There are three types of rewards that may or may not be equally distributed within a society. These rewards include wealth, power and prestige. Furthermore, there are three basic types of societies identified by Morton Fried in which the equal or non-equal distribution of these rewards may occur. These societies include that of an egalitarian society, a ranked society, and a stratified society.
Egalitarian societies do not rely on wealth or power. Instead, people in this type of society do gain prestige through age, valuable skills, and an attractive personality. Everything is shared equally within this society and there is no reason for wealth because they tend to be a mobile type of society such as the hunter gatherers, and they are not able to bring many possessions with them. Therefore, there is no accumulation of wealth among the people of this society. The !Kung are an example of a egalitarian society. They have little possessions, which usually denotes wealth in Western culture. They are an extremely mobile people who travel to find food. Therefore, they have no need for possessions because they are not able to bring them with them. They also work on a system of reciprocal sharing. Therefore, this prevents people from gathering wealth or power over others. As a result of being foraging people they have the option of leaving if one person within the band tries to take power over others.
In ranked societies, there are a limited number of social positions which grant authority over others in the society. These positions are mostly always gained through heredity. Power and prestige are given to those in high social rank, which usually falls upon the eldest in the lineage. Wealth is usually distributed among the society equally through redistribution. The Tikopia society is an example of a ranked society. The 1200 people of the island were divided into 4 patriclans and each patriclan had its own chief. There are also clan chiefs who have the...
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