The hard people : a structuralist account of community and identities in an Alpine valley
The thesis is about the assertion of identity and the maintenance of solidarity in Carnia - a mountainous area in the north east of Italy. The topic is analysed in relation to three interlocking themes: the social units which embody identity and organise cooperation; the tension between rivalrous assertion and the desire for harmonious cooperation; and the different social fields - economic activity, ritual, communication, property and prestation, kinship, and relationships with natural forces - in which the tension is acted out. Constraints on the possibilities of social organisation arise from formal characteristics specific to each field. The structuring of these social fields both shapes and reflects people's commitment to key institutions: patrilocal domestic group, corporate village, church, state, nation. The corporate village is shown to have an affinity with free choice of marriage partners (at least within the village), linguistic particularism, and state organisation. Recent changes in economic life and communications have transformed local society - leading to widespread despondency, self-conscious modernity, but also emphasis on tradition, and political regionalism. It is felt that social relationships should ideally be characterised by sympathetic cooperation and legitimate authority, but the fear is that they may collapse into - or be redefined as - conflicts involving the dangerous force of envy. Two contrasting strategies enable people to deal with this ambiguity: either use of one's own strength and vitality to exclude or overcome opposition, or identification with potential enviers and an emphasis on self-sacrifice. The strategies chosen by individual people depend on the context as well as on their sex, age, and wealth. But social solidarity requires an overall solution which assigns a legitimate role to each strategy. Implicit in the substantive analyses is a methodological point: that a structuralist approach can make a major contribution to our understanding of European societies.