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Nature volume 114, pages 101102 (19 July 1924) | Download Citation



DISINTEGRATION IN PRIMITIVE SOCIETIES.—Capt. G. Pitt-Rivers, in his presidential address to the Section of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1923, which has recently been issued in the Report of the Association, offers some interesting suggestions in reference to tests which might be applied in estimating the trend of development in any given community, referring in particular to the changes which are brought about in a primitive society when in contact with white civilisation. For this purpose a comparison of different cultures and their social and moral systems is not adequate; but a standard or norm is to be found in the tendency to integration or disintegration. Taking, for example, the Papuo-Melanesian and Micronesian cultures, the principal factors of social integration are: (1) the chieftainship; (2) magic and sorcery; (3) the system of exchange of gifts, partly economic, partly ceremonial and non-economic. In the case of each of these the effect of contact with white civilisation has been disintegrative. In Papua the institution of a village policeman as the chief district authority has undermined the position of the chief without ensuring that the substitute shall be of a type to take his place in the native's estimation; while by suppressing sorcery and magic the administration Jias destroyed the strongest influence which made for law and order.

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