Kinship Organization Essay

Submitted By ahale104
Words: 1074
Pages: 5

Defining Affluence: A look at the San and American Societies

Band societies serve as the benchmark from which other societies, such as the current modern American society have evolved. The San community is a prime example of this premise. In Cultural Anthropology the authors discuss the roots and details of the San kinship organization in detail. This band society, also known as the “Bushmen” are known to have lived in the Southern Africa (Kalahari Dessert) for thousands of years. Over time, anthropologists have observed and written works based on their kinship organization that have provided major insight to the hunting and gathering lifestyle as it once existed and how it functions today. When comparing the San and American societies against one another, it is clear that kinship does have a direct impact on one’s cultural habits, lifestyle and actions. One can conclude that both societies do share the same values in some aspects and others that are starkly different.
The San people are nomadic but have managed to stay in the Southern region of Africa primarily. As a result, their dietary habits are a direct reflection of their environment. Women are responsible for bringing home close to 80% of the food consumed in their society (Nowak & Laird, 2010). Interestingly, this group only collects what is needed and has no interest in stockpiling goods in contrast to the American lifestyle which is predicated with stockpiling and showcasing wealth in any manner possible. As a result, the San have more time for socializing and interacting with other members of their band. This social time promotes overall happiness and enables more participation in cultural activities that bonds the group together and allows for a cohesive unit to work together in peace when work is called for. As Nowak and Laird state (2010), “…having limited wants and needs, which makes desires easy to satisfy” is the perfect classification of how the San lead everyday life. Americans are a sedentary people based on the cultural desire to accumulate wealth and possessions (i.e. houses, cars, clothes, etc.) which would make it extremely difficult to transport in the way that the San move.
While all cultures participate in some form of reciprocity, the San practice generalized reciprocity, which is to say “everyone gets some; no one goes without” (Nowak & Laird, 2010) which also keeps the potential accumulation of “wealth” to an even degree amongst all in their society. In the American society, the idea of “bands” does not exist as explicitly as it does within the San group, so general reciprocity is practiced amongst family members rather than an entire town or city as one would more than likely see with the San. Reciprocity has a major impact on how this culture acts; for example, a San hunter will happily give to his neighbor without the expectation of wanting anything back because he wants his neighbor to eat just as well as he does rather than not. The promotion of goodwill towards others is not an underlining theme in this group- it is the backbone upon which each person stands and influences more than just food gathering. General reciprocity in the San group has fostered trust, cooperation and unity since all kin members know they will be taken care of and help to take care of others in turn.
In the American society one can see negative reciprocity practiced far and wide. A system of checks and balances has been instituted in American society to counterbalance those that are only interested in giving a little while receiving a lot- also known as negative reciprocity. According to Nowak & Laird, this form of reciprocity essentially cancels out the notion of reciprocity (2010); this type of exchange can be seen in thieves of all kinds (enter Bernie Maddoff) who only care about their own accumulation of goods/wealth. The overwhelming existence of crime, police, jails, and our judicial system are a necessity not found or used to the