chapter  5
23 Pages

Studying Complexity

WithFred Plog

This chapter examines the meaning of the term complexity in relation to anthropologists’ traditional means of studying complexity: the bandtribe-chiefdom-state typology. The evolution of stable and complex systems is a major concern of social scientists. For most of our existence as a species, humans lived in complex but small and resilient organizations. Distinguishing between “us” and “them” became a salient issue within, rather than simply between, human groups. Classes and occupational specialties, each with their own special models of and for behavior, appeared on the scene. Complexity as a characteristic of human societies returned, but complexity founded in the stability of buffering mechanisms. More important for our purposes are the bases for distinguishing the reasons why such diversity exists -- control or lack thereof. The material patterns of bands and states, of complex unstructured and complex structured should be similar save for the presence of such markers.