Social Organization Essay

1900 words - 8 pages

Bronislaw Malinowski argued that law functions in and shapes daily life in every culture. Regardless of whether it is a civilized society or a savage society, every culture has laws and “there are among the many norms of conduct in savage societies regarded as compulsory obligations of one individual or group towards another individual or group” (Malinowski, 1985, 12). Laws are essential in every culture regardless of “whether ‘savage’ or ‘civilized’ (Malinowski, 1985, 13). Malinowski believed that all societies had laws, rules, and customs that are followed; in addition to hard laws, there are also social morals and obligations that are followed. It may be culture specific, but it exists in ...view middle of the document...

In his book, he also uses references from other books to support his case.
There is a system of laws, rules, and obligations that maintains social organization and economic stability. In the Trobriand Islands, as do other societies, there is an array of “complex economic arrangements,” (Malinowski, 1985, 17) which dictate how society functions economically and socially. In this particular case for the natives of the Trobriand Islands, they have a system for catching fish and “a close organization in the working teams, and a fixed division of social functions” (Malinowski, 1985, 18). Fishing is a system the natives used to survive and is also used as a means of trading for vegetables. For each canoe, there is a rightful owner and a group of men who act as his crew (Malinowski, 1985, 18). While some may view it as disorganized and chaotic, it is a complex economic system used to govern social relations. “All these men, who as a rule belong to the same sub-clan, are bound to each other and to their fellow-villagers by mutual obligations” (Malinowski, 1985, 18). In addition to that, the owners and crew members are to surrender their privileges to any of their relatives and friends, usually as a form of repayment (Malinowski, 1985, 18).
Those who live close to the shore rely on fishing while the people from the “inland village supplies the fisherman with vegetables: [in exchange] the coastal community repays with fish” (Malinowski, 1985, 22). Not only are there economic benefits, but “it has also a ceremonial aspect, for the exchange has to be done according to an elaborate ritual. There is also the legal side, a system of mutual obligations which forces the fisherman to repay whenever he has received a gift from his inland partner, and vice versa” (Malinowski, 1985, 22). Reciprocity plays a major role in this as people form relations with another and this “exchange establishes a system of sociological ties of an economic nature, often combined with other ties between individual and individual, kinship group and kinship group, village and village, district and district” (Malinowski, 1985, 26). Like other societies, it is a give and take situation; people help each other out and it establishes a social relationship between one another. Everyone within the society is bounded by these reciprocal obligations and is a crucial part in maintaining this economical system. The idea of reciprocation is also evident in that people often give gifts to each other and receive gifts; it is an idea of give and take, which are mutual services with one another. Gifts are given and received and duties are accomplished for others as an obligation (Malinowski, 1985, 41). It helps to establish social relations in a community. People in every society have duties, privileges, benefits, and obligations; without these, a society cannot sustain economically or socially. Their means of getting food and trading are set within this canoe system with customary laws that govern...

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