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Dynasty formation in the communal society of the Hutterites Clark, Peter Gordon


The primary aim of this study is to analyze the relationship between collective ownership of the means of production and inequality of political opportunity within the Hutterite population. Two competing theoretical models are presented and compared with respect to their power to predict social and political mobility patterns within Hutterite colonies. The first model (the Marxian thesis) claims that inequality of political, opportunity is a function of inequalities in the control over and access to the means of production. This theory asserts that a society in which the means of production is held in common (a communist society) will also be a society in which the political position held by an individual will be determined independently of family origin. The second model .(the Machiavellian thesis) claims that economic factors are not solely responsible for inequalities in'political opportunity. Rather xn a society which is structured such that individuals enjoy differing degrees of decision-making power, the offspring of the most powerful will have greater political opportunities than the offspring of the less powerful. Since Hutterian society holds the means of production in common and is characterized by a well defined political hierarchy, it serves as an excellent case study for the testing of these two competing theories. Both theories failed to receive empirical support in a number of critical areas. Some Hutterite colonies displayed complete equality of political opportunity, whereas others were characterized by the formation of political dynasties which had monopolized all effective political power for generations. This occurred despite the fact all Hutterite colonies are virtually identical with respect to ownership patterns and the structure of their political hierarchies. It was discovered that the political position of the father only becomes a significant factor in the determination of the political position of the son if there is a shortage of positions in the occupational and political structure. Colonies in which economic, demographic, and organizational factors have produced an excess of positions tend to be equalitarian, whereas colonies in which a scarcity of positions have been produced tend to be dynastic. This finding suggests that a communistic society such as the Hutterites can only achieve equality of opportunity if it is able to satisfy the career aspirations of its members. If it fails to do this, a more particularistic grouping such as the family will emerge as a political force to protect the life chances of its own members.

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