Analyze Native American Societies

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Soc 161
04-19-11

This essay will analyze Native American societies for world view and cultural and institutional differentiation. In so doing, we will discuss the possibilities or the lack of endogenously generated social change within American Indian societies and cultures. Mainly this essay will concentrate on two important aspects of world view that contribute to conservatism in Native American cultures. The two aspects are as follows, holistic Native American beliefs versus dualistic world views, and in so discussing we will illuminate the reader’s knowledge about the differences in views of purity and salvation. The second important aspect is that of the economic ethic: American Capitalism versus Native American subsistence labor ethic. The reasons why these two aspects are so important in explaining change or the lack of change in Native American communities is because everything is linked to religion and the ceremonies that ensue and the kinships within each community. As one author put it, Native American tribes are like apples and America is like an orange. This is meant as an analogy of how American society is compartmentalized and divided into many parts and Native American society is interlinked.

In northern America there are hundreds of Native American tribes and all have distinct religions with their own distinct creation stories, and each tribe has its own rituals, each with unique ways of giving thanks and honoring the sacred. The one distingsion they all have in common is the idea of this-worldliness and a sense of conservatism. For the Native American community, the world is a gift given by the Creator and should not be changed or altered, it should be conserved and respected with a sense of balance. “To change the order of the given world would challenge the wisdom of the Creator and upset the sacred balance and order of the universe. A people who renounced the sacred ceremonies that give thanks to the creator for health, harmony, victory in war, good harvests, or good hunting would forfeit the favor of the Creator and lose divine protection and aid.” (Champagne, 2007: 35) This is in sharp contrast with the Calvinistic dualism of this-worldliness and otherworldliness. As Weber puts it, the Calvinist doctrine can be described as one based on change and progress. For in Calvinism it is believed that this world is evil, corrupt, filled with death and destruction, and heaven is where the real world is, where each individual can attain salvation. For these reasons, it is mans duty to do his part to improve this evil world and make it as heavenly as possible. “The view that this world is an evil and corrupt place, and that heaven is the real world, has implications of understanding possibilities for accepting change.” (Champagne, 2007: 34) This is why change comes more easily for Christian Calvinists than it does for Native Americans. For Native Americans this world is the only world and one must strike a balance with nature in order to gain harmony. There is no salvation, if one does wrong, then misfortune befalls him and at times his community within this world.

The second important aspect is that of the economic ethic: American Capitalism versus Native American subsistence labor ethic. In order to gain a better understanding of this aspect we must first dive deeper into the roots of American Capitalism. Traditional capitalism has been around for hundreds of years in Europe and elsewhere in various forms; however, American Capitalism is unlike any other type seen in history. American Capitalism is competitive rational capitalism. As is argued by Weber, the reason for the difference is based of Christian Calvinism. “While Weber recognizes that a variety of legal, political, and monetary conditions were necessary for the rise of capital markets and production, he argues that these features are not enough to explain the rise of capitalism without explaining the motivation of the...
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