The rise of an Alaskan Native bourgeoisieL’ascension d’une bourgoisie autochtone en Alaska

  • Arthur Mason

…plus d’informations

  • Arthur Mason
    Department of Anthropology,
    University of California, Berkeley,
    232 Kroeber Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3710, USA.

Corps de l’article


Classical social and economic theories of Adam Smith and Karl Marx about the transition to capitalism, as well as twentieth-century visions of corporate, managerial and other kinds of post-capitalist societies assume there must have been capitalists before capitalism. For this reason, theorists expended much scholarly effort investigating the process of accumulation of economic capital in "early modern" times. The rationale was that both logically and historically, private capital accumulation must have occurred before market institutions could operate (Eyal and Szelenyi 1998).

With Congressional passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971, a cadre of Alaska Natives became the first generation of Native capitalist leaders holding monopoly control over corporate decisions concerning natural resource development and monetary investment in Alaska. Unlike classical social and economic theories, however, the position through which these leaders acquired power was not based on ownership of economic wealth but resulted from a particular kind of legitimacy grounded in their Native heritage and identity.

My central aim is to understand and explain how capitalism can emerge in an economic system with no propertied bourgeoisie. I want to know what agents are building post-ANCSA capitalism, and on whose behalf and for what purposes they act.

The present study is based on ethnographic research and analysis of historical records and scholarly works on a cohort of Alutiiq Native leaders on Kodiak Island, Alaska. I argue that their entrance into the American corporate world as managers of profit-making Native corporations raised a particular set of ethical problems which concern the ways in which corporate responsibility and functional organization displaced traditional routines in modern life.

Yet, through an alliance with academic cultural brokers, Alutiiq leaders provide practical solutions to ethical problems. These solutions also coincide with rationalistic principles of capitalist organization, critical forms of reason and technical goals such as "economic growth." Through this particular assemblage of capitalist production, ethics, and reason, Alutiiq leaders and academics provide the conditions through which they come to understand and to identify their own collective interests as an Alaska Native bourgeoisie.

If one thinks of the bourgeoisie as plural — thus, if once conceives bourgeoisies as a social group composed of both possessors of material property (the economic bourgeoisie) and possessors of theoretical knowledge (the cultural bourgeoisie) — then one can claim, as I do so in this article, that post-ANCSA Kodiak Native society is being promoted by a broadly defined Alutiiq leadership which is committed to the cause of bourgeois society and capitalist economic institutions.

I begin by tracing the origins of the first generation of corporate leaders of the Kodiak area Alutiiq Native corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. I focus on the formation of their identity and their sense of belonging to both the national and local community which often comes together through their involvement in a wide variety of state and non-state institutionalized settings. The ideas and practices experienced within these settings create the cultural fields of understanding and establish the different criteria of belonging within which this cohort become entangled and assessed in terms of, for example, race, civility, class and economic worth (see Hall 1995).

Members of this cohort, I argue, become "subjects" (e.g., Native capitalists) in the dual manner of being subjected to the conditions of the world they live in and, simultaneously, being the agent of knowing and doing in that world (see Foucault 1989).

The notion of identity applied here then, is one that is formed through dialectical interaction between agents (their dispositions, habits, biographies, collective memories) and their positions (in institutions, relations and networks) and focuses on Alutiiq Native leaders’ personal and often contradictory experiences that come about by how they negotiate their beliefs and rights as citizens, residents of a local community and Alaska Natives, which continue to be tied to cultural constructions of belonging established by the state (see Bhabha 1994; Chattergee 1992; Soysal 1994).

Alutiiq cohort

A set of specific cultural and social forms identify an Alutiiq cohort who became the first generation of governing members of Kodiak area Native corporations established under the ANCSA. Their story is instructive for understanding how legitimacy to authority was first established under the settlement act as well as for subsequent generations.

Founding leaders of the Kodiak area Alutiiq Native corporations were born in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They share similar historical and personal developments and are descendants of prestigious 19th century Russian-Native Creole families (Mason 1996). This "Alutiiq cohort" is characterized by a high degree of cultural and economic discontinuity, such as population influx during World War II, the 1964 tidal wave and the following period of reconstruction (Davis 1971, 1984). During the 1960s land claims movement, many of the cohort who had obtained social influence within the community became structurally situated to occupy the corporate governing positions established under the ANCSA (Mason 1996). These leaders participated, along with other Native leaders across the state, in investment opportunities concerning nearly one billion dollars and 44 million acres of Alaska land (Arnold 1978).

Several characteristics distinguish the Alutiiq cohort: their mothers belonged to a Kodiak Creole "middle-class" identified as such by 19th century visitors to the area (Black 2001: 516-520; Clark 1984; Fisher, quoted in Chaffin 1967; Huggins 1981; Teichmann 1963: 179, 212-219). Their fathers were "entrepreneurial Caucasians," Scandinavians and Americans who arrived in Alaska at the turn of the century and inter-married with local Russian-Alutiiq Native women (Luhrmann 2000; Mason 1996).

They also become the first generation who no longer speak the Alutiiq language fluently, following the implementation of American education on Kodiak which began in the 1880s at Wrangell and Sitka (see Krauss 1990). According to recollections of one Alutiiq, "when I went to school, when I was six years old, that’s when I start to speak English, they don’t want us to speak any [Alutiiq] language around the school yard, that time [the American teacher’s were] really strict on [Alutiiq] language" (Coyle Sr. 1983: 39; see also Carlough and Hartman 1978: 38-39).

Interestingly, as some of the cohort members insisted in my interviews, it was their fathers who "pushed the Russian-Alutiiq, European heritage in the background." While many stated that they were raised to be proud of their Russian-Alutiiq heritage, in all cases, cohort fathers were "very proud to be Americans" and the cohort were often told by their fathers, "you’re American first!" (Mason 1996).

During the 1930s and 1940s, increased federal government presence during the war years raised awareness among the Alutiiq cohort about the status of "tradition." Because of its strategic location, Kodiak served as the Aleutian Campaign Command Center during World War II. In 1938, concern over Japanese expansion led Congress to appropriate $350 million for naval bases on Kodiak and other Gulf of Alaska ports (Chaffin et al. 1986: 55-56).

The influx of Americans intensified feelings of loss resulting in a proliferation of stories on the old ways of life, or what Marylyn Ivy (1995) calls "discourses of the vanishing." According to one cohort member, "it seems like after the war, somehow or another the community grew so fast that a lot of the traditional patterns were lost, or they became engulfed in an entirely new lifestyle. A new culture you might call it, that was brought in by the war with construction men and military people. Kodiak itself didn’t grow, it exploded!" (Eaton 1988: 47). In years to come, members of the Alutiiq cohort would emerge as true bearers of Kodiak’s vanishing traditions.

Three additional aspects of American cultural subject-formation deserve mention. Most of these Alutiit married non-Natives. This tendency towards exogamous marriage reflects the cohort’s embodiment of particular forms of habitus necessary for developing intimate socio-economic contacts with Americans outside the Alutiiq Native community. These forms of habitus contrast with those of the Alutiiq outside the cohort, as witnessed for example in Taylor’s 1962-1964 demographic study of the Kodiak village of Karluk, in which he states: "[I]t is still exceptional for a [Alutiiq] man to marry a White woman […] the male emigrant is more likely to be single and to be attempting the extremely difficult process of competing economically in White society […]. In fact, there are in Karluk a number of young men who have made the attempt to move into White society, have themselves been overcome by the many difficulties of the situation, and have returned to re-immerse themselves in village life (Taylor 1966: 219).

Race was also felt by the cohort to be an essential criterion of "American-ness" (Mason 1996). In the United States, racial difference has long been identified with civilizational or cultural progress. It derives from historically specific ideas, Western European in origin, that order humans into status hierarchies based on real and alleged biological features. These hierarchies then became the foundational ideology for various forms of discrimination and exclusion in Western democracies (Hall 1995).

The cohort’s racial and cultural affiliation with "white" America integrated them in ways that would not distinguish them from the American lawyers in the state and national capitals with whom they had to deal during the reconstruction years following the tidal wave of 1964 and the land claims movement thereafter. Many of the cohort interviewed had identified themselves in other parts of the United States prior to the settlement act as "simply Americans."

Finally, this was the first generation of Alaska Natives to depart from the Russian Orthodox faith and embrace the Baptist denomination of the Protestant religion (Chaffin 1967; Jacobs 1995; Roscoe 1992). Departure from the Russian Orthodox faith was largely a result of the establishment of the Baptist mission and orphanage on Kodiak in 1893. Kodiak vernacular was altered "in a very few years from Russian to English" (Roscoe 1992: 24). Insufficient support by post-revolutionary Russia for Orthodox priests who elected to remain in Kodiak after its transfer from Russia to the United States in 1867 resulted in limited Russian language and Orthodox religious education (Lydia Black personal communication 1996; see also Weber 1958 for the role the Protestant ethic provided in creating the spirit of industriousness and restraint essential for creating a modern capitalist subjectivity).

In addition, many members of the cohort spent much of their formative years away in boarding schools: "I stayed away from home for four years […]. I really think boarding schools are great. We’ve talked about it a lot in the [Kodiak] [N]ative organization. And most of the people that are leaders in the [N]ative organization are products of boarding schools" (Monigold 1984: 3; see Pullar 1992).

Articulated through a repertoire of official state and non-state institutionalized forms of cultural subject-making, European and Alutiiq-Russian heritage entered a non-official sphere consisting of anecdotal referents: stories of the past life ways, songs, phrases in Alutiiq or Russian and limited participation in subsistence activities (some Alutiit may have known quite a lot of Russian [Donald Clark, pers. com. 1995]), but not necessarily the individuals to which I refer. Provided with opportunities that for some included a college education, members of this cohort moved into positions of social and political influence such as a lawyer, newspaper editor and members of the Alaska State Legislature, resulting in localized forms of patron-client relations or, put in different words, some form of rank order. These local leaders became innovators during the tumultuous period of reconstruction following the 1964 Alaska earthquake.

Emerging social elites

The effects of the 1964 earthquake and tidal wave on Kodiak were nothing less than transformative, causing millions of dollars in damage, loss of life, and complete destruction of Kodiak’s downtown business community (Davis 1971, 1984; Roppel 1986: 114-5). In the wake of the disaster, federal and state governments re-zoned and reconstructed Kodiak’s downtown. Kodiak became a city of "plywood palaces" where both private industry and government institutions experienced unheard of expansion. These disruptions created a new self-awareness among the Alutiiq cohort about their collective identity and fostered communal responsibility towards retaining local visions in a world literally steamrolled by outside modernization practices.

According to one member of this group: "Construction crews re-building new canneries began digging up artifacts […] the impetus [was] the past should be leveled — start out from scratch […] but the exposed historic Russian and prehistoric [Alutiiq] sites woke people up to say we have to start preserving things" (Roy Madsen, pers. com. 1995; see also Chaffin 1966).

A world in pieces is an unsettling world, but it is also a world of sheer potential. For these emergent leaders, the cosmos of disorder became at once a provocation and an inspiration. The act of rebuilding the village entailed processes of remapping local kinship relations quite literally on to the village landscape.

Through redefining public spaces, streets and buildings, Kodiak’s leaders sought specific materials and sites through which to invoke their kin ties to a Russian and American colonial past. Under the direction of the Historical Society, a local merchants’ house built by the Russians during the 19th century was saved from destruction and renovated into a museum named after Alexandr Baranof, the first governor of Russian-America (Page 1982: 59). Local leaders also introduced rhetorical techniques such as the naming of streets and staging a dramatization of the Russian-American colonial period. In this play, "Cry of the Wild Ram," Kodiak’s Russian colony was weekly re-constituted while the performance of Alexandr Baranof’s struggles as Alaska’s first Russian Governor became "the largest civic endeavor the community has ever engaged in," involving some four hundred people annually (Page 1982: 61-63).

The reconstruction period can also be understood as a strategic site through which Alutiiq Native leaders learned valuable lessons in dealing with U.S. government agencies. The 1960s saw an increase in federal and state government intervention through programs for earthquake reconstruction and social services (Davis 1979). The reconstruction experience aided residents, including members of the Alutiiq cohort, in dealing with government agencies throughout the remainder of the 1960s and 1970s in applying for and receiving aid. According to one Alutiiq leader: "One of the lessons [learned] by those exposed [to the rebuilding effort], the business community, was how to utilize the government. [They have become] less afraid and more knowledgeable, they know now that there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars available. It’s all in knowing how to get them" (Armstrong 1978: 14; Davis 1979: 54).

Soon after reconstruction, many of Kodiak’s local elite, eligible to participate in the emerging land claims movement of the 1960s, began to identify with an Alutiiq Native past. Included among their first activities was the establishment of non-profit associations "targeted directly" to fight for land claims settlement (Hank Eaton, pers. com. 1995; see also Pullar and Jordan 1986).

During this same period, Alutiiq leaders became uncertain about identifying themselves under the new political identity and sought legal advice to determine the potential economic and social benefits as well as liabilities for participating in the land claims movement. According to one lawyer familiar with the time: "I can tell you what the conversations were [among] lawyers during the time [of the land claims settlement]. Some of most prominent Native corporation leaders today, weren’t sure about it and were asking their lawyers whether they should even sign up for the [land claims settlement] deal. [In many cases they were told by their lawyers], ’yeah, I think this is pretty good deal’" (Ben Hancock, pers. com. 1997; see Mason 1996).

While determining what genealogies these leaders wished to write and how they should position themselves relative to others on Kodiak, several Alutiiq leaders also began acquainting themselves with Alutiit from the surrounding region, forging new alliances and group identifications that would have been unthinkable prior to the land claims movement: "Judge Roy Madsen would travel around to the [Alutiiq] villages, organize meetings, teach[ing] the Natives about the importance of the [land claims] settlement deal." The same informant, nodding her head in apparent contemplative appreciation, concluded, "and I’ve always given him credit for that" (Anonymous Kodiak Alutiiq, pers. com. 1997; Mason 1996).

It is because of these efforts, I argue, that members of the Alutiiq cohort became structurally situated through their social and cultural background to occupy the economic positions established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Thus, this Native cohort became the first generation of Alaska Native corporate leaders to participate, along with other Native leaders across the state, in investment opportunities concerning 12 percent of Alaska land and large reserves of capital.

Emerging Alaska Native capitalists

The ANCSA could be considered an ending to Alaska Natives’ struggle to secure autonomy over their land. Federal legislation conferred 44 million acres of Alaska land and nearly one billion dollars to Alaska Natives through the establishment of 13 regional Native corporations. Yet the settlement act has proven to be more than just an ending; it was the beginning of new trajectories for Alaska Natives whose economic and social impacts, now three decades later, are making themselves clear (Anders and Langdon 1989; Bernton 1992; Colt 1998; Rude 1996).

For example, the significance of implementing capitalist institutions "from above" by the federal government marked a definite historical moment for Alaska Native society’s development. It radically reworked its social organization through engendering distinctive forms of sociality, power, and identity (Barsh 1984; Berger 1985; Branson 1979; Mitchell 1997). With Congressional passage of the settlement act, a new economic position emerged within Alaska Native society. This position, identified under the title of corporation manager, provided opportunities for a cadre of Alaska Natives to become the first generation of Native capitalist leaders holding monopoly control over corporate decisions concerning natural resource development and monetary investment. For those non-participating Alaska Natives in the day-to-day corporate operations, the settlement act would identify them as rank and file shareholders of inalienable stock in their respective regional and village corporations (Hirsch 2000: 5).

Within the first several years of their rise to economic power within Alaska Native society, across the state the first generation of Alaska Native capitalists began to develop a sense of social and cultural fragmentation (Arnold 1978; Berger 1985; Bernton 1992; Hirsh 2000; Jorgensen 1990; Price 1975, 1976). In the Kodiak area, this fragmentation was attributed to the feeling that the public, common world of shared symbols of morality and discourse had correspondingly shrunk and weakened. According to one Alutiiq Native corporate leader:

[…] After [the settlement act] we’re Native people, but we have individual assets, in some cases disproportionate assets. Some folks have more land, some folks had more money, and there was a period of time where you had these various factions among Native corporations, between intra-Native corporations […]. People had different interests. In some cases those interests were selfish, in some cases they were not. But in large part […] there was a considerable loss of equity brought on by themselves.

Tony Drebeck, personal communication, 1995; see also Berger 1985: 31-35; Case 1984; Mc Beath and Morehouse 1980, for disputes in other parts of the state.

By the late 1970s, day-to-day performance as capitalist managers increased a sense among Alutiiq leaders that recovery of a more fully Alaska Native existence seemed to recede further from their grasp (Mason 1996). As one Native corporation founding member recalls: "We began to realize that there wasn’t a heck of a lot on our people and as I say we were not interested in the Russian or American aspect of the history as much as we were becoming interested in our own Native history and how it came into being and where we fitted into the scheme of things before [the Europeans] ever landed here" (Hank Eaton, personal communication, 1995). This awareness was awakened in part by the political-social movements of the 1960s that embraced multiculturalism in America and also the arrival of various liberal intellectuals and professionals in Alaska (Castells 1997; Mitchell 1997).

By the early 1980s, faced with losses in equity yet having to compete within an increasingly globalized economy, a second generation of Alutiiq corporate leaders raised this existential problematic to the status of set of questions concerning how to live and how to proceed (see Berman and Pretes 1994; Harvey 1989; Pullar 1992). Their concern corresponds in part to what Max Weber identified as a "problematic threshold" of modernity, one not based on technical rationalism but on a problem that is at once theoretical and practical in its implications. For Weber, a threshold of modernity is drawn when the existence of the meaningfully and ethically ordained cosmos can no longer be trusted (Weber 1946a: 351; see Berman 1982). For Alaska Native corporate leaders standing at the crossroads of embracing more fully a late-capitalist corporate attitude, their meaningfully oriented cosmos of tradition came into doubt, raising the kinds of questions similar to what Michel Foucault (1980) has associated with the problems of "techniques of the self": by what means should we come to understand ourselves as ethical subjects? And to which specific practices do these ethics bring us to bind ourselves to our own [Alaska Native] identity and consciousness and at the same time to external powers [e.g., Western oriented forms of capitalist rationality]?

By the mid-1980s, answers to these questions began to emerge through a coalition, an alliance between Alutiiq Native corporate leaders and academic intellectuals, between capitalist indigenous reason and the critical mind (see Knecht 1994). This groups’ ethical calling became one of navigating their Native society through ideologies of oppression and empowerment by establishment of a system of cultural production of indigenous linguistic maps, archaeological excavations and museum exhibitions (Mason 1996).

Through deployment of a discrete set of techniques, Native leaders helped by anthropologists and historians successfully re-organized their society’s symbolic cultural order by producing a local ethnographic landscape reflected through the prism of Western theoretical knowledge. According to one Alaska Native rank and file shareholder, "at the Native corporation, there was more talk about [archaeological] artifacts and what artifacts really were. Before that I don’t think I connected it to ancestry. You know, it was just something that happened to people before us, never really connecting, […] that’s where we come from" (Anonymous Kodiak Alutiiq, personal communication, 1995; Mason 1996). Similar actions have been documented for other areas of the state (Endter-Wada et al. 1992; McNabb 1987; Feinup-Riordan 1983)

Identity industry

Never as yet has a new prophecy emerged by way of the need of some modern intellectuals to furnish their souls with, so to speak, guaranteed genuine antiques.

Weber 1946c

By the early 1990s, establishment of an Alutiiq museum and archaeological repository increasingly centralized and professionalized the system of cultural production of Kodiak’s Native identity (Mason 1999). The success of re-ordering political and ideological claims to authenticity could be measured towards the mid-1990s, by repatriations of turn-of-the-century ethnographic collections from Western governments and the increasingly controlled discourse by members of the scientific community (see Bray and Killion 1994; Crowell et al. 2002; Jackson 1992; Moulton 1988, Partnow 1994).

Emerging at the same time, members of the corporate leadership began privatizing local ethnographic symbols to represent Native corporate identity to shareholders and the larger Alaska Native society. Examples of these symbols have become widely disseminated in the form of petroglyph designs, mask and stone lamp images which now serve as Alutiiq Native corporation logos displayed on company letter heads, T-shirts, baseball caps, floor tiles and building facades (Mason 1996).

These resulting icons of ethnicity whose infinite reproduction and mobility exhibit metaphorically the increasing capital wealth of Kodiak Native corporations also reflect the growth of a particular kind of Alaska Native "identity industry" (Colt 1998; Mason 1998). As commodities, the ethnic symbols’ use-values supply corporate identity recognition to the larger U.S. society while exchange-values serve to define shareholders as a discrete group of investors and — for corporate leaders — cultural heritage and identity provides the basis for legitimizing monopoly control over the means of production.

Native bourgeoisie

What analytical remarks can be gathered from two generations of Alutiiq capitalists, the ethical dilemmas they encounter, their alliance with academic intellectuals and growth of a system of identity production? Building upon a genealogy of thought on the concept of class, I draw attention to the formation and assemblage of different distributions of power that contribute towards shaping the system of social stratification in Alaska Native society (see Bourdieu 1985; Giddens 1981; Marx 1972; Parkin 1979; Weber 1946b). In the present case, class analysis is employed as a lens for drawing into focus how various and autonomous forms of historical labour surrounding Alutiiq identity can be institutionally structured, intentionally organized and centralized for purposes of generating particularly influential and increasingly powerful effects.

Dimensions of class formation

"Class" has long been a classificatory tool used by social theorists and is primarily referenced in relation to a model of modern society in which domination is based on ownership of wealth or on bureaucratic position. When, during the early 1970s, George Konrad and Ivan Szelenyi (1979) wrote about an emergent group of intellectuals within Eastern Europe, they theorized on the power aspirations of a "new class," one that would not be based on wealth or bureaucratic position, but would result from a particular kind of legitimacy grounded in their theoretical knowledge (an alliance between the technical intelligentsia and humanistic intellectuals), which during the time, seemed to have the most universal claim for power one could think of. Yet, as Szelenyi and Martin (1988) have shown, the concept of New Class is a history of failed class projects, including most recently the rise and fall of radicalism of the highly educated during the 1960s and 1970s (see Gouldner 1979).

Though their work is directed towards assessing, in comparative framework, how far advanced the formation of collective mobility projects of the highly educated have been in various historical and national settings, Szelenyi and Martin (1988) argue that three dimensions can be applied to the study of class formation: first, agents must be ready to assume class power; second, a new structural position must be created from which class power can be exercised; and finally, the new agents with class aspiration must share the appropriate kind of consciousness, which is necessary to exercise power from the new structural position.

Taking the Kodiak Alutiiq Native corporations as an example, I suggest we think of these three dimensions as specific forms of historical labour for understanding what positions agents have to occupy in the system of social reproduction in order to qualify as Alutiiq society’s dominant class. Historical labour refers to the particular struggles and practices through which legitimacy to power appears as a natural condition of social relations and which justify the existence of these relations. The story of the Alutiiq cohort can be seen as a reconstruction of the historical labour in which the particular social vision of Alutiiq identity is its product.

As pointed out earlier, with state intervention, a new structural position within Alaska Native society in the form of managers of Native corporations was created. Also, a group of Alaska Native leaders were willing to accept the new position political capitalism offered them. It is also quite clear who the agents were who aspired to the new economic position. Prior to ANCSA, the logic of social stratification in Kodiak society was based on social capital. The distribution of power was historically recognized in families of elite status. Compared to societies where economic capital is dominant, which I understand with Max Weber to be class-stratified societies, Kodiak society was an example of modern rank order (or at the very least, combined characteristics of rank order and class as logics of social stratification). The transition to post-ANCSA marked a shift from rank order to class society, and exercise of control over resources replaced the tradition of one’s status within a network of Alaska Native social relations.

Because there were willing agents among the Alutiiq cohort to occupy the new structural position that emerged under the settlement act, it can be stated that two of the three dimensions (agency, structural position) suggested by Szelenyi and Martin (1988) are present. Yet in the first years after the settlement act, these new economic agents did not have a clear enough vision of their structural position nor did they have the willingness to develop a rationalistic system of domination — the third criteria which is a prerequisite for a class power.

With the development of an ideology of oppression and empowerment, the second generation of Native leaders allied themselves with academic intellectuals whose strength lies in the type of knowledge they possess. In other words, academic intellectuals, members of the failed New Class project — in Szelenyi and Martin’s terms — have power, not by virtue of a particularly important structural position they occupy, but because they have succeeded in developing for Alaska Natives a genuinely Western consciousness (i.e. they have redefined their own project from critical analysis to advocacy and alignment). The use of linguistic maps, excavations and museum objects for the development of Alutiiq identity reflects a particular kind of legitimacy towards cultural identity which is grounded in Western theoretical knowledge (see Anderson 1991).

It should be noted that the absence of a traditional economic class in Alaska Native society prior to the settlement act — a propertied bourgeoisie — goes against accepted ideas that the emergence of capitalism depends on a capitalist class of owners of wealth and the means of production. Following Eyal and Szelenyi’s (1998) work on Eastern European transition to a market economy, the passage of the Alaska settlement act can be described as "the rise of capitalism without capitalists." Yet unlike Eyal and Szelenyi’s intelligentsia of Eastern Europe, whose legitimacy for exercising control was based on their critical and moral position as socialist technocrats and former political dissidents, that is, on their "cultural capital," exercise of control over resources under the settlement act was based on one’s accumulated "social capital."

To conclude, the Alaska Native identity industry project then, was a process of gaining power by simultaneously reconstructing the system of meanings, disciplining the democratic discourse and monopolizing the cultural production of identity. The resulting group of agents willing to assume the new social positions — Native leaders in alliance with academic cultural brokers — are the emergent Alaska Native bourgeoisie.

Parties annexes