Home 603Seminar in the Anthropology of Power


Week 2 Vincent, Focault, Marx

Week 3 Vincent II

Week 4 Kertzer-Anderson

Week 4 Essay 1

Week 5 Kertzer

Week 6 Anderson

Week 7 Scott

Week 8 Vincent III

Week 9 Said

Week 10 Crehan

Week 10 Essay 2

Week 11 Vincent IV

Week 12 Vincent IVb

Week 14 Swartz

Week 14 Mohanty Analytic Summary

Resource Links

 Victoria Kline
Anthropology 583: Politics and Power
Instr: Dr. Ramona Pérez
October 13, 2005

Week 7: James Scott: Weapons of the Weak

Chapter 3: The Landscape of Resistance In Weapons of the Weak by James Scott

Village peasants no longer have control over their daily lives or production. That has given way to state control and modification in the way people run their daily lives. The state needs revenue on which to survive, therefore small peasant holdings that do no more that supply the residents’ subsistence are of no consequence to the state. They have no power. Only those who can retain land become the power holders. They must control enough land to produce (through the control of excess labor) surplus for the state. Maybe this we should keep in mind when we talk about the US. Women with dependent children cannot produce excess for donation to the state machine.

Thought: I keep hearing about passive resistance. That this resistance is in response to normal working conditions and normal production expected by an employer. I would like to posit that normal working conditions continue to inflate, and the expected amount of product demanded by an employer of an employee has increased the more the capitalist system has expanded globally.

What is left are exhausted employees who have had all production squeezed out of them for less and less return on their time and input. Foot dragging may be because of pure exhaustion or just plain annoyance at the escalated requirements of the workforce. More often, people try to rise to the occasion, believe it is their duty to do what is asked, even if the demands get more and more extensive and the reward less and less. They work more, get paid less, then the state demands more of a portion of their pay. 

Everyone wants to profit. That does not mean that everyone will profit. Is there really enough to go around? Does anyone in here want to share his or her resources with everyone equally? Do we not believe that some people are worth more than others? Do not we believe that WE are better or worth more than others?

Is the head a position that can be occupied by the poorest beggar or even a working middle class person without the necessary skills? Where will that leave everyone else? People at the top of an organization take responsibility for other people’s livelihood or add to the state coffers, not just their own.  

Question: Why should they (peasants, or non-productive women and children) be granted any power? Power seems to be synonymous with control of excess (beyond subsistence) dollars, resources, and goods.

Nic de la Fuente thinks that Anderson’s argument that peasant passive resistance is effective is “bullshit” as he says that because without revolutionary resistance, there is no change in the living conditions for the peasants. This is good for a discussion on the merits of passive resistance versus violent resistance.

I would argue that Nic seems to have some revolutionary ideas of his own. He is only thinking about peasant suppression and domination the way he would like to be able to handle something as a physically strong, young, active young man. Violent action would not be an avenue for a father with a wife and children to pursue, as that would put his family in danger.

Question: Does Nic (or anyone else) think that the peasants of the Malaysian village of Sedaka are at the point of open revolution or rebellion? Is it possible that the peasants there have a non-aggressive nature that is biological/hereditary/in the genes? Why does Nic think the peasants should revolt?

Question: Do not all societies end up separating into factions of have and have-nots no matter where they are located? Is it not typical to be self-serving and get someone else to do the physical work? While you do the “management”?

Question: How should the village of Sedaka be organized so as to best support the needs of all people? Would this model work in the US?

Nic definitely has an angle that will begin discourse.

Question: Nic, how will education be the key to bringing impoverished peasants out of their repressed state? Peasant farmers probably feel they should be doing something practical or productive most of the time. Education does not supply this immediately. In fact it might seem like a waste of time to begin with. Are you going to force them to become educated?

Question: Do you think education will lead to active resistance rather than passive? Education can also be used to bring people into unison as a solidifying force, as was done with Japanese education that we read about in Anderson.

Question: How will you feel about them if they do not want education?

George Kline writes an entertaining as well as informative essay. Not that I am biased or anything.

There is general agreement as to the layout and presentation of material in Scott’s book. All essays start with the story of the “two opposing personalities,” Razak, the poorest and most wretched of the village, and Haji “Broom” the elite opportunist that pretty much steals from the poor to give to himself. From George’s description, there are enough similarities of the two opposites that you can relate them to persons you have met. 

Question: Why do you think that Scott chose these two particular personality types for his introduction to Sedaka? Why is the rich guy only rich because he takes land from the poor, and then does not give to the local festivities like he is required?

Sources Cited

de la Fuente, Nic
2005    Weapons of the Weak by James C. Scott. Analytic Summary of Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance by James C. Scott. Class Assignment SDSU: Professor R. Perez, Anthropology 583, Fall 2005.

Kline, George
2005    Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance by James C. Scott: An Analytic Summary. Analytic Summary of Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance by James C. Scott. Class Assignment SDSU: Professor R. Perez, Anthropology 583, Fall 2005.

Scott, James C.
1985    Weapons of the Weak: Everyday forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.


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