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Bands And Tribes Essay, Research Paper


- Small size, 25- 50 people (mostly related by


- Least complex type of political organisation.

- Major subsistence strategy: gathering and hunting

- Generalised reciprocity

- They are generally egalitarian; people have the same rights and

share food etc.

- Cognatic descent (reckoned through both males and


- Non-centralised political system. There are no offices and

temporary leaders, therefore no-one has official authority over


- Political decision are made informally, by consensus.

- When some activity must be performed in common, band members

unite behind the person who most inspires their personal

confidence, and then only for a clearly defined period of


- There are few rights to personal property; things can be used

by anyone. Example: Inuit of? Angmagssalik, on the coast of

Greenland. Tribes Tribe- the political organisation often occurring among

Horticulturalists or herders, whose members identify themselves

as distinct from members of other groups based on their common

heritage, and often common ancestry. – Larger and more complex than bands; few hundred to several

thousand members

- Major subsistence: Horticulture, Pastoralism. There food

sources are quite reliable.

- Balanced reciprocity

- There is personal inequality; weakly developed social


- Lineal or cognatic descent.

- Non-centralised authority- authority is spread among several or

many roles and leaders.

- The various groups and factions have their leaders, but their

leadership is attained informally. And typically,? no especially

rich or powerful individual heads the whole tribe. Instead, the

leaders of the various factions and other groups come together

into a temporary coalition when necessary- in the face of a

threat from the outside, for instance. Alliances are constantly

being formed.

- Offices are rare.

- Leadership is attained informally, factions are possible

- Warfare is common.

- They live in permanent or semi-permanent villages. Because

these are relatively, a variety of groups- descent groups,

political factions, military associations can develop.

- Sometimes an informal leader emerges to settle conflicts among

members or integrate a tribe"s various groups in the face

of an outside threat. This leader has no official mandate and

occupies no formal office; his authority derives from his ability

to? coerce and persuade people to support him. The active support

of many people is very important to a leader in a tribal society-

their joint labour provides food and their loyalty gives him his


- On New Guinea and neighbouring Melanesian islands, political

leaders who are charismatic, eloquent, physically powerful,

politically skilled and generous may receive recognition as big

men. They exhibit many of the characteristics of tribal leaders

in other societies. A big man does not occupy an office; his

power depends on the influence he exerts over his personal

following. His generosity is particularly important, for making

loans and gifts to supporters and potential supporters is

essential for gaining leadership. Example: Qashagi, Western Iran


- Larger, more complex than tribes

- Populations number in the thousands

- Major subsistence strategy: Non-mechanised agriculture

- Balanced reciprocity: re-distribution

- Distinct social classes

- Lineal or cognatic descent

- Centralised authority; chief is officeholder

- Political decisions are made formally Example: Azande of Central Africa. (They no longer exist in

their original form, however).

? State

- Largest, most complex political organisation

- Tens of thousands to millions of members

- Major subsistence strategy: large-scale, technologically

complex agriculture and industrial production

- Market exchange economy. Use of Money.

- Highly stratified social structure

- Cognatic descent

- Centralised government; authority based on law..

- Rights of citizenship and complex bureaucracies



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