Munch, Peter A. and Charles E. Marske. 1981. “Atomism and Social Integration.” Journal of Anthropological Research 37: 158-171

In evolutionist as well as “developmental” anthropological literature, social atomism has been linked with internal social conflict. Applied in particular to “peasant society,” the notion of an “atomistic-type society,” in which interpersonal conflict and antagonism are assumed to be a pre­vailing part of the “normative order,” has been widely accepted. In fact social atomism—under­stood as a social order which recognizes no collective allegiance and lacks instruments of collective action—is more often combined with a normative pattern that reduces the chance of internal conflict, either by separating the interests of its “atoms” or by establishing a network of “selective reciprocity” between individuals. An example of the latter is seen in the community of Tristan da Cunha, where overlapping and interlocking individual allegiances create a type of social cohesion which is here labeled “atomistic social integration.” (journal abstract)

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