chapter  I
Age Groups and Social Structure: The Problem
Pages 35

T h e gradual progression and unfo ld ing o f pow er and capa­ cities is n o t m erely a universal, b iologically conditioned (in­ escapable) fact. A lthough th e basic biological processes are p robab ly m ore o r less similar in all hum an societies, th e ir cul­ tu ra l definition varies-in details at least-from society to society, and all of them have to cope w ith the problem s ensuing from this fac t o f age. E xactly w h a t these problem s are w e shall t ry to explain a little later. A t this po in t it is im portan t fo r us to see th a t in every hum an society this biological process o f transition th ro u g h different age stages, the process of g row ing up and of aging, is sub ject to cu ltural definitions. I t becom es a basis fo r defining hum an beings, fo r th e form ation o f m utual relationships and activities, and fo r th e differential allocation of social roles. A lthough the significance o f different ages and the extent and boundaries of the years w hich fo rm relatively un ita ry age cate­

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I A ge and differences of age are am ong the m ost basic and crucial aspects o f hum an life and determ inants of hum an destiny. E v ery hum an being passes th ro u g h dif­

gories or age grades v ary from society to society, w e know of no society1 w hich does no t differentiate betw een various “ages” and does no t define them th ro u g h the norm s and values of its cultural tradition . In every society the basic and com m on biological facts are m arked b y a set of cultural definitions w hich ascribe to each age g rouping (or, to use the m ore technical term , age grade2) its basic characteristics.