Tuesday, January 10

fighting with complexity

I'm trying to find a nice'n'easy explanation of the term "complex society" and seem to get more lost, the more I am searching.

Ulf Hannerz: [the term complex society]"is used somewhat imprecisely to refer mostly to societies with a developed division of labour and with sizeable populations. State organiszation, urbanism, organized social inequality and literacy tend also to be aspects of the complexity involved. (in Barnard & Spencer 2002)

Sydel Silverman: The term complex societies haslong been used in anthropology to refer to state-organized systems, including those of premodern times [...], those of the modern industrialized era, and those whose states stem from postcolonial or other recent political transformations.
(p. 292 in Barth, Gingrich, Parkin, Silverman 2005)

entry at wikipedia: a complex society is a social formation that is otherwise described as a formative or developed state.

Wilson/Introduction to Archeology: Societies which show in particular increased specialization and occupational separation. As inferred by the social typology set out by Elman Service, in complex societies, people "no longer combine, say, the tasks of obtaining food, making tools, or performing religious rights but become specialists at one or other of these tasks"

interesting comment by Hannerz:
The rather loose usage my be criticized - what society is realy not complex? - but anthropologists have obviously found it a convenient alternative to such terms as "modern society", "industrial society" or "civilization", with which it may partly overlap but which entail emphases or connotations one may prefer to avoid.
(again in Barnard & Spencer 2002)

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