The Peruvians. Perhaps even without even a scar of slight imperfection the Inca reigned over beast and man in a step by step arrangement of powers, honors, and duties. There were 10 men, 50 men, 100 men. Fewer by far were those in charge of 500 households, of 1000, of 10000. "The higher ones, four in number, presided over the four quarters of the Empire . . . . At the top of the entire pyramid, finally, stood the Sapa Inca himself." 29Next Page
The class system was the skeleton of the social body. Speech, dress, property, heredity, proximity to the court (or distance), long lineage, all played a part in maintaining this elaborate social system. 30 And when a new area was captured, social class rigidity maintained itself in that the leading denizens of the conquered territory were assiduously kept in places of honor, albeit a step lower.
The Maori. Among all the primitives none surpassed the Maori in paying deference in priority of residence and birth. Lowie states that in "Polynesia the family pride of the aboriginal blue-bloods rivals the superciliousness of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pooh-Bah." 31 Of freemen there were the following classes: chiefs, priests, landed gentry, large-landowners, and commoners. "However, the gradations of rank were far more numerous than this list would imply." 32 Tikopia was indeed not a society in which wealth was evenly distributed. 33
Among the Maori the social system showed a striking parallel to that of any country with a nobility based on primogeniture; the middle classes received the younger sons of the nobility into their ranks. 34 The commoners were the younger sons of younger sons of those who had made a misalliance with someone of slave background. Genealogies were memorized and provided the starting point for conversation between strangers. 35
The high-born, if they lacked the requisite ability, were not permitted to exercise positions of honor. From this it might be concluded that considerable social mobility must have resulted.. Such was not the case, however. Goldenweiser says: 36
It will be seen then that the hereditary ariki, though deprived through personal incompetence of his authority as leader of the tribe, still retained numerous functions belonging to him alone. The tendency, moreover, was for later more competent descendants of such a noble to recover the functions lost by their unfortunate forebear.
The nobles were assigned to separate afterworlds from those of the commoners. 37
African tribes. Lowie generalizes about the social stratification of African tribes. His two accounts, written two years apart, contradict each other at vital points; however, in each case there is abundant evidence of sharp and rigid social divisions characterized by status. In his Primitive Society, Lowie writes: 38
Africa, like Polynesia, is a region of marked social distinctions, but these bear a totally different character. There are often potentates treated in the most reverential and indeed abject manner by their subjects and surrounded by a host of hierarchically graded functionaries that would have done honor to a medieval European court. But the dignitaries derive their station not from their lofty ancestry they are not blue-bloods with endless pedigrees connecting them with some traditional figure, but political officials and as such usually the creatures of the king . . . . A patrician caste with its members bandying genealogies is an utterly un-African conception.
However, in his Origin of the State, Lowie gives the following data, indicating conclusively that some African tribes were hierarchized into definite classes: 39
In the Western Sudan there is a curiously stratified series of societies. The Mande and Fula are not merely divided into a patrician and plebeian caste, but embrace a whole set of graded classes.
29. Goldenweiser, op. cit., p. 397.
30. Featherman, op. cit., pp. 395 - 396.
31. Lowie, op. cit., p. 345.
32. Ibid., p. 347. This statement refers to the Samoans, whose "social fabric bears a generic resemblance" to that of the Maoriana.
33. Raymond Firth, Primitive Polynesian Economy (London, 1939) p. 33.
34. Elsdon Best, The Maori, vol I (Wellington, 1924) pp. 345 - 347.
35. Bernard Willard Aginsky and Peter H. Buck, "Interesting Forces in the Maori Family," American Anthropologist, vol. 42 (1940) p. 200.
36. Goldenweiser, op. cit., p. 385.
37. Lowie, op. cit., p. 349.
38. Ibid., pp. 349 - 350.
39. Robert H. Lowie, The Origin of the State (New York, 1927) p. 22.