chapter  V
Law, Self-interest, and Social Ambition
Pages 5

IT scarcely needs to be added that there are also other driving motives, besides the constraint of

reciprocal obligations, which keep the fishermen to their task. The utility of the pursuit, the craving for the fresh, excellent diet, above all, perhaps, the attraction of what to the natives is an intensely fascinating sport-move them more obviously, more consciously even, and more effectively than what we have described as the legal obligation. But the social constraint, the regard for the effective rights and claims of others is always prominent in the mind of the natives as well as in their behaviour, once this is well understood. It is also indispensable to ensure the smooth working of their institutions. For in spite of all zest and attractions, there are on each occasion a few individuals, indisposed, moody, obsessed by some other interest-very often by an intrigue-who would like to escape from their obligation, if they could. Anyone who knows how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it is to organize a body of Melanesians for even a short and amusing pursuit requiring concerted action, and how well and

There is yet another force which makes the obligations still more binding. I have mentioned already the ceremonial aspect of the transactions. The gifts of food in the system of exchange described above must be offered according to strict formalities, in specially made measures of wood, carried and presented in a prescribed manner, in a ceremonial procession and with a blast of conch-shells. Now nothing has a greater sway over the Melanesian's mind than ambition and vanity associated with a display of food and wealth. In the giving of gifts, in the distribution of their surplus, they feel a manifestation of power, and an enhancement of personality. The Trobriander keeps his food in houses better made and more highly ornamented than his dwelling huts. Generosity is the highest virtue to him, and wealth the essential element of influence and rank. The association of a semicommercial transaction with definite public ceremonies supplies another binding force of fulfilment through a special psyohological mechanism: the desire for display, the ambition to appear munificent, the extreme esteem for wealth and for the accumulation of food.