Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia

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9780521102292: Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia

The societies of Melanesia have been a constant stimulus to anthropological theory. In this collection of essays, anthropologists who have worked in all parts of the Melanesian region of the Pacific bring their expertise to bear on a single theoretical issue. This is a hypothesis formulated by Maurice Godelier concerning the relationship between power, kinship and wealth.

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The societies of Melanesia have been a constant stimulus to anthropological theory. In this collection of essays, anthropologists who have worked in all parts of the Melanesian region of the Pacific bring their expertise to bear on a single theoretical issue. This is a hypothesis formulated by Maurice Godelier concerning the relationship between power, kinship and wealth. Although tightly focused on Godelier's work, the book opens up a major enquiry into the constitution of society in a part of the world where men of prominence come to personify the nature of power. 'Big men', entrepreneurs of exchanges, and 'great men', who flourish in societies characterised by restricted exchanges and ritual complexity, appear to belong to quite different systems. This book considers how substantial the difference between them really is.

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