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Elman Service


He was born on May 18, 1915 in Tecumseh, Michigan and died on November 14, 1996 in Santa Barbara, California. He earned a Bachelors Degree in 1941 from the University of Michigan. He earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1951 and taught there from 1949 to 1953. From there, Service went back to the University of Michigan to teach from 1953 until 1969. He later taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1969 to 1985, when he retired.

During his time studying at the University of Michigan, Service joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain to fight fascism. He also fought in World War II for the United States Army.

Elman Service researched Latin American Indian ethnology, cultural evolution, and theory and method in ethnology. He studied cultural evolution in Paraguay and studied cultures in Latin America and the Caribbean. These studies led to his theories about social systems and the rise of the state as a system of political organization.

Elman Service defined four classifications of the stages of social evolution which are also the four levels of political organizations: hunter-gatherer, tribe, chiefdom, and state.

He also developed the "managerial benefits" theory that states that chiefdom-like society developed because it was apparently beneficial, because of the centralized leadership. The leader provides benefits to the followers, which, over time, become more complex, benefiting the whole chiefdom society. This keeps the leader in power, and allows the bureaucratic organization to grow.

He also had an integration theory. He believed that early civilizations were not stratified based on property. They were only stratified based on unequal political power, not because of unequal access to resources. He believed there were no true class conflicts, but only power struggles between the political elite in early civilizations. The integration part of this theory was that monuments were created through volunteering, not the leaders forcing it upon the populace.


Tobati: Paraguayan Town (1954); A Profile of Primitive Culture (1958); Evolution and Culture (with M.D. Sahlins)(1960); Primitive Social Organization (1962; Profiles in Ethnology (1963); The Hunters (1966); Cultural Evolutionism (1971); Origins of the State and Civilization (1975); A Century of Controversy, Ethnological Issues from 1860 to 1960 (1985)

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Last Name Service
First/Middle Name Elman
Ethnicity Note
Immigration Status
AKA Last Name 1
AKA First / Middle 1
AKA Last Name 2 Alman
AKA First / Middle 2
DOB 1915-05-18
City Tecumseh
State Michigan
Foreign Nation
Foreign Nation City
Alt Pob State, City
Family: Name
Family: Relationship
Family: Begin Date
Family: End Date
Family: Comments
Education HS Correspondence courses
Education College / Univ 1 University of Michigan
Education College/Univ Notes BA, 1941
Education College/Univ 2
Graduate or Doctoral Work Columbia University
Graduate or Doctoral Work Notes Phd, 1951, Anthropology
Prior Military Service
Passport # 441877
Passport Series
Passport Reported Lost in Spain Yes
Passport Age
Passport Date 6/14/1937
PP or Known Address Street 202 East Pottawatomie
PP or Known Address City Tecumseh
PP or Known Address State Michigan
ALT City
Alt State
Sail Date 6/18/1937
Ship Alaunia
Marital Status Single
Marital Notes
Vocation 1 Student
Vocation 2 Anthropologist
Vocation 3 Professor
Party Affiliation Communist Party
Date Affiliation 1937-01
ALT Affiliation Young Communist League
ALT date 1936
ALT affiliation 2
Arrival (in Spain) Date 1937-07-09
Units served with Lincoln-Washington Battalion
Battle action Quinto, Belchite, Teruel, Ebro Offensive
Returned Date 1938-12-15
Returned other
WWII Service US Army, reconaissance and arial mapping unit, ETO, France
DOD 1996-11-14
Place Died City Santa Barbara, California
KIA/MIA/Died other
KIA/MIA/Died other Date
KIA/MIA/Died other Location
KIA/MIA/Died other Battle
Additional Notes XV BDE, Lincoln-Washington BN, Kitchen; Auto Park, Service Sanitaire. Lincoln-Washington BN, Co. 1 and Co. 3. Last unit Co. 3. Rank Cabo. Served at Quinto, Belchite, Teruel, the Retreats, Ebro. WIA July 30, 1938 Ebro.