The emergence and evolution of urban Māori authorities: a response to Māori urbanisation

Keiha, P. A.
Moon, P.
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Te Kaharoa

When considering cultures and peoples in virtually any context, there can be an underlying tendency to compartmentalise these groups and make assumptions about their features and characteristics that are not necessarily borne out in practice. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the analysis of the dichotomy of traditional and modern societies presented in the writings of the American economists Walt Rostow and Neil Smelser. Rostow and Smelser both cast traditional, non-European communities as having rigid hierarchical systems, limited opportunities for social mobility, fixed limits on productive capacity, low formal educational attainment, and a generally static state of development.1 A challenge to this depreciatory portrayal was made by the Latin American economist Andre Gunder Frank, who methodically dismantled these stifling classifications of traditional societies. Frank pointed out that constructs used by Rostow and Smelser were essentially a European-imposed perception of how traditional communities operated, and ignored the substantial capacity of these commuities for development – a capacity that would only materialise if such communities were given sufficient self-determination. The debate about the perception, nature, and capacity of so-called traditional societies in the modern world has a direct bearing on the expectations and understandings of urban Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This chapter explores several themes arising out of an examination of some of the social and structural aspects of Maori urbanisation. These lead to the conclusion that the emergence of Maori urban authorities are now a permanent feature in Maori society, and are an entirely legitimate form of association, in both a structural and cultural sense.

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© 2008 Te Ara Poutama, AUT University