part does choice play in the building of cultures? To explore this
question I am going to discuss three epistemological issues: (1)
the controversy over actor-centered approaches versus institutional
approaches to social anthropological inquiry; (2) the origin of
social forms; and (3) the design of an inquiry system to discover
these social forms so that the cultural contamination of data is
minimized. These three issues are intertwined, and it will be impossible
to discuss one without consideration of the others. But their resolution
is central to the growth of Derek Freeman’s paradigm on the
anthropology of choice.
To illustrate my arguments, I shall use data from
fieldwork among the Rungus. But as space is limited, I will focus
on the theoretical aspects of my argument rather than on Rungus
ethnography. Much of the relevant ethnography I have discussed elsewhere
(see Appell 1976b, 1978). However, to set the stage for my theoretical
discussion, let me briefly review the salient aspects of Rungus
The Rungus are a people of northern Borneo. They
have a bilateral kinship system with no corporate descent groups.
The major social units are the domestic family, the long-house,
and the village. The modal domestic family structure is that of
husband and wife and their children. The village usually includes
several long-houses. It holds residual rights over its territory,
and the cultivation of land in swiddens is restricted to those domestic
families resident in the village.
THE DEBATE OVER SOCIAL STRUCTURALISM AND OPPORTUNISM
How is choice behavior related to the concept of social structure?
Social structuralism has been faulted for failing to deal adequately
with this dimension of social action (see Appell 1980, 1981). Thus
Firth in 1954 “Here is our great problem as anthropologists-to
translate the acts of individuals into the regularities of social
process” (reprinted in 1964:46). Leach (1957:137) delineated
the controversy as between those “who stress the importance
of the ideal order conceived as a system of jural relationships
and those who see behavior as the outcome of competitive individual
self-interest,” suggesting that Malinowski’s concept
of institution might perhaps provide a bridge between these two
approaches. Then Leach in 1960 (see also 1961) took the position
that “social structures are sometimes best regarded as the
statistical outcome of multiple individual choices rather than a
direct reflection of jural rules” (1960:124).
As the debate has grown, so too has there developed a polarization
of views, which Garbett (1970:215) summarized as follows: “Broadly,
those who adopt the institutional approach lay stress on the enduring
framework of institutions which constrains individual behaviour;
while those who adopt an actor-oriented approach, lay stress on
the flux and change of day-to-day life and give central importance
to the individual who, as manipulator and innovator, creates, in
varying degrees, the social world around him.”
In recent years there has been increasing emphasis in social anthropological
inquiry on the individual as actor as shown in the development and
use of decision models, social exchange theory, network analysis,
situational analysis, and so forth. The social reality that these
approaches are attempting to delineate I would like to refer to
here as the “opportunity structure.”
Not all writers have taken a polarized position on these issues.
Some who have focused on the actor-centered approach, such as Mitchell
(1971) and van Velson (1967), do not deny the importance of the
structural domain. However, the fundamental point made by Firth
in his 1954 article (reprinted in 1964) that social organization
is complementary to social structure has tended to be overlooked.
THE OPPORTUNITY STRUCTURE AND THE CONTRASTRUCTURE
If social structure is conceived of as representing the jural order,
as soon as you have a social structure, so also must you have a
structure of opportunity; and as soon as there exists an opportunity
structure, so must you have a social structure; for the system of
options available to the individual to manipulate and create his
social world are provided by the social structure. Thus, Leach’s
later position (1960, 1961) was essentially in error for without
matter there can be no antimatter; without structure there can be
no decisions; but without decisions there can be also no structure.
This relationship between social structure, i.e., the system of
presumptive and proscriptive constraints, and the opportunity structure
is put, I believe, extremely well by Dorothy Lee:
The clarity of the structure within which I find myself —
that is, the “social constraint” — not only
frees me from the interference of others, but actually makes it
possible for me to act, that is, it furnishes me with the conditions
of freedom. . . . when I am involved in this life, when I live
in dialogue with this structure, I experience it as a condition
of freedom. It makes it possible for me to proceed in what would
otherwise be a confusing jungle; it makes it possible for me to
function [Lee 1963:62–63].
In other words, without structure there is no opportunity; there
is no basis on which to create or change one’s social world.
The further criticism that social structuralism does not deal
with rule-breaking and rule-manipulating may be applicable to the
practice of social structuralism, but this is not inherent in the
theoretical construct itself or at least should not be. For it is
the structure itself that provides the paths, the techniques, the
very conception of doing what you are enjoined from doing. This
domain might be called the contrastructure.
The post-structuralists have argued that the actual structure of
a society arises from the decisions that are made, from the social
transactions and exchanges that are engaged in, and from the constant
negotiations over the social order that occur. In one sense the
post-structuralists are right. A social structure, viewed as the
moral and jural order, always has the capacity for self-transformation,
and in some societies this is a more rapidly occurring phenomenon
than in others. But this is not what the post-structuralists mean.
Their view is that social forms are generated by the sum total of
decisions and transactions. It is here that they are involved in
fundamental error, for this view is only a partial one of the social
Decision-making and transactions by themselves do not generate
all social forms. Certainly they do not generate the social forms
of the social structure, although the occupants of these forms may
indeed enter these roles by choice. Instead individual choice and
transactions are relevant only to the opportunity structure. For
to bring new social forms from the opportunity structure into the
realm of the social structure requires a second level order of event,
a reflexive event by the members of the society scanning their own
opportunity structure and deciding that social structural change
is in order. These new forms are then encoded into the social structure
by a legitimizing act or relegated to the contrastructure as deviance
by a representative body of members. Let me give an example.
The Rungus village territory is stated to include all the area in
which the village members customarily cut their Swiddens. This area
is ritually closed off for a short period every decade or so when
a ceremony is held to increase the fertility of the village (see
Appell 1976b). Originally these village boundaries were not closely
defined but were indicated only in a general way. However, a more
precise definition of them became necessary as pressure on the village’s
Thus, some time late in the nineteenth century in the village
where our field station was located, the headman discovered that
members of a neighboring village had crossed over the watershed
dividing his village from theirs and had cut their swiddens in an
area that his village claimed. The headman and some of his followers
set fire to the swiddens after the undergrowth had been cut but
before the large trees had been felled, thus effectively preventing
the intruders from using their swiddens. No challenge to this act
was made, largely it is stated, because it was impossible to identify
who had started the fires, and the intruders withdrew.
During the period of office of the succeeding headman, some members
from a neighboring village built a long-house within the village
territory without his permission as headman. After several years
of argument over this intrusion, the headman told the intruders
that they should either join onto his long-house or leave. The intruders
finally did leave, and the headmen of the two villages involved
reaffirmed that the boundary between their villages ran along the
crest of hills dividing the watersheds of the two villages. They
concluded that swiddens could not be further cut in each other’s
territory without the permission of the relevant village headman,
thus explicitly affirming the evolving jural definition of the village
that had been indicated by the acts of the headmen in dealing with
those who were testing the boundaries.
The next headman found that the territory of his village had been
intruded upon by members of still another village, and he got together
with their headman and formalized a boundary between these two villages
along the divide of hills. He publicly stated that any subsequent
violation of the boundary would force him to sue for a gong as a
fine. This was a new sanction, arising under the pressure of the
emerging situation and represented a further refinement in the village’s
Thus, the multiple decisions of individual Rungus domestic families
in response to population pressure upon the land to exploit the
opportunity provided by ambiguous territorial and jural boundaries
began to produce a change in social behavior. The change in the
opportunity system was quickly perceived as a threat to the potential
interests of others, and action was taken to protect these interests.
As these actions were evaluated as legitimate and thus brought into
the jural system as precedents to deal with other disputes of the
same nature, a more evolved definition of the jural personality
of the Rungus village began to emerge.
In sum, changes in the opportunity system as a result of multiple
decisions and transactions of individuals in competitive self-interest
do occur and produce different social modes and at time social forms.
But these are not transformed into a change in the social structure
until they have been evaluated, given legitimacy, and backed up
by appropriate sanctions. Similarly under like pressures of competitive
self-interest, rules are brought into the negotiating arena, and
as a result change may occur in these. But social systems are not
continually in the process of change in all domains. Not all the
rules of the social structure are simultaneously in the negotiating
arena, and for those that are, it is important to distinguish whether
it is the rule itself or its application that is being negotiated.
whatever, the empirical question is always which of the rules are
perceived as being negotiable and which are not and under which
Thus, for the ethnographer, in order to elucidate the nature of
the interrelationship between the opportunity structure and the
social structure, the problem is to collect data on the processes
by which changes in quantity are recognized and transformed into
qualitative changes, processes by which emergent social modes in
the opportunity system are legitimized and transformed into new
social forms in the social structure. Of equal importance is the
process which leads to the deregulation of social forms, removing
social forms from the purview of the social structure to the opportunity
THE DESIGN OF AN INQUIRY SYSTEM FOR SOCIAL FORMS
However, before the theory of emergent structuralism can develop,
clear procedures must be devised to distinguish the boundary of
the social structure of a society from its opportunity structure.
Is a discovered social form in the domain of the social structure
or in the opportunity structure? Unfortunately social anthropology
has not yet designed a system of inquiry for social forms in the
domain of social structure that will clearly distinguish these forms
from those in the opportunity structure. This is best illustrated
by the problem of corporate descent groups. The analyst using the
present conceptual tools may claim that a social form of the opportunity
structure is instead a form in the social structure (see Appell
1973, 1983a, 1983b). This stems from what I have termed the cultural
contamination of data by the observer’s ideological and methodological
position (see Appell, 1980, 1981).
While anthropology has always been concerned with the potentiality
of cultural contamination of judgments and conclusions, little effort
has been systematically devoted to resolving this problem with the
exception of the work of the cognitive structuralists (see Appell
1973). Instead the solution to the problem has been largely relegated
to the personal training of the observer. Anthropology thus had
failed to deal with the problem that models and concepts derived
from inquiry in one sociocultural system may carry cultural contamination
from that system and cannot be productively used for the study of
other systems (see Appell 1976a). Barnes (1962) pointed this out
with regard to African models in the highlands of New Guinea. But
little attention has been directed specifically to the epistemological
question of how to design an inquiry system that would eliminate
the problem of cultural contamination. This problem is compounded
by the failure of anthropology to develop explicit observational
procedures whereby investigators can move with some common basis
from theoretical constructs to observables and back again.
Thus the goal here is to design an inquiry system for social forms
that includes a methodology that eliminates the cultural contamination
of data, that explicitly includes observational procedures for the
theoretical constructs, and that is applicable to sociocultural
domains that are not trivial.
In designing such an inquiry system, it would be useful to analyze
those inquiry systems already in use that have been particularly
MODELS FOR AN INQUIRY SYSTEM
Structural linguistics has frequently been used as a model for the
investigation of other anthropological domains. However, the claims
for this model have been, in my opinion, overly enthusiastic (see
Appell 1973, 1980, 1981). Certainly action systems are not equivalent
to language. Those who claim so much for the linguistic model have
confused the content of that system of inquiry with its underlying
theoretical assumptions and methodological procedures. In fact,
seldom is its theory and methodology adequately analyzed.
The goals of a phonemic analysis is to isolate the functioning
distinctions found in a specific language. The phonetic grid delineates
the range of potential speech sounds that can be found in human
societies. The analyst, using this grid, begins with a phonetic
transcription and moves to a phonemic rendering of the language
by certain prescribed procedures.
Underlying this is the assumption of an abstract analytical system
that is composed of formal entities, that is without cultural content
and that includes the necessary relations between these entities.
That is, the linguist assumes that all language “have,”
or can be described with, the concept of phonemes and that these
have a characteristic interrelationship.
Let me now extrapolate this to apply to other sociocultural domains.
For any particular sociocultural domain of interest, etic grids
need to be constructed. These grids should incorporate the range
of possible distinctions to be found in all human societies, and
as such they are essentially an inventory of ethnographic data.
However, etic grids differ from other cultural inventories. They
are constructed from system-specific discriminations found in the
range of world cultures and should exclude material derived from
the use of tools of analysis that carry any cultural contamination,
which would distort the shape of these discriminations.
Before we describe how this is accomplished, it is important to
note that the grid items may be of two types: universal items or
particular items. A universal item appears in all cultures; a particular
item pertains to one or more cultural systems and is not a discrimination
to be found in the full range of societies. Thus, while all the
items in an etic grid are not necessarily universal, the grid itself
is applicable to all societies as part of the inquiry system for
the identification of system-specific discriminations.
The etic grid must be distinguished from what I have called an
abstract analytical system. Such a system, like the theory of phonemic
systems, is composed of abstract analytical entities, or formal
entities, that are found universally in all sociocultural systems
along with a characteristic structure of interrelationships. Such
entities and their relationships are devoid of any substantive content.
They carry no cultural burden from any sociocultural system beyond
that of why the question was posed in the first place. They form
in a sense a theory of how a sociocultural domain is structured.
While they carry no cultural content, they should include the observational
procedures whereby the content of any particular sociocultural system
can be discovered and described. Let us use this procedure for the
analysis of property systems.
AN INQUIRY SYSTEM FOR DELINEATING SOCIAL FORMS WITH RESPECT
TO PROPERTY RELATIONS
As I have argued, a social form can be the product of the analyst’s
techniques. Such spurious social forms are thus not reflective of
the society’s cultural contours, and therefore they are not
functioning entities of the specific society. Functioning entities
are distinctive features of a society, and I have termed any such
functioning entity as a “social isolate.” Social isolates
may be persons, networks, corporate social groupings, aggregates,
collectivities, and so forth (see Appell 1983b, 1984), and may occur
in the social structure, the opportunity structure, and the contrastructure.
The social isolate forms the fundamental social unit of our analysis.
It is closely equivalent to the phoneme in a metatheory of linguistics,
but we still have to cast it into the framework of an abstract analytical
system. For the domain of ownership, this is accomplished by the
definition of what constitutes a property relationship.
Property relationships consist of (1) a scarce good or service;
and (2) the constellation of jural interests, along with their supporting
sanctions, with respect to this scarce good that are held by (3)
a social isolate against other social isolates within a social system.
Terminology for the Jural Realm
The next step is to develop an etic grid of the various types
of social isolates that may occur in the jural realm of a society.
There are terminological difficulties in doing this, as a social
grouping may have a well-recognized form in the opportunity structure
but still not be recognized in the social structure, in the jural
realm, as a functioning entity. In other instances, a social grouping
in the opportunity structure may be in the process of obtaining
greater recognition in the jural realm, yet still not reach the
level of a functioning jural entity. I have thus developed the following
terminology to indicate levels of substantiation of social isolates
in the jural realm (see also Appell 1983b, 1984).
Jural Isolate: A functoning entity in the jural system I refer
to as a jural isolate. To be a functioning entity it must have the
capacity to enter into jural relations. It is a right and duty bearing
social entity. It is the fundamental unit of a jural system.
Jural Aggregate: A social grouping in which interests are held
in severalty by the individual members. The social grouping has
no jural existence above and beyond its individual members; it cannot
enter into jural relations.
Jural Collectivity: A social grouping in which interests are held
in severalty by the individual members but whose social existence
is recognized by the jural system in which it is lodged. The jural
system thus allows a member of the social grouping to sue on behalf
of the other members while still denying the grouping a separate
jural status, a distinct jural personality.
Assumptions and Limitations of the Inquiry System
In this design I have made the assumption that all societies have
social isolates, all societies have scarce goods, and all societies
have, as a result a property system. All societies also have the
problem of assigning rights over property created by the efforts
of a group either to the persons of that group in severalty or to
the group as an entity.
This form of inquiry system, however, is not restricted to the
jural realm. As I have shown elsewhere (see Appell 1976b), critical
aspects of the religious system can also be analyzed and described
in these terms, and their interaction with the jural realm raises
interesting questions. For example, in any particular social system
does ritual or jural substantiation for a social isolate come first
or are these domains interactive so that change in one is mirrored
in the other (Appell 1976b)?
However, let us look more closely at this inquiry system for a
moment Please note that this is a very primitive system. ft has
no temporal sequences, and therefore d is difficult to generate
causal nets. It is not interactive with its environment with scanning
functions and feedback loops. In other words, it is not an adaptive
system, but it is embedded in such an adaptive system. That is the
theory of a social system that I have propounded here, and of which
it is a part, consisting of a social structure, a contrastructure,
and an opportunity structure, does have scanning mechanisms and
primitive feedback loops.
But this particular inquiry system for property relations, which
is a universal system to generate uncontaminated ethnographic description,
is not totally inert. Predictions can be made in situations of social
change as to the impact that change will have on a particular property
system. For example, the new social entities that are being created
under conditions of social change along with their potential rights
and duties, and the new scarce good and services that are coming
into being, can be inserted into the model of the property system;
and those entities, relationships, and scarce goods that are being
replaced or truncated can be removed. This then provides a model
of what the new property system will eventually look like.
Observational Procedures for Social Isolates in the Jural Realm:
The Rungus Tree-focused Isolate as an Example
The key diagnostic trait as to whether a social isolate is a jural
isolate is whether or not it can enter into jural relations. In
societies in which legal personhood is not legislated, this becomes
difficult to ascertain and other tests are required, particularly
to distinguish a jural isolate from its near relative, a jural collectivity.
These observational procedures center around the creation, management,
and disposition of rights over property. I will try to illustrate
these procedures by analyzing the Rungus tree-focused isolate. The
term “tree-focused isolate” is chosen to avoid prejudging
the nature of ownership by an inappropriate linguistic category.
The Rungus plant a variety of fruit trees. The planter of these
may divide his trees before his death among his offspring to avoid
disputes over rights. However, trees may be devolved on all heirs,
both male and female, without division. The problem for the analyst
then is to determine whether rights over these trees lie with the
heirs in severalty or with the cognatic descent isolate that consists
of all the descendants of the original planter.
Certain types of fruit trees require care to see that they grow
well and to ensure that the fruit is reserved for the owners. Care
includes. clearing the undergrowth around the tree and sometimes
building a rough fence around the trunks to indicate that such trees
are not wild but have had a claim established over them.
There are two kinds of rights associated with these trees. First
there is the right to cultivate, and this entails the right to the
prior enjoyment of the fruit. Then there is the secondary right
to enjoy any surplus fruit, and this is held by the noncultivating
The person who holds the rights to cultivate is usually the person
who resides closest to the trees. when he has enjoyed the early
ripening fruit to his family’s satisfaction, he then calls
his coright-holders to come and also pick fruit. The more fruit
available, the more distant the kin are that will be notified, both
in terms of genealogical and geographical space.
In the analysis of other societies this type of social isolate
has been frequently referred to as a corporate descent group (also
see Appell 1983b, 1984). I argue that it is not. I will now apply
certain tests to determine what type of social form this tree-focused
social isolate is; that is, whether this social isolate is a jural
aggregate, a jural collectivity, or a jural isolate.
1. Creation and Activation of the Right. The right to cultivate
a tree planted by an ancestor must be activated by the interested
party. This is done informally without necessarily notifying other
right-holders by the method of the person living closest to the
trees caring for them. Thus, the activation of the right is not
done by or through a representative for the social isolate.
2. Approval for Exercise of Right. This test is to determine whether
the right resides with the individual member, with a local social
grouping, or with a larger descent grouping. With regard to fruit
trees, no approval for the exercise of the cultivation right need
be secured from anyone. However, if a coright-holder is resident
nearby and believes he has not had a fair share of the cultivation
right, he will ask for a turn at caring for the trees from the person
currently caring for them.
3. Group Representation in the Adjudication of Disputes. The cultivator
is the person who takes jural action on behalf of the other members
of the tree-focused isolate in disputes between members and nonmembers.
tue shall explain shortly how this occurs. There is no one, however,
that represents the group in internal disputes or arbitrates these.
Instead, internal disputes must be resolved through the usual village
processes of dispute resolution.
4. Disposition of Rights on Leaving Group. If rights over property
are held by a social grouping as a jural isolate, one might expect
that an individual on withdrawing from membership will receive a
share of the property or will be compensated for the loss of his
right to use the group’s property. First, it is impossible
to withdraw de jure from the tree-focused isolate, as these are
rights defined by inheritance. Right-holders are lost de facto to
the social entity when they move away to other villages and are
unable to activate their rights, but no compensation is paid. In
time their children may forget their rights as do the resident coright-holders.
5. Sale of Rights. If a right can be sold, there is no question
as to the social locus of the right, since the owner will receive
the proceeds. However, sale of tree rights occurs very infrequently,
and when it does occur, it must be of all the rights and all the
trees as a physical unit. An individual right-holder effectively
cannot sell his rights as no one would want to purchase rights the
exercise of which is based ultimately on a kinship morality, and
therefore can involve potential exclusion. However, when a grove
of fruit trees is sold, the method of sale and distribution of the
proceeds follows the same procedure as in involuntary conversion.
6. Involuntary Conversion and Destruction. when a piece of property
is involuntarily converted or destroyed through an action by a third
party, the locus of the rights can be established by ascertaining
whether a reprepresentative sues for the group or whether each individual
must take his own action. The distribution of compensation can also
be an important diagnostic feature. When fruit trees are destroyed,
the cultivator has the responsibility of taking jural action for
restitution. He contacts the person who perpetrated the delict and
arranges for a date to argue the case. The cultivator then has the
duty to notify all other right-holders of this date. His coright-holders
then decide whether to come and join in the jural action or not.
If they do not appear, they receive no part of the settlement. The
cultivator receives half of the settlement and the remainder is
divided among those parallel right-holders who are present.
7. Delicts Committed Against the Property. Again this test helps
us identify the locus of ownership. As in Test 6, it is the cultivator
who must take action but those who have an interest must also be
present if there is a restitution involved to receive a share of
8. Does the Social Isolate Have Explicit Social Boundaries? The
nature of recruitment and therefore entitlement to rights and the
temporal dura-ton of the social isolate give some clue as to the
degree of entification of the isolate. For the Rungus tree-focused
isolate, theoretically there are no temporal boundaries; it exists
as long as the trees bear fruit which with some varieties can last
for a number of generations. Membership in the isolate is clear
and precise. It includes all the descendants of the original planter.
Yet in actuality, right-holders forget their rights if they move
away, or if there are a large number of coholders to a small stand
of trees while the holder in question has access to more productive
rights. Tree-focused isolates are also not discreet An individual
may belong to as many isolates as he has had ancestors who planted
trees. This in fact indicates the general attitude towards these
rights in Rungus society. They are not considered to be a very important
scarce good, and frequently right-holders will not bother to join
in jural action.
9. Does the Social Isolate Have a Jurally Recognized Representative
and Can He Enforce Sanctions within the Group? The answer is no.
While the cultivator is recognized in the jural system as the person
who may initiate action on behalf of other right-holders, he has
no power to enforce any types of behavior on the members of the
social isolate that is different from those of nonmembers. If a
coright-holder violates the cultivator’s right to the first
fruit, the cultivator has no formal sanctions available to employ
other than bringing the case to the village moot This he would refrain
from doing because of the kin relationship. However, there are informal
sanctions such as not meeting his obligations in other domains to
10. What is the Nature of Interaction and Coactivity in the Social
Isolate? The position of cultivator has no formal title, as does
the headman of the village, and there is a certain amount of turnover
in the occupancy of this position, as when a right-holder moves
to another hamlet or village or when his right to cultivate is challenged
by another. Most importantly, the nature of interaction within the
isolate is very irregular and seldom, if ever, includes all right-holders
at any particular point. Only if there is an unusually large harvest
are all right-holders in other villages informed; and even then
there may well be right-holders in villages too far distant to get
the information on the harvest to them in time.
Where then do the rights over fruit trees lie? I think we can
conclude that they reside with the individual members of the descent
isolate and not with the isolate as a jural entity. The evidence
for this lies in the fact that the personnel of the isolate involved
in cultivating and enjoying a specific grove of trees fluctuates;
secondary right-holders do not all enjoy the harvest equally; the
activation of rights to enjoy fruit is primarily a decision of the
individual involved, for even if he has been informed of the fruit
harvest he may decide not to go and participate; and because not
each right-holder shares in any settlement on the destruction of
trees unless he appears on his own to receive a share of the claim.
There is no one who represents his interests at the jural action
and ensures that he gets his proportionate share, if he does not
However, neither is the descent isolate a jural aggregate, for
the Rungus jural system does permit one person to take action on
behalf of the other members that are present. Each person does not
have to initiate separate proceedings for himself. In addition,
in the jural system of the Rungus, the cultivator is given the power
to fence off the trees to prevent others using the fruit, and this
is done partially on behalf of the other parallel right-holders.
Therefore, I believe one must conclude that the descent isolate
is in fact a jural collectivity.
Finally, what type of social entity is the tree-focused descent
The problem of classification is a difficult one, for, at first
glance, there does appear to be a hierarchical ordering of interaction
within the isolate. The cultivator calls his coright-holders to
participate in the harvest of the fruit or notifies them of the
time and place he plans to take jural action for restitution after
a tree or stand of trees has been destroyed. Since this descent
isolate never meets in face-to-face interaction, are we thus dealing
with a secondary social grouping? I judge not for the following
reasons. First of all the social boundaries of the isolate are very
ill-defined in terms of actual coactivity. Secondly, the cultivator
has no sanctions lodged in his position as cultivator to control
deviant behavior within the social isolate separate from those available
to all in the larger jural system. Therefore, I would prefer to
class this type of tree-focused social isolate as a social collectivity
(see Appell 1967). It is also a jural collectivity since it has
a jurally recognized representative to sue on behalf of the other
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the amorphic quality
of this tree-focused descent isolate. There is no special term in
the Rungus language to identify this type of social isolate. Nor
are these social isolates named. Consequently, I would conclude,
as I have previously (Appell 1968; Appell and Harrison 1969), that
there exists no descent grouping in Rungus society. For those who
disagree with my analysis of the social nature of the tree-focused
descent isolate and believe it to form a secondary grouping, they
could then argue that the Rungus do have cognatic descent groups
at some level of substantiation.
This raises questions as to the relation of observational procedures
to the evidential chain and the social locus of social forms; that
is, whether social forms exist or are only the product of our analysis.
OBSERVATIONAL PROCEDURES AND THE EVIDENTIAL CHAIN
Quine argues that science is a linguistic structure that is keyed
to observation at some point (1975:72). It consists of an evidential
chain that links theoretical constructs with observation. But in
my argument here I have not provided the observational procedures
for each link in that evidential chain. I have not dealt with procedures
for identifying primitive observational sentences such as “this
is a fruit tree” or “A is the brother of B.”
I have also not discussed the construction and conversion of such
sentences into elementary standing reports of observation. These
form the basic data of science (see Quine 1975:75). I refer to sentences
such as “The descendants of Wind, A, B, C, but not descendants
X and Y, collected fruit from the fruit trees a, b, c, located in
Bee Tree Valley on Monday, October 10, between sun up and noon.”
Standing reports involve temporal, spatial, and social coordinates.
In my analysis, standing reports of observation also include those
reports by informants as to the ownership of trees, the use of trees,
and jural cases that formed precedents in disputes over fruit trees
(see Appell 1969 for a discussion of methods for verifying the community
truth value of such statements).
I have also not dealt with the conversion of these standing reports
into the next level of generality in the evidential chain. I refer
to this level as generalized standing sentences, or descriptive
generalizations. This requires testing the data to reach statements
such as “disputes over fruit trees of x variety never have
arisen while there are many cases involving disputes over variety
z.” Or, “in every dispute case collected involving the
payment for the destruction of a grove of fruit trees, the cultivator
received one half of the payment.”
Instead I have concentrated on the procedures by which generalized
standing sentences can be linked to the theoretical constructs of
jural isolate, jural aggregate, and jural collectivity. However,
the building of the evidential chain from primitive observational
sentences to generalized standing sentences, which are then amenable
to analysis, is not done in a theoretical vacuum. The observational
procedures which inform the theoretical constructs provide the very
conjecture and queries that are put to the evidential chain at each
Choice behavior is the fundamental element of the opportunity structure.
It has consequence only for the social structure when choices result
in actions that violate the rules of the social structure or when
choices result in the emergence of new social forms that are then
transformed into the social structure. For example, if certain cultivators
of Rungus fruit trees began to conclude that it is only fair to
divide among all coright-holders any compensation received for the
destruction of a fruit tree irrespective of whether the coright-holder
was present at the hearing or not; and, if other members of the
society in scanning the activation of the opportunity structure
decided that this behavior was more appropriate and followed it
themselves, then this new form of social action in the opportunity
structure would be on the edge of creating a new social form in
the social structure. The next step in this process would be for
a coright-holder who had not received payment to sue the cultivator
and win the suit on the basis of the precedents established in the
opportunity structure. Then this action would have become legitimized
and transformed into the social structure, changing the jural nature
of the tree-focused social isolate. For by adding this new type
of interest to this social form, it transforms it and moves it further
along the continuum toward a newly-emerging social form: a corporate
descent group that holds rights as a whole over fruit trees.
1. My approach to epistemology has its roots in Popper’s “Epistemology
without a Knowing Subject” He argues that from the point of
view of objective knowledge, epistemology becomes the “theory
of the growth of knowledge . . . the theory of problem-solving,
or, in other words, of the construction, critical discussion, evaluation,
and critical testing, of competing conjectural theories” (1972:142).
This is what I hope to do here with certain anthropological theories.
2. An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Department
of Anthropology, McGill University. I would like to thank the Department
for the opportunity to test the ideas expressed in this paper and
the audience for useful comments which have been incorporated into
the paper. I would also like to thank Dr. Anton Ploeg for a critical
reading of an earlier version of this paper. It is important to
note that the terminology presented in the first part of the paper
and the argument differs from that presented in Appell (1974) with,
I hope, an improvement. Fieldwork among the Rungus of northern Borneo
was carried out under the auspices of the Department of Anthropology
and Sociology, Institute of Advanced Studies, the Australian National
University, under the direction of Derek Freeman. I would like to
thank the university for the support of this project and Dr. Freeman
for his energetic direction and help. The analysis of our Rungus
data and the preparation of this paper for publication was facilitated
by National Science Foundation Grant BNS-79-15343, an ACLS-SSRC
grant, and by National Science Foundation Grant GS-923.
3. Unfortunately Turner (1969) has already appropriated the term
“antistructure,” which would probably be more appropriate
here. I would tend to view antistructure as only another mode of
structural action with communitas as the dominant theme. It is not
really anti since it does not involve the constant testing of structure
and its sanctions by actors trying to expand the limits of the opportunity
system. A more appropriate term for the sphere of social action
involving communitas should be “eustructure.”
4. I have not discussed here in any detail the processes by which
past jural actions are brought into the inventory of case materials
and used as precedents for the resolution of disputes. This in itself
is an interesting process in a society that lacks written records
of decisions of the village moot, which thus permits change to occur
through memory failure or through the manipulation of faulty memories.
Roberts describes this process nicely among the Zuni: “It
is interesting to note that the normal gossip of any group is actually
a slow scanning of the total informational resource of the group.
In Zuni, for example, it is striking how this process of informal
gossip has contributed to the storage of the salient judicial cases
of the last thirty or forty years in the heads of fully participation
adults in the culture and how the same process contributes to the
mobilization or retrieval of these salient cases when they become
pertinent as precedents to on-going court trials or to discussion
of these trials . . .” (1964:441).
5. See Appell (1973) for a discussion of this issue.
6. See Appell (1983b) for a further discussion of this.
7. I am of course heavily dependent on the pioneering work of
Hallowell (1943) for the design of an inquiry system for the property
8. I am indebted to Quine (1975) for the distinction between observation
sentences and standing sentences, and his argument forms the basis
of much of the discussion in this section.
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