chapter  9
26 Pages

Social Control: Political Organization

THERE COULD BE no coherent social life unless the social relationships which bind people together were at least to some degree orderly, institutionalized and predictable. The only alternative to order is chaos. To maintain an orderly system of social relations people have to be subjected to some degree of compulsion; they cannot, all the time, do exactly as they like. For often selfinterest may incite behaviour incompatible with the common good, and so it is that in every society some rules, some kinds of constraint on people’s behaviour, are acknowledged and, on the whole, adhered to. These rules and the means by which they are enforced differ greatly from society to society, but always they more or less effectively secure some degree of social order. So a social anthropologist who wishes to understand how a particular community works must ask what are the norms, the rules, which on the whole sustain social order, what is their range and scope, and how are they enforced? By asking questions of these kinds in the societies they study, and by seeking answers in terms of the theoretical interests discussed in the first part of this book, social anthropologists have greatly broadened our notions of how it is most useful to understand such concepts as ‘polities’ and ‘law’.