The Deep Structure of Human Society Primate Origins and Evolution

Bernard Chapais

".. .our primate cousins have 'kinship systems' which contain the elements of human kinship systems, but ... no other primate combines elements in the way that we do.. .The elements are common: the combination is unique. My contention is, therefore, that it is to the combination of elements that we must look for clues to the uniqueness of human systems, not to the elements themselves."

Robin Fox 1975: 10-11

Abstract On theoretical grounds, one expects all human societies to share a common structural denominator, or deep social structure, which would describe both the unity of human society across cultures and its uniqueness in the animal world. Here, I argue that a powerful model of humankind's deep social structure is the concept of reciprocal exogamy described by Claude Levi-Strauss - a social arrangement in which groups are bound together through the particular linkage of pair-bonds and kinship bonds. The present analysis provides a phylogenetic test of the exogamy model of human social origins. It shows that reciprocal exogamy breaks down into a number of phylogenetically meaningful components and that the evolutionary history of the whole system may be reconstructed parsimoniously in terms of the combination of a Pan-like social structure with a new mating system featuring stable breeding bonds. The concept of deep structure points to the following human universals: stable breeding bonds and their correlate, fatherhood; the multifamily community; strong siblingships; bilateral (uterine and agnatic) kin recognition; incest avoidance; out-marriage (exogamy); matrimonial exchange; dual-phase residence (pre/postmarital); lifetime bonds between dispersed kin; bilateral relations between in-laws; kin-biased and affinity-biased marriage rules; and between-group alliances (supragroup levels of social organization).

B. Chapais

Department of Anthropology, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada e-mail: [email protected]

DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-02725-3_2, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

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