Re-theorising the Social and its Models after Lévi-Strauss’s and Pierre Clastres’s Study of Stateless Social Assemblages (Anarchist Studies 27.2, Autumn 2019)

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Publication date: October 1, 2019

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Carlos Segovia

The study of stateless social groups defies our conceptual imagination in several correlative ways: denominational (we tend to represent them thus, but are stateless formations what we call groups at all?), historical (we tend to assign a lower degree of social development in comparison to state societies, but should we?), and structural (apart from the negative definition as ‘groups without state’ we lack a social-theory model). Being unable to represent stateless social ‘groups’ as little more than a residue of the past we are therefore unable to (re)think them. This paper outlines some recent developments in post-structuralist Brazilian anthropology on sociality and gender and suggests that the work of Claude LéviStrauss (1908-2009) and Pierre Clastres (1934-1977) offer a counterpoint to this discouraging picture and provide us with important conceptual tools that help us move beyond the mere description of ‘immediate-return societies’ and/ or groups displaying a ‘reverse dominance hierarchy’. Furthermore, I suggest that Lévi-Strauss and Clastres invite us to re-conceptualise important aspects of social theory. Accordingly, I propose to distinguish between four social models (or models of sociality) in virtue of their contrasting arithmetic’s and constitutive principles, as well as to determine their reciprocal relations in terms of historical transition, meta-logical disclosure, logical inference, and/or radical exteriority.