The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Socioeconomic Growth, Culture Scale, and Household Well-Being: A Test of the Power-Elite Hypothesis

John H. Bodley

Socioeconomic growth is an elite-directed process that concentrates social power in direct proportion to increases in culture scale. Power-elites have used at least three different ways to control social power to their own advantage: 1) domestically by means of kinship; 2) politically by means of rulers; and 3) commercially by means of the market. Each control method produces a different growth trajectory and scale of culture, and a distinctive distribution of elite power and household living standards. Ethnographic data on urban property ownership in 27 municipalities in the Palouse region of eastern Washington suggest that when power is commercially organized and villages become towns and cities, although there is a dramatic increase in the number of prosperous households, even more poor and maintenance level households appear.

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 1, Vol. 22, Spring, 2002 pp 5 – 19

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