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Éléments de classification des sociétés
[A Classification of Societies]
Errance (2005), 160 p.
The epistemological argument of this book is that one cannot confuse (or mix) the taxonomic question (classification) with the evolutionary one. Because specialists in this discipline all assert that a systematic classification can be only evolutionary, and because of biology’s current predominance, there is a tendency to forget that there are scientific classifications which are independent of any evolutionary consideration: in physics, for instance, the old assigning of a body to one of three states of matter or, in mineralogy, the classification of minerals. Every attempt to formulate an evolution /evolutionary schema/ is based on a classification, a taxonomy and not the reverse. In biology, the classifications of animals and plants were achieved during the 18th century and this allowed reflection on evolution which flourished at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th. Taxonomic thought precedes the thought on evolution and provides the latter with arguments. And in order to provide evolutionary thought with arguments, it has to be independent of it. The same principle applies in the social sciences.
The classifications of societies already advanced (in particular by Americans) are criticized for: 1) their confusion between taxonomic reflection and evolutionary reflection; 2) the notable absence of the principal concepts used in social anthropology and history.
The classification proposed in this book is based on two criteria :
  • an economic criterion that recommends assigning a society to one of three worlds, using ideas already largely put forward : 1) Societies without wealth (wealth not allowing the acquisition of the society’s essential goods ; 2) societies with wealth but with a form of property (including means of production) which allows neither ground rent nor profit of a capitalist type ; 3) societies with wealth and a form of property allowing rent or profit ;
  • a political criterion which assigns societies as: stateless societies, those with a semi-state organization or societies with state organization (these new and relatively complex ideas cannot be examined here).

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