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Despite their prestige and the deference usually shown them, big men are like hunter-gatherer headmen in the sense that their leadership role confers no ability to command the actions of others. Big men advise, suggest, and cajole, and more often than not their wishes will be followed. But since they lack the capacity to force others to do their bidding, they possess no real power or authority. The political structure of big-man leadership, therefore, rests on informal influence and requires the voluntary consent of those they attempt to lead. Lacking the capacity to command others, big men are successful leaders only to the extent that they serve the public good. In a real sense they are servants of the people, servants who depend on the good graces of their followers to retain high status. The status of big man is symbiotic with society at large; in exchange for prestige and renown, big men must serve long-range societal interests, or else they will not continue to be big men. Failure to serve the public good ends in demotion from big-man status.


Subsistence Technology

Many of the simple horticultural societies that were ushered into existence by the Neolithic Revolution in due time evolved into intensive horticultural societies. No doubt hundreds of intensive horticultural societies have existed during the past several thousand years of human history. Until the influx of the Europeans in the late eighteenth century, such societies were widespread throughout Polynesia, a vast island chain in the southern Pacific that includes the islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, and Tonga, among many others. Prior to the end of the nineteenth century, they flourished

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