chapter  Chapter twenty-two
17 Pages

Inequality and social groups

WithScott R. Hutson

In 1993, Robert Sharer produced a concise review of Classic period Maya social organization. Though Sharer was careful to note that there was no single pattern—Maya people organized themselves in a variety of ways across time and space—his account represented the state-of-the-art at that time. A quarter century has passed and hundreds of research projects have come and gone. What have we learned over the last 25 years? This chapter surveys what is new in our knowledge of social organization, focusing specifically on inequality and intermediate scale social groups, defined as larger than a household but smaller than Maya centers. Such social groups include lineages, house societies, neighborhoods, and communities of practice. Inequality comes in many forms (wealth, status, power, etc.) and can be measured in many ways using a variety of data (dirt archaeology, epigraphy, ethnohistory, iconography, etc.). In addition to summarizing recent advances, this chapter argues that we should jettison a common way of thinking about inequality: the dichotomy between elites and commoners.