Big Men and Great Men

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Maurice Godelier, Marilyn Strathern
Cambridge University Press, 1991 - Big man (Melanesia). - 328 pages
4e de couverture: 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. There are many accounts of political systems in Melanesia, but nothing quite like the comparative synthesis offered here. This exercise also raises more general issues concerning the unity of Melanesia, and about the potential of the comparative method in anthropology.

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