chapter  5
27 Pages

Inheritance, Social Change and the BoundaryProblem

SOCIAL anthropologists have in general been committed to the idea that they are examining 'societies', 'social structures' or 'cultures' which operate in some sense as functioning wholes, as 'systems', as 'boundary-maintaining units'. The gains of such an approach (and they are many) have received ample publicity; the costs, I think, have not. Yet it is significant that in discussing the 'contemporary' situation, fieldworkers tend to drop the wholistic approach and prefer to talk in terms of fields of social relationships.