Pierre Clastres

Pierre Clastres (1934-1977) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist who in the wake of the events of May '68, helped overturn anthropological orthodoxy in the 1970s. His books include Society Against the State (1974) and Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians (1972). Eduardo Viveiros de Castro is a Brazilian anthropologist and a professor at the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

  • Archeology of Violence, New Edition

    Archeology of Violence, New Edition

    Pierre Clastres

    Clastres's final, posthumous book on the affirmative role of violence in “primitive societies.”

    The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.—from the Archeology of Violence

    Anthropologist and ethnographer Pierre Clastres was a major influence on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, and his writings formed an essential chapter in the discipline of political anthropology. The posthumous publication in French of Archeology of Violence in 1980 gathered together Clastres's final groundbreaking essays and the opening chapters of the book he had begun before his death in 1977 at the age of 43. Elaborating upon the conclusions of such earlier works as Society Against the State, in these essays Clastres critiques his former mentor, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and devastatingly rejects the orthodoxy of Marxist anthropology and other Western interpretive models of “primitive societies.” Discarding the traditional anthropological understanding of war among South American Indians as arising from a scarcity of resources, Clastres instead identifies violence among these peoples as a deliberate means to territorial segmentation and the avoidance of a State formation. In their refusal to separate the political from the social, and in their careful control of their tribal chiefs—who are rendered weak so as to remain dependent on the communities they represent—the “savages” Clastres presents prove to be shrewd political minds who resist in advance any attempt at “globalization.”The essays in this, Clastres's final book, cover subjects ranging from ethnocide and shamanism to “primitive” power and economy, and are as vibrant and engaging as they were thirty years ago. This new edition—which includes an introduction by Eduardo Viverios de Castro—holds even more relevance for readers in today's an era of malaise and globalization.

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  • Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians

    Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians

    Pierre Clastres

    The late French anthropologist Pierre Clastres describes in novelistic detail his encounter with a now vanished Paraguayan tribe.

    Pierre Clastres (1934-1979) was one of the most respected political anthropologists of our time. Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians is an account of his first fieldwork in the early 1960s—an encounter with a small, unique, and now vanished Paraguayan tribe. From "Birth" to "The End," Clastres follows the Guayakis in their everyday lives, determined to record every detail of their history, ritual, myths, and culture in order to answer the many questions prompted by his personal experiences. Now available for the first time in English in a beautiful translation by the novelist Paul Auster, Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians will alter radically not only the Western academic conventions in which other cultures are thought but also the discipline of political anthropology itself.

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  • Archeology of Violence

    Archeology of Violence

    Pierre Clastres

    In a series of groundbreaking essays, Clastres turns around the analysis of power among South American Indians and rehabilitates violence as an affirmative act meant to protect the integrity of their societies.

    Pierre Clastres broke up with his mentor Claude Levi-Strauss to collaborate with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gattari on their Anti-Oedipus. He is the rare breed of political anthropologist—a Nietzschean—and his work presents us with a generalogy of power in a native state. For him, tribal societies are not Rousseauist in essence; to the contrary, they practice systematic violence in order to prevent the rise in their midst of this "cold monster": the state. Only by waging war with other tribes can they maintain the dispersion and autonomy of each group. In the same way, tribal chiefs are not all-powerful; to the contrary, they are rendered weak in order to remain dependent on the community. In a series of groundbreaking essays, Clastres turns around the analysis of power among South American Indians and rehabilitates violence as an affirmative act meant to protect the integrity of their societies. These "savages" are shrewd political minds who resist in advance any attempt at "globalization."

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  • Society Against the State

    Society Against the State

    Essays in Political Anthropology

    Pierre Clastres

    "The thesis is radical," writes Marshall Sahlins of this landmark text in anthropology and political science. "We conventionally define the state as the regulation of violence; it may be the origin of it. Clastres's thesis is that economic expropriation and political coercion are inconsistent with the character of tribal society - which is to say, with the greater part of human history." Can there be a society that is not divided into oppressors and oppressed, or that refuses coercive state apparatuses? In this beautifully written book, Pierre Clastres offers examples of South American Indian groups that, although without hierarchical leadership, were both affluent and complex. In so doing he refutes the usual negative definition of tribal society and poses its order as a radical critique of our own Western state of power.

    Born in 1934, Pierre Clastres was educated at the Sorbonne; throughout the 1960s he lived with Indian groups in Paraguay and Venezuela. From 1971 until his death in 1979 he was Director of Studies at the fifth section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris and held the Chair of Religion and Societies of the South American Indians there. Robert Hurley is the translator of the History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault and cotranslator of Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

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