Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations: Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, Market Pricing

Alan Page Fiske, Author Free Press $32.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-02-910345-6
The West African Moose people of Burkina Faso communally share scarce resources like food, water and land. These villagers ``take what they need and contribute what they have''; Moose males sometimes share wives too through ``transfers.'' In general, Moose equality and kindness predominate over competitiveness, reports University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Fiske. His point is that the selfish individualism we in the West prize would be considered bizarre or even perverse by the Moose and many other cultures. A sweeping, provocative intellectual adventure despite its leaden, textbookish prose, this tome holds that there are just four basic modes of social interaction: communal sharing (e.g., Quaker meetings, family togetherness); authority ranking; the reciprocal give-and-take of equality matching; and the cost/benefit calculus of market pricing. Fiske draws unfashionable conclusions: people are fundamentally sociable and often will prefer sharing to self-interest; duty and desire are not inherently opposed--in fact, they tend to coincide. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 500 pages - 978-0-02-906687-4
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