Cultural Anthropology/Social Stratification, Power and Conflict

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Social GroupsEdit

Types of Social GroupsEdit

Social Groups can loosely be defined as people sharing the same social relation [1]. In depth, a social group is a group of people outside of the domestic unit relating on grounds other than kinship [2] although kinship relationships may exist.

There are two basic categories of groups, the primary group and the secondary group. The primary group consists of people who interact with each other and know each other personally, while the secondary group consists of people who identify with each other on some common ground but who may never meet with one another or interact personally. And so, there are different types of social groups.


Friendship is a term in which the meaning completely relies on the culture where the friendship exists. In Western cultures friendship is a term that’s used almost haphazardly. There are many different degrees of friendships, for example many college students react in a friendly manner to people they have only met a couple of times. While there are some deeper relationships as well, friendship seems to always come second to kin. In other cultures friendship is considered sacred and a ritual is utilized as a declaration of such. An example of this is the Bangwa of Cameroon. The Bangwa believe that friendships are more important than relations among kin [3].

Clubs and FraternitiesEdit

Chico State University

A club is defined as a group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly [4]. A type of club that exists on college campuses are fraternities/sororities. These social groups usually require some sort of initiation or “hazing” that can be beneficial socially and on the other hand potentially be dangerous. In 2005 Matthew Harrington died due to a hazing accident. He was a pledge to the Chi Tau fraternity at Chico State University in California, the fraternity members that conducted the hazing received felony charges, and in result strict hazing bans were placed into action at the university [5]. Although fraternities can cause many ill effects, they can also be used to gain political/career building advantages. Around one quarter of the chief executives on the Forbes 500 list were members of fraternities. During job interviews, the interviewer may make a better connection with someone they’re interviewing if they were members of the same fraternity [6].

Counterculture GroupsEdit

[image:Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-11929,_USA,_New_Yersey,_Ku-Klux-Klan.jpg‎|thumb|right|Ku Klux Klan in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1931.]] A counter culture group is a group of people that come together to oppose the dominant form of a social system. There are many different types of these groups, perhaps the most recognizable example of this would be the Ku Klux Klan. This group originated in 1866 in Tennessee. They would wear all white to play the dead of the confederates during the civil war. They represented “white- supremacy” and would mainly torture, kill, or harass African-Americans and any other minority [7]. Another notable major counterculture revolution occurred between the 1960's and 1970's, when many American youth began rejecting social norms, experimenting with drugs such as LSD, exploring new spirituality and sexuality, and supporting social movements such as civil rights, women's rights, and anti-war policies. Counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s was also characterized by a music and art scene which included psychedelic rock and pop art. [1]A more recent counterculture group is characterized by forms of body modification. This group feels the connection because of their interest in permanently changing their body, such as through tattooing, branding, piercing, and cutting. Participants often interact online through websites such as and

Work Groups and CooperativesEdit

These types of groups work together for the purpose of production. This relates to an autonomous work group where employees are assigned to a specific project and it is known who is assigned to what and who will be held responsible for each portion of the project [8]. Cooperatives are a form of economic group with two key features, surpluses are shared among members and decision making follows the democratic principal of one person, one vote. Agricultural cooperatives are the most common followed by credit cooperatives and then consumer cooperatives.

Farmers' Cooperatives in Western India 

In an ethnographic study found in Cultural Anthropology by Barbara Miller, the farmers in India's western state of Maharashtra were studied and the sugar industry there was found to be largely owned and operated through farmer cooperatives. While the sugar industry there is huge, near the size of the state's iron and steel industry, most shareholders are small farmers that produce just one or two acres of sugarcane but they are owned and managed cooperatively. The reason the sugar cooperatives are so successful in this region is because the rural social stratification system in Maharashtra is simpler than in northern India. They have strong local ties with each other because their marital arrangements are local and centralized and therefore have a better basis for cooperating with each other. This example of cooperatives shows that the social stratification can help groups work together for the purpose of production.

Secret SocietiesEdit

Secret society is a term loosely used to describe a fraternal group whose organization is kept secret and possess, or claims to posses, some form of secret. These societies may also include special rituals and oath taking. Sometimes secret societies are formed with political intentions, such groups are illegal in certain countries. One of the most notable secret societies is the Freemasons. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with restricted membership dating back to 1390. Their membership includes many successful people from around the world including ex-presidents and kings. Another example of a secret society is the secretive Skull and Bones society of Yale. Every spring 15 Juniors of distinction are selected to become part of the Skull and Bones, among them have been both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, whose nickname in the group was Temporary.

Self-Help GroupsEdit

Are organized to achieve personal goals, and are becoming increasingly popular. has a data base including 1,100 self help groups nationwide. The individuals in these groups have common problems and are there to support each other. Members often share experiences with their specific problem, and try to reach common goals.

Online CommunitiesEdit

A community of people from oftentimes many different cultures and regions meeting together to discuss something in common or to contribute work to various online projects. Some examples of this online are video game modding communities like and Aside from websites for video games the there are chat rooms and forums like which is the largest English image board on the web as well as a place that many of the popular internet memes spring from.

Aside from traditional internet boards and sites there are online games that bring people together from across the world, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and Second Life, where the user is encouraged to play with others to better enhance their status proceed through an online “environment” and the more “solitary” First Person Shooters such as Counterstrike, Quake and Doom with its sequels.

What internet dating services can provide.

Another large internet community consists of online dating websites and databases. Essentially, having lost hope in one's own ability to go out and find a partner on their own, they turn to websites that match people based on the personal information that they provide. Some popular sites are eHarmony,, and eHarmony, which is the most well known site, has been criticized for not matching gay individuals. The founder claims this is due to lack of information on gay-relationship compatibility.


Gangs are comprised of individuals who identify as gang members and regularly associate, often in the pursuit of illegal activities, such as trafficking weapons and drugs. Street gangs carry out these activities in the cities and suburbs. Prison gangs often are responsible for handling contraband (drugs, alcohol) within prison and may participate in acts of violence against other prison members as a means of intimidation. Prison gangs may also have significant influence over organized crime on the streets, as leadership is oftentimes maintained by imprisoned members, who direct orders for street murders, drug trafficking, and other gang activities. Gang members released from prison are expected to continue participating with the gang. Notable prison gangs include the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacy gang, and La Eme, or the Mexican Mafia. Biker gangs, such as the Hells Angels, may range in size (Hells Angels being a large gang) and travel the United States on motorcycle.

Gangs may practice ritual initiations, or follow the policy of blood-in blood-out in which an individual must commit murder to be accepted into the gang, and is killed upon attempting to disassociate from the gang. Gangs underline loyalty and often use clothing, tattoos, and gang signs to identify themselves and to identify fellow and rival gang members. Persons who have not gained entry to a gang but have gang tattoos may be killed - while small gangs often require members to know one another personally, large gangs, such as La Eme, depend on markers such as tattoos.

Confrontation between rival gangs is often violent. A notable gang rivalry is between the Bloods and the Crips, street gangs from Los Angeles, who self-identify through the use of red clothing and blue clothing, respectively. The rivalry began in the 1970s, when the Bloods rose in competition with the Crips in crack production and distribution.

Gangs are often racially uniform. Sorenos, Nuestra Familia, and La Eme are predominately Latin American. The Bloods and Crips are predominately African American. Biker gangs are predominately white.[2]

Social Stratification, Power and ConflictEdit

Social StratificationEdit

Social stratification is when societies have a permanent hierarchy, in which a superior group has a disproportionate amount of power, money and prestige than the lower ranking groups. Social stratification can be seen in western societies in social and economic classes; termed as lower, middle and upper class. Some anthropologists believe social stratification is necessary to keep a society functioning at its desired level of proficiency. Karl Marx saw social stratification as similar to a caste system. Gender is part of the stratification system, gender ranks men above women of the same race and class (patriarchal society), but this is not always the only form of social stratification. In some societies, women are ranked above men; these societies are termed matriarchal. As Nancy Jay said: “That which is defined, separated out, isolated from all else is A and pure. Not-A is necessarily impure, a random catchall, to which nothing is external except A and the principle of order that separates it from Not-A.” In Western society, “man” is A, and “woman” is Not-A.[3] Working classes were unlikely to move up in social economic power due to their means of production while the wealthy would continue their reign over the lower classes, maintaining a social status quo through manipulation and exploitation. The degree of social stratification in a given society is dependent at least partially on what type of society it is. For instance, in a hunter-gatherer society or a pastoral society, there is very little economic and social stratification, because everything is shared. In an industrial or post industrial society, on the other hand, economic stratification is greater and social stratification grows partly out of that economic disparity. The reason for economic stratification is that in the modern workplace, the amount of money that someone earns varies greatly based on location, education, competence, and luck. The CEO of a large corporation might make millions of dollars each year, while the lower level employees of that same corporation might make minimum wage. What makes social stratification based on wealth better than other forms of social stratification is that, although it might be very difficult, it is almost always possible for someone to change their status for the better.

Ascribed StatusEdit

Ascribed status is the position in society that is delegated to an individual at birth. Ascribed statuses that exist in all societies include those based upon sex, age, race, ethnic group and family background. In many instances, this status is a social construct already pre-determined before one is born into the specific culture.

One prominent example of ascribed status is seen in India's caste system, or varna. The varna system is broken into five parts. From highest to lowest status, they are:

Brahman - priests
Kshatriya - land owners
Vaishya - merchants
Shudra - artisans/agriculturalists
Harijans - untouchables

It is nearly impossible to move up in ascribed status in this caste system, though jatis, or sub-castes, have the ability to change status over many generations through relocation or marriage.[9]


While race is a social creation, it is also an ascribed status. Race is determined without regard to an individual’s efforts or aspirations, but rather, by heritable, often external characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, or body type. Race is dealt to the individual, outside of their control, as a means of categorizing human beings by obvious characteristics. Race functions as a master status. Through this, race has the capability of influencing an individual’s social perception and life possibilities. This can have a damaging impact on races categorized as social minorities. As a social creation, racial designations can change as people’s impressions change.[10]

Persecution of witches.jpg

An ethnographic representation of ascribed status through racial identity is that of a witch. Several centuries ago in North America, the distinction of being known as a witch held negative social connotations. The false notions connected to this important social grouping brought about witch burning. However, no one, not even the ascribed witches, connected themselves with the erroneous characteristics in which they were affiliated. While social identities are important to the foundation of cultures, in many cases, including that of witches, the outcomes of these beliefs are destructive.


Racism, by its simplest definition is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. People with racist beliefs may resent certain groups of people according to their race. In the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or get preferential treatment. Racial discrimination typically points out taxonomic differences between different groups of people, even though anybody can be racialized, independently of their somatic differences. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination.

When looking at Racism there are two other important factors to consider, prejudice and discrimination. Racism does encompass both of these factors, but each show a different side to this overall idea. Prejudice is the attitude that the person posses about a certain group or category of people, for example a particular race or religious group, while discrimination is the actual act of racism towards that particular group or category of people. [4]

There are five main elements that define the minority group that help keep this group in a subordinate and oppressed by the majority group 1) They receive unequal representation and treatment compared to other groups in the political area. 2) The group is easily identifiable and devalued physical and or cultural traits. 3) The group have a sense of self consciousness, the knowing that they are different or stand out. 4)Membership is based on descent or hereditary. 5) Most marriage are pursued within the group with their own members. There are also five main elements that define the majority group that allows for them to stay in power. 1)Superior in the political arena 2) They have valued physical and/ or cultural traits 3) A lower sense of self consciousness, not aware that they are not the common man. 4) membership is also by descent 5) Marriage usually occurs within the group. [5] These five major credentials for both groups allow for the social and political separation to occur and flourish in the United States. Especially since the membership is based on descent and marriage tends to stay within group. If these ideas and components are never to be overcame the inequality between the races will last for many years.

A prominent example of racism involves the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks. Parks, who was sitting in the section of the bus designated for whites, refused to give up her seat to a white man. She was arrested, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott was started. This was a prime example of the lower status that was given to black people in the 1950's and the time before Martin Luther King Jr. Another prime example is segregation in the secondary school systems throughout the southern states. By allowing legal segregation within the school system, which was inaccurately classified as separate but equal, it not only produced disheartened black children and kept them from experiencing equality under the law, but also opened the door to institutionalized racism. [6]


From an anthropological perspective, ethnicity can be defined as social classification used to create groups based on cultural features, such as religion, language, dress, food, family, and art. Ethnicity is separate from race because ethnicity can be acquired while race is largely based on the biological and geographic characteristics of an individual of which they have little control. Ethnicity develops as a result of the struggle between self-ascription (cultural insiders’ attempts to define their cultural identity) and other-ascription (cultural outsiders’ attempts to define the cultural identities of other groups). This struggle often forms new ethnic groups that are not the identical to earlier ethnic groups. [6]

In an ethnographic report written by John Matthiasson, he explains the political importance of the ascribed names and culture of the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. As discussed above, ascription affects how a culture is viewed and how the culture views themselves. Matthiasson reported that before 1970, the Inuit were referred to by others as well as themselves as "Eskimos". Following 1970, the origin of the word (which roughly translates to “eaters of raw meat”) was considered derogatory and nearly all of the Inuit stopped referring to themselves as Eskimos. This account relates back to ethnic groups because as Matthiasson suggests, “the names by which we refer to ourselves or others can be used to manipulate our identity and to align with or isolate ourselves from others, as well as to rationalize our treatment of others”. [6]

Caste SystemEdit

Dalit's in Jaipur. An “untouchable” or Dalit is considered outside of the caste system. They are the lowest of the low in the Indian social stratification.

The caste system of India is a system of social stratification and ascribed status in which people are hierarchically organized by means of social and economic status. Although it is most commonly associated with the Caste System country of India and the religion of Hinduism, places such as Japan, China, Bali, Hawaii, and Europe also demonstrate caste-like systems.

Abiding by the Caste System ultimately allows the people in the highest caste to control the rest of society and keep social barriers from being crossed. In India, the caste consists of five different levels. Ranging from highest caste to lowest they are named:

Brahmans (priests and teachers), Kshatriyas (rulers and soldiers), Vaisyas (merchants and traders), and Sudras (laborers). Below these castes are the "Untouchables" or the Achuta (Dalit). Within these five levels are thousands of different castes (and sub-castes) known as jatis. When a person is born, they are placed into the caste that they will remain in throughout their life, during marriage, old age, and eventually death.

The "Untouchables" are taught early on that they are born into their caste to pay for bad behavior in their previous lives. They are limited to jobs considered too gruesome for anyone else such as taking care of human waste. Completely segregated from the rest of society, the "Untouchables" are treated worse than animals in extreme - but not rare - circumstances. Historically, there were advantages to being one of the dalits, such as the division of labor and cultural pride, but today the designation of "untouchable" is looked upon as tool to keep the oppressed and poor in their place.

Although this tradition and as well as it's social expectations that have deep roots in Indian society, slowly reform is happening. The USA frowns upon the caste system, due to the beliefs that 'all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of success'. But the real question is: Does the US's capitalist society inhibit the creation of a caste system? A division of economic class inevitably leads a caste system, as does having an upper-middle class or a lower-middle class or even people below the poverty line creates a caste? For example, in a Bombay neighborhood some city workers must remove sewage waste. People with these occupations that are characterized as polluting are ranked at the bottom of the Hindu caste society. The social stratification results in the lower income workers having the "dirty work" and polluting occupations. Having these kinds of occupations continues the poverty because of how little they are paid for the less desirable jobs.


Baptism of a child by affusion

An individuals ascribed status can also be characterized through one's religion. People tend to identify with the religion (or simply the dogma behind it) that their family has chosen to follow. Certain religions assign specific social norms for the followers of the religion, these norms may, and tend to by design, differ from those of the rest of society. A family's religion has the potential to play a major role in the upbring in their children's lives, therefore they are ascribed a specific religious status within the religious rite. Religion or lack of religion are both attributes of that ascribed status.

Undergoing baptism or even just being born into a family that follows a specific religion gives a child an ascribed status based on that religion. While a child may be born into a family who follows the religion of Christianity, this does not automatically determine the religious practices of the child. Often children will be raised with Christian principles, but as with most religions, in its time or at the coming-of-age, overall life experiences will ultimately determine their beliefs. It is a common practice of the Christian religion to dedicate and baptize young children as a public confirmation of that child's upraising through the particular social practices of the religion. However, some families choose to only confirm the child, allowing them to make the decision, when and if they so choose, to dedicate their own life through baptism.

Religion comes with political inferences. These implications may entail critical practical and abstract problems. On an abstract level, both religion and politics are usually seen to be in opposition to one another in practice, but many politicians advertise their religion in order to obtain votes. However, in day to day life, they interrelate. Religion and politics have always been the two main sources of power related laws and guidelines governing how people should live their lives. In recent times countries like the US have worked to keep them separate so that no religion is able to control powers that would allow for a monopoly over a society religious beliefs; In contrast countries such as India have a political and social system, the caste system, based around their religious teachings. [7]

Gender TypingEdit

The ascribed status of an individual based on sex is known as gender typing. Most societies participate in this process. In gender typing, certain activities are reserved for males and others for females. Crossing the gender roles set forth by society is often frowned upon in communities that participate in the practice. The vast majority of gender typing is culturally generated and not a creation of inborn biological distinctions between the sexes.[15]

An ethnographic example of gender typing can be observed in the early development of children in the United States. From birth, some U.S. parents set their children up for certain sexual categories by giving their babies gender distinct names, clothes, and environments. The gender roles ascribed by the parents lead to differences in intellectual and emotional development. For example, girls are provided with toys that encourage them to learn social rules and imitate behaviors. For example the Barbie toy encourages girls towards certain dress and hair styles. Also Barbies daily activities often include cleaning, cooking and shopping. In contrast, boys are given more active toys and encouraged to explore. Such as video games, play doctor kits, airplane model kits, etc. As a result of this early childhood gender typing, elementary school girls typically say they would choose lower paid, lower status careers such as, Nurse, teacher, or stewardess. Boys, because of their exposure to freedom of exploration, are more likely to obtain higher paid, higher status careers such as, pilot, architect, doctor, or lawyer. [16]

Achieved StatusEdit

Achieved status refers to social position that one earns throughout his or her life. These statuses may be earned based on one's skill level, potential, and determination. Many sociologists think that various factors such as education, employment, and income have a sufficient impact on achieved status. Achieved status is the opposite of ascribed status, that is to say that it is a position in society that is not delegated to a person at birth.

One example of achieved status is the term "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", essentially meaning work hard, and you will get places even if you start with nothing. This is perhaps the more respected and felt to be more deserved in many cultures including the United States. An example of the high respect American's give to those who do "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" is the story of Christopher Gardner, a man from San Francisco who hit rock bottom, eventually becoming homeless with his young son. Gardner had persistence and worked hard for months to gain a career as a stockbroker, and eventually became a millionaire. This is a story of real success and probably more interesting to many Americans than the stories about heiresses and heirs. Gardner wrote a book entitled, The Pursuit of Happyness depicting his situation and in 2006 a feature film based on the book was released with the same title.

Many state that this type of "rags to riches" story that exemplifies the "American Dream" is a rare occurrence. This is referred to as the Horatio Alger Myth. In actuality, evidence suggests that inequality is greatly increasing and social mobility is becoming more and more difficult in American society. As class divisions increase, the likelihood of a person accomplishing what Chris Gardner was able to accomplish diminishes, and is replaced with a more realistic scenario in which the bright and talented are unable to escape poverty. [8]

Education & EmploymentEdit

In the workplace today, acquiring a college degree is an important part of either attaining or sustaining an achieved status. When a worker begins, they are easily replaceable. If they are to obtain a higher education, they become well qualified and are less likely to lose their job. Many today are not only working towards their Associate’s Degree but their Bachelor's, Master's and more. Those who are knowledgeable well trained, and influential within their job are considered to have an “achieved status”.


Those born within a lower class or start jobs with lower incomes are more likely to acquire an “achieved status”. People who inherited power through family are considered to have an "ascribed status". (Their income is likely to be high from the beginning).

Cultural Example of Achieved StatusEdit

American society possesses a number of examples of achieved status. In America, it is culturally acceptable (if you have the necessary resources) to begin life at the low end of the social ladder and to work your way up, by means of achieving a proper education, making useful social connections, and getting promoted within your career. Achieved status is not a position that a person is born into, but rather, it is attained through effort; this includes becoming an Olympic athlete, a doctor, or even a criminal. Although this struggle from the low end of the social ladder to the upper has become ingrained in the idea of America (The American Dream), the actual occurrence of someone rising from lower class to higher class is extremely rare.

Types of Political OrganizationEdit

There are four types of political organization within groups and they are split between centralized or uncentralized political systems. The four groups are bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states. States and chiefdoms are centralized while tribes and bands are uncentralized or also known as egalitarian groups.

A band society is a foraging group and is the smallest group of political organization ranging anywhere from 20 to 200 people but typically consisting of about 80 people. Most of the people within this group are relatives either by birth or marriage. Since a band is a foraging society they do not have a place of permanent residence because they are constantly moving around. The reason a band is referred to as egalitarian is because there is no distinction between an upper and a lower class but they do have a leader, but not in the traditional sense because they have no power, or influence over people.

The other uncentralized group is a tribe which falls somewhere between a band and one of the more centralized groups. They are comprised of several bands but their leadership is based on ascribed and achieved statuses, some tribes may have a chief, and their organization is based on kinship. A tribe is more reliant on horticulture and pastoralism rather than foraging like bands and are usually a larger group than bands. A sub division of a tribe is the “Big man” system and they have a very influential person as the leader of the group but this person does not have formal authority.

The Bushmen of South Africa are traditionally a society of people that are comprised of a band and thus egalitarian. Since they moved around a lot they had traditional gear that they wear which included a hide sling, blanket, and cloak in order to carry their food, firewood, a digging stick and even a separate smaller cloak to carry a baby. The woman gather and the men typically hunt in this society and the children do not have jobs.

In a Chiefdom, the people are led by one person known as a chief. The chief governs over a group of tribes which are related through blood or marriage. This centralized style of government has a social hierarchy and economic stratification unlike bands and tribes. On the other hand, a state is much more centralized than a chiefdom and has formal laws and authority. They have power to tax, maintain law and order, and to keep track of their citizens.

Nation, Nationalities and Nation-StateEdit

In the past, nations came about when groups of people who were similar in ways such as language, appearance, religious beliefs, and history came together to form territories, nation-states, and eventually countries. Out of these nations came the sense of nationalities and nationalism.

Nation: A group of people believed to share the same history, culture, identity and oftentimes ethnicity.
Nation-State: A political unit consisting of an autonomous state inhabited predominantly by a people sharing a common culture, history and language. [17]
Nationality: The sense of belonging and loyalty to a particular nation that comes about through origin, birth or naturalization.[18] Often, government officials will encourage citizens to feel loyalty and devotion for their nation-states; this is called nationalism.
Nation-building: An effort to instill a sense of nationality into the citizens of a state.


Measure of a person's ability to control the environment around them, including the behavior of other people.

"Human beings actively work to reshape the environments in which they live to suit their own purposes." (Schultz& Lavenda, Cultural Anthropology) This quote is linked to the definition of power in its' cultural usage. If a human being's environment includes citizens then their power is measured by how much control they have over the masses. Political power is the most common form of power in the world. If one has a seat in the government then that person has a certain level of power over their subordinates.

Types of PowerEdit

1. Money Money, in many countries today, is the foremost source of power. In countries and societies where money is the main source of exchange, those that are more wealthy can often use it as power by using their wealth to their own benefit or to the benefit of their community. IOU's, the first form of currency, have been used for many centuries. The first actual currency was printed in 1685 and was given to men in the French military in Canada, and were then given value in an exchange market. (First printed Currency) Today there are over 178 currencies in use (CIA World Factbook), with most countries using the currency they produce themselves. Money in any form of currency can be exchanged for other types of currency, thus making the power of money worldwide.

2. Social Class Social class is the hierarchy among members of a society. Often people are born into it. It is gained through money, or through education or career. In some cultures people must stay within their social class through life, and in other cultures it is allowable or even more respected if people work their way up the social ladder. The class a person belongs to is often associated with an identity or subculture within society. People of a higher class associate and have similar lives as people within that class, and the same goes for people of the lower or middle classes. One extreme example of class is the caste system in India which divides people into five different groups within society. The highest caste is the Brahman, or “priest” and the lowest caste is the Harijan, or the “untouchables.” In this system people are born into their casts and usually marry others from the same group and remain a part of their cast for their entire lives. (Callaham, Tom).

3. Physical Force Physical force is using physical coercion as a means to gain power and control over others. Physical force may be one country threatening another with its military, or perhaps a neighborhood bully asserting his/her dominance with beatings or threats based on his/her physical stature, like the saying goes,"speak softly and carry a big stick" (Theodore Roosevelt). This is also known as the power of free agency; or "the freedom of self contained individuals to pursue their own interests above everything else and to challenge another for dominance." This form of power is typically seen as physical coercion, which has been used by civilizations for thousands of years in order to survive. Stateless societies typically had this form of power employed, where locals feared other powerful locals, not the king or figurehead of the country.

An example of physical force being used for free agency is the Gulf War. Iraq used their massive army to intimidate and conquer Kuwait so they could gain more monetary power in the form of oil. Oil, however, is the lifeblood of many western nations, and for the first time in its history, the United Nations formed a coalition to make sure that the U.S. and Western European Nations would continue to receive cheap gasoline throughout the remainder of the 20th century. This is free agency because Iraq was pursuing its own interests without worrying about how the world or Kuwait would respond. The world then responded in an efficient manner and evicted Iraq from Kuwait, basically telling Iraq that they couldn't do whatever they want just because they are bigger than another country.

Israeli Tanks.

Force usually rest solely in the hands of a person in high position of power. They are able to make others do certain task, or make them stop practicing certain rituals[19]. Force is usually used by using violence, threats and by putting fear into those being controlled. Force can be used in various situations and places like countries, religious sanctuaries, in homes, between two people, and or groups of people. However many people try to resist force and try to retaliate, which can often lead to harm being done to one or both parties involved.

A prime example of the way force is used as a type of power is in the current war on Iraq. The American military invaded Iraq, and is implementing American value systems consistent with those of a constitutional republic rather than the traditional Muslim value systems of the former Islamic Democratic Parliamentary Republic. The military uses various ways to enforce this value system change on the Iraqi people, by using weapons, threats of further action and by imprisoning and capital execution of dissidents that forcefully retaliate against the laws and rules that have been enacted by the new Constitution. Force is the main type of power being used by both sides in their efforts to sway people to their disparate belief systems at the present time.

Another example of a way force is used as a type of power is rape, when a person or persons force themselves sexually on another with out given consent. Usually with threats on the other to cooperate if they do not want to be harmed. This typically involves the offender hurting the other in order for them to do what they want.

In new era of nuclear weapons and WMD, a small sized country can now carry far more force. This indicates a transition of the typical definition of force for warfare from manpower to widespread devastation. With the potential for smaller countries to have a much larger power than their size every before dictated, there have been new restrictions, from the currently more powerful countries, on these new powerful weapons. This can be shown by the North Korean missile tests that were condemned by the US Great Britan, France, Russia, Canada, Germany and, The United Nations.

4. Persuasion Persuasion:Power based on verbal argument (Schultz-Lavenda, 244).Persuasion is the act of influencing others into adopting an idea. This is usually done through speech and rarely through physical acts. The ability to persuade is highly coveted and is often associated with powerful people in many societies, because those who can persuade can be trusted to speak for their people. This is why persuasive speakers speak for those in their societies. For example, the Huichol Indians of Northern Mexico have shaman that see themselves as being able to speak for all of the Huichol and are often involved in negotiations with other societies because of their persuasive abilities. (Shultz-Lavenda 244-245)

There are countless uses for persuasion. The art of persuasion can be used to get humans into bed or to get them to buy material goods. You might use it to sell an idea like a new computer architecture, the end of hunger, a sustainable ecology or that gay and straight humans should have strict equality. You might use it to persuade humans to give up some bad habit like smoking tobacco, abusing alcohol, an obsolete violent religion or cruelty to animals and children. Some professions like rely very heavily on their ability to persuade others, this is especially true for lawyers and car salesmen.

Some basic tips for being a good persuader are:
1. Lead with non-controversial statements
2. Humans reason mostly by analogy. The key is finding the right analogy and letting them reason it through for themselves.
3. In debate, concede as many points as you possibly can. Your opponents will then perceive you as eminently reasonable and stop fighting you so hard.
4. Keep your sense of humor at all times. It is the best weapon for disarming a harsh critic.
5. Use colorful language. Play on all the senses.
6. A pause or complete silence is often more eloquent than any words. It also gives a chance for others to take up the charge.
7. Be as ruthlessly honest as you can. Be willing to share any detail about yourself. That way humans can get a sense of who you really are. They need that before they can trust you.
8. Praise the desired behavior in anyone who exhibits it. The others will mindlessly model the behavior to get praise.
9. Don’t bother with the reasons why you want humans to do something. Get into their heads. Why would they want to do it? People are much more likely to trust you if you obviously like them and have their desires and well being in consideration.
( CITATION: Some tips taken from: )

5. Fame

Combine the two main sources of power and what do you get? Fame. To many, fame means money and a high social class. They would be correct. Many western cultures look to those who are famous almost as idols. Money and a high social class, whether gained or born into, are closely related to celebrities and socialites. Those who gain or inherit fame are given power almost automatically, as though being able to act and sing or having the luck of being born into a wealthy family gives them the right to have power over others. Does it give them the right to act this way? No, but society believes this power belongs to the famous.

Jennifer Aniston at the He's Just Not That Into You permiere.

An ethnographic example of the power that comes with fame would be celebrities. In the United States, celebrities are fawned over by their fans, and in some cases receive special treatment over non-celebrities. For example, in the case of imprisonment, celebrities are able to get out of prison early for no apparent reason. One celebrity who was able to get out early was Nicole Richie. Her sentence was four days for driving the wrong way down a road while drunk and she served an entire eighty-two minutes.[20] Not all of the special treatment stars get is from prison, sometimes it is from night clubs like Jennifer Aniston, car dealerships like Britney Spears, or even zoos like Shaquille O’Neal.[21] The culture in the United States allows this special treatment to continue and so it will.

6. Tradition The power of Tradition in a culture can be defined as the possession of control or command over others through a long established way of thinking. This type of power is most asserted through means of religion. Religions have long histories, which inevitably create traditional customs, laws, beliefs and ways of thinking or processing. Power of tradition can also be used through cultural beliefs. Certain cultures have traditional beliefs that grant power logically to one sex over the other, such as in patriarchal or matriarchal cultures. Another accustomed form of power through tradition is in the workforce. As aforementioned, tradition creates customs, laws, beliefs and ways of thinking.

In an ethnographic attempt to further explain the power of tradition, examine the status of women in Islamic religion. In Farnaz Fassihi’s book of her reporting in Iraq post Saddam Hussein’s fall, she states how her gender is a reoccurring problem when Iraq’s policies are being greatly influenced by its Islamic traditions and its Islamic religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Fassihi explains, “I never had to tiptoe around my gender the way I do now…at offices of political parties or clerics, I am required to stand outside under the sweltering sun because the waiting room is designated for men…the entrances to the holy shrines in Karbala and Najaf now have segregated entries with a…police officer checking the attire of visiting female” (Fassihi 116). Fassihi is appalled at the way women are thought of and are treated, but it is the power of tradition that allows men to carry on this way. The power of tradition creates customs within cultures and religions. In the Islamic faith, it is customary for women to dress modestly, in this sense women wear head-covers (see Women in Islam). Tradition can furthermore create beliefs, such as the belief that women should not look men in the eye if outside of their immediate family.

Kinds of Social PowerEdit

  • Interpersonal Power : The ability of one individual to impose his or her own will on another individuals (Schultz-Lavenda, 233).

In its broadest sense, interpersonal power refers to any cause of any change in the behavior of one actor, B, which can be attributed to the effect of another actor, A. It sometimes refers to the capacity to cause such change (Weber [1918] 1968), sometimes to actual use of that capacity (Dahl 1957; Simon 1953) but always to overcoming the "resistance" of B (Weber [1918] 1968), hence causing B to do something B would not otherwise do (Dahl 1957). Interpersonal power is therefore the power of one individual "over" another as opposed to an individual's power to do something, the capacity of an actor to attain some goal (IPES, BookRags).

  • Organizational Power : Highlights how individuals or social units can limit the actions of other individuals in particular social settings (Schultz-Lavenda, 233).

Organizational Power Politics is about how individuals can achieve their objectives in organizational work groups. Office politics or organizational politics, is a significant part of the life of everyone who works with others in formal or informal groups. These relationships are power-tinged, and success can be attained only as we use power effectively. Understanding what power is and how it can be used to gain personal or group objectives is the focus of the book. It provides readers with specific recommendations about the situations in which power use can be effective, and it identifies those tactics most effective in leading subordinates and superiors toward the achievement of our goals. This work will be of interest to scholars and practicing managers seeking information on how better to use organizational politics to attain personal and organizational goals. It provides insight into power theory, as well as a practical model for power use, strategic orientation, and operational tactics (Choice, Greenwood).

  • Structural Power : Organizes social settings themselves and controls the allocation of social labor (Schultz-Lavenda, 233).

Winter and Stewart (1978) have provided a useful taxonomy of power-related constructs linking the organizational and individual levels. Power as an attribute of particular social roles (e.g., jobs) locates individuals in organizational roles that legitimize or require actual power behavior (actions affecting the behavior and emotions of other people) from the individual for effective role performance. The enjoyment of power satisfaction, regardless of social role, requires both feeling powerful as a result of successful power behavior and the capacity to find that feeling gratifying. Thus, power as a source of job satisfaction depends on opportunities for power behavior, frequent successful outcomes of power behavior, and the experience of feeling powerful. This should be more likely in jobs that provide structural power as an attribute of the occupational role (Bnet).

These social powers are often used in a political situation. Becoming the greatest political power cannot only be won through war but also techniques of social power. With such diverse ability dominance in social situations is inevitable and opposing groups or individuals are conquered.

The Role of the StateEdit

Many early political anthropologists assumed that in order for a civilization to be socially civilized, a state was absolutely necessary. They drew on western ideas that without a state, there would only be anarchy and disorder. Anthropologists such as Lewis Henry Morgan proved that there could be successful societies where an actual state is not present. Instead, different people will have different roles, and political power is dispersed among the people. Order within a social group can be maintained without a state as long as the group has a traditional process to organize itself.

John LockeEdit

John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher. He was revered as being among the greatest thinkers of The Enlightenment. Locke was a proponent of the social contract theory of government, a belief that people should give up some rights in exchange for the order and protection that government supplies. But, he also advocated the separation of government power. Even further, he thought that civil uprising was allowable under the right conditions, and imperative in severe situations. His thinking would greatly contribute to that of the founding fathers of the United States of America; the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence both embodied such ideals.[22]


Varying cultures deal with power distribution differently. In a case study done by Richard Borshay Lee in 1969 in the Kalahari (Lee, Christmas in the Kalahari 1969) he finds that a tribe of people referred to as the !Kung have a system very different from our own. When Christmas came around Lee decided he would do the people a favor and buy them a large cow to cook as a goodwill gesture for their celebration. After purchasing the largest bull he could find, all of the tribe set about telling him that his cow was much too thin and unhealthy and wouldn't come close to feeding everyone. This of course was not true because he had chosen the very largest animal available, but as Lee later finds out it is traditional for the !Kung to belittle anyone that does others or the whole tribe a service in order to keep everyone humble. The point of this practice is to keep the power hierarchy of the tribe balanced and fair. That way there are fewer problems that arise with power struggle and dominance issues.


Conflict may be either perceived or actual, and is the result of oppression, opposition, or the disagreement of needs, values and interests between individuals, groups, and even cultures as a whole. The concept of conflict can assist in gaining further insight into large-scale disharmony between cultures, or simply a brawl between two individuals. Conflict is a result of differences in interests, values, actions, or directions. A conflict can be internal or external.

As on the individual basis conflict may result as a component of an emotional upset. These emotional upsets can be perceived as behavioral, physiological, or cognitive in nature.

behavioral is the expression of emotional experience and can be verbal, non-verbal, intentional, or unintentional.
physiological is the physical correspondence between the feelings given by emotions and personal identity.
cognitive is the concept that on an individual basis an experience is given a specific level of relevancy.

From the standpoint of cultures, engagement in conflicts is due to a variety of sources. More specifically, those within diplomacy, economy, military, and religion.

Types of conflictEdit

  • Diplomatic conflict: Diplomatic conflict arises when the interests of different countries are not compatible [23]. States or nation-states create plans and objectives to improve the welfare of the state or nation-state and/or its citizens. To satisfy an objective, a government sometimes demands resources from a neighboring government. Conflict becomes apparent when a government attempts to complete an objective even at the expense of a close nation or a nation involved in the objective. An objective of a government can range from increasing resources that another nation has possession of or security.
An example of diplomatic conflict would be the Cold War. This was a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union including their allies to influence developing countries into adopting their political and economic ideologies. The conflict escalated to such a severe degree that it spawned the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The conflict began at the end of World War II and concluded at the beginning of the 1990's soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Cold War illustrates how conflicting objectives by powerful nation-states can affect such an extensive population, often to their detriment. Instead of a tangible resource, security and global dominance was objective of the conflicting nation-states.
  • Economic conflict: Economic conflict occurs when there is a disagreement over the distribution of wealth of a state or nation-state [24]. There is often conflict within a state when resources are scarce and must be rationed across its population. When resources become scarce, especially in wartime, the government or other special interests that have power in a state or nation-state control the distribution of wealth and resources in that state or nation-state. That is, the government has the power to appropriate and distribute goods and/or services to the population as it sees fit. This leads to struggles by other minority interests such as labor strikes, litigation, and lockouts. Economic conflict is also an inherent problem in colonialism, and can often escalate into violent revolutions because of unbalanced resource distribution. In modern times, this same conflict can be seen in the globalization issue, with international corporations serving the role of resource controllers/distributors.
Soldiers in military conflict/war. Soldiers crossing the Rhine River.

  • Military conflict: Military conflict generally occurs when two opposing nations revert to the use of violent force to dispute conflicts through fighting. The nation or state with the most powerful military uses the nation's military as leverage in negotiations to reach a compromise or understanding.

War is the one of main consequence of military conflict if negotiations can not be resolved, and can generally be defined as armed-conflict between nation-states or large political groups. Although a civil war is an internal conflict between separate parties within the same state or nation.

  • Religious-based conflict: Religious-based conflict occurs between two religious groups, often when a larger, more powerful group attempts to take over a smaller one. There are currently at least nineteen areas of major religious conflict going on throughout the world; the more notable ones include, but are not limited to, Israel and Iraq (Al-Qaida). Although, some of the world’s most gruesome wars have been fought on the basis of religion, religious-based conflict is not always violent. It is not uncommon for religious groups to be at odds with one another, directly or indirectly, due to the tendency of each religion to assume the position of being the sole truth.
Bomb terror in Iraq
The Iraq War: One conflict that is prevalent today takes place between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq. The Shiites [25] are deeply motivated to make Iraq an Islam nation by Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, which has successfully converted to an Islam-led government. Under, Saddam Hussein (the former dictator of Iraq), Sunnis could practice their religion freely and attain political influence and power; the Shiites, however, were not favored by Saddam and therefore were not allowed such freedom. After the fall of the dictatorship, the Shiites quickly proceeded to take advantage of this opportunity for leadership of Iraq. With the combination of the loss of a stable leader and the American military occupation of the nation, chaos has ensued in the form of violent religious-based conflict. Religious radicals from both the Sunni and Shiite religions regularly hash it out with explosives and gunfire, and the fight is only exacerbated by the presence of the American military, while innocent civilians are inevitably caught in the crossfire.



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  3. Jay, Nancy. 1981. "Gender and Dichotomy." Feminist Studies 7, 38-56.
  4. S. Dale Mclemore. Race and Ethnic Relations in America
  5. S. Dale Mclemore. Racial and Ethnic Relations in America.
  6. Joe R. Feagin. Systemic racism.
  7. Raymond Firth 1981 Spiritual Aroma: Religion and Politics: American Anthropologist Volume 83. Issue 3. January (Pages 582 - 601)
  8. Paul Krugman: The Death of Horatio Alger.

Lee, Richard Borshay. Christmas in the Kalahari 1969, Natural History

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[5] ^ Hirshleifer, Jack. The Dark Side of the Force: Economic Foundations of Conflict Theory. Cambridge University Press,

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[9] Tink. "A Glance At Recent Celebrity Treatment." Associated Content - 5 Sept. 2007. 09 Mar. 2009 <>.

[10] Krantz, Matt, and Chris Woodyard. " - Stars live in a cushy world of special treatment." News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - 7 June 2004. USAToday. 09 Mar. 2009 <>.

[14] ^ The Free Online Dictionary. Farlex. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

[15] ^ James, Paul. "Social Groups and Conflict." Blackboard. 2009. Western Washington University. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

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[17] ^ James, Paul. "Social Groups and Conflict." Blackboard. 2009. Western Washington University. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

[18] ^ Korry, Elaine. "A Fraternity Hazing Gone Wrong." 14 Nov. 2005. NPR. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

[19] ^ Dukcevich, Davide. "Best Fraternities For Future CEOs." Forbes. 13 Jan. 2003. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

[20] ^ "Ku Klux Klan." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth ed. 2008. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

[21] ^ Business Dictionary. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.

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