In many nonindustrial, non-Western societies, power and prestige are closely linked to the extent of an individual's or group's perceived connection to the supernatural realm, which also explains and validates tangible activities such as economic success, victories in war, or control over lucrative trade. Affines (in-laws), ancestors, and aristocrats, in particular, are related to the realm of creative cosmological origins (i.e., to Genesis), which accords them distinctive, supernatural powers and gives them a natural and legitimate right to worldly authority. This is the hypothesis that Mary W. Helms pursues in this broadly cross-cultural study of aristocracy in chiefly societies. Helms sheds new light on how hierarchical societies are formulated and why aristocrats are deemed to have legitimate authority. Her research establishes why and how political authority is cosmologically centered in non-industrial societies and adds significantly to our understanding of affines as a separate ideological category worthy of study in its own right.
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