Volltext: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde und der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 115.1990

26 Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 115 (1990) 
sis elaborated in organization theory (Blau 1970; Mayhew et al. 1972) and adopted by 
legal anthropology (Podolefsky 1987), increasing system size heightens the probabil- 
ity of quarrels in the social system. This creates *a need for stronger judicial mecha- 
nisms" (Podolefsky 1987: 582). The development of these mechanisms is thought to be 
related to unequal access to resources (Brown and Podolefsky 1976). 
Food stress and social stratification. McNetting (1972) has examined this relation- 
ship for some African peasant societies. He argues, that the permanent threat of famine 
through natural desasters creates a feeling of fear and insecurity in the minds of the 
peasants. As “people want to believe that those conditions most vital to their existence 
are in some way subject to their will" (McNetting 1972: 236), the institution of the 
“priest-chief” develops. He is thought to be able to make rain and to ensure the fertil- 
ity of the soil. According to McNetting, this institution marks the beginning of social 
Population density and food stress. The relationship between these two variables 
lies at the core of the demographical explanation, but has never been tested cross-cul- 
turally. If population density is a measure of population pressure, it should be the 
cause of food shortages (Ember 1982). On the other hand there is no doubt about the 
fact that frequent food shortages also limit population growth. Malnutrition increases 
the mortality rate and lowers the fertility rate of a population (Swedlund 1978: 150f.; 
Jochim 1982: 181). Thus, a negative feedback can be expected between the two varia- 
Fig. 1. Hypothetical relationships


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