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Society for American Archaeology

Dialectics, Heterarchy, and Western Pueblo Social Organization


Author(s): Dean J. Saitta and Randall H. McGuire
Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 334-336
Published by: Society for American Archaeology
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DIALECTICS, HETERARCHY, AND WESTERN PUEBLO


SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
Dean J.SaittaandRandallH. McGuire

Rautman'scritiqueofourarticle"Although
TheyHave PettyCaptainsTheyObeyThemBadly:TheDialecticsofPrehispanic
toclarifysomepointsabout
Western
Pueblo Social Organization"(McGuireand Saitta1996)providesus withan opportunity
our theoretical
withattemptsto characterizePrehispanicwesternpueblo
perspective.Rautmansharesour dissatisfaction
social organization
as eitheregalitarianor hierarchical.She,however,
questionsour dismissalofprocessualtheoryand our
advocacyofa dialecticalapproachto theproblem.Sheproposesinsteadan alternative
approachthatrelieson theconceptof
Wehave littleproblemwiththeuse ofheterarchy
as a descriptive
labelfor late Prehispanicpueblo social orgaheterarchy.
thantheconceptofheterarchy
nization,butwe desirea moredynamicunderstanding
ofthatorganization
allows. Wefindthat
in a dialecticalapproach.
understanding
La criticade Rautmande nuestroarticulo"Although
TheyHave PettyCaptainsTheyObeyThemBadly: The Dialecticsof
PrehispanicWestern
PuebloSocial Organization"
(McGuireand Saitta1996) nos ofreceuna oportunidad
de clarificarnuestra
de calificarla organizaci6n
social de los Indios
perspectiva
teorica.Rautmanestdide acuerdoconnuestracriticade los intentos
de los PueblosOccidentalescomounasociedadigualitariao comosociedadjerdirquica.
Sinembargo,
ella desconprehispdnicos
social
ffade nuestrorechazode teoriaprocesualy nuestroapoyodel uso de una teoriadialecticapara explicarla organizaci6n
de estosIndiosprehispa'nicos.
ella proponeel conceptode heterarqufa.
Nos gustael conceptode heterarqufa
Alternativamente,
tardia,perodeseamosun conocimiento
de
para describirla organizacionsocial de los IndiosPuebloen el epoca prehispa'nica
Encontramos
esteconocimiento
en una teoria
esa organizaci6nma'sdindmicade lo ofrecidopor el conceptode heterarqufa.
dialectica.

to aboutpueblosocialorganization
that,in ourview,
e arepleasedtohavetheopportunity
and is reflectedby the Grasshopper-Chavez
respondto Rautman'sthoughtful
Pass
constructive
commenton our paper. debateand thathas hinderedthinking
aboutthe
Ourmajorgoal in theinitialpaperwas to redirect meaningof the puebloanarchaeologicalrecord.
pueblosocial orga- Rautmanagreeswithus thatoppositional
thinking
thedebateaboutPrehispanic
bipolarposi- is unproductive.
She disagrees,
however,
in claimnizationaway fromunproductive
ofthenature ingthatthissortofthinking
is nota necessary
contionstomorenuancedconsiderations
ofthatorganization.
Rautman'scri- sequenceof a processualanalyticalframework.
anddynamics
tique fulfillsthat goal for us. Along with Rautmanproposesthatthe conceptof heterarposi- chy-a conceptborneof processualist
Rautman,we startfromtheveryimportant
committionthatlate westernpueblo social organization mentsto the studyof social "systems"-can
Addressingthe capturethe sortof organizational
and
variability
was complexand contradictory.
and
thatRautmanraisesallows interplaybetweenpuebloan egalitarianism
pointsofdisagreement
thatwe exploredin ourarticle.She also
us tobetter
clarify
someaspectsofourconceptual hierarchy
We hope thatthisexchangeof ideas arguesthatwe shouldnotask ifsocietiesarecomframework.
howtheyarecomplex.
will extendthe discussionof aboriginalsocial plex,butrather
in new
in theSouthwest/Northwest'
We thinkthatRautmanmakesgood pointson
organization
bothcounts.To theextentthattheconceptofhetandproductive
directions.
thinking erarchyallowsthattheconstituent
theoppositional
"elements"or
Ourarticlechallenged
ofAnthropology,
of Denver,Denver,CO 80208
Dean J. Saitta * Department
University
NY 13902
University,
Binghamton
Randall H. McGuire * Department
ofAnthropology,
Binghamton
AmericanAntiquity,
63(2), 1998,pp. 334-336.
Copyright
( by theSocietyforAmericanArchaeology
334

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COMMENTS

335

waysandthatusuallyrequireexternal
"variables"in a systemcan be relatedin differentin different
concepts
ways,it directsus to thinkin termsof organiza- inputsto producechange.Ourpreferred
tionalvariability,
andthesuggestion
of organiza- implyan interestin particularkindsof causal
tionalvariability
is what'smostinteresting
about dynamics,and theyhave a particular"critical"
the archaeologicalrecord.We especiallyagree edgethatis notassociatedwiththeconceptofhetwithRautman'sclaimthatorganizational
complex- erarchy.Thus, while processualistarchaeology
stipuityis tobe foundin anysocietyandthatourtaskis maynot,as Rautmansuggests,necessarily
thinking,
thiscriticaledgeis certo illuminate
thenatureandtransformative
poten- lateoppositional
tialofthatcomplexity.
tainlystillmissingfromits largelyfunctionalist
conceptual
framework.
However,thedifficulty
forus is that,although andevolutionist
Henceourviewofthepueblosas "communal"
usefulas a generalframing
as
concept,heterarchy
an analyticalconceptis staticand silenton the ratherthanheterarchical.
Use of theterm"comissueof causality.
It does notdirectus to thinkin munal"sendsa messageaboutthespecifickinds
interest
termsof particularcausal powers,nor does it ofsocialprocessesthatareofanalytical
to
addressthesortsof internal
about
dynamics
thatwe see us. The conceptmakesa specificstatement
i.e.,as
organizing
pueblosociallife.Putanother
way,het- howwe see thesesocietiesbeingorganized;
is an abstraction
thatdoes notcaptureour involvingthe collectiveappropriation
of surplus
erarchy
interestin the "lived experience"of ancestral labor.This in turnallowsus to distinguish
comfromotherarrangements
formobilizpuebloanpeoples.Rautmanis awareofthislimita- munalforms
andcapitalist
whereshe statesthat"proposing
a ingsurplus,
e.g.,tributary
forms.By
tion,we think,
in a givensocietydoes qualifying
heterarchical
organization
theterm"communal"with"complex"
not uniquelyidentifyany single organizational we send an additionalmessage thatcollective
of surplusis neither"simple"nor
structure."
rec- appropriation
And,inthesamesentence
Rautman
butrathercan involvemultipleand
is just a beginningin "egalitarian,"
ognizes thatheterarchy
"theconceptforcesus to specify even competingpolitical hierarchies,various
understanding:
moreclearlythecontextandtemporal
duration
of formsof productive
specialization
and,in certain
the relationships
withnonwe are describing."
Thus, we timesand places, uneasyarticulation
ofsurplusappropriation.
relations
havelittleproblemwiththeuse ofheterarchy
as a communal
In thisviewcommunalism
becomesmuchmore
labelforlatePrehispanic
descriptive
pueblosocial
butwe desirea moreparticular
and than,as Rautmansuggests,
'just one formof hetorganization,
in a middle-range
of thatorganization
than erarchical
organization
society."
dynamicunderstanding
For us, "middle-range
theconceptofheterarchy
allows.
society"does not exist.
to thinkabout
The reasonwhywe valuetheconceptofheter- Althoughit is now commonplace
thanRautman
relatesto somedif- societiesas occupyingplaces along continuaof
archydifferently
thisperspective
can dull
ferenceswe have with her concerninglarger organizational
variation,
of someimportant
features
thatradicommitments.
As discussedinour appreciation
epistemological
societiesfromeach other.As
to dialecticsas an orga- cally differentiate
article,we arecommitted
to us is how sociAs an notedabove,of specialinterest
nizingprincipleforbuildingsocial theory.
social surdialec- etiesvaryin thewaystheyappropriate
organizingepistemological
commitment,
ticsdirectsus to theoretical
conceptsthatareuse- plus labor. A typologyof social formations
minimally,communal,tributary,
ful for simultaneously explaining and incorporating,
formscaptures
differences
the world. Processualistcommit- andcapitalist
important
transforming
mentsto conceptslike"system"and "self-organi-in thewaysthathumangroupsproduceand disTheseconceptsinturninvite
socialsurplus.
zation"are less usefulforus in thisdualpurpose tribute
of how theserelationsare variously
thanare conceptssuchas "social formation"
and investigation
social "struggle."
We view social lifein termsof createdand reproducedacross time and space.
via fairlyrigid
bundlesof processesthatare lockedin complex Some relationscan be reproduced
whileotherscan involvemore
and contradictory
ratherthan(as stipu- politicalhierarchy
interplay,
a set of sys- flexible "heterarchies" of various sorts.
latedby theconceptof heterarchy)
theserelationships,
as well as the
temic"elements"thatcan be rankedor unranked Understanding

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336

AMERICAN ANTIQUITY

[Vol. 63, No. 2, 1998]

specific tensionsand contradictions


that can typologies
notonlyin termsof how theyhelpus
andexplainthepast,butalso in termsof
changesocialformations
fromwithin,
is theobject interpret
of empiricalresearch.Rautmanis withus in rec- theirproductivity
forcreating
certainsubjectivities
aboutthenatureoflivedexpeognizingsuchvariability,
butinourviewa concept orconsciousnesses
is neither
ofheterarchy
essentialto understandingrienceacrosstimeand space.It is thisnotionthat
it,nornecessarily
preferable
to otherwaysofpro- givesour dialecticalapproachits "critical"edge.
We didnotalludetothisidea inouroriginalpaper,
ceeding.
In sum,we sharewithRautmanan interest
in let alone developit. Rautman'scommentbrings
organizational
variability,
but we have differenttheissueto theforeground,
however,
andthusher
is an important
andconstructive
conaboutit and,perhaps,differentintervention
waysof thinking
to the discussion.We look forwardto
We can tribution
ultimate
goals forarchaeological
inquiry.
studythepastwithconceptsborneofanobjectivist helpingsustainit.
in makingsense of "whathappened,"or
interest
Note
we can studythepastwithconceptsthat,dialecti1.
The
cultural
that
have traditionally
area
archaeologists
us with)the
cally,also remindus of(andconfront
called theSouthwestincludestheMexican statesof Sonora
historicalcontingency
of our own lived experiand Chihuahua.Fromtheperspectiveof Mexico thisis the
is important.
ence. The difference
We thinkthat Northwest.
The label Southwest/Northwest
preservesthetraanalysisof theintellectual
and social causes and ditionaltermbutalso breaksdown thechauvinismof only
the viewingthearea froma NorthAmericanperspective.
consequencesof conceptsused to interpret
archaeologicalrecordis an important
piece of
neglectedbusinessin ourdiscipline.It is timeto
evaluatethemerits
andlimitations
ofconceptsand ReceivedDecember11, 1997; acceptedDecember29, 1997.

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