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Class, property and structural endogamy: Visualizing networked histories.


This is the first theoretical application of the concept of structural endogamy as identifying an empirical variable or boundary condition within social networks that is linked in causal-explanatory ways to social class formation. Using an ethnographically rich case study of an Austrian village in which oral and (ca. 100) household genealogies provide 150 years of marriage network data, while manorial archives continue the stem-line household genealogies back to the founding of the "house system" in 1517, the hypothesis is formulated that the social class boundary between farmstead owner-operators (including heirs and buyers) and secondary service occupations not linked to farmstead ownership is established and maintained through the mechanism of structural endogamy. Two principles of inheritance are in conflict in this farmstead house-system, that of passing the principal productive property intact to a principal heir (usually a son, or if not is available, a daughter), and that of the intestate rights of children to equal division of parental inheritance. The use of wills or testaments resolves his conflict through "equitable division" which maintains stem-line impartibility of farmsteads along with quitclaims to those who are not principal heirs. Structural endogamy, in this case specifically the marriage of a potential heir to a spouse who brings in divided property from another divided patrimonial stemline, is shown to be (1) a qualification for class membership via principal heirship, (2) a means of reconstituting subdivided estates, and (3) a means of social perpetuation of the two-class system which often even divides siblings within the same nuclear family. The predicted statistical relationship between class-membership, heirship and structural endogamy is confirmed empirically and implications for new approaches to studies of social class formation are discussed.

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