Schismogenic System versus the Steady State

I have discussed two types of social system in such schematic outline that it is possible to state clearly a contrast between them. Both types of system, so far as they are capable of maintaining themselves without progressive or irreversible change, achieve the steady state. There are, how-ever, profound differences between them in the manner in which the steady state is regulated.

The Iatmul system, which is here used as a prototype of schismogenic systems, includes a number of regenerative causal circuits or vicious circles. Each such circuit consists of two or more individuals (or groups of individuals) who participate in potentially cumulative interaction. Each human individual is an energy source or "relay," such that the energy used in his responses is not derived from the stimuli but from his own metabolic processes. It therefore follows that such a schismogenic system is—unless controlled—liable to excessive increase of those acts which characterize the schismogeneses. The anthropologist who attempts even a qualitative description of. such a system must therefore identify: (1) the individuals and groups involved in schismogenesis and the routes of communication between them; (2) the categories of acts and contexts characteristic of the schismogeneses; (3) the processes whereby the individuals become psychologically apt to perform these acts and/ or the nature of the contexts which force these acts upon them; and lastly, (4) he must identify the mechanisms or factors which control the schismogeneses. These controlling factors may be of at least three distinct types: (a) degenerative causal loops may be superposed upon the schismogeneses so that when the latter reach a certain intensity some form of restraint is applied as occurs in Occidental systems when a government intervenes to limit economic competition; (b) there may be, in addition to the schismogeneses already considered, other cumulative interactions acting in an opposite sense and so promoting social integration rather than fission; (c) the increase in schismogenesis may be limited by factors which are internally or externally environmental to the parts of the schismogenic circuit. Such factors which have only small restraining effect at low intensities of schismogenesis may increase with increase of intensity. Friction, fatigue, and limitation of energy supply would be examples of such factors.

In contrast with these schismogenic systems, Balinese society is an entirely different type of mechanism, and in de-scribing it the anthropologist must follow entirely different procedures, for which rules cannot as yet be laid down. Since the class of "nonschismogenic" social systems is defined only in negative terms, we cannot assume that members of the class will have common characteristics. In the analysts of the Balinese system, however, the following steps occurred, and it is possible that some at least of these may be applicable in the analysis of other cultures of this class: (1) it was observed that schismogenic sequences are rare in Bali; (2) the exceptional cases in which such sequences occur were investigated; (3) from this investigation it appeared, (a) that in general the contexts which recur in Balinese social life preclude cumulative interaction and ( b) that childhood experience trains the child away from seeking climax in personal interaction; (4) it was shown that certain positive values—related to balance—recur in the culture and are incorporated into the character structure during child-hood, and, further, that these values may be specifically related to the steady state; (5) a more detailed study is now required to arrive at a systematic statement about the self-correcting characteristics of the system.

It is evident that the ethos alone is insufficient to maintain the steady state. From time to time the village or some other entity does step in to correct infractions. The nature of these instances of the working of the corrective mechanism must be studied; but it is clear that this intermittent mechanism is very different from the continually acting restraints which must be present in all schismogenic systems.

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