The Wintu and Their Neighbors
A Very Small World-System in Northern California
Chase-Dunn and Mann argue that Immanuel Wallerstein's world-systems perspective, originally applied only to the study of modern capitalistic societies, can also be applied to the study of the social, economic, and political relationships in small stateless societies. They contend that, despite the fact that the Wintu appear on the surface to have been a household-based society, this indigenous group was in fact involved in a myriad of networks of interaction, which resulted in intermarriage and which extended for many miles around the region. These networks, which were not based on the economic dominance of one society over another—a concept fundamental to Wallerstein's world-systems theory—led to the eventual expansion of the Wintu as a cultural group.
Thus, despite the fact that the Wintu did not behave like a modern society—lacking wealth accumulation, class distinctions, and cultural dominance—Chase-Dunn and Mann insist that the Wintu were involved in a world-system and argue, therefore, that the concept of the "minisystem" should be discarded. They urge other scholars to employ this comparative world-systems perspective in their research on stateless societies.