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Rautman's critique of our article “Although They Have Petty Captains They Obey Them Badly: The Dialectics of Prehispanic Western Pueblo Social Organization” (McGuire and Saitta 1996) provides us with an opportunity to clarify some points about our theoretical perspective. Rautman shares our dissatisfaction with attempts to characterize Prehispanic western pueblo social organization as either egalitarian or hierarchical. She, however, questions our dismissal of processual theory and our advocacy of a dialectical approach to the problem. She proposes instead an alternative approach that relies on the concept of heterarchy. We have little problem with the use of heterarchy as a descriptive label for late Prehispanic pueblo social organization, but we desire a more dynamic understanding of that organization than the concept of heterarchy allows. We find that understanding in a dialectical approach.
The organizational structure of the famous Chaco Phenomenon has long been debated by southwestern archaeologists. To better clarify the nature and dynamics of Chacoan organization we need to rethink the relationship between social power and the appropriation of surplus labor in middle-range societies. Drawing on the tradition of anthropological political economy, I outline a theoretical approach that allows for the relative autonomy of power and labor relations in human social life and models Chacoan political economy using a “thin definition” of communalism. Empirical patterns from the Chaco and post-Chaco eras in the northern Southwest are presented in support of a model of Chaco communalism and change dynamics. Suggestions for furthering a political economy of the Chaco Phenomenon that respects the difference or “otherness” of the past are also detailed.
Southwestern archaeologists have debated the nature of late Prehispanic western pueblo social organization for nearly a century. Were the fourteenth-century pueblos egalitarian or hierarchical? This issue remains unsettled largely because of the oppositional thinking that has informed most contributions to the debate: that is, the tendency to frame questions about Prehispanic sociopolitical organization in dichotomous “either-or” terms. We critique this approach to the problem and examine one of the most prominent controversies about Prehispanic social organization: the Grasshopper Pueblo-Chavez Pass controversy. We propose an alternative approach rooted in a dialectical epistemology, and a theory of social life that emphasizes the lived experience of people. What impresses us most about late Prehispanic western social organization is not that it was egalitarian or hierarchical, but that it was both. We discuss how this basic contradiction between communal life and hierarchy was a major internal motor driving change in these pueblos.
Methodologies for learning about the past are currently at issue within archaeology. This paper considers learning from the standpoint of a ‘radical’ archaeology. One strand of a radical archaeology's approach to learning–a Marxist strand–is discussed, and its main methodological challenge identified. This challenge is the development of middle-range frameworks for recognizing what Binford and others term ‘ambiguity’ – unexpected variation in the archaeological record from which fresh insights about the past can be produced. Concepts and ideas for constructing appropriate middle-ranges for a radical archaeology are discussed.
Braun and Plog's approach to understanding change in “tribal” social networks is critiqued with respect to (1) certain bridging arguments about the social meaning of particular evidential trends, and (2) certain conceptual biases regarding the nature of “tribal” social relations. Aspects of an alternative strategy for making sense of “tribal” social dynamics are discussed.
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