chapter  22
14 Pages

The Superpowers and the Tribes

WithPeter Worsley

This chapter begins by rejecting the traditional binary opposition between American “cultural” anthropology and British “structural” or social anthropology. In many societies authority is divided among religious and secular competitors for preeminence, and though religious are often equally ready to resort to force in order to buttress their institutional power, they are also able to appeal to further, immaterial values which confer a very special kind of legitimacy. One of the United Nation’s chief functions has been to provide buffer forces in zones where the Superpowers agree to limit direct or surrogate conflict. The United Nation’s authority in such situations, is only a moral one like that of the leopardskin chief; it cannot impose a solution, it can defuse and mediate. The most difficult disputes to settle are those between tribes, which cannot be resolved by paying compensation. The dispersal of people rather than of animals similarly provides ready-made ties which can be activated for the purpose of making peace.