Conclusion

If reciprocal exogamy is the deep structure of human society, the configuration of elements listed in Table 2.1 may be seen as the most sophisticated form the structure had reached prior to the evolution of the symbolic capacity. Some crucial elements are still lacking at that stage, notably the actual exchange of kinswomen by men, an aspect which probably required language. Table 2.1 may also be read as the list of human universals that stemmed from the presymbolic and prenormative state of human society.

I began this article by proposing that Levi-Strauss's concept of reciprocal exogamy was a strong candidate for humankind's deep social structure. I based that hypothesis on the observation that from the outset Levi-Strauss's characterization of reciprocal exogamy met the formal criteria of such a structure. The present phylogenetic analysis provides further critical evidence for that claim by showing that reciprocal exogamy breaks down into evolutionarily meaningful building blocks. Indeed, a number of components of the exogamy configuration listed in Table 2.1 are observable in nonhuman primates while several others that are not -agnatic kinship, exogamy, postmarital residence, and so on - appear to be the byproducts of the combination of building blocks that do exist in nonhuman primates. Hence, it can be said that whether the constituent elements of the exogamy configuration are visible in other primate species or not, they make sense evolu-tionarily speaking. Had reciprocal exogamy not broken down into phylogenetically meaningful elements, one could not propose that it embodies the deep structure of human society. Correlatively, the phylogenetic reconstruction of the exogamy configuration readily fits with our knowledge about some of the most basic events in the evolutionary sequence that led to human society, namely, an ancestral Panlike society and the subsequent evolution of stable breeding bonds. Had it been problematic to figure out how the exogamy configuration came about in the hominid lineage, there would be more grounds to question its significance.

In sum, Levi-Strauss's concept of reciprocal exogamy, although issued from an asynchronic theoretical framework, is basically a primate-like, or primate-compatible, structure. The reason it is so is that it centers around two factors of cardinal importance in all primate social structures, sex (mating system) and kinship, and that it hinges on the issue of outbreeding through dispersal from one's group (exogamy). Unknowingly, then, Levi-Strauss characterized human society in terms of a primate society. It is remarkable that two approaches as distinct as comparative primatology and Levi-Strauss's structuralism - one avowedly excluding the evolutionary paradigm, the other issuing from it - should converge independently on the issue of the most essential factors that organize human society. This lends further credence to the exogamy model of human origins.

Acknowledgments I am grateful to Robin Fox, Peter Kappeler, and Joan Silk for their helpful comments on the manuscript, and to Julie Cascio for technical assistance with the figures. I also thank several people who provided invaluable comments on my book Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society, on which the present chapter is based, namely Peg Anderson, Bernard Bernier, Annie Bissonnette, Carol Berman, Robert Crepeau, Michael Fisher, Michel Lecomte, Martin Muller, Jean-Claude Muller, Robert Sussman, Shona Teijeiro, and Richard Wrangham.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment