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Graham Allan

Subject Anthropology
Sociology of Family and Friendships » Sociology of Family

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The study of kinship tends to be associated more closely with social anthropology than with sociology. In large part, this is a consequence of anthropologists frequently studying societies in which social and economic organization was premised to a great extent on the obligations and responsibilities that kin had towards one another. Consequently, understanding the kinship system operating in such a society provided the anthropologist with a means of revealing the society's dominant structural characteristics. In contrast, sociologists focused more on industrial societies in which family and kinship solidarities, while of consequence, were far less central to the overall organization of social and economic life. Indeed, often, family relationships were understood to be of declining significance within western societies. Like the collapse of community, the decline of kinship solidarities was understood as a necessary consequence of the economic specialization and bureaucratic rationalization associated with modernity and industrial development. In focusing on kinship systems anthropologists are concerned with specifying the principles which underlie the dominant forms of kinship behavior, commitments, and solidarities occurring within the society they are studying. They examine such issues as who is recognized as kin; what the boundaries of kinship are; what the social and economic ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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