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Oakton Community College Management of the Potlatch Political Organization Questions

Oakton Community College Management of the Potlatch Political Organization Questions

Question Description

(please don’t change the format)


Read Introductory lectures 1 and 2 below. After reading, write your answers to Questions 1 and 2.

After posting your answer, respond to your classmate’s posts.

1. Potlatch, according to Mauss (1990), is a tribal festival where goods and services of all kinds are exchanged. Potlatch is a ceremonious redistribution of goods dispensed by the tribal chief himself. The goods he redistributes came from his people’s harvests from land, from the sea, as well as from his own backyard. On the other hand, all the participants in this potlatch including the tribal chief himself, engage in gift-giving or exchange of things of value during this festivity. Some participants have gifts to give, some do not have. But all get gifts. The participants giving gifts must be reciprocated under the customary practice of generalized reciprocity. Meaning, it is like a whole tribal community including the tribal chief are doing what is commonly known as exchange of gifts. For example, like what we do during Christmas. However, the potlatch event is somewhat different in that the gift that is given must be repaid in an indefinite time and with undeclared interest. Again, this mode of gift-exchange among tribal cultures that practice it is termed, generalized reciprocity (See meaning of generalized reciprocity in Chapter 8 Power Point in the Content section of D2L). Potlatch is also an occasion of rivalry between tribes or among tribes. It is a rivalry and competition of who tribe gives the most gift to the tribal chief. In potlatch festival, on the other hand, the tribal constituencies (people) are recipients of the tribal chief’s gifts such as slabs of pork, bags of salt, and sacks of charcoal, blankets, clothing, cigarettes, money, among others. This receiving of gifts from the giver (tribal chief) is also an act of generalized reciprocity. Watch this Video: Potlatch 2 – Bing video

2. What is the meaning of symbolic capital? Symbolic capital can be referred to as the resources available to an individual based on honor, prestige, or recognition, and serves as value that one holds within a culture (Bourdieu, 1990). Habitus is a personified character (of a person) that accumulated symbolic capital (honor, prestige, recognition for education, skills, achievement), social capital (occupational, political, religious positions), cultural and economic capitals (social assets of an individual which promote their social mobility in the society such as way of dressing, education, style of speech, and intellect, and wealth). All of these are symbolic capital of a person that has the capability to influence others to do what he likes them to do explicitly or implicitly. Thus, habitus of a person is a socially acquired dispositions. Bourdieu emphasized that gift exchange in terms of generosity, good faith, giving without self-interest, and without calculation, is not a reality. Instead, he asserted that traditional gift-exchange activities establish a continued relations, continued power, and continued exploitation between the gift givers and the gift receivers whosoever has the habitus.


1. What is the meaning of politics and political organization? What is the form of political organization in the U. S.? Is it band, tribal, chiefdom, or state? Briefly compare the U.S. political organization to chiefdom political organization. Read Chapter 12 Power Point and read Chapter 12 of your textbook (Humanity, Peoples and Bailey, 2018).

2. Discuss the interplay of potlatch, politics and tribal political organization, gift-giving, symbolic capital, and habitus? Do these five features of gift exchange mirror the dynamics of non-indigenous sociopolitical systems and interconnectedness of the leaders of nations? Provide examples and cite your sources.

1990, Bourdieu, Pierre. Symbolic Capital, The Logic of Practice. Translated, Richard Nice. Stanford University Press, CA. Pp. 112-121.

1990, Mauss, Marcel. The Gift, Translated, W.D. Halls. Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE

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