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See Sir Iain Moncreiffe, The Highland Clans (1967); R. Fox, Kinship and Marriage (1984); E. Gellner, The Concept of Kinship (1987).
clan(ANTHROPOLOGY) a kinship term which describes a body of people claiming common UNILINEAL DESCENT. This may be MATRILINEAL or PATRILINEAL, but not both. Often clans are distinguished from others by reference to an ancestor who may be non-human or mythical (see TOTEMISM). Compare SIB.
(1) Among the Celtic peoples, chiefly the Irish, Scotch, and Welsh, the name of a family or more rarely of a tribe. Later, when the extended family system was breaking down, the clan was a group of blood relatives who were descendants of one ancient family and who bore the name of the supposed founder of the family. To this name the Scotch and Irish add the prefix Mac (son); in the case of the Irish, the prefix O’ (grandson) is also used. Clans maintained common ownership of the land, which was given out to families for cultivation. They also observed such older customs as blood revenge, collective responsibility, and election of elders. As feudalism developed, the clans adapted to it. When the English were colonizing Ireland, they carried out massive expropriations of the clans’ landholdings. The clan system was officially abolished in 1605, although clan organizations were preserved in individual regions of Scotland and Wales into the 19th century.
(2) In contemporary ethnographic literature (chiefly non-Soviet), a term used in the same sense as the Russian term rod.
REFERENCESMarx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, pp. 740–42.
Marx, K. “Vybory.—Finansovye oslozhneniia.—Gertsoginia Saterlend i rabstvo.” Ibid., vol. 8.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Ibid., vol. 21, pp. 130–33.
Saprykin, Iu. M. Angliiskaia kolonizatsiia Irlandii v XVI-nach. XVII v. Moscow, 1958.
IU. M. SAPRYKIN
an exogamous group of blood relatives who trace their descent either matrilineally or patrilineally, who consider themselves descended from a common ancestor (real or mythical), and who bear a common family name.
The clan developed from the primitive human herd probably on the boundary of the Lower and Upper Paleolithic periods. Clans could not exist in isolation because of the law of exogamy, and from the very beginning they joined into tribes. Initially, a tribe consisted of two clans bound together by marital ties. Later, these clans subdivided and consequently more clans, united into phratries, were included in the tribe.
F. Engels gave the first scientific materialist explanation of the early history of mankind based on the abundant factual material collected in the fields of history, ethnography, and archaeology, and particularly on the works of L. H. Morgan. Specifically, Engels revealed the essence of the clan structure, including such characteristic features as primitive collectivism and the absence of private property, classes, and the monogamous family.
There are many differences in viewpoint regarding the history of clan development both between scholars with varying ideological positions and between Marxist researchers, inasmuch as ethnographers can directly study only relatively late forms of clan organization. Differences between Marxist scholars, however, are over particular rather than general questions. According to a viewpoint popular in Soviet science, a society based on the clan system passes consecutively through two stages of development—an era of matrilineal clans, or matriclans, and an era of patrilineal clans, or patricians.
In a matrilineal clan, productive relations usually coincided with the relations between blood relatives. These relations were characterized by collective labor and consumption, by common clan ownership of the basic means of production, and by equality in communal affairs. Thus, the clan was the socioeconomic unit of primitive society.
The transition to the second stage, or the era of the patrilineal clan, took place with the development of productive forces. For many peoples this transition was associated with the spread of pastoral cattle raising, plow agriculture, and metallurgy. The economic unit of society became the large patriarchal family. The clan retained primarily a control over marriage rights and its religious and ritualistic functions. Gradually, clan relationships disintegrated and were replaced by territorial relationships. Neighborly communes were formed by patriarchal families of various clans living side by side.
The small family group developed as the economic unit of society, although initially it was part of territorial associations called rural communes. Clan relationships were gradually completely replaced by class relationships as a result of the societal changes that had occurred. However, certain clan structures were often preserved even after the development of a class society, particularly among nomadic and mountain peoples; today, this phenomenon can be observed, for example, among the Tuaregs of the Sahara, the Turkomans, and the Kurds. As a rule, at this stage of development there was a hierarchy of clans, and some clans ruled over others. The clan structure was maintained for a particularly long time among the aristocratic elite of nomadic peoples.
According to another viewpoint accepted in Soviet literature, even in its early stage of development the clan was not an economic unit; its chief function was the control of marriage rights. Moreover, the clan developed into either a matrilineal or patrilineal form, depending on concrete circumstances and not on its stage of development. The economic unit of society and the most important social organism was the commune, which, because of the law of exogamy, included representatives of different clans. In matrilocal residence the men lived with the clan commune of the wife, and in patrilocal residence the women lived with the clan commune of the husband. The core of such a commune consisted of representatives of a single clan. According to this viewpoint, the clan and the commune were societal units that were different but were able to coexist. The relationship between the clan and the commune continues to be studied.
A clan is also a series of generations descended from a single real ancestor, such as the Pushkin clan.
REFERENCESMarx, K. “Konspekt knigi L. G. Morgana ‘Drevnee obshchestvo.’” In Arkhiv Marksa i Engel’sa, vol. 9. [Moscow] 1941.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti in gosudarstva.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Engels, F. “K istorii pervobytnoi sem’i (Bakhofen, Mak-Lennan, Morgan).” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., vol. 22.
Morgan, L. H. Drevnee obshchestvo, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1935. (Translated from English.)
Averkieva, Iu. P. Razlozhenie rodovoi obshchiny i formirovanie ranneklas-sovykh otnoshenii v obshchestve indeitsev severo-zapadnogo poberezh’ia Severnoi Ameriki. (Tr. In-ta etnografii: Novaia seriia, vol. 70.) Moscow, 1961.
Problemy istorii dokapitalisticheskikh obshchestv, book 1. Moscow, 1968.
Zolotarev, A. M. Rodovoi stroi i pervobytnaia mifologiia. Moscow, 1964.
Pershits, A. I., A. L. Mongait, and V. P. Alekseev. Istoriia pervobytnogo obshchestva. Moscow, 1968.
L. A. FAINBERG