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5. Centrifugal and Centripetal Movements in Ethnoses and Formation of New Ethnoses

The nature of ethnoses as shown cannot be understood from the static point of view. Although the present work is not devoted to the theory of ethnos, yet more details are necessary in order to give the idea of the dynamic character of ethnos. The analysis of the mechanism of the formation of ethnoses is one of the good ways of doing it.

Many authors have observed that within the existing nations and powers, even within «primitive» groups, there are in action two forces; namely, those which «consolidate» the unit and those which «disintegrate» it. Since these terms —«consolidation» and «disintegration» — refer to a certain definite unit from the point of view of which the forces are classed, and they have already been used in reference to the phenomena that have no ethnological contents, I prefer to use different terms; namely, «centrifugal» and «centripetal» movements. Let us first define these terms and illustrate our definitions with some examples.

We shall call «centrifugal» movement such actions and behaviour of individuals and groups of individuals which result in the creation of greater cohesion between the individuals and groups of individuals observed who belong to a certain group. We shall call «centrifugal» movement such actions and behaviour of individuals and groups of individuals which result in the loss of cohesion between the individuals and groups of individuals observed who belong to a certain group. These definitions may be illustrated thus: An individual may belong at the same time to a regional group and to a «nation,» and yet to a club, to a clan, and to a large family. His activity as a member of these groups may have thus different effects. If such an individual is very active, he may influence the local group in the sense of preserving local useful customs, of elaboration of new and practical ways of local adaptation (e. g., a new method of agriculture), of an increase of vocabulary, etc. For the local group, this activity may be very beneficial, for the preservation of old and useful customs, inventions, and the further enrichment of the language assure the existence of the local population. On the other hand, if the local adaptation and further elaboration of new dialectal distinctions advance too far, the local group may become so distinct from other groups of the same «nation» that the individuals who belong to it will act as a body opposing themselves to the «nation.» Every such action on the part of our individual will thus have a centrifugal effect upon the «nation» and a centripetal effect upon the local group. If the sum of all the local centrifugal actions is greater than that of the actions directed for maintaining the existence of the «nation,» the larger unit — the «nation» — will sooner or later desintegrate into smaller local units. On the other hand, if the centripetal movement is stronger than the centrifugal movement, the local adaptation and individual adaptation (including all local and individual inventions) may lose their ability and thus the «nation» will not be able to use the adaptive power of local groups and individuals for the general benefit of the unit. On the whole, such a «nation» will become weaker as compared with its neighbours, which may sometimes put it in a difficult position. So the most beneficial condition (from the point of view of the survival of the unit) is that in which the centrifugal and centripetal movements are equal and strong.

The conditions of the primary milieu, which, on the surface of this planet, form thousands of distinct regions, as stated, imply a special local adaptation. The better the unit is adapted, the more distinct it is, as compared with other neighbouring groups living in different conditions of milieu. Let us now suppose that such a well-adapted unit has a great increase of population and needs either a new specialized form of adaptation or new territory. If there is no more free territory which may be occupied immediately or after a short war for it, the only way is to arrange with the neighbours in such a way that the different units involved will become specialized in certain economical branches so that they may supply other units with their respective products. Such, for instance, are the relations among agriculturists, cattle breeders, industrial groups, hunters, etc. Certainly the degree of interdependence is variable. Specialization opens a new possibility for a further increase of population; for, along with the establishment of close relations, intercourse becomes frequent, the individuals who belong to the distinct ethnoses have no more negative reactions when meeting each other, and cultural phenomena are freely borrowed. The same is true of the language, which becomes familiar to the neighbours, who borrow «words» for new phenomena, fashions of speech, and particularly phonetic fashions. At last, when the great distinction of customs and language does not hinder consolidation of relations between distinct groups, they will begin to intermarry, and formerly distinct units will be fused into one culturally homogenous unit, a new ethnos.

in the instance given above the chief cause of fusion is an economical one. It may be of a different nature too. So, for instance, an ethnos which multiplies at a great ratio may attain such a power that it will spread over the territories occupied by the neighbouring ethnoses without destroying the population. The conquered population first opposes the alien control; but, owing to strong pressure, it is compelled to adapt itself to the new situation and thus gradually accepts the new cultural complex of the conquerors. The next step is the adaptation of the language, intermarriage, and finally complete fusion. Yet a purely cultural pressure may produce similar effects. The language is a powerful means of carrying on the centripetal movement.

It may be pointed out that when the process is going on, the possibility of further strengthening the new unit becomes harmful to the neighbouring units who still preserve their consciousness of existence. The opposition to such a process is one of the forms of interethnical pressure which again acts as a factor in consolidating the unity of the formerly distinct ethnoses, so that the interethnical pressure in general is a factor activizing the processes of the centripetal movement. It is also activizing the process of the centrifugal movements [13]. The ways are different, but the end is the same. The process is naturally greatly confused by the fact that all phenomena must be percepted and adapted to the existing psycho-mental complex and at last expressed in «symbols,» which must be correctly referred to the referents. Now let us take another process; namely, that of the further possible fate of the large, new ethnos. With the decrease of interethnical pressure, the decrease of a further increase of population, the arrest of a further adaptation of the whole unit, etc., the large unit shows all signs of decrease of the centripetal movement. The centrifugal movement, in the form of local readaptation, individualism, regional differentiation, etc., becomes greater than the centripetal movement, and the unit splits into new ethnoses. The process of formation of new ethnoses will be especially successful if the larger unit happens to be beyond the strong interethnical pressure, as is common in very large territorial units formed of numerous neighbouring units. When the existence of the newly formed units is known, they will receive «recognition» from their neighbours as independent units, and this will activize the process of consolidation of the newly formed units. At the same time, the formation of a new interethnical milieu and a new interethnical pressure takes place. The formation of new languages (dialects, etc.), marriage restrictions, elaboration of specific culture, etc., follow this process and complete it.

One cannot naturally say when the existence of a new ethnos begins and when the old ethnos as a unit dies. This is a continuous process. So if one takes a picture of the existing relations statically one cannot definitely say where the limits of ethnoses are, for the ethnoses may occupy the same territory as well, and the ethnoses may happen to be in the process of formation even within the unit of the socially (professionally) distinct groups [14]. The ethnoses in the process of their formation, life, and decline receive different recognition on the part of other ethnoses. Yet the definitions and terms, such as «tribe» (preferred by some authors; e.g., O. Jespersen, C. Wissler, and many others) in reference to «primitive» peoples, «nation» in reference to «civilized» peoples, «nationality,» even «state,» «power,» etc., refer to the same processes. Indeed, when they are «recognized,» which is connected with a complex «rite of passage» (A. Van Gennep's term) from one state (sometimes supposed to be an «amorphic» state) to another state of purely ethnographical value, they receive general recognition in spite of the fact that as distinct «ethnoses» with all their characteristic features, they might exist for a very long time, calculated in generations.

The difficulty in finding out the limits of ethnoses consists in the fact that the characteristics comprise various elements, some of which are not particular to the given groups, but they have wide distribution amongst other ethnoses. Even such a character as language, being itself a complex, may show different boundaries in various characters (elements). Since the process of formation of ethnoses is a continuous one, the geographical limits of dialects and languages as they are established are sometimes a mere abstraction [15].

The same is also true of the other cultural elements and anthropological features. Yet, in a great degree it holds good for the elements of perception — ethnical consciousness, etc.

The centrifugal and centripetal movements as shown is the mechanism of the formation, consolidation, and disintegration of ethnoses, the occurrence of which chiefly depends on the equilibrium of the system of these movements. As shown, the variations of interethnical milieu have also a great influence upon the intensity of these movements. In the case of sudden change, e.g., due to the fall or increase of pressure, the equilibrium of the internal ethnical movements may be shaken. In this condition, the unit may lose altogether either its centripetal or its centrifugal movement and thus it may lose its «vitality» as a unit.

Now we may come back to the problem of the number of population contained in the ethnos. I do not need to repeat that the number, whether large or small, is not a criterion for a definition whether a group of individuals is an ethnos or not. Theoretically, a new ethnos may originate from a single family, and we have some large groups comprising several millions of a relatively homogenous population which shows all typical characters of an ethnos. Thus the ethnos may practically cover a few hundred individuals, or several millions as well. As to the correlation between the degree of complexity of culture and number of population of an ethnos, for the time being it may be stated that a certain correlation exists, but it is conditioned by so many factors that it is not high. Naturally, since density of population and culture (adaptation) is a constant, it is evident that the ethnos with a simple cultural complex as a rule is smaller than the ethnos with a complex culture, the reason being that the ethnos possessing a simple cultural complex does not need a great division of work, specialization, etc., so that the small unit may survive without being at all numerous.

There are, however, some conditions which must be pointed out: The unit must be large enough in order to avoid the harmful effects of inheritance confined to limited groups, and in order to survive in the case of accidental loss of lives, e. g. owing to epidemics, wars, etc. The second condition is that of interethnical pressure. The interethnical milieu, consisting of numerous units (not always in possession of a complex culture), is dangerous for small units, which may easily be swallowed by larger ones. When in a certain limited region the units are small, practically all of them are of small size; as, for example, in some regions of central Africa, the north-western regions of North America, in New Guinea, and in other similar regions.

There is one more condition to be mentioned; namely, the character of the geographical region. It has been pointed out that the variety of primary milieu is very great, so thousands of regions may be distinguished. In the conditions of the simple cultural complex the adaptation to the local conditions also implies the formation of small units. As it is often observed in mountainous regions near the sea, especially in low latitudes, the combination of topography, the variety of temperature, and the conditions of the sea form a great diversity of regions. On the other hand, the large territory, with uniform climatic conditions, identic flora and fauna, etc., is not favourable for the formation of small units. It does not, of course, mean that small units cannot survive, if the interethnical milieu does not require large units. Within the large units that are in the process of centrifugal movement, there may be very small potential units formed, which, in the case of the collapse of the large unit, may begin their existence as very small, independent units. Still, it is true in a greater degree of the ethnoses formed within social strata of larger units, which, from their very beginning, may be typical ethnoses, although numerically very small. It is different with the units that receive «recognition»; i.e., when their existence is percepted and the necessary ethnographical complex of «rites of passage» is performed. This is a case of the recognized «nations» and the unrecognized «nationalities.» Here it must be pointed out that it is a common mistake that nations are taken as units corresponding to «tribes» of «savages.» A nation may be a simple «colony» of ethnoses formed for their own safety, in view of or owing to interethnical pressure. It is quite true that such a unit may become an ethnos. The same is also true of groups of ethnoses controlled by one of them («political control»), but in this case it is usual that the existence of a «nation» is denied altogether. In this case one must be very careful in using the, statements of observers, for the problem whether a certain group of ethnoses is a «nation» or not, and whether a certain «nation» consists of different ethnoses or not, may have great practical importance for the regulation of interethnical relations and for controlling the centrifugal and centripetal movements — the practical aim of every good government, and at the same time the weak point attacked by neighbouring ethnoses and ethnical colonies.

13. As a matter of fact, the nature of interethnical pressure is not always understood, and it is often thought to be responsible for these movements. It shows once more how little the ethnoses understand the essential processes undergone by them.

14. Although the formation of socially distinct groups is also one of the processes of the centrifugal movement which may result in the formation of distinct ethnoses, it is usually strongly checked and arrested altogether, in rare cases going so far as resulting in an open clash among the groups. It may happen at the moment of the strong process of adaptation of the social units and at the period of great changes in culture (called «progress,» «development,» etc.). It is remarkable that such distinction of social groups becomes greater beyond the interethnical pressure; e.g., amongst the potential ethnoses widely spreading over a large area. In all respects the formation of distinct classes corresponds to the formation of ethnoses (e.g., special dialects, endogamy, complexes of customs, «class consciousness,» etc.), which may result in the formation of castes (indeed, the formation of castes may have another origin; namely, the adaptation of ethnical units for special social functions in larger units). However, under a strong interethnical pressure, these processes are usually arrested. In case of the disintegration of large units, the process may follow along both these lines: the formation of classes with fierce struggle between them and the formation of regional ethnoses. In fact, this is characteristic of the collapse of large units. On the other hand, if the interethnical pressure is increased, the social differentiation loses (especially for the unit) its harmful effects. Yet if the interethnical pressure is suddenly reduced, the large units which undergo intensive process of changes («progress,» etc.) are very likely to collapse, owing to the centrifugal movement — in the case of sparse population and small regional cohesion, owing to the formation of ethnoses, and in the case of highly differentiated and well-organized numerous groups, owing to the formation of social groups struggling among themselves. The process is usually quickly completed, the interethnical equilibrium being restored and the unit or units returning to the internal equilibrium of the centripetal and centrifugal movements. I shall not go further now, for we shall let these details suffice for the problem of language.

15. Cf. the recent investigation into the geographical distribution of dialects, also the theoretical treatment as found, e.g., in F. de Saussure's «Cours de linguistique generale,» op. cit., Part IV, and special works on French and German dialectology.

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