Achievement-Based Societies

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= this is a synonym for 'Big Men' type societies that succeeded more egalitarian achievements, but in which this distinction was not hereditary


From Peter Turchin, in his review of the book, the Creation of Inequality:

"One well-developed example in the book is the investigation of the role played by the Men’s House in achievement-based societies. Such societies permit ambitious individuals (often called ‘Big Men’) to attain leadership positions and accumulate high prestige and social status. However, the authority of Big Men is limited and is ultimately based on their ability to persuade others. Additionally, they cannot pass high social status on to their sons, who must qualify for leadership roles through their own efforts. Flannery and Marcus discuss in detail such ethnographic case-studies as the Ao Naga of Assam, the Mountain Ok of New Guinea, and the Siuai of the Solomon Islands. One of the most widespread institutions in these societies was the men’s house. These ritual buildings had certain features, such as “benches for sitting or sleeping, curated skulls and skeletal parts, sunken floors, white plastered surfaces” that were not shared with residential houses. Remarkably, ancient societies in the Near East, Mexico, and Peru built very similar structures. It stands to reason that their form probably reflected their function. An approach melding social anthropology with archaeology, thus, yields insights into how ancient societies might have worked." (