- Small size, 25- 50 people (mostly related by consanguinity/marriage).
- Least complex type of political organisation.
- Major subsistence strategy: gathering and hunting
- Generalised reciprocity
- They are generally egalitarian; people have the same rights and hare food etc.
- Cognatic descent (reckoned through both males and females).
- Non-centralised political system. There are no offices and temporary leaders, therefore no-one has official authority over others.
- 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 time.
- There are few rights to personal property; things can be used by anyone.
Example: Inuit of Angmagssalik, on the coast of Greenland.
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 classes
- 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 influence.
- 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).
- 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.