Death Deeds and Descendants by RÃ©mi Clignet Book PDF Summary
Clignet's analysis of the processes of biological, economic, and cultural reproduction at work in inheritance patterns in modern America is the first sustained treatment by a sociologist. Using the concept of reproduction to organize his data, Clignet shows that even today inheritance serves to perpetuate both familial wealth and familial relations. He examines how decedents chose particular legal instruments (wills, trusts, insurance policies, gifts inter vivos) and how, in turn, the instrument chosen contributes to explain the extent and the form of inequalities in bequests as a function of gender or matrimonial status of the beneficiaries. The author utilizes two kinds of primary data: the estate tax returns filed by a sample of male and female beneficiaries to estates in 1920 and 1944--representing two successive generations of estate transfers--and publicly recorded legal instruments such as wills and trusts. In addition, he draws widely on sources from secondary literature in the fields of anthropology, economics, and history. Clignet's book underscores the variety of forms of inequality that bequests take and highlights the complexity of interrelations between the cultures of the decedents' nationalities and issues like occupation and gender. Inheritance is viewed in long perspective as illustrative of the subtle tensions between continuity and change in American society. This book is an important contribution to the study of the relationship between sociology of the family and sociology of social stratification.