوع الدّينيّ، ففي الحالتين نحن أمام اقتناع جازم وعميق بأنّ البشر مدينون بنظام عالمهم إلى تدخّل قوى غيبيّة لامرئيّة وبرّانية من خارج المجتمع، تحتكر لنفسها عمليّة إضفاء المعنى على الوجود والأشياء وكينونة المجتمع، وذلك رغم اختلاف آليّة الارتهان للقوى المفارقة عن آليّة الخضوع للدّولة من حيث قدرة هذه على الإخضاع القسريّ باستخدام القوّة بأشكالها الماديّة وغير الماديّة أو التّهديد باستخدامها(12). فالانفصال الذي تنبثق بموجبه الدّولة، يحدث بين بشر أحياء حاضرين ومتساوين (مبدئيّا في الأصل) تعمل الدّولة على تعميق الفوارق بينهم، وهو ما يجعل بناء التّمايز بين البشر الشّرط الضّروري لانبثاق الدّولة، بل وشرط ديمومتها. أمّا الانفصال بين البشر وعالم الآلهة والأسلاف فيتميّز بأنّ هؤلاء هم “أسياد المعنى” وأسياد البشر الحاضرين، ومن هنا تساوي الجميع أمام عبوديّتهم لللاّمرئيّ. إلاّ أنّ هذا الانفصال والانقسام الأصليّ يغدو جرثومة انبثاق الدّولة نفسها حين يصبح التّمايز بين البشر بعضهم البعض لا يُعقل إلاّ تبعا لانقسامهم بين آمر ومطيع. ومن هنا يصحّ القول إنّ وجود الدّولة تاريخيّا لم يصبح ممكنا إلاّ لأنّه كان احتمالا قائما في أصل ذاك الأمر الخفيّ الذي أوجب على المجتمع أن يقرأ نفسه في مرآة أمر مغاير ومفارق له، دون أن يعني هذا أنّه كان ينبغي على هذه الخارجيّة أن تتمظهر بالضّرورة في يوم من الأيّام في شكل دولة .
Profile Image for Jamal.
5 reviews7 followers
May 26, 2020
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 الجميل في الكتاب أنه يفند نظريات الاروبيين في تناول المجتمعات البدائية وكيف أنهم فعلا لم يستطيعوا دراسة تلك المجتمعات وفهم كيف تعمل فكانت دراساتهم وبحوثهم فيها نوع من الفوقية والنظرة الدنيوية تجاه تلك المجتمعات وبالرجوع لمفهوم الدولة فبدأ بدراسة تلك المجتمعات وواضح من عنوان الكتاب أنه لايرغب بتسميت تلك المجتعات البدائية بهذا الاسم بل سماهم بمجتمعات اللادولة وهذا يعني أن تلك المجتعات تعي مفهوم الدولة أو بالحرى تعي ماذا يمكن أن يضفي ذلك المفهوم على مجتعاتهم من تقسيم حيث هذا بحد ذاته يغير من الفكر السائد لدينا عن أن مفهوم الدولة هو يوحد المجتمع ويمنع الانقسام ولكن في الحقيقة أن الدولة هي التي تقسم المجتمع الى حاكم ومحكوم وهذا ماتسعى له تلك المجتمعات البدائية( مجتمع اللادولة) من منعه ولا ننسى فكرة الزعيم حيث أنه في تلك المجتمعات ليس زعيما بالمهنى الذي نعرفه بل هو في الاحرى خادم يجيد فقط الكلام وهذي هي مهنته في أن يروي ويتكلم للمجتمع عن كيف أن أجدداهم عاشوا تلك الفترات السابقة متماسكين ويكون كريما أيضاً لانهم سوف يمدونه بالطعام كهدايا له ولكن في اخر المطاف يكون كريما عليهم فدور الزعيم فقط وقت الحرب وبعدها يرجع كمتكلم ويكون في خدمتهم ، الكتاب سوف يغير من نظرتك لمفهوم الدولة وفكرة السلطة والزعيم وتلك والصاعق في الكتاب هو فكرة أن مفهموم الدولة( جرثومة السلطة) إذا كنا نريد أن نبحث عنها فيمكن أن نجدها عند الأنبياء وهذه الفكرة بحد ذاتها هي أهم مايمكن أن تقرأه في الكتاب على الرغم أنه لم يتاولها كثيرا ً

Profile Image for Sarah.
12 reviews
September 22, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Joanna .
2 reviews
April 2, 2010
Currently re-reading this book. Beautifully written and insightful ethnography. Translated by Paul Auster (!).
56 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2013
Politik Antropolojiye yabancı olanlar için dahi anlaması kolay, kısa ancak derin bir kitap. Beşeri bilimlerle bir şekilde hasbihal olan herkesin okuması gerekli diye düşünüyorum.
84 reviews17 followers
February 28, 2020
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 raisonnement que cela induit est de croire que ces civilisations n'ont pas de technologie, c'est une aberration. Ces civilisations ont accès à une technologie, mais son utilisation se fait dans un sens inverse à la nôtre, j'explicite. Là où le capitalisme pense "avec cette hache, je peux couper 10 arbres en 1 minute au lieu de 10 minutes, je peux donc couper 100 arbres en 10 minutes, pour faire plus de profit", les populations concernées vont penser "avec cette hache, je vais couper qu'un seul arbre en 6 secondes et faire ce qui me permet de m'épanouir le reste du temps, car j'ai besoin que de cet arbre". On comprend ainsi que cette économie de substance est une volonté et non imposé.

Clastres développe le fait que l'existence de cette économie de substance s'explique par le fait que l'économie est une valeur non centrale de la société, à l'inverse des sociétés étatiques. Ça fait penser à ce que peut développer Polayni dans "La Grande Transformation" avec l'idée de la centralisation de la société autour de l'économie et des appareils de production qui deviennent des finalités politiques et plus des outils au service de la population. Du coup je compléterais Clastres en disant que c'est lié aux sociétés étatiques capitalistes.

Je reviens sur l'idée que leur économie est une volonté, cette notion est importante pour Clastres car cela veut dire que ces sociétés sans État ne sont pas vraiment sans État, mais sont plutôt contre l'État, du fait qu'elles ont fait le choix de refuser le marché et les divisions de classe. Pour lui, l'État est foncièrement maléfique, constat que je partage, et s'interroge sur son origine, du fait qu'il ne naturalise pas les rapports de domination "classiques". C'est logique, si on n'observe nos propres structures d'une manière universelle, c'est que nos structures ne sont pas innées et donc qu'il faut comprendre leur origine. Clastres développe brièvement cette origine avec les prophètes qui arrivent à concentrer autour d'eux des fidèles et à créer un rapport de domination originel qui peut s'étendre. Pourquoi pas, personnellement je pense que l'émergence de la domination, avant l'État et avant le patriarcat, est plurifactoriel, mais vu le lien entre croyances et Patriarcat, ça peut être intéressant de creuser dans ce sens.

Une bonne partie de l'œuvre décrit le fonctionnement des sociétés sans État, avec des chefferies sans pouvoir dans le sens où il y a une réciprocité du pouvoir entre les individus, sauf cas particuliers et encadrés. Cette structure assure, selon Clastres, la vraie démocratie et l'égalité. Plus intéressant, on retrouve des mythes qui permettent à la population de décrédibiliser, par le rire, les individus qui seraient susceptibles d'avoir un pouvoir, comme les soigneurs. On peut faire le lien avec ce que James C. Scott décrit dans "La domination et les arts de résistance" où le mythe populaire s'inscrit dans le texte privé et joue une fonction de fragilisation des dominés, même s'il ne s'agit pas là de dominants, l'idée est la même. Il fait aussi un parallèle entre les sociétés étatiques et non étatiques sur la façon qu'ont les structures de créer la loi : Sur la peau via le tatouage (par exemple) pour les sociétés non étatiques. Dans la peau via la violence physique dans les prisons pour les sociétés étatiques. Il en conclut que toute loi nécessite une violence, qu'il qualifie de torture et de rite de passage individuel.

Je recommande sans problème ce livre, il est de taille moyenne (186 pages) pour un prix de 10€, et il est vraiment intéressant.
Profile Image for Tiago.
143 reviews25 followers
May 29, 2020
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 sociedades são atrasadas e selvagens, pois fica evidente que existe em cada tribo a consciência da sua condição e a vontade de manter, por outro lado, é demonstrado que muitas destas tribos não eram apenas recoletoras, as que o eram só o eram porque a natureza lhes proporcionava tudo que lhes era necessário ao padrão de vida que desejavam, e nos casos em que isso não acontecia, a maioria das tribos já dominavam a agricultura como forma complementar o que a natureza dava de per si.
Clastres pretende demonstrar que não há um único caminho para humanidade e que esse caminho não é simplesmente analisado numa única dimensão, o tempo.
Deixo aqui apenas a força desta frase: "A lei, inscrita nos corpos, é a recusa da sociedade primitiva em correr o risco da divisão. cruelmente ensinada, é uma proibição de desigualdade de que todos se recordarão: Tu não vales menos do que qualquer outro, tu não vales mais do que qualquer outro."
5 reviews
April 16, 2021
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 estos...-

Aunque el autor empieza con una -legítima- crítica de la antropología política, a la que acusa de etnocentrismo y evolucionismo, elige usar términos como "primitivo", "sin historia" o "salvaje" durante todo el libro. Echo de menos un esfuerzo por abandonarlos y participar en la creación de una nueva forma de referirnos a estas sociedades.

Tampoco hay ningún esfuerzo aparente por alejarse de una visión sexista, aunque eso me lo esperaba más. Resalto el capítulo 5, en el que se habla del canto de los hombres de no sé qué tribu a través del cual dan salida a sus deseos naturales de poder y prestigio y de ser un macho man porque sus mujeres tienen derecho a casarse con varios hombres y ellos se ven obligados a compartir. La simetría brilla por su ausencia.
1 review
January 9, 2021
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, misogynist and heterosexist fantasy, he ignores almost completely the point of view of women, calling them "consumers" -as he calls men "producers" because they haunt- ignoring their productive work. He constructs many hypotheses based on "male desire" -even some very profound analysis- while he completely ignores female desire and sexuality in the 15 pages that he studies polyandry in Guayaki tribes... A very strong writing about the tribal political organisation in South America and surely an important fundamental work for anarchism and political anthropology, but still pretty incapable of overcoming many colonial and patriarchal positions in his academical approach.
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