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Book Title: Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians|
The author of the book: Pierre Clastres
Edition: Faber and Faber
Date of issue: 1998
ISBN 13: 9780571193981
City - Country: No data
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Reader ratings: 6.6
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 951 KB
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It is, I believe, nearly impossible not to love this book - Paul Auster, from his Translator's Note
Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians is an unsentimental yet sympathetic depiction of the year anthropologist Pierre Clastres spent with a so-called "savage" tribe of Indians in Paraguay in 1963. It describes the everyday life and habits, ritual and cosmology of these Indians, and makes compelling, sometimes shocking, reading. But Claster's directness and humanity - beautifully expressed in Paul Auster's translation - brings this alien world close to our own.
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Read information about the authorPierre Clastres, (1934-1977), was a French anthropologist and ethnographer. He is best known for his fieldwork among the Guayaki in Paraguay and his theory on stateless societies. Some people regard him as giving scientific validity to certain anarchist perspectives.
In his most famous work, Society Against the State (1974), Clastres indeed criticizes both the evolutionist notion that the state would be the ultimate destiny of all societies, and the Rousseauian notion of man's natural state of innocence (the myth of the noble savage). Knowledge of power is innate in any society, thus the natural state for humans wanting to preserve autonomy is a society structured by a complex set of customs which actively avert the rise of despotic power. The state is seen as but a specific constellation of hierarchical power peculiar only to societies who have failed to maintain these mechanisms which prevent separation from happening. Thus, in the Guayaki tribes, the leader has only a representational role, being his people's spokesperson towards other tribes ("international relations"). If he abuses his authority, he may be violently removed by his people, and the institution of "spokesperson" is never allowed to transform itself into a separate institution of authority. Pierre Clastres' theory thus was an explicit criticism of vulgar Marxist theories of economic determinism, in that he considered an autonomous sphere of politics, which existed in stateless societies as the active conjuration of authority. The essential question which Clastres sought to answer was: why would an individual in an egalitarian (eg foraging) society chose to subordinate himself to an authority? He considered the consequent rise of the state to be due to the power disparaties that arise when religion credits a prophet or other medium with a direct knowledge of divine power which is unattainable by the bulk of society. It is this upsetting of the balance of power that engendered the inequality to be found in more highly structured societies, and not an initial economic disparity as argued by the Marxist school of thought.
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