Crime and Custom in Savage Society by Bronislaw Malinowski


Folks, as books are in again in our postmodern world of loving old-school things because they’re old-school, what better to do for a magazine of today than recommending a good old book? As in even-before-grandpa-old – this is the real deal. Fasten your seat belt and get ready.

Considering where the world seems to be heading at the moment, with all international conflicts growing into a full-blown circus of madness, wouldn’t it be lovely if there were someone out there able to explain the madness?

Along with that, wouldn’t it be b-e-a-uuutiful (Jim Carrey in the movie “Liar liar”) if that is done in a way that wouldn’t want you to go hide crawled up in a soft blanket in a corner of the room for the rest of your life? Even better, making some sort of sense to what is currently going on and why regardless of the level of civilization traits we have, somehow we tend to fall into this conflict-y way of interacting.

Before we get into the beauty of actually reading what someone wrote a long, long time ago – let’s just note that since conflicts aren’t just popping up spontaneously but rather show a few common denominators, could it be so that none of the cases of today are uniquely created by magic to suddenly pop up in specifically chosen spots around the world, simply because they’re all special and things?

Let’s just take a breath and agree on that not being the case. Now onto the business side of things.

Who was this smart guy helping us out in understanding the world better?


Source: Britannica


He’s seen as one of the most influential figures in the 20th century anthropology field of studies, focusing mainly on the relationship between reciprocity and exchange. Furthermore, throughout his studies he managed to map out behavioral patterns in people and in what way they related to social institutions.

His book “Crime and Custom in Savage Society”, published it in 1926, gained substantial attention as it covered the customs and structure of the Trobriand Islanders tribe. He was interested in understanding the social model from which this group of people conduct their everyday lives, doing so successfully and maintaining order without printing pretty documents and calling them crucial to that spoken-of order.

In his findings, Mr. Malinowski reported on the interaction between tribe members, the laws and regulations formed, along with observations on magic as a means of keeping sh-t together in that particular societal form. He also observed in what way justice was brought upon members of the tribe, and on what grounds those members were charged of betraying the group.

He saw that there was a clear reasoning, albeit primitive, as members of the tribe ended up dead, and noted the various underlying conflicts of interest as of core value to making decisions on killing someone.

Another important point he made was on the previous assumption that tribe members in their primitive societies went about their daily business without a solid piece of information. These ways of interpreting or associating primitive thought with a lack of information upon which to base decisions proved to be wrong, with Mr. Malinowski noting a very much indeed aware group of people and behaviors.

Now to the question we’ve all been longing for – why is this relevant to us, today?

Well, why is this book relevant to anyone who’d like to catch up on what’s going on in basically any modern society? Because it seems as though many of the primitive tendencies and attributed that Mr. Malinowski identified are still very much with us today. The fear of exclusion from the group, any given group, is apparent. Hence the massive amounts of social media output in questionable qualities, the need to scream out loud about basically anything and the total lack of sensibility in times of conflict.

Take reciprocity as a constant – isn’t a growing insecurity in societies, imagine European ones as an example, pictured in the sense that criminal, political and institutional activity is getting ever so radicalized through throwing sh-t at each other? Through blame, narrow-minded, highly selective and amusingly creative ways, various individuals and groups find impressive amounts of reason to get on each other’s back.

A party does one thing, and then the opposite party feels offended, to the point of needing to reciprocate. Someone buys an iPhone, and then everyone needs to go get one immediately. A group of people finds a set of partly imagined attributes to be better than, or even superior to some other group’s defined attributes, and the circus is ready to roll. As one would expect, tendencies like these pretty quickly grow into becoming issues of security, even up to the point of walking themselves into violent situations.

Anyone who is even a little interested in international issues for example, would soon enough ask whether they may or may not be a need to understand the bigger picture in conflicts arising in primitive manners. As wished for as it may be, that need isn’t strong enough to cover for the immense levels of madness that any “absolutely convinced” group of people are in realizing their cause.

Even the slightest levels of critical thinking in situations where primitive thought is the overwhelming method of existence, has in itself an inherent lack of belief as strong as in waves and groups of stupid people screaming out loud. Had there been a belief, then it surely wouldn’t be called critical thinking in the first place.

What we are currently watching happening in the world’s most interesting live and running reality-show, is reciprocity along with the other very point Mr. Malinowski made – social behavioral patterns being very much inconsistent with the social institutions build to hold up the society. These institutions are prone to change as everything else, which in combination with primitive thinking gives us the results we’re looking at in parts of Europe.

Any situation in any given society is defined by the outlined framework that these social institutions have created. When done so, a given case in question is processed, managed and hopefully solved based on the values and codes of conduct provided by the frameworks themselves. When reason isn’t compatible with the level of (or lack thereof) knowledge in a society, those frameworks tend to be filled with giant amount of BS – leading to nothing but more potential cases for review.

Sounds like dirty talk, doesn’t it?

Basically, a hundred years ago, this dude mapped us all out beautifully. Only so that we could ignore it and then get surprised and shocked as conflicts pop out in and between our countries. This is why you and everyone you know need to read this book ASAP.

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