Social Structures Essay

Social Structures Essay

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In the late 1730s two apprentices tortured and killed many cats as a joke and act of rebellion against their master. This event may seem revolting to a modern audience but it was a joke to the apprentices who were killing these cats (Darton, "Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Sait-Severin, pp75-104). To understand the joke there are many ways of analyzing the historical context within which this event took place. Two anthropological theories used to analyze this event are the social structural theory, according to A.R. Radcliff-Brown, and French structuralism theory, according to Levi-Strauss. Though these two theories help break down a complicated event into easier more manageable pieces, there are significant problems with each way of looking at things.
The social structure theory according to A. R. Radcliff-Brown revolves around the analysis of different structures such as groups, social organizations, institutions their related values, and deviance, which all play a role in defining people. Each of these components fits people into certain roles within the structure that defines who they are, in an empirical way, and shapes their actions and values (Radcliff-Brown, "Social Structures", pp. 165-170). When applied to the Great Cat Massacre this theory breaks down the people into different divisions whose interaction explains the reasons for the massacre and how the people understood it. To start with society was divided into a number of groups, the bourgeois master and his wife, the journeymen, and the apprentices. These groups were determined largely by class, but also by their place in the printing industry. On top of the class structure is the bourgeois master and his wife who make the most money, but don'...


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... subservient to men and are restricted in many ways, yet they are stilled needed as members of society for reproductive and child rearing purposes. This means that they would not be as easily definable by a binary since they really are in the middle of different categories (Gluckman, "Rituals of Rebellion in South East Africa, 201-217).
All theories no matter how brilliant can never fully understand and represent society. People are so much more than their structural categories or symbols; by only looking at those aspects so much of what is going on is lost in thes analysis. Though probably there is no way to go about analyzing this event that will not leave something out. The Great Cat Massacre was an event that is hard to understand from a modern perspective without the help of different theories to break down the event into components that can be understood.

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