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Twelve - The Perplexing Heterarchical Complexity of New Guinea Fisher-Forager Polities at Contact

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

T. L. Thurston
Affiliation:
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Manuel Fernández-Götz
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
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Summary

Some two and a half decades ago, Carole Crumley noted the “almost unconscious assumption of hierarchy-as-order … among social scientists, especially in the area of complex society” (1995: 3). At the time, the prevailing view was that large-scale, complex groups were functionally impossible without a centralized power and hierarchical organization. Yet, Crumley went on, any number of biological and social structures that are hard to characterize as hierarchical are, by most any measure, complex. Drawing from cognitive scientist Warren McCulloch’s (1945) work on the collective organization of the brain, she dubbed these organizations heterarchies, where heterarchy is “defined as the relation of elements to one another when they are unranked, or when they possess the potential for being ranked in a number of different ways, depending on systemic requirements” (Crumley, 1979: 144; 2015: 1)

Type
Chapter
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Power from Below in Premodern Societies
The Dynamics of Political Complexity in the Archaeological Record
, pp. 272 - 294
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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