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Full Text: Anthropos, 61.1966

832 
Edwin A. Cook 
Anthropos 61. 1966 
extent of tolerance toward non-normative behavior, and the extent of com 
mittment to organizational principles of grouping (1954:199). 
Earlier than this, Kroeber referred to variation in social structure as 
“lability or instability” (1948:396). The SSRC formulation of 1954 dis 
tinguished between the dichotomies “open-closed” and “flexible-rigid”, the 
former pertaining to recruitment principles and the latter to the state of the 
social structure itself (1954:976). 
In Adam’s analysis of alternative family forms he portrayed flexibility 
as an organizational potential (1960:41). 
Pehrson derives his stimulous from Eggan who said that the bilateral 
type of social organization without cross-cousin marriage appears to be a 
“flexible adaptation to fluctuating or changing condition” (1955:549), and 
regards flexibility as alternative relational arrangements, e. g.; “When dealing 
with other groups a Lapp can invoke a relationship anywhere on a widely 
ramifying network of kinship and marriage ties” (Pehrson 1957:105). 
Luomala has used “flexibility” in Diegueno sibs solely to portray, “de 
viations from recognized rules of exogamy, descent, and residence” (1963:300). 
The flexible-rigid dichotomy has also been utilized in the analysis of caste 
in a recent volume of the Cambridge Papers in Social Anthropology. Leach, in 
his introduction, identifies “flexibility” with “inconsistency between action and 
idea”, or “deviation from the ideal” (1962:8). This viewpoint is pursued by 
Yalman in his concern with deviation, in the form of inter-caste marriage from 
an ideal of endogamy. Yalman attempts to show that this flexibility is present, 
tolerated, and further, is functionally adaptive (1962:78 passim). 
For Firth, flexibility is more finely limited, intending deviation from a 
unilineal principle of descent (1957:5). In particular, Firth refers to ambilateral 
descent as providing a more “flexible group structure” [ibid.). In a later 
discussion of generation depth as one of several criteria potentially involved 
in the delineation of who is, versus who is not, a member of a descent group, 
Firth utilizes the concept of flexible to mean the absence of a specific rule 
(1963:26). 
In Mead’s analysis of kinship in the Admiralties, “flexible” refers to 
both an individual’s attitude as well as the lack of severity of sanctions 
attendant upon infraction of a stated rule (1934:315 f.). Schwartz interprets 
this “flexibility” in terms of functional utility, involving the resolution of 
conflict in primacy of function. Thus in the Admiralties it is not considered 
to be as necessary that a particular man marry a particular woman, as the 
rules so state, as it is that the parties joined are able to fulfill the reciprocal 
economic obligations involved in marriage. 
A brief exchange was conducted recently in Bijdragen when Pouwer 
published a review article (1960) of van der Leeden’s doctoral thesis. In 
his thesis van der Leeden attempted to establish a theoretical structural 
model for the Western Sarmi of Irian Barat but encountered numerous 
difficulties in trying to point out where the model was revealed in the organi 
zation of the Sarmi themselves. 
This confusion was perpetuated when Pouwer arrived at an inter
	        
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