Ends and Means in Political Control: State Organization and the Punishment of Adultery, Incest, and Violation of Celibacy1


  • 1

    I want to express my appreciation to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., for the financial assistance (Gr. #1801) that made this study possible. David A. Fredrickson was responsible for the collection of most of the ethnographic data for this study; his conscientiousness in this regard, his assistance in rating the data, and his many stimulating suggestions contributed greatly to the completion of this study. I also want to thank Robin Fox, Vera-Mae Fredrickson, Donald V. Kurtz, Alexander J. Morin, and Richard D. Schwartz for their valuable help. This is an expanded version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Pittsburgh, November 17–20, 1966.


Political organization appears to be among the most important factors affecting formal (legal) sanctions for nonmarital coitus. The correlations between prescribed capital punishment and nonmarital coitus in one type of nation are explored cross-culturally. They suggest that there is no single attitude toward sexuality per se in these societies; instead the rules governing each type of nonmarital relationship are outgrowths of different relationships between controlling political bodies and local boundary systems. These processes are observable diachronically and sync/ironically; they suggest a reinterpretation of the Protestant ethic, that it is a politically stimulated value system. The data also suggest that rules governing nonmarital coitus need not conform to motivational patterns.