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Theory and critics of Max Gluckman

and Manchester school: Case of


opening of new bridge in Modern
Zululand
Semestral essay for the purpose of Seminar:
Manchester school of Anthropology

Writen by: Bc. Marcel Palat

Introduction

In this essay I decided to write about Max Gluckmans approach applied in research in
Zululand between years 1936 1938. He was the founder and also the most important person
of Manchester school of Anthropology (M.S.A.) and thanks to Dr. Echtlers explanation in his
seminar, I found interesting his way of describing and analyzing the situation of the opening
of new bridge. By means of (microhistorical) situational analysis Gluckman demonstrates the
social issues between white and black population in the then Zululand. This chapter is the first
of three Gluckmans essays 1 and could be considered as the first outline of his approach to
the study of social change, which he has subsequently developed and which has provided the
central set of analytical concepts 2 of his school.
Consequently, I would like to present my reflection of Gluckmans work in broader
sense including other two essays from Analysis. It will be partially based on the discussion,
which took place in our seminar, but main contribution to my critical knowledge about
Gluckmans approach including his colleagues or followers, was for me an interesting chapter
of T. van Teeffelen. 3 Although his critical dealing with M.S.A. seems quite sharp, in some
passages, Gluckman gets some credit after all. He and some of his teachers and colleagues
more or less expressed their effort to change miserable conditions of black people under
colonial pressure, which led to conflicts. By analysis of those conflicts both, with white
colonial governmental forces and among each differently stratified group of blacks,
Gluckman aspired to find out, how these conflicts emerge and how could they be potentially
solved. However this aim seems philanthropic, his work served only to improve current,
strictly dominant system which was paradoxically based on conflicts and could not be
changed.

Gluckman, Max, The social organization of modern Zululand; Social change in Zululand; Some processes
of social change; in: Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand, Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 2nd ed. 1968. First time published in Bantu Studies, 1940 - 42.
2
Gluckman, Max, Analysis..., p. vii.
3
Teeffelen, T., The Manchester School in Africa and Israel: a critique, Dialectical Anthropology, Volume 3,
Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1978.

1. Meaning of the social situation and the Governmental policy

Considering the interests of white European colonial powers in South Africa (in this case
Zululand) as same as everywhere else, which permanently encountered resistance and tried to
prevent conflicts with the Zulu people, it is clear, that the event of opening of the new bridge
supposed to show a good will. By this well organized event, in which the Zulu people
intentionally played important roles, powers of European Government gathered culturally
heterogenous society of Zululand and tried to create an illusion of well cooperating and for
both side equally profitable society. In the details of Gluckmans description, we can feel a
tension in behavior among various sorts of present people.
The official opening of the bridge brings together representatives of different
sectors of the population in Zululand, Black and Whites, Christians and pagans,
officials and citizens, Zulu nobles and commoners, and Gluckman shows how
their behavior leading up to, during and following the opening of the bridge
reflect the structure of South African society with all its alliances and cleavages at
the time when the study was done. 4

By this analysis, Gluckman reveals the segregation, which is the main characteristic of the
social structure and which was also frequently mentioned by other anthropologists like his
teachers and mentors A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and Isaac Schapera. Hence, although both
Radcliffe-Brown and Schapera were opposed to segregation, very powerful discursive
constraints limited their capacity to imagine an alternative to segregation which was not based
on the fundamental premise of the ineradicable difference of Africans. 5 They tried to analyze
conflicts and cleavages within the society and extrapolate solutions which meant to lead to
order. Unfortunately, this aim could not be effectively achieved within the established
colonial system, which provided financial support of their research and strived to maintain
status quo. However these anthropologist may believed in the integration of Africans and
Whites - and other ethnic groups - within a single social system based on equality of all

Mitchel, J. Clyde, Case and Situation Analysis in: The Manchester School: Practice and Ethnographic
Praxis in Anthropology, Evens & Handelman (edit.), New York: Berghahn Books, 2006, p. 28.
5
Cocs, Paul, Max Gluckman and the Critique of Segregation in South African Anthropology, 1921-1940, in:
Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 27, Number 4, December 2001, p. 746.

men, 6 an ideal of order without conflicts finally must have remained more lucrative order
due to conflicts.
The main reason, why Gluckman and others could not achieve harmony between
white and Zulu people was simple. The effort to reduce the conflicts by means of science
must involve certain political engagement for its actual success and there was radical conflict
of interests. While Gluckman at least is clear about his own (political) preferences, other
anthropologists became lone disappointed observers hiding behind the veil of professional
discourse. 7 This means, that they excused themselves out of responsibility and actually did
not engage in political changes at all.

2. Methodological remarks

Method of research applied on the situation at the Bridge is known among the procedures of
Mancester School as the social situation analysis. According to J. Clyde Mitchell, depending
on their complexity, Gluckman differentiates 3 types of case phenomena which are: 1) apt
illustration; 2) social situation; 3) extended case study. The apt illustration is normally a
description of some fairly simple event or occurrence in which the operation of some general
principle is clearly illustrated.8 This can be (not necessarily) treated as a segment of more
complex - social situation, which is defined by J. Clyde Mitchell as: a collocation of events
which the analyst is able to construe as connected with one another and which take place
relatively restricted time spanIn the analysis of social situation some restricted and limited
(bounded) set of events is analyzed so as to reveal the way in which general principles of
social organization manifest themselves in some particular specified context. 9
According to Macmillian, in the first Gluckmans text, there are several social
situations: The most important of these was the event at the bridge, but this was followed in
the afternoon by a meeting of chiefs, Indunas, and commoners with the magistrate in the

Ibid., p. 750.
Van Teeffelen, T., The Manchester School in Africa and Israel: a critique, Dialectical Anthropology, Volume
3, Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1978, p. 72.
8
Mitchel, J. Clyde, Case and Situation Analysis in: The Manchester School: Practice and Ethnographic
Praxis in Anthropology, Evens & Handelman (edit.), New York: Berghahn Books, 2006, p. 28.
9
Ibid.
7

neighboring district of Nongoma to discuss factional fighting within the Mandlakazi tribe. 10
People present on all of these situations partially reflect Saperas suggestion about variety of
different representatives among examined people. 11 Concrete situation of the opening of the
bridge: offers certain social categories for analysis. Gluckman takes the categories of people
who gather together at the bridge, and the juxtapositions of their behaviors, as threads to
follow into the wider society He, thereby, exposes how these threads ravel and unravel in
weaving a social fabric. 12
In the first part of Gluckmans Analysis appears micro-historical view that means, out
of situations which occurred in relatively short time, he extrapolates general conclusions
about social structure in Zululand. For Handelman: The extended case is developed through
time-dynamic of present becoming future, and so the case becomes micro history. There is no
epistemological distinction between an anthropology grounded in the study of social practice
and an anthropology that does micro history. The practice of encounters in real or near-real
time necessarily glides, slips, or trips into micro history, while micro history emerges
prospectively from the temporal practice of social life. Doing extended-case analysis is doing
micro history 13
Second part is most appreciate by social scientists thanks to its historical data about
development of Zulu society. From cca.1775 on the basis of Bryant's recorded oral
traditions, travelers accounts, and, for the years 1887-1906, of archival records, was an essay
in historical sociology of a type which had not previously been attempted by a social
anthropologist working in an African context.14 In this part Gluckman inquires reasons and
types of fission of social groups.
The third one provides well structurally organized overview of possibilities in changing
social behavior among all above mentioned representatives. I found interesting especially
Gluckmans own distinction between two points of view at human personality in his/her
culture. In terms like endoculture = the culture of a social personality or group as perceived
by that personality or by the members of that group respectively, and, exoculture = the
10

Macmillian, H., Return to the Malungwana drift: Max Gluckman, The Zulu Nation and the common society,
African Affairs, 1995, p. 39.
11
Ibid., p. 49.
12
Handelman, Don; Tak, Herman, Critical junctions: anthropology and history beyond the cultural turn, New
York: Berghanh Books, 2005, p. 38.
13
Handelman, Don, The extended case: Interactional foundations and prospective dimensions, in: The
Manchester School, Practice and Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology, Evens & Handelman (edit.), New
York: Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 107-108.
14
Macmillian, H., Return to the Malungwana, p. 47.

culture of a social personality or group as perceived by other members of the same social
system, 15 he systematically describes potentional social conflicts and thus provides very
useful tool to Colonial government. With this scientific collection of usefull data the
political control of colonial interests became easier. Sad is, that troubles caused by colonial
imperialism like a huge famine, economical dependence, corruption and socio-political chaos
in previously 16 occupied countries are still present and most of those countries are still
paying for our occidental wealth. Of course, not Anthropology, nor any other social science,
can provide solutions for these problems, which are of economical and political character, but,
in my opinion, social scientists should not be afraid, at least, to point them out.
Back to the theme, Gluckman sees the social conflicts in the segregation of
representative groups of different culture. He asserts that culture gives us certain
unconscious modes of our behavior. By observing of interactions between groups, he
extracts his conclusions about how culture functions: From the flow of particular and unique
social events, the sociologist abstracts types of social events as representative of the
community he is studying, and these typical events are what I propose to call the community's
culture...We have to abstract invariable relations between culture parts and invariable
processes by which culture functions, and these may' be termed sociological relations. 17
Inquiring these relations is possible only by inquiring samples of some situations:In the
procedure considerable care is taken to select a sample from some parent population in such a
way that no bias is introduced to the samplethe most straightforward of which is the simple
random sample. 18 But, critical voices criticizing approach of M.S.A found, that the samples
were not taken as random as they present them to be. In other words, some situations were
consequently considered as more fitting for the support of the hypothesis and for the applied
methods and thus a huge part of the field data, remained unnoticed or was not compiled
intentionally.

15

Gluckman, Max, Analysis, p. 57.


Colonial imperialism is considered in our western society as overcome and something what belongs to misty
past, but the real situation of some previously occupied regions did not change at all.
17
Gluckman, Max, Analysis, p. 57.
18
Mitchel, J. Clyde, Case and Situation Analysis in: The Manchester School, Practice and Ethnographic
Praxis in Anthropology, Evans & Handelman (edit.), New York: Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 32.
16

3. Main points of Critics and Conclusion

As I mentioned above, one of the most used words appearing in papers of Anthropologists
dealing with M.S.A. is definitely - sample. Although, they tried to pick absolutely random
sample, by means of their developed methodology, everyone followed more or less this
structure:
Having selected some structuring principles within the unit of study (usually,

because of the anthropologist's western background, the result of a quite strenuous


effort), the next step in the investigation concerned the ways in which these
principles operated in real life. This turned out to be the most productive aspect of
the Manchester approach. While each researcher selected a different topic (the
range was wide, from politics and kinship to ritual and sorcery), the analytic
procedure was common: try to discern the concrete strands by which people are
tied to each other and analyze the conflicts and cleavages within this web. The
ultimate aim was the development of one framework that covered both norm, and
reality, constraint and freedom, rule and exception. A whole realm of concepts
was put forward: situational selection of norms and ties, manipulation of norms,
social field, and of course the network concept. Modes of ordering the data were
adapted to meet these research interests: well-known methods such as the
'extended case-study' and 'situational analysis' were used to dramatize the inherent
conflicts of a social system as they became apparent in concrete circumstances. 19

As we can see, here Van Teeffelen summarizes almost all issues appearing in the M.S.A.
approach. While the methods seems at first sight, when we look at classical texts of Gluckman
very solid, his followers adapt them on some situations only and others left behind. This
critical failure in certain extend distorted a real picture of reality within the investigated
society. Furthermore, not only samples were picked intentionally for the purpose of the
methodology but also methodology was, in some cases, adapted to these samples. Thus could
the researcher more easily prove his previously imagined conclusions without sufficient
reflection of reality in the field.
Although Gluckman seeks an order in the culturally heterogenous society, he took over,
according to Van Teefelen, essential attitude of his predecessor I. Shapera, which completely
doomed the idea of peaceful coexistence of two cultures within one community. The thing is,

19

Van Teeffelen, T., The Manchester School in Africa and Israel: a critique, Dialectical Anthropology,
Volume 3, Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1978, p. 68.

that all M.S.A. anthropologists indeed took colonialism into account as a social system.20
Colonialism was kind of guarantiee of stability and no Anthropologist of those days and
common origin ever thought about any other alternative system of collaboration with native
people, despite they saw the conflicts which colonial policy of apartheid caused. Order had
to be found in the existing system and that appeared to be impossible.
How could the system survive despite the conflicts and cleavages? Finally
he (Gluckman) pushed the analysis to its triumphant end: the system survived
not despite, but because of all conflicts and cleavages. This last argument,
which was shared by his pupils in Africa, and which would remain the 'trade
mark' of the Manchester School, became evident in different forms: - conflicts
on a lower level of social organization contribute to unity on a higher level, and
thus actually strengthen the overall integration of the group. This analysis was
paradigmatically stated in Gluckman's contribution to African Political
Systems where he described pre-colonial Zulu society in terms of a segmentary
tribal opposition that produced equilibrium on the higher level of the kingdom.
The theory of 'cross-cutting ties' was applied on a general theoretical level. 21

On the other hand, according to Coks, there are other more positive aspects of Gluckmans
work, which are worthy of mention. Gluckman, for example was more courageous in his
critique of segregation (segregationist ideology) comparison to his mentors I. Shapera and R.
Brown. What is also need to be said is that Gluckmans analysis bears some Marxian aspects
and that he was one of the greatest critiques of Malinowskis functionalism.
For the ending evaluation of Gluckmans Analysis perfectly match to start with
quotation of Hugh Macmillian: The purpose of this paper is to examine it as a contribution,
firstly, to the contemporary debate within British anthropology on culture contact and
conflict, secondly, to the development of the idea of South Africa as a single or common
society composed of heterogeneous culture groups, thirdly, to the study of ethnicity, tradition
and change with special reference to the Zulu Nation. 22 In my opinion, by systematical
reading and inquiring of these classical texts like Analysis and others we can better
understand, where were the limits and mistakes of M.S.A., and how can we learn out of them.
The biggest limit of this approach dwells in its dependence on foundation by politicians and
businessmen who supported field research as their own little investment for future.

20

Van Teeffelen, T., The Manchester School in Africa, p. 68.


Ibid., pp. 68-69.
22
Macmillian, H., Return to the Malungwana, p. 43.
21

Thanks to works of M.S.A. could colonial system develop and survive, because it helped to
set mechanisms of better control of occupying area and people living within. Nowadays, after
colonialism is canceled, we still see pictures of previously occupied countries full of chaos
and conflicts. Who still profits from these conditions? Where the previous Colonial
Government disappeared and who are those people we can see in televisions as Governments
of those countries? Why we still in 21.century call African countries the third world and
cant solve most of maintaining problems? Because the system is still working, thanks to
conflicts in the society.
Where there are no conflicts there is peace and prosperity, but the prosperity must also
come from common wealth of particular group or state. Local Puppet Governments of current
African countries still try to maintain the status quo and media are doing brilliant job in
helping them. Western Occidental society still controls world trade which is supplied in
largest part by industry and agriculture of previously colonized countries. So the people who
control the trade also control prices on the market and salaries for the production of product.
In this perspective situation did not change much from the colonial era, thus we cant talk
about any practical contribution of the M.S.A. approach to the real economical and social
reform of the conditions in next generations of native society. Although, for example the
racial segregation is in general discourse perceived as something socially inappropriate, we
can hear about it in media very often. On the other hand, the economical segregation, which is
in my opinion, the real problem of contemporary world, which is rising furthermore, never
appears.
What is the perfect proportion of values and objectivity in social scientific research is
still matter of academic debate. While absolute neutrality (objectivity) is unachievable
because scholar must be motivated by his/her interest to explore his subject, he/she cant
abandon scientific methodology, which requires it. I see, maybe as same as Gluckman, the
biggest value of social scientific research in its application for the benefit of all cultures in
society, not only that one of Occident. We can examine African society all the time, but until
we re-think current socio-economical relations and propose some solutions, Gluckmans
vision of culturally heterogenous but well cooperating and equally satisfied society will
remain a dream.

Sources

Gluckman, Max, Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand,


Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2nd ed. 1968.

Mitchel, J. Clyde, Case and Situation Analysis in: The Manchester


School, Practice and Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology, Evens &
Handelman (edit.), New York: Berghahn Books, 2008.

Cocs, Paul, Max Gluckman and the Critique of Segregation in South


African Anthropology, 1921-1940, in: Journal of Southern African
Studies, Volume 27, Number 4, December 2001, pp. 739-756.

Handelman, Don, The extended case: Interactional foundations and


prospective dimensions, in: The Manchester School, Practice and
Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology, Evens & Handelman (edit.), New
York: Berghahn Books, 2008.

Handelman, Don; Tak, Herman, Critical junctions: anthropology and


history beyond the cultural turn, New York: Berghanh Books, 2005.

Van Teeffelen, T., The Manchester School in Africa and Israel: a


critique, Dialectical Anthropology, Volume 3, Amsterdam: Elsevier
Scientific Publishing Company, 1978, pp. 67-83.

Macmillian, Hugh, Return to the Malungwana drift: Max Gluckman, The


Zulu Nation and the common society, African Affairs, 1995, pp. 39 65.