Sardinians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The most important social institutions in an individual's life are the household and the village/ commune, each with specific rights and obligations of membership. Social relations beyond the household consist primarily of ego-centered networks of individuals: much time and effort is expended to develop and maintain these kin and friendship networks as these provide the people to whom one turns in times of need. Shepherds and others whose occupations take them beyond village boundaries extend their networks to selected individuals in other villages and/or in regional centers. Collectively the shepherds of a region form a moral community called noi pastori, "we shepherds," which sets the norms within which cooperation and competition in the pastures take place. Relations between poorer and richer and less and more powerful take the form of patron-client ties.

Political Organization. Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy, the regional government having limited authority over internal affairs. The region is divided into four provinces. The lowest level in the hierarchy of authority is the commune, one or two settlements and an associated territory, which democratically elects a council to govern local affairs. Affiliation to regional and national political parties—Christian Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Sardinian Nationalists—often corresponds to alliances and factions in villages and vertical patronage ties to government authorities.

Social Control. At the community level, social control is primarily informal, directed toward the high cultural value accorded to one's honor, or social reputation, which is based upon fulfilling social obligations toward others and effectively protecting the resources of one's family (but not focused upon the "purity" of women). Gossip is therefore an Important element of social control. This is effective because one's social networks rest on one's honor: a man without honor is a man without friends and without support in difficult times. In fact, in the highland areas, the code of honor continues a complex legal tradition, including the ethics of sheep rustling and the vendetta, retaliation against another family for offences against the property and well-being of one's own Family. Today, these local traditions of social control are often in conflict with the state-level controls, national law and police enforcement; the traditional forms of social control persist, however, because the people continue to find them more effective than state intervention.

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