"Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship

Hennings W (2007)
Sociologus 57(2): 157-175.

Journal Article | Published | English

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Alternative Title
"Big Man" oder Businessman? Der Einfluss globaler Entwicklung auf das Häuptlingstum in Samoa
Abstract
Almost half a century ago Marshall Sahlins (1963) published his famous distinction between what he regarded as the ideal political types of leadership in the South Pacific: the "big man" in Melanesia and the "chief" in Polynesia. Samoa which, like Fiji, lies in a field of intersection, structurally tends to the Polynesian type (hierarchy of chiefs, mythological descent from the gods), but functionally it maintains elements of the Melanesian type (segmental. organization of so-called "big men"). There is evidence that this type of leadership (which combines high status with social generosity and top-down distribution of wealth) may, in the course of monetarization and globalization, have been replaced by a new political type of leader, namely the rich businessman type with access to capital and technical as well as financial know-how (which establishes hierarchical chieftainships along with bottom-up distribution of wealth), thus inaugurating the "rich man" at the top of the scale and the "poor man" at its bottom end. Based on repeated fieldwork during the past 25 years and on the example of a case study, this paper maintains that, because of this development, the traditional Samoan leadership system, which combines structural stability with dynamic functional flexibility, which so far has been quite successful and resistant to pressures of acculturation, might collapse and with it the main elements of the Samoan social and cultural capital: reciprocity and social balance.
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Cite this

Hennings W. "Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship. Sociologus. 2007;57(2):157-175.
Hennings, W. (2007). "Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship. Sociologus, 57(2), 157-175.
Hennings, W. (2007). "Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship. Sociologus 57, 157-175.
Hennings, W., 2007. "Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship. Sociologus, 57(2), p 157-175.
W. Hennings, “"Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship”, Sociologus, vol. 57, 2007, pp. 157-175.
Hennings, W.: "Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship. Sociologus. 57, 157-175 (2007).
Hennings, Werner. “"Big man" or businessman? The impact of global development on the nature of Samoan chieftainship”. Sociologus 57.2 (2007): 157-175.
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