Chiefdoms and Their Analogues: Alternatives of Social Evolution at the Societal Level of Medium Cultural Complexity

Chiefdoms and Their Analogues: Alternatives of Social Evolution  at the Societal Level of Medium Cultural Complexity
Authors: Grinin, Leonid; Korotayev, Andrey
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 10, Number 1 / March 2011


The general process of the growth of sociocultural complexity was multidimensional and multilinear. That is why the evolutionary phase of medium-complex societies (where the chiefdoms are most often observed) was represented by numerous types of societies.

The article is devoted to the analysis of chiefdom analogues, or various evolutionary alternatives to the chiefdom: poleis, autonomous towns and complex village communities, cast-clan systems, non-hierarchically organized territorial groups and federations of villages, certain types of tribal systems, and so on. All chiefdom analogues' forms can be subdivided into a few types: monosettlement analogues (with the majority of the population concentrated in a single central settlement); horizontally integrated polysettlement analogues; and corporate analogues. The notion of chiefdom analogues which we put forward will advance the theoretical analysis of the cultural-political variations among medium-complex societies where chiefdoms are bound to occupy one of the main positions.


The articles of the present special issue (as well as the ones published in the framework of the preceding discussion) pose important questions as regards the place of chiefdoms in political anthropology. First we must ask if the very notion of chiefdom has become outdated. Can the chiefdom be regarded as an evolutionary stage? Do archaeological data adequately correspond to it (e.g., Drennan, Hanks, and Peterson 2011)? Does it make sense to give definitions to the chiefdom, and is not the value of all typologies rather limited (e.g., Earle 2011)? Has the introduction of this notion done any good to archaeology? Or, has it only obscured the situation (cp. Carneiro 2010a, 2010b; Pauketat 2007, 2010; see also Earle 2011; Drennan et al. 2011)?

We believe the current discussion indicates that the notion of chiefdom remains rather useful. Of course, on the one hand, the theory of chiefdom is in need of further development. The rapid accumulation of knowledge on ancient societies demands a revision of some stereotypes and rejection of certain rigid theoretical constructions. Contributions to this special issue (Drennan et al. 2011; Lozny 2011; Gibson 2011; Claessen 2011) demonstrate various difficulties associated with the use of the notion of chiefdom when it is applied to many concrete archaeological and ethnohistorical cases. On the other hand, we do not find it productive and justified to simply reject the evolutionary approach and certain theoretical constructions associated with it, including the notion of chiefdom (see, e.g., Pauketat 2007, 2010).1

In this regard we would like to emphasize that many problems of the use of the notion of chiefdom stem from the outdated unilinear approaches to the study of social evolution rather than from the alleged inadequacy of the evolutionary theory itself. It would not be correct at all to identify the evolutionary approach with one of its versions – with the unilinear understanding of social evolution that explicitly, or (more frequently) implicitly can be detected in the theoretical positions of some anthropologists. The treatment of evolution as a unilinear process oversimplifies (and, finally, significantly distorts) our understanding. The result of the competition, selection, and spontaneous search for the ‘fittest’ evolutionary forms and models, i.e. the result of very long-term and complex processes may look as if it was initially predetermined. We believe that if evolutionary process is approached as multilinear by definition (not declaratively, but systematically, taking into account alternatives to the ‘main sequence’ types and lines at every level of complexity), many problems turn out to be solvable in principle. That is why in our article all the analyzed issues including the notion of chiefdom analogues are viewed through the prism of general evolutionary multilinearity.

In this respect the present article continues the issues which we have already considered in the Social Evolution & History not so long ago (Grinin and Korotayev 2009b; Grinin 2009b). Those articles analyze macroevolutionary processes that took place during the very prolonged late archaic and early civilization periods. During those periods two major aromorphoses took place, that is (a) the formation of more or less institutionalized political subsystems, starting from the complexity level of chiefdoms and their analogues; (b) the formation of archaic states and their analogues with further institutionalization of the political subsystem. This whole epoch is designated by us as the epoch of the initial (or primary) politogenesis.

We denote as social aromorphoses the most important (though rarest) qualitative macrochanges that significantly increase complexity, adaptedness and mutual influence of social systems, and that open subsequently new directions of evolutionary development for many social systems (see Grinin and Korotayev 2007, 2009c; Grinin, Markov, and Korotayev 2008, 2009, 2011 for more details).

Within our approach, politogenesis denotes the process of formation of a distinct political aspect within the social system that leads to the emergence of partially and relatively autonomous political subsystem, the process of the formation of special power forms of societal organization; this is connected with the concentration of power and political activities (both internal and external) under the control of certain groups and strata. Within this perspective, the state formation process should be regarded as a component of the overall process of politogenesis (see Grinin 2009b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b for more details).

The epoch of primary politogenesis may be subdivided into two periods: 1) the one starting with the formation of chiefdoms and their analogues, which we shall denote below as the pre-state period or the period of the Elder Aromorphosis; 2) the one covering the formation and development of the early states and their analogues, which we shall denote below as the early state period or the period of the Younger Aromorphosis.

In the present article we will focus on the analysis of processes that took place at the level of social systems with medium complexity that correspond to the epoch placed between the one of the early agriculturalists' (and advanced hunter-gatherers') simple social systems and the one of complex social systems (starting with the early states and their analogues).

Complex chiefdoms are analyzed in Grinin's contribution to the present issue (see also Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2009b, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009c etc. for the application of our approach to more complex societies).


As we have already demonstrated before, an equal level of sociopolitical (and cultural) complexity (which makes it possible for societies to solve equally difficult problems) can be achieved not only in various forms but on essentially different evolutionary pathways, too (e.g., Korotayev et al. 2000; Bondarenko, Grinin, and Korotayev 2002, 2011; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b; Grinin 2007c, 2009a, 2009b, 2011b).

For example, if we consider in more detail one of the most influential and widespread unilinear evolutionary schemes, the one proposed by Service (1971 [1962]; its outline, however, is already contained in Sahlins's well-known article [Sahlins 1960: 37]): band – tribe – chiefdom – state, it appears very important to stress that on each level of the growing political complexity one could easily find evident alternatives to this evolutionary line.

Let us start with the human societies of the simplest level of sociocultural complexity. Indeed, one can easily observe that acephalous egalitarian bands are found among most of the unspecialized hunter-gatherers. However, as has been shown by Woodburn (1972, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1988a, 1988b) and Artemova (1987, 1991, 1993, 2000a, 2000b; Chudinova 1981; see also Whyte 1978: 49–94), some of such hunter-gatherers (the inegalitarian ones, first of all most of the Australian aborigines [see also Bern 1979]) display a significantly different type of sociopolitical organization with much more structured political leadership concentrated in the hands of relatively hierarchically organized elders, with a pronounced degree of inequality both between the men and women, and among the men themselves.

At the next level of political complexity we can also find communities with both homoarchical and heterarchical political organization. One can mention, e.g., the well-known contrast between the Indians of the Californian North-West and South-East:

The Californian chiefs were in the center of economic life, they exercised their control over the production, distribution and exchange of the social product, and their power and authority were based mainly on this. Gradually the power of the chiefs and elders acquired the hereditary character, it became a typical phenomenon for California... Only the tribes populating the North-West of California, notwithstanding their respectively developed and complex material culture, lacked the explicitly expressed social roles of the chiefs characteristic for the rest of California. At the meantime they new slavery... The population of this region had an idea of personal wealth... (Kabo 1986: 180; see also, e.g., Downs 1978).

One can also immediately recall the socio-culturally complex communities of the Ifugao (e.g., Barton 1922; Meshkov 1982: 183–197) lacking any pronounced authoritarian political leadership compared with the communities of the North-West Coast, but with a comparable level of overall sociopolitical and sociocultural complexity (see, e.g., Townsend 1985; Averkieva 1978a).

Hence, already at the levels of simple and middle range communities we observe several types of alternative sociopolitical forms.

This article is devoted to the analysis of various evolutionary alternatives to the chiefdom: poleis, autonomous towns and complex village communities, cast-clan systems, non-hierarchically organized territorial groups and federations of villages, certain types of tribal systems, and so on.

We have written a lot about alternatives/analogues of early states (see, e.g., Korotayev 1996a, 2000b; Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2003, 2004b, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2009b, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009а, 2009b; see also Grinin in this volume). We have also pointed at evolutionary alternatives, i.e. analogues, of more complex evolutionary types of developed and mature states (see Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2008, 2010; Grinin and Korotayev 2006, 2009а).

The analysis of social evolution as a multilinear process should be amplified with some general evolutionary ideas and conclusions which are directly related to the issues regarded in the article (for more details see Grinin 2009b, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b; see also Grinin, Markov, and Korotayev 2008):

a) the transitions to social aromorphoses could only take place under the conditions of a large diversity of institutions and forms of social systems, as a result of which various versions of social phenomena produced by previous aromorphoses occupy all the accessible niches and apply all the possible versions of narrow specialization;

b) the transitions to new aromorphoses are only possible in case of sufficiently wide general movement toward the growth of organizational complexity, the increase in the density of internal links (including positive feedbacks) – that is, the general evolutionary development of social systems (that, however, in each case acquires its specific form);

c) because of this, for any level of overall sociocultural complexity one can detect a considerable number of alternatives of social development; on the one hand, it makes sense to consider them as equally significant versions of social development, and, on the other hand, as a bunch of evolutionary pathways, as a probability (evolutionary) field, within which, however, theoretically, one may detect ‘main tracks’ and ‘collateral’ development lines;

d) for a long period of time those developmental pathways coexisted and competed with each other, whereas for many special ecological and social niches the ‘collateral’ (in retrospective) pathways, models, and versions could well have turned out to be more competitive and adequate;

e) statements on ‘inevitable’ evolutionary results usually turn out to be correct in the most general count only: as a result of a long competition of various forms, their destruction, transformation, social selection, adaptation to multifarious ecological environments etc. However, for a particular society such a result could well have not been inevitable at all.


Within the pre-state phase of politogenesis

What has been said above on the evolutionary alternatives suggests that the general process of the growth of sociocultural complexity was rather multidimensional. That is why the evolutionary phase of medium-complex societies (where the chiefdoms are most often observed) was represented by numerous types of societies, some of which left almost no traces.2 However, before regarding these types and forms it is necessary to make a few general notes with respect to the evolutionary process of the growth of sociocultural complexity in the early agrarian social systems.

We find it appropriate to speak about complex dynamics of relationships between various lines of the cultural complexity growth among early agrarian societies, such as politogenesis, sociogenesis, ethnogenesis; military, technological, demographic, cultural development etc. (see Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2007c, 2007d, 2011a; 2011b: ch. 4; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b). It is crucially important that even the societies at similar levels of sociocultural complexity can be significantly inferior to each other politically, socially, or culturally. Indeed, in almost all societies changes took place simultaneously in various spheres (technological, political, social, religious, ethnic, etc.), but: (a) the magnitude, significance, and proportions of these changes varied greatly; (b) changes in various spheres could occur in various societies with significant lags; (c) in each society the advancement ratio of different spheres varied greatly, certain subsystems being liable to much greater change than others. Besides, the subsystem lagging behind would take a long time to catch up with the more developed one, or even would never manage it. This created a huge variety of combinations and models of development of medium-complex and complex societies.

Depending on numerous factors, different processes (e.g., religious or economic ones, or social stratification) could dominate certain phases of sociocultural evolution. It could be even politogenesis sometimes, but seemingly politogenesis followed other processes rather than initiated them in many cases at least before the state formation. In such cases political power itself was a derivative of other forms of society organization and other forms of power (e.g., sacral, or economic power, or the one based on a leader's personal qualities) and only gradually acquired independence (see Grinin 2009b, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009b).3 This hypothesis is supported by the fact that in many cases governing was not a goal in itself for leaders, but was rather a means to solve the objectively existing important problems encountered by the society or the elite (see Claessen 2004: 75–76).

A more universal feature of the social development at this complexity level was the formation and institutionalization of new forms of social inequality. This was revealed in the following ways.

Firstly, this was revealed in the transition from relatively egalitarian, or primitive non-egalitarian (see e.g., Artemova 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993) to the inequality formed on a new social basis. New types and dimensions of social inequality emerged (including the ones based on genealogical differences, new types of wealth inequality, as well as inequality connected with military activities, access to offices, or public resources).

Secondly, one could observe a tendency towards increased surplus accumulation and redistribution aimed at the organization of public works and banquets, as well as the material support of rulers, priests, and wars. A substantial part of surplus was appropriated by the political center (e.g., the chief) and the elite. The role of tribute and booty increased. One could observe flourishing prestige economy whose functioning was supported by the activities of various prominent people, including the administrators (see, e.g., Sahlins 1972b).

Thirdly, one could observe a tendency towards the increase in the social division of labor that was expressed in the emergence of semiprofessional or even professional administrators, warriors, priests, ancient ‘intellectuals’, craftsmen, merchants, servants, etc. There was also a tendency towards a deeper intercommunal division of labor.

Fourthly, even where the politogenesis retarded, the growth of sociocultural complexity was usually accompanied (and supported) by some elaboration of decision-making mechanisms, some growth of the role of trade was frequently observed; in general, the growth of socio-cultural complexity stimulated the development of the political subsystem (on the diversity of leadership roles in various societies see, e.g., Redmond 1998b; Belkov 2000; Service 1975: 87).

Particular mechanisms and means of securing inequality were numerous, including the right of first settlement, genealogy, traditions, new religious requirements, as well as war, inequitable treaties and unions, etc.4 (some of such means were described in Claessen's article in the current issue, as well as in Grinin 2011b: 101–102).


In talking about pre-state sociopolitical forms we mean only principally pre-state forms (and not state analogues), sociopolitical systems with no higher than a medium level of sociopolitical complexity.5 Importantly, in such societies the demographic scale is beyond (and often even far beyond) the one which can be organized by personal relationships in face-to-face interaction. This means that new forms of relations, control, and leadership must have appeared within them.

Alternative social evolution, uneven rates of change and development of various social subsystems, various combinations of internal and external factors all led to a greater variety of pre-state societal forms and relation types. Among them are: more or less centralized polities headed by a chief appeared, as well as self-governed cities, poleis, temple and large rural communities; decentralized chiefless tribes; various complex acephalous sociopolitical systems, etc.

Population size of medium-complexity systems can vary greatly from several hundreds to dozens of thousands. However, for more or less centralized or compact entities like simple chiefdoms, small temple-civil communities etc. the variation is smaller, from hundreds to thousands. On the whole we rely on Earle's estimates of a chiefdom population within centralized regional structure being in the range of thousands (Earle 1987; see also Carneiro, e.g., 1981). However, some chiefdoms with population of thousand or less are known as well, such as typical simple Trobriand chiefdoms (Johnson and Earle 2000: 267–279). New Caledonia chiefdoms counted 500–2000 people in the mid-19th century (Shnirel'man 1988: 200). On the Polynesian island of Futuna small chiefdoms included 5–10 villages each of 100–200 inhabitants (see Sahlins 1972a: 85–87, 188–190). Cherokee chiefdoms had 400 people on average (Service 1975: 140–144). However, in general, we would like to maintain that it makes sense to denote such chiefdoms (following Carneiro 1981) as ‘minimal chiefdoms’, whereas chiefdoms organizing population in thousands could be denoted as ‘typical’. It appears rather difficult to delineate exactly a border between simple and complex chiefdoms; however, we tend to consider ten thousand as the upper limit for simple chiefdoms' population; it appears that a simple chiefdom's population could hardly achieve (let alone exceed) this limit.6 Their territories were not usually very large either (see, e.g., Spencer 2000: 155–156). Of course, the size of those territories depended significantly on population density and transportation opportunities, that is why among nomadic herders the territories controlled by their chiefdoms could be much larger than among agriculturalists, as nomadic herders were characterized by relatively low population densities, on the one hand, and by the usual presence of abundant transportation means in form of mounts and/or cartage transportation.

Various forms of links and some factors of their diversity.
In every type and subtype of medium-complexity social systems only a few of potential types of system links had major importance. The point is that some forms of links (a) could serve as substitutes for links of other types; (b) could make other links excessive; (c) some types of links could not be combined with links of other types. Thus, centralization could weaken horizontal links, whereas military integration could depress economic links. The growth of functional differentiation was not always accompanied by an increase in degrees of social stratification and/or political centralization. Sacred hierarchies or wealth differentiation did not always coincide with political hierarchies, and so on.7

Even if we consider particular evolutionary types of polities, we find a great variability of characteristics, when some characteristics could be substituted by some other ones.8 All these created a great diversity of chiefdom forms, as well as considerable difficulties in the identification of certain polities as chiefdoms. One can easily find a confirmation of this point in the contributions to the present issue, as well as in the discussion that has preceded it. For example, Earle (2011, this issue) maintains that the extent and institutional form of chiefdoms grade rather seamlessly along alternative lines from egalitarian small-scale societies into state societies. Drennan, Hanks, and Peterson (2011, this issue) discuss different ways in which chiefdoms may vary and suggest a rather long (10 points), yet not exhaustive, list of characteristics, according to which the variations in chiefdom forms may be traced.

For example, one may observe a rather great variation with respect to such an important societal characteristic as the degree of centralization. In particular, social systems can be united on the basis of the ‘center – periphery’ model, but without any rigid subjugation. For example, the ‘center – periphery’ relationships were not rigid in confederations (Fenton 1978: 114).9 Centralization may have been based on such foundations that differed from the ones on which chiefdoms were based – for example, it could be based on the population concentration (that may have taken place due to various reasons: economic, religious, military). In such cases one could observe the emergence of complex autonomous city, polis, temple and other communities. Yet, population concentration in a single settlement could be also observed in some chiefdoms though they usually consisted of a few settlements/communities united under the paramount chief's permanent power (Carneiro 1981: 45).10 On the other hand, hierarchical centralization principles could be employed in some special corporate groups (e.g., in secret societies).

However, even more frequently we seem to deal with horizontal links. Such links connected tribal segments, as well as clans and communities in various acephalous sociopolitical systems, federations, confederations, and so on.

There were also a considerable number of societies where power was distributed among many relatively autonomous social institutions organized along kinship, territorial, or corporate lines (Novozhilova 2000: 109; see also McIntosh 1999b; Vansina 1999). It appears also appropriate at this point to recollect the proposed subdivision of medium complexity social systems into ‘group-oriented’ vs. ‘individualizing’ (Renfrew 1974) or the ones based on ‘corporate’ vs. ‘network’ strategies (Blanton et al. 1996) that could lead to different forms of sociopolitical complexity.

This diversity was determined by a great number of factors of various levels. If we take into consideration such an important aspect as the size and convenience of surplus accumulation, we may suggest the following:

a) insufficient level of surplus alienation may hinder the formation of supracommunal organs and institutions (and chiefdoms in general), while facilitating the emergence of horizontal intercommunal links;

b) the presence of sufficient amounts of surplus may contribute to the formation of such mechanisms that make it possible to accumulate such surplus for the most active members of the integrated social system.11 In such cases chiefdoms could emerge; however, this was only possible when some other additional conditions were present (e.g., sufficiently developed social stratification and appropriate ideology);

c) very large amounts of surplus (as was observed, e.g., in the late 4th millennium BCE in Southern Mesopotamia) can contribute to an exceptionally high concentration of population and the emergence of such forms that were rather different from chiefdoms, including relatively large cities, like Uruk, as well as to a very fast emergence of the early state analogues.12

One may agree with Carneiro (1981, 1998) that wars frequently contributed to the emergence and growth of chiefdoms – through the compulsory (or semivoluntary – because of the necessity to create military alliances) integration of communities, due to the enlargement of some settlements at the expense of the other, etc. (see also Lozny 2011, this issue). However, this was only possible when certain other conditions were present, including: a) the presence of sufficient and easily alienable wealth; b) the presence of a certain social stratification within respective social systems; c) the presence of at least some forms of military specialization (e.g., emergence of semiprofessional military groups, public or secret military societies, formation of special armed groups around some figures, etc.);13 d) the presence of recognized (socially institutionalized) leaders, in the sense that their power is evident and without protest from social actors (Earle 2011).

It was noticed long ago that distant unrelated societies could display surprising similarities in certain respects, whereas very closely related societies could demonstrate significant differences (Claessen 1989). The point is that the diversity of forms depends considerably on the concrete conjuncture of confronting political forces, peculiarities of involved personalities, various social innovations that could emerge in the process (for illuminating examples of some of them see Vansina 1999), and so on.

That is why even similar ethnic composition, natural and social conditions, subsistence economy type, religion, etc. do not lead necessarily to the establishment of uniform political systems in a respective region. For example, in Polynesia one could find a considerable diversity of political regimes even within one archipelago (see, e.g., Butinov 1982, 1985). This was observed, for example, in various islands of the Tuvalu Archipelago. The first explorers found a ‘king’ having an absolute power on one island, they discovered a ‘king’ in combination with a council composed of heads of ramages on another island, on a third island there were two ‘kings’ with equal powers, on a fourth island there was a ‘king’ and a ‘chief’ who was formally a subject of the ‘king’ but who was a real ruler due to his strong personality, and so on (see Butinov 1982: 54). Butinov further notes that though in Polynesia the administration of economic and social life was usually concentrated in the chiefs' hands, priests sometimes managed to establish their control over chiefs and transform themselves in actual rulers of respective islands. For example, on the Nanumea Island, where the upper elite consisted of two chiefs and seven priests, these were the latter who actually ruled. On the Funafuti Island the supreme priest had more influence than the paramount chief (Ibid.: 33–34). In other regions one could quite often observe the coexistence within one ethnic group of classic chiefdoms (were the chief's will was perceived to be equal to the law) with communities having rather democratic forms of government, as was described, e.g., with respect to the Naga of India (see Maretina 1995). Various types of political system differ from one another not only in scale but also in the formal principles in term of which they are organized (Leach 1970: 6). A rather wide diversity of ‘political regimes’ was also observed among the Gallic polities – ranging from a chief's despotic unrestricted power to rather complex systems of checks and balances of ‘aristocratic’ republics (see Shkunaev 1988, 1989; Thevenot 1987; Roymans 1990: 22; Filip 1961; see also Grinin 2003, 2004b, 2007c, 2011a, 2011b; on the diversity of traditional political systems of Arabia see Dostal 1984; Korotayev 1996a, 2000a, 2000b).

‘Horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ analysis of the evolution of medium complexity societies. The position of Drennan, Hanks, and Peterson (2011) is based on the following statement: ‘The word “chiefdom”, used in this way, no longer refers really to a societal type but rather to a process’. We believe that the most promising ways to solve research problems we are dealing with should not rely on the opposition of evolutionary process and evolutionary type (see Carneiro 2000; Grinin 2007e, 2007f, 2011a, 2011b for more details regarding this), as well as the opposition of stages and processes, or stages and types (Lozny 2011). We think that we should rather rely on the recognition of the following point: the transition to a higher level of complexity implies almost by definition the emergence of not one, but a considerable number of types and forms that can be considered equal in a certain theoretical aspect (Grinin and Korotayev 2009b).

Yet, later one could observe a natural selection of a number of more evolutionary perspective forms from all this variety. Those forms included polities having centralized (hierarchical) administration – that is chiefdoms in the first place. Chiefdoms (or chiefdom-like polities, to be exact), in general (but, in no way, always), had a higher evolutionary potential than their decentralized analogues. Using Burdeau's (1966) phrase, some centralized polities managed to ‘cure the power’ from the paralysis of primitive stupor. In chiefdoms we generally observe the emergence of a new type of leadership.

However, within the range of complexity in question one could also find a number of other potentially promising forms, including democratic, civil-temple, and acephalous urban-like communities that can be considered as precursors of a number of forthcoming polity types that played an important role in the world history.

Thus, when comparing various polities, it makes sense to take into account two analytic aspects: horizontal and vertical. Within the first aspect different forms of polities of similar sizes and complexity are considered to belong to one ‘stage’. Within the second aspect we single out within the given range of complexity more or less evolutionarily promising forms. Taking into account the wide presence among the highly complex societies of centralized and personalized administration forms, chiefdoms tended to be more evolutionarily promising than acephalous political systems.

However, it took a few millennia to make it clear which of the polity types had a higher evolutionary potential. A few generations of polity types were necessary in order that it would become clear that some particular principles of political organization are more effective. In addition, in certain ecological niches evolutionarily lateral forms turned out to be more viable than mainstream ones. Thirdly, to have a higher evolutionary potential does not mean to have advantages in a concrete historical setting. Frequently it was just the other way round.

Note also that autocratic states (being in some sense ‘heirs’ of the principle of centralized administration that was developed among some medium complexity societies) became the dominant form of statehood in supercomplex agrarian societies, but the democratic line of politogenesis never disappeared entirely throughout the whole of world history; always presenting an alternative to autocratic political organizations, whereas in the Modern Age the democratic political organization gradually became dominant (see Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2004a, 2004c, 2010 for more details). All this suggests the necessity to take into account (a) the alternatives of social evolution; (b) various dimensions (‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’) when comparing different types of societies; (c) the heuristic value of the notion of chiefdom analogues that we will discuss below.

Vertical and horizontal aspects of such an analysis can well be applied to the analysis of transitions to higher complexity levels. For example, the formation of simple chiefdoms could take place vertically, when a new simple chiefdom emerged in the place of a few autonomous communities, whereas the transformation of a confederation of communities in a more centralized polity (that tended to be accompanied by a significant growth of complexity) could be regarded as a horizontal variant of such a process.14


The emergence of chiefdoms usually involved a transition to a higher level of not only political but also general social complexity. And this puts the given evolutionary type of medium complexity polities in a special position. In some respects, the emergence of chiefdoms can well be regarded as the leading line of politogenesis. However, this can only be done with very serious qualifications. The point is that no political systems developed in isolation, every political system experienced certain transformations under the influence from outside. What is important is that many primary, secondary, and tertiary early states emerged on the basis of various polis, civil, temple, civil-temple, trade-craft (and so on) communities, just a fraction of which can be regarded as chiefdoms. Chiefs acted as the leading force of the state formation only in some cases, whereas in the other cases these were some other agents (priests, aristocracy,15 oligarchic groups, democratic leaders, and so on).16 As regards the social systems in the medium complexity range, we must note that the urban/communal type of politogenesis was even more ancient than politogenesis through the emergence of chiefdoms (see Korotayev et al. 2000; Grinin 2009a; Grinin, and Korotayev 2009a: ch. 6; Korotayev and Grinin 2006).

On the basis of what has been mentioned above we believe it makes sense to subdivide all the diversity of the medium complexity polities (in view of a special role played by chiefdoms in the political evolution) into two major types: (1) chiefdoms/chiefdom-like polities and (2) chiefdom analogues.

Chiefdom-like polities can be defined as hierarchically organized and relatively centralized medium complexity polities possessing the following characteristics:

a) population in the range of several hundred to several thousand;

b) political autonomy;

c)   they are led by a recognized and stable chief/leader or group of leaders who wield power in the framework of certain traditions and procedures; who are able to exercise real control over certain important social relationships and resource flows; who have influential support groups organized around them.

Chiefdom analogues, that can be defined as polities or territorially organized corporations that have sizes and functions, which are similar to those of chiefdom-like polities, but that lack any of their other characteristics, such as high levels of hierarchy and centralization, presence of formal leader, organized system of resource control, political independence,17 and so on.

Such a subdivision of mid-complexity polities into chiefdoms and their analogues

· emphasizes that chiefdoms are not the only type of mid-complexity polities (yet, in the meantime it indicates their special evolutionarily position);

· demonstrates the diversity of evolutionary alternatives to the chiefdoms;

· allows classification of mid-complexity polities that do not fit the chiefdom definition even if there are doubts regarding the exact type of polities, to which they belong.

For example, Dillon (1990: 1) notes that though the study of decentralized political systems has a rather long research tradition there is no consensus among their students how to classify them
(if they do not fit the definition of chiefdom). We believe that they can well be preliminarily classified just as chiefdom analogues.

Let us consider now functions of chiefdom organization. They can be described as follows:

a) the unification of a number of communities (or quasi-communities or some heterogeneous population) into a single system (polity), in whose framework one observe such a density of relationships between individuals as well as between constituent communities that is significantly higher than between the components and non-components of the respective system;

b) regulation of internal relationships within the given structure;

c) the provision of the ability to act as a single entity in relations with external forces;

d) mobilization of population for collective actions.18

It appears important to mention that practically all the chiefdom analogues that are mentioned below were able to perform (more or less, but, generally, in quite a satisfactory way) the above-mentioned functions in the framework of the population and territorial sizes that were typical for mid-complexity social systems. (For an interesting comparison of function equality between acephalous chiefless Konkomba people and centralized chieftancy Nanumba people in northern Ghana see in this issue Skalník 2011: 65.)


Below we shall describe preliminarily a few forms of chiefdom analogues:

A. Monosettlement analogues (with the majority of population concentrated in a single central settlement);

B. Horizontally integrated polysettlement analogues;

C. Corporate analogues.

A. Monosettlement analogues

Poleis. Let us consider Greek poleis (as among them we can find the best studied cases of monosettlement chiefdom analogue). Initially, ‘polis was a relatively small (with population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand) community of citizens whose main occupation was agriculture, the basis of the polis economy’ (Koshelenko 1983: 30; see also Yaylenko 1983: 155). It appears rather clear that such a polis is a pre-state polity as regards its level of sociopolitical complexity.19 Such small agricultural poleis could well be found in Greece in the Classical Period, but they were especially typical in the previous periods – Homeric (before the 8th century BCE) and Archaic (the 8th and 7th centuries BCE). In contrast with the complex poleis of the Classical Period, the commerce and crafts were very poorly developed in the poleis of the Homeric and even Archaic Period (see Polyakova 1983).20 Such an agricultural orientation makes the early poleis look similar to most simple chiefdoms. The wealth stratification among the citizens is found in the poleis already in the early period (Ibid.: 124). In the meantime it appears possible to agree with Starr (1965: 209) that the polis emerged within a very simple society, in which the rich and the poor felt belonging to the same group. There are grounds to maintain that even the early poleis had rather specific sociopolitical characteristics, which allows us to consider them as a special polity type – the civil (or civic) community (Koshelenko 1983: 13; Golubtsova, Kuzischin, and Shtaerman 1975: 12–17; see also Yaylenko 1983). This was connected to a rather special sociopolitical organization, whereby the polis citizens felt their unity and participated voluntarily in administration and warfare. This was determined by the point that the polis citizens had certain (though not as rigorously defined as in the Classical Period) rights and duties, whereas the latter could determine the social status of an individual. It is also important to note that the territory around the central settlement of the polis (note that this settlement was also called just polis) was not a periphery subjugated to the central settlement, and its inhabitants had the same rights. What is more, free agriculturalists (who possessed their plots of land on the basis of the developing private property) became an important social layer of the polis (Andreev 1982). In the meantime in the early period some poleis emerged as a result of synoikism (that is a unification of a few small settlements into a larger one). This tended to break traditional clan and lineage links and to strengthen civil principles. Though such processes continued in Greek polities for centuries, their first manifestations could be traced rather early. In particular, according to some Greek traditions, Theseus' reforms in Athens (that apparently included the abolition of traditional ‘clan’ divisions and the introduction of artificial ‘civil’ one) might have taken place as early as the 9th century BCE.

With respect to the early poleis one has certain grounds to speak about the dominance of aristocratic clans – even when a ‘king’ (basileus) was present who could not make any serious decision without a council consisting of aristocratic leaders (Sergeev 2002: 122; Frolov 1988: 78). The point that in the emerging Greek poleis the dominant position belonged originally to the aristocracy was already noted by Greek authors, e.g., Aristotle (Pol., IV, 10, 10, 1297b). This domination which appears to be accounted for by the fact that the strongest part of the Archaic Greek army, the cavalry, consisted of aristocrats (Greenhalgh 1973). However, the aristocracy did not monopolize warfare entirely, and a certain role was played by the armed demos.21 Those poleis had certain organs (e.g., aristocratic councils, or bule; as well as popular assemblies that were not influential, however; hereditary or elected ‘kings’ who perform some judicial functions [Sergeev 2002: 122; Frolov 1988: 78]). Poleis also had some mechanisms of cooperation for the conduct of collaborative internal actions, as well as external military ones; in the meantime a salient feature of their political life was represented by the struggle between aristocratic clans (Koshelenko 1987: 45; Andreev 1976: 104ff.). However, such a competition in the context of weak legal principles within the Homeric polis (Koshelenko 1987: 45) created by itself certain forms and precedents of the regulation of the polis life. This could be observed in many similar ‘barbaric’ societies where the restraining force of the blood feud and mediation played an important role in the preservation of a minimally necessary unity of respective social systems.22 In the Archaic poleis the role of the courts increased, and they became an important tool for aristocratic domination.

Protourban and urban societies. Berezkin (1995b: 67–68; 2000: 263) brings attention to medium complexity acephalous proto-city polities with population of an order of 2–2.5 thousand each. Such polities judging by archaeological evidence, were rather wide spread in the ancient Near East, during the Neolithic in Palestine and Syria (the 7th millennium and the early 6th millennium BCE – `Ayn Ghazal, Tell Abu Hureyrah) and Anatolia (the 6th millennium BCE, Çatalhöyük), and secondly, in the Late Chalcolithic, as well as in the Early and Middle Bronze Age (the 4th and 3rd millennia BCE) of Southern Turkmenistan (Ilgynly-depe) and Eastern Iran (Shahr-e Sukhteh). The population of Shahr-e Sukhteh could have reached ten thousand.

As we have already mentioned the urban type of politogenesis was one of the leading ones. There were many types of urban and quasi-urban settlements, as well as types of political regimes observed within those settlements (on some of such regimes see, e.g., contributions to the volume edited by Sinclair Paul [2002]). For example, there were quasi-urban religious or ritual centers (such as ‘towns’ of the Creek Amerindians in Georgia and Alabama [see Sturtevant 1978]); there were also temple cities where the dominant political role was played by corporations of priests. However, even if a city was headed by a ‘chief’, ‘prince’, or a ‘king’, it was not infrequent when some other organs played an important role (like the Ancient Russian veche, organs of military democracy, and so on). In any case such cities could hardly be regarded as chiefdoms, because a chiefdom is usually regarded as a polity uniting a few villages under the power of a supreme chief (see, e.g., Carneiro 1981), whereas a city (even if it has a certain rural vicinity) has a spatial structure that is rather different from the one of such a chiefdom. Note also a difference in the degree of economic specialization.23

However, there were also fully self-governed democratic or even acephalous24 proto-urban and urban communities (Bolshakov 1989: 44–58; Berezkin 1995а, 1995b; Frantsouzoff 2000). A relative late (yet, unusually well-known) case of a complex city community is provided by pre-Islamic Mecca (see, e.g., Bolshakov 1989: 44–58; Simon 1989; Dostal 1991; Peters 1994: 77–166; Simonsen 2000).25

Large compact villages. The population of such villages could be very large (up to eleven thousand as in the case of Yakö in the South-East of Nigeria [Forde 1964; see also McIntosh 1999b]). Such settlements were integrated by horizontal ties – various associations, secret and cult societies. The supreme power was absent, but high-status members of such societies wielded religious or judicial power; they also exercised their control over the moral dimension of social life.

Aristocratic enclaves within large ethno-political systems. There are grounds to maintain that within a number of complex stateless political systems (early state analogues) that cannot be classified as complex chiefdoms, one could find semi-independent aristocracies with power that can be compared to the leaders of simple (or even small complex) chiefdoms. Such aristocrats had substantial autonomy within their realms, a right to judge and punish, and (what seems to be the most important) their own armed forces. A salient example is provided here by the Gallic aristocrats on the eve of Caesar's conquest, when noble Gauls could have a few hundred of clients and other dependent people from whom they could form cavalries that could act as substitutes for the general levies and thus to confront the main mass of the Gauls. The most noble aristocrats could have a few (up to ten) thousand of such clients (Caesar. Commentarii de Bello Gallico I: 4; Thevenot 1987; Bessmertny 1972: 17; see also Filip 1961). Polibius wrote about the institute of clients among the Gauls long before Caesar; he also described advantages that this institute provided for the upper strata of the Gallic polities (Filip 1961). The power of the aristocracy deprived the commoners of their political rights, whereas Caesar claimed that Gallic commoners had status rather close to the one of slaves; many commoners had to become actual slaves of aristocrats not being able to pay their debts (Commentarii de Bello Gallico VI: 13; see also Leru 2000: 125; Filip 1961). It seems also appropriate to note here that the ‘patron – client’ relationships were rather widespread among complex pre-state polities, as well as state analogues (see, e.g., Service 1975: 82; Crumley 2002; Grinin 2009; see also Filip 1961 as regards clientela among the Celts of Ireland).

Population organized by some Gallic tribal unions and confederations could be very large indeed (Filip 1961). For example, the number of Helvetians who attempted to migrate in 58 BCE to West Gaul according to various estimates ranged between 250 and 400 thousand (see, e.g., Shkunaev 1988: 503). For more details on Gallic polities as early state analogues see Grinin 2003: 140–141; 2004b: 97–98; 2011b: 258–260).

B. Polysettlement analogues united by horizontal links

Systems of acephalous communities. Another type of chiefdom analogue is constituted by the non-hierarchical systems of acephalous communities with a salient autonomy of small family households, like the one that were described among the Apatanis of North-East India. Their language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family. According to some data, the first contact with the Europeans occurred in 1897, when British officials came to stay in the valley for two days. The Apatanis were studied by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf (1962) in the 1940s, that is, before the Indian federal state established a definite control over them. It was Yuri Berezkin (1995a, 1995b, 2000 etc.) who first suggested treating the Apatani political system as a decentralized alternative to the chiefdom. The Apatanis lived at the altitude of 1.5 km in 7 villages. Each of those villages could be treated as a separate unit, but due to extensive horizontal links they all can well be treated as a single system. The issues of law, order, and conflict settlement were regulated by informal councils of respected men. The Apatanis preferred to avoid conflicts. It is very important to stress that the Apatanis had the institution of private ownership of land that belonged to particular households. Inhabitants of any village had a right to acquire land in any other village; there were no restrictions to buy or sell land. There were extensive horizontal economic links among the Apatani villages. Other types of horizontal links were represented by mass calendar ceremonies, as well as prestige potlatch-type events (lisudu) that were accompanied by the distribution of gifts. Lisudu events were also a means to limit wealth accumulation and wealth stratification. In the meantime the Apatanis had two intersecting systems of social stratification: a) they had aristocratic and commoner clans, whereas the latter were ritually dependent on the former, but had the same economic rights; b) there was a separate systems of wealth stratification. Those heterarchical set of two systems appear to have been blocking the further hierarchicalization of the society. However, there was a significant degree of socioeconomic stratification among the Apatanis, which involved slavery, bondage, and wage labor. In 1961 the total Apatani population reached 11 thousand in 2520 households.

Numerous interesting examples of such complex village communities lacking central command structure (which is especially impressive for the pre-modern New World where chiefdoms were very wide spread [see Carneiro 1981]) can be found among the Pueblo Indians in northern New Mexico (see Creamer 2001). Even when Pueblo communities had more or less formal political leaders, those leaders did not possess significant powers – there were no dominant chiefs who could command immediate obedience of their people (ibid.). Pueblo villages were rather close to each other. Their general population at the moment of first contact with the Spanish is estimated to be between 20 000 and 60 000; it was distributed among a few dozen (30–65) villages. According to Creamer, the unity of the whole region was supported by the Pueblo religion (including the activities of the secret societies and various rituals). Creamer believes that the religion and rituals have a key importance for the understanding of mechanisms of sociocultural complexity development in the Northern Rio Grande region. Some Pueblo settlements had more than 1000 inhabitants. In contrast with the Apatanis, these autonomous settlements frequently fought each other (which could contribute to the concentration of population in settlements), there was a cult of war and war leaders (Creamer 2001: 55). The wars also contributed to the growth of complexity as they pushed settlements to establish alliances whose emergence could lead to the formation of more or less stable settlement clusters (ibid.: 56).

Horton (1971) notes the presence of acephalous dispersed territorial societies in many regions of Africa. They are territorially defined local confederations lineages of mixed origins, which results in disjunctive migrations in respective regions. There is no supreme power, but confederations are united in a political-ritual way by cult organizations (see also McIntoch 1999b).26

A very good example of the aristocratic acephalous system is provided by the society of the Yi (Nuosu) people in the highland Liangshan area of the Sichuan province of China. There were four ‘estates’ in this society; one of them (called just Yi/Nuosu), ‘the black’, was considered to be noble in contrast with the subjugated ‘white’ estates; in particular, the noble ‘black’ were not engaged in agriculture or crafts. The other three (‘white’) estates were dependent on the ‘black’ in various degrees ranging from a sort of serfdom to direct slavery. In the meantime the development of such a complex system of social stratification was not accompanied by the formation of a comparably centralized political structure (Its and Yakovlev 1967; Kubbel 1988а: 241–242). The above described special sociopolitical system began emerging during the 7th century in connection with the subjugation of a few agriculturalist communities of the respective region by some groups of pastoralists (Its and Yakovlev 1967: 79).

Slavery was widespread within this sociopolitical system. The Nuosu raided the Chinese settlements capturing their inhabitants and enslaving them. Finally, the members of the ‘black’ estate turned out to constitute just a few per cent of the total population (Ibid.: 82). The male members of the noble ‘black’ estate were socialized as warriors from their early childhood. ‘Arrogance, contempt toward the other estates and ethnic groups, and bellicosity constituted salient features of the Nuosu psychological constitution. The Nuosu women pursued a mostly idle lifestyle except for looking after household slaves’ (Ibid.: 84).

The total population of the Liangshan Yi was about 10 thousand by the early 19th century. However, in 1838 it was already between 40 and 50 thousand. Until that time the respective polity/polities could well be regarded as a simple chiefdom analogue (taking into account a rather weak degree of integration of Yi settlements). In the subsequent period and up to the mid-1950s their population continued to grow and reached 630 thousand, of which 60 thousand were unassimilated Han slaves (Its and Yakovlev 1967: 79–80). Thus, since the 1830s the Nuosu sociopolitical system got transformed into an early state analogue (see Grinin 2011b: 283–284 for more details).

Federations and confederations of communities. One can find chiefdom analogues among federations and confederations of relatively small communities – for example, among highlanders (see, e.g., Aglarov 1988; Korotayev 1995b, 2006; Grinin 2007, 2011a, 2011b) or nomadic herders.27 In contrast with the previous type, federations and confederations had a higher degree of integration; sometimes they even had certain formal institutions (like supra-communal councils, etc.). Among more complex societies this has been studied with respect to tribal confederations of such Amerindian ethnic groups as the Creek (Sturtevant 1978), the Huron (Loginov 1988: 233; Tishkov 1988: 148), the Iroquois (Fenton 1978), etc. (on such tribal confederations of the Amerindians see also Grinin 2011b; Drennan et al. 2011).

Asymmetric lineage systems. Even some systems of lineages that are symmetric (as described in the African Political Systems [Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1987a] among such ethnic groups as the Logoli [Wagner 1987/1940], the Talensi [Fortes 1987], or the Nuer [Evans-Pritchard 1987a, 1987b]) can be regarded as incomplete chiefdom analogues as they performed a number of important functions that were analogous to the chiefdom functions.

However, it is important to note that there were other various forms and principles of the integration of lineages, including some asymmetric forms (we will discuss them in more detail below).
It appears that there was a wide spectrum of such lineage systems, and a considerable number of them could well be regarded as chiefdom analogues. Miller (1984) provides a telling description of various systems of lineage integration (based on territorial links, or integrated with symbolic links, with pseudo-kinship relationships, and so on) among the Mbundu of Angola in the period of the state formation in this part of the world.

Tribe. As has been recognized by many researchers, the notion of tribe is rather vague and polysemantic, as this notion can be used to denote a small group of 10–20 persons, and it can be used to denote large stateless peoples with population of hundreds of thousands and even millions (see, e.g., Fried 1967, 1975; Vansina 1999; Claessen 2011; Khoury and Kostiner 1990b; Tapper 1983b, 1990; Malinowski 1947: 252–261; Bromley 1982; Shnirelman 1982; Girenko 1991; Kubbel 1988b; Olderogge 1977; Sledzevsky 1991; Tishkov 1990; p'Bitek 1979: 27–32; Helm 1967; Grinin 2007; 2011b: 143–144; Korotayev 2000a, 2000b; 2006: 18, 114–120; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b).

What is relevant for us in the framework of the present article is that some forms of tribes (but, of course, not all of them) can be regarded as chiefdom analogues. We would also like to add that these are not only secondary tribes that could be regarded as chiefdom analogues; the same seems to be relevant for tribes among the early agriculturalists as well.28 The issue of the tribe as a chiefdom analogue will be discussed in more detail in the next section (it seems also appropriate to note at this point that in many such cases we are dealing with ‘tribe-like’ polities rather than just tribes [see, e.g., Creamer 2001: 55]).

C. Corporate analogues

Brown (1951), Kabbery (1957) and Horton (1971) found out that the basic links constituting fundamental structures of medium complexity social systems were not necessarily connected with lineages, whereas an important role here may well have been played by various horizontal links established through various institutions such as age classes, rituals, as well as special corporations, such as secret societies, ritual groups, or title societies (see also McIntosh 1999b: 9; Vansina 1999). Indeed, some rather firm sorts of horizontal links are often capable of playing an exceptional role in the institutionalization of relationships between individual communities, within individual tribes, or even between them. We believe that some types of corporations that we discuss can well be regarded as corporate chiefdom analogues.

Secret unions and societies. Secret societies are especially well described for Melanesia and sub-Saharan Africa; yet, they were also found in some other ethnographic regions of the world (for example, in Micronesia, or among some ethnic groups of the North American Indians [see, e.g., Creamer 2001: 55–57 on the role of such societies among the Pueblos of Northern Mexico], whereas linguistic and cultural reconstructions suggest their presence among the Indo-Aryans and some other ancient peoples of Eurasia. As we have already mentioned above, in some regions they were a rather widespread mechanism that established intercommunal relationships. They could be used in order to raise status, prestige, power, and wealth of their members, for the realization of their potentials and ambitions. The number of such secret societies was very large; for example, Butt-Thompson (1970) described about 150 such societies in West Africa. Many dozens of secret unions were described in various islands of Melanesia; some of them claimed their monopoly over certain types of witchcraft (Tokarev 1990: 308–311). There were also a sort of ‘professional’ secret societies – ones of warriors, healers, dancers, and so on (see Novozhilova 2000: 110). Butt-Thompson (1970) subdivided the secret societies of West Africa into the three following types: 1) mystic-religious, 2) democratic and patriotic, 3) ‘perverted-criminal’. (On the role of some secret societies, in particular the union of hunters in the politogenesis among the Mbundu see Miller 1976.)

Though types of secret societies could be rather diverse, many principles of their formation and functioning were frequently quite similar (Novozhilova 2000: 110–111; Kubbel 1988a: 238–241; see also Belkov 1993: 94–97). It is very important that those principles were in a direct opposition to the principles of clanship; and, in general, an emphasis on the break with clan structures was strongly associated with secret societies (see Novozhilova 2000: 110; Andreev 1998: 45; Kubbel 1988a: 240–241). Secret society member were not recruited on the basis of kinship criteria; some other criteria were applied: professional, territorial, wealth, etc. New principles of social stratification emerged, as the differences between a secret society's members developed on the basis of their ranks, functions, wealth, contribution, personal merits, etc. In order to enter such a society one often had to have guarantors, to pay a significant initial contribution; there were sometimes a severe discipline, a special secret language, and so on.

Like chiefdoms, secret societies could have complex hierarchical structures with several grades of subjugation of the junior members by senior members; what is more, we believe that in this respect some secret societies had a more articulate organization, and more rigorous hierarchical principles than many chiefdoms did. Some secret societies could be regarded as embryos of administration and repression apparatus; some secret societies played the role of police. In some cases they played a generally important role as regards the formation of statehood institutions (see Tokarev 1990: 307; Kubbel 1988a: 241; Grinin 2011b: 276–277).

Secret societies could perform in a rather effective way some functions that were typical for chiefdoms: the integration into a single system of individuals and groups residing in a certain territory but belonging to different kinship groups and different communities, the formation of supracommunal and supraclan organization; functions of mediation, justice, and punishment. Thus, some secret societies could prevent conflicts between communities;29 perform redistributive functions; create new legal norms, etc.

Organized groups of agglomerative type. One could well regard as chiefdom analogues various groups (that sometimes even formed a sort of quasi-tribe) of various dissenters, adventurists, freedom-lovers, criminals, seekers of easy profit, and so on. It was not infrequent when such armed conglomerates emerged as a counterweight to the growing formal power of some emerging state. As Friedrich Ratzel (1902, 1: 445) notes, ‘This dissident part of the population often acquire a significant strength due to their freedom from legal oppression, as well as to the respect which they enjoy among the bravest and the poorest of neighboring tribes’.

Castes and quasi-castes. As a result of conquests, intercommunal specialization, and other causes one could observe in some cases the emergence of caste and quasi-caste systems (see, e.g., Kubbel 1988a: 241). Castes and quasi-castes existed not only in early states (e.g., in India or medieval Arabia), they also existed in pre-state and para-state societies in Indonesia, Oceania, Eastern and North-Eastern Africa, Sahara, Southern Nigeria, and so on (Kobischanov 1978: 254–260; 1982: 145–149; see also Quigley 1999: 114–169; 2002: 146, 153). Castes performed many of the chiefdom functions: integration of individuals within certain territories, norm creation, justice, mediation, redistribution. Sometimes we find within them developed hierarchical structures up to paramount leadership.

Age classes (groups) served as an important mechanism of integration for a number of medium complexity societies as well as complex ones (see, e.g., Kalinovskaya 1976; van Gennep 2002 on complex systems of age classes; see also, e.g., Maretina 1995: 83 on the role of such an age system among some Naga groups of highland North-East India). There are cases when principles of secret societies and age classes were combined into one system (e.g., among the Sioux and some Algonquin tribes [Tokarev 1990: 313]). In some cases age classes could act as integrated corporations. In particular, this is relevant for the age-gender class of young male warriors that in some societies could transform into an armed force with its own leader, a force that could become especially formidable in case of its alliance with sorcerers and medicine men (numerous examples of this can be found in East Africa [e.g., Bocharov 1995]). In this aspect age classes can be regarded as incomplete chiefdom analogues.

Complex chiefdom analogues. In this article we do not analyze complex chiefdoms (see Grinin's contribution to this issue for more details); however, we find it appropriate to mention here that one can also identify analogues of complex chiefdoms. Such analogues were constituted first of all by confederations and federations of tribes and chiefdoms. Gibson (2011) mentions examples of confederations of chiefdoms, in particular in Ireland and Korea.

Let us base on Gibson's definition (‘a chiefdom confederacy consists of a number of genealogically related and unrelated chiefdoms which were unified through coercion or common agreement’ (Gibson 2011: 219). It is evident that in case of coercive unification this may be an entity headed by a privileged clan that could be transformed into an aristocratic social stratum (Tapper 1990: 68), or by a dominant chiefdom/tribe. In case of a common agreement, the structures of the lower layer can be quite similar to chiefdoms, whereas at the upper level one could observe various permanent or occasionally convened councils without any stable and strong paramount leader (various councils of chiefs or elders). Such structures could be found with respect to some Amerindian peoples; however, their confederations tended to be rather loose (see, e.g., Sturtevant 1978 on the Creeks).

The Iroquois tribes had a rather different system of organization: clan-family-based villages were headed by non-military leaders (‘sachems’), those leaders were not hereditary, but elected; what is more, they were elected by women (normally for life; however, if there was a strong dissatisfaction with them, they could be re-elected [see Fenton 1978: 122]).30 The sachems were members of tribal councils. Military leaders achieved this position through their personal merits. In case of exceptional achievements an individual could get the title ‘chief of the Pine-tree’ that was not hereditary (such chiefs pronounced speeches on behalf of the tribal Council and performed other assignments). The Iroquois Confederation also had the third (highest) administration level – the Council of the League that comprised representatives of each tribe according to the number of clans; the total number of council members was 50 (Ibid.), a consensus was necessary for council decisions to be formally made. The numerical strength of the population (15–20 thousand [Morgan 1934: 74; Snyderman 1948: 41]) and an exceptionally high level of integration supported by effective political mechanisms [see Vorobyov 2000: 158; Fenton 1978: 121; Hunt 1940] suggest that the Iroquois political system may be regarded not only as a complete analogue of the complex chiefdom, but also as an incomplete analogue of the early state (see Grinin 2007, 2011a, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a: Essay 5 for more details).


Evolutionary place of tribe. There are several points of view on the evolutionary place of tribe. The most influential approach regards the tribe as an intermediate stage. It interprets the tribe as an evolutionary link between the hunter-gatherer band and the chiefdom (Service 1971 [1962]; Sahlins 1968), while another approach sees it as а link between local groups and the state (see, e.g., Cohen and Schlegel 1967). Morton Fried expressed a viewpoint (accepted by many anthropologists) that a classical tribe (with an orderly organization and hierarchical power headed by the chief) is ‘secondary’, i.e. appeared under the influence of Europeans upon the primitive periphery (Fried 1975; see also Sneath 2007). On the other hand, the tribe has been virtually evicted from some evolutionary models (Townsend 1985: 146; Carneiro 1987: 760). However, the political forms entirely identical with what was described by Service as the tribe could be actually found in, e.g., medieval and modern Middle East (up to the present): these tribal systems normally comprise several communities and often have precisely the type of political leadership described by Service as typical for the tribe (Service 1971 [1962]: 103–104; Dresch 1984: 39, 41).

What is important, is that we deal here with some type of polity that could be identified neither with bands, nor with village communities (because such tribes normally comprise more than one community), nor with chiefdoms (because they have an entirely different type of political leadership), nor, naturally, with states. They could not be inserted easily in the Elman Service scheme somewhere between the village and the chiefdom. Indeed, as has been shown convincingly by Carneiro (see e.g., 1970, 1981, 1987, 1991, 2000), chiefdoms normally arose as a result of political centralization of a few communities without the stage of the tribe preceding this. On the other hand, a considerable amount of evidence suggests that in the Middle East many tribes arose as a result of political decentralization of chiefdoms which preceded the tribes in time. It is also important to stress that this could not in any way be identified with a ‘regression’, ‘decline’, or ‘degeneration’, as we can observe in many of such cases that political decentralization is accompanied by the increase (rather than decrease) of overall sociocultural complexity (Korotayev 1995a, 1995c, 1995d, 1996a, 1996b, 1996c, 1997, 1998, 2000a, 2000b; Grinin 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b). Hence, in many respects tribal systems of the Middle Eastern type appear to be chiefdom alternatives (rather than chiefdom predecessors) (for an interesting metaphor regarding this see Belkov 1991: 40–41; about nomadic societies see in this issue Kradin 2011: 195).

Evidently, special conditions are required both for the chiefdom formation (see, e.g., Lozny 2011: 138) and for its stable reproduction. If (e.g., ecological) conditions change and the surplus production decreases, chiefdom can be transformed into some other type of polity which it is often reasonable to view as a chiefdom analogue.

Undoubtedly, in macroevolutionary retrospective the chiefdom was a much more evolutionarily promising type of sociopolitical organization than the tribe. However, for certain regions, especially ecologically marginal ones, the situation was fundamentally different. For example, though in most Middle Eastern tribes the supra-tribal political structures (‘higher authority’) were weak (but not absent), their weakness in ‘tribal regions’ was frequently connected namely with the efficiency of tribal organization. The latter allows for a sufficiently developed population of ecologically low-productive regions to maintain a high sociopolitical level without centralized political organization which would require too large resources. In other words, in these special ecological regions the population managed to create a ‘cheap government’. That is why this could not in any way be identified with a ‘regression’, ‘decline’, or ‘degeneration’, as we can observe in many of such cases that political decentralization is accompanied by the increase (rather than decrease) of overall sociocultural complexity (Korotayev 1995а, 1995c, 1996а, 1996b, 1996c, 1997, 1998, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2006; Korotayev, Klimenko, and Prussakov 1999, 2007; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a: ch. 5; 2009b). That is why in many respects tribal systems of the Middle Eastern type appear to be chiefdom alternatives/analogues (rather than chiefdom predecessors) (Grinin and Korotayev 2009a: 192).31

At this point we shall try to define the type of tribe, which, in our view, is analogous to chiefdom.32 In this perspective, ‘tribe’ can be defined as a sociopolitical segmental system with a population of thousands or tens of thousands with a common ethnocultural nucleus, name, consciousness, own territory and political organization allowing it to sustain internal order and to self-organize to achieve its own military goals.33

The following traits may be also regarded as important characteristics of those tribes that can be considered as chiefdom analogues: a) the presence of recognized leaders (at least at the level of tribal segments); b) the presence of some (at least informal) functionaries performing certain functions at the tribal level; c) the presence of some ideology of unity that will be discussed below.

The issue of similarities and differences between the tribe and the chiefdom (as a sort of ideal types) remains important. Below we shall try to summarize the main similarities and differences between the tribe and the chiefdom on the basis of our own previous research, as well as the research of some other anthropologists (e.g., Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1987a [1940]; Service 1971 [1962], Sahlins 1968, 1972b; Fried 1967; Gluckman 1965; Friedman and Rowlands 1977; Earle 1987; Carneiro 1981; etc.).


Tribe and chiefdom: similarities in functions and organization levels

1. Polity sizes. As we have already mentioned above, the population of simple chiefdoms generally did not exceed 10 thousand. Population of some tribes was larger (and comparable to population of complex rather than simple chiefdoms). However, this difference of sizes tended to be compensated by a smaller degree of cohesion of tribes in comparison to the one of chiefdoms. In any case the relationships between settlements and individuals within polities of these types were significantly denser than between members and non-members of tribes/chiefdoms.

2. Systemness and capacity to grow. Both polity types had rather complex structures, they consisted of quite large components and had 2–3 levels of organization.34 They possess strong internal relations allowing for a structure to constantly reproduce itself (though principles of organization and relations differ). Besides, both polity types are potentially capable of complexity growth through union, consolidation, incorporation, as well as of ‘matrix’ reproduction when related tribes or neighboring chiefdoms are created from a separated part.

3. Regulatory capacity, i.e. capacity to regulate relations and conflicts inside the structure between its segments.35

4. Ideology of unification, i.e. belief into the chief's special rights or tribal asabiyyah in the sense implied by Ibn Khaldun (1958).

5. Implementation of certain functions, such as population mobilization, acting as a single unit in relation to external forces, common rituals etc.

Tribe and chiefdom: differences

1.   Differences in structure. In general, the chiefdom is a much more consolidated and governable polity in comparison with the tribe, because the political structure of the tribe is rather loose.

2.   Leader's status. Tribal leaders become leaders either due to their personal qualities (i.e. informally) or through the presence of formal hereditary chiefs, the latter having no powerful leverages. In chiefdom leaders possess a formal status of chiefs officially endowed with powers (usually hereditary).

3.   Centralization degree. Though both tribes and chiefdoms play a system-creating role, uniting a number of community groups and settlements, still in a tribe supracommunal organs are either absent or weak and amorphous (acting occasionally), while a chiefdom usually has a center of power in the main settlement headed by
the chief.

4.   Character of relations. Settlement, administration and social systems in the chiefdom are vertical, while those of the tribe are largely horizontal.

5.   Inequality level. Both political and social-economic relations in chiefdom are characterized by inequality to a much greater extent than those in a tribe. Thus, economic relations in a tribe are more of horizontal exchange (reciprocity), while those in chiefdom are vertical as well (redistribution), with features of compulsory labor and semicompulsory gifts.

Tribes and chiefdoms: variation and continuity of forms

However, those differences are relevant first of all for theoretical (ideal) models of sociopolitical organization. In reality differences between those polities that tend to be denoted as ‘tribes’ vs. ‘chiefdoms’ may not be so salient. In reality one can observe a sort of continuity of various intermediate types between the ideal type of the chiefdom and the ideal type of the tribe. This corresponds to a rather wide magnitude of the possible powers of the chief. On the one pole one may observe an authoritarian chief with a power close to the one of an absolute monarch (note, however, that such chiefs tend to be observed in complex chiefdoms like the ones of the Hawaiian Islands). On the other pole one may find ‘chiefs’ of the Cree Indians of Canada, with all their power ‘concentrated at the tips of their tongues’ (Service 1975: 51), that is they could only make their tribesmen do anything through their eloquence. This imprecision of the notion of ‘chief’ is very relevant for a deeper understanding of the diversity of the versions of sociopolitical organization of the ‘barbarian’ societies that are often denoted as ‘chiefdoms’ due to a mere presence of political leaders denoted as ‘chiefs’ in respective ethnographies. Such a practice can hardly be called reasonable, and as a result of such a practice the same polity can be identified by different scholars as a chiefdom, a tribe, or something else.36

The continuity of intermediate forms are particularly salient among the nomadic pastoralists, where the same polity tended to combine some chiefdom characteristics with some features of the tribe; thus, it appears that (depending on which traits were prevalent) in some cases we may speak about ‘tribal chiefdoms’, whereas in some other cases we are dealing with ‘chiefly tribes’; sometimes we confront with quasi-tribal systems consisting of chiefdoms, whereas in some other cases we are dealing with chiefdoms consisting of tribes, and so on. Correspondingly, a huge variation was observed as regards the position of leaders within respective political systems. In particular many Bedouin tribes of Arabia (as well as some other areas of the Middle East) had no paramount chiefs (Marx 1977; Khazanov 2008: 181; Kradin 2011; see also Tapper's [1983b, 1990] definition of the tribe). However, such tribes tended to have political leaders with respect to their sections. Sweet (1965: 138) suggests that we are dealing here with tribes consisting of chiefdoms, as he regards such tribal sections (fakhds) as chiefdoms.37 Is this right? It is hard to judge. In any case, his suggestion does not appear to have been widely accepted. In general, we tend to agree with Khazanov (2008: 198) that within such a context it might be more reasonable to make judgments basing on the functions rather than structure, whereas functionally we are dealing here with tribal sections rather than independent polities.

We suggest that chiefdoms in their classical form should not coincide fully with ethnic tribes, as in this case ethnocultural and ideological ties (perceptions of kinship, mutual assistance etc.) would become primary, while political relations would be secondary. Meanwhile, the classical chiefdom is in the first line a political (sociopolitical) system.38

In political anthropology tribes are commonly regarded as segmental political structures (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1987a; Sahlins 1968; see also Middleton and Tait 1958; Southall 1988, 1991). However, here exists a great variety. The classical type of such structures consisting of lineage segments is perceived to be a system where all lineages are equal and their interrelations are symmetrical. ‘…There is no association, class, or segment which has a dominant place in the political structure through the command of greater organized force than is at the disposal of any of its congeners’ (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1987b: 14). Evans-Pritchard also maintains that every tribal system characterized by segment structures is a system of balanced opposition between tribes and tribal segments from the largest to the smallest ones. No unified power can exist in such tribes (Evans-Pritchard 1949: 142).

However, one can find numerous examples (including ones among some nomadic herders) where opposition is asymmetric, i.e. there exist certain structural segments which are larger and more powerful (such as among Cyrenaica's bedouins [Evans-Pritchard 1949: 54–55; Peters 1967: 271; Khazanov 2008: 176]), or possess special privileges, e.g., chiefs being selected namely from this structure (such as among some Arabian bedouins, where only representatives of certain lineages are chosen to be section chiefs [Sweet 1965: 143; Khazanov 2008: 176; on some African cases see also Tymowski 2008: 172]). Khazanov dubs such structures as differentiated segmental systems. They are closer to chiefdoms, but not identical to them. Within such structures the centralization of power is not sufficient. The chiefs are controlled by social factors – councils of elders and meetings of free men (Tymowski 2008: 172).

* * *

Thus, at the intermediate level of sociopolitical complexity one could observe an enormous diversity of sociopolitical types and forms. In some (‘horizontal’) aspect we can regard them as belonging to the same evolutionary level. However, in the other, ‘vertical’ dimension, we can identify polities with different evolutionary potentials. Such polities existed both among chiefdoms and among their analogues. Concluding, we hope that the notion of chiefdom analogues which we put forward will allow us to help advance the theoretical analysis of the cultural-political variation among the medium-complex societies within which chiefdoms are bound to occupy one of the main positions.


1 The criticism of such approaches (expressed, e.g., by Yoffee [1993, 2005], or Sneath [2007]) is presented in the article by Kradin in the present special issue, so there is no necessity to repeat this here.

2 Such an approach (unilinear in its essence) is among important causes why many medium complexity polities tend to be labeled as chiefdoms even when they could be much more adequately described as chiefdom analogues (Zdanovich 1997).

3 Meanwhile, the ratio of political and sacral, as well as the relations of the ruler and priesthood could be different, which created multiple variants of politogenesis (for some examples see Frazer 1980; Claessen and Oosten 1996). Even if only the model of chiefdom is considered, even in this case there exists a great variety in the combination of power bases in each society. The chief's supremacy is based on elemental powers derived from the economy, warrior might, and ideology (Earle 1978, 1987, 1997, 2011; Mann 1986). For example, Earle shows that in certain cases in Polynesia (especially where irrigation was practiced) economic power was leading, while in other cases military power prevailed (see also Kirch 1994).

4 Inequality could emerge, say, as a result of a specific spatial position of a city, a village, and even a household. Thus, an advantages position of a household could affect positively benefits of its trade through the Congo River (Vansina 1999), while the proximity of a Sri-Lankan village to water allowed growing more rice and thus exploit the labor of poorer villages (Gunawardana 1981).

5 Non-state polities comparable to early states in terms of complexity and functions performed are regarded by us as early state analogues (see Grinin 2003, 2004b, 2007a, 2007b, 2007d, 2009b, 2011a, 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b; see also Grinin's contribution to this issue).

6 For comparison, the population of such a complex and large chiefdom as Powhatan in Virginia in the 16th century at the peak of its might was just about 13–22 thousand (Rountree and Turner 1998: 266).

7 In particular, with a salient wealth stratification in absence of authoritarian leadership one could observe the emergence of aristocratic sociopolitical systems that were united primarily by the need to solve certain military-political tasks in absence of solid political unification (Gallic polities could serve here as an example for a higher level of sociocultural complexity).

8 In one chiefdom wealth differentiation may be quite strong and ritual differentiation not detectable at all, whereas the reverse may be true in another chiefdom (Drennan et al. 2011). Political hierarchy may not have been accompanied by a corresponding settlement hierarchy even in complex chiefdoms (as was, e.g., observed in the Powhatan chiefdom in Virginia [Rountree and Turner 1998: 272–273]), and vice versa.

9 A few cases of such loose chiefdom confederacies (in particular with respect to the early Korean history) are described in Gibson's (2011) contribution to this special issue. For cases of tribal heterarchical confederations as well as weak confederations of chiefdoms among the nomadic pastoralists see Kradin's (2011) contribution to this special issue.

10 A ‘single-settlement’ chiefdom could include a few clan communities localized in one settlement. The polities of Cherokee Indians (who lived in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia before they were deported to Oklahoma) could serve here as an example. In the early 18th century they lived in 30 to 40 settlements, whereas the total Cherokee population was 10 to 20 thousand. The average population of a Cherokee settlement was about 400; they usually represented all the seven Cherokee clans. Each such community was independent and headed by a high priest-chief whose power was based on his personal authority and limited by a council of clan representatives (Service 1975: 140–144). Note, however, that such a polity can also be well identified as a chiefdom analogue.

11 This also includes those mechanisms, which Earle in his contribution to this special issue describes as bottlenecks whereby flows of currencies can be interdicted and mobilized to support and institutionalize political power.

12 In the late 4th millennium Uruk was a gigantic (for that time) urban center occupying a territory of no less than 200 ha with the population of no less than 20 thousand (Bernbeck and Pollock 2005: 17).

13 It is not coincidental that the war in many chiefdoms (e.g., in Celtic Ireland) became a privilege of the aristocrats (see Gibson's [2011] contribution to this special issue).

14 See Grinin 2009a, 2009b, 2011a, 2011b; Grinin in this issue (pp. 257–258) for the analysis of ‘vertical’ versus ‘horizontal’ models of evolutionary transformations with respect to the state formation. Gibson's (2011) contribution to this special issue also describes cases of such a ‘horizontal’ transformations of confederations of chiefdoms into states. On the correlation between horizontal and vertical transformations see also Shelach 2002: 11–15.

15 There could also be intermediate versions. For example, something rather similar to the ‘urban’ model of the state formation process was observed in West Africa among the Yoruba (see, e.g., Sellnow 1981: 309–310), but their heads of ‘urban’ communities did not have any despotic powers, whereas a large influence was enjoyed by the aristocracy that even could often be able to displace rulers (ibid.: 309).

16 For example, Sanders and Wedster (1978: 281) argue that most pristine states arose from egalitarian societies without ever having been chiefdom. Though this statement might be regarded as a possible exaggeration, it still has a certain basis beneath it.

17 This is relevant for such chiefdom analogues as corporations etc. (see below).

18 Note that there is also a characteristic that cannot be regarded as necessary for all the chiefdoms and their analogues, but which is found among many of them, and that is rather important evolutionarily: the ability to grow in size and complexity, to ‘multiply’ itself through the segmentation, sending out colonies, etc.

19 Even the smallest state cannot have a population of less than a few thousand, whereas polities with such a population only transformed into states very rarely and in very special circumstances. In reality, a considerably large population was necessary in order that a state could emerge (see Grinin and Korotayev 2009b; Grinin 2009b, 2011b for more details). Note that Plato in the Laws (737е, 745с) indicates that an ideal polis (that, within the context of this dialogue is an equivalent of an ‘ideal state’) should have 5 thousand competent citizens possessing land allotments. This implies that the overall population (including women, children, free adult males without citizen rights, and slaves) of such a state would be counted in dozens thousand.

20 Note, however, that in many archaic poleis one could observe a noticeable increase in the importance of trade and crafts (e.g., Shishova 1991: 27). In general, the cultural-political complexity of some archaic poleis (and their systems) grew to such an extent that it became comparable to the one of early states rather than chiefdoms (see Berve 1997; Frolov 1988: 92; Shishova 1991: 27).

21 It seems appropriate to recollect at this point that these were the data from the history of Homeric Greece, on which Lewis Henry Morgan (1877) relied on when developing his theory of military democracy as a necessary stage in the development of the barbarian societies.

22 On the other hand, feuds between noble clans can be well found in more developed polities, for example, in the Italian city-states of the Medieval and Early Modern periods (it is not coincidental that such a feud acted as basis for the plot of the Shakespeare's masterpiece Romeo and Juliet).

23 Within chiefdoms the main activity of their population is usually agriculture. Of course, some degree of technological specialization can be usually found in chiefdoms as well, but in the urban and proto-urban polities craft and trade specializations are significantly more typical than for chiefdoms. What is more, in cities the concentration of non-agricultural activities is usually more pronounced, playing a much more important role in the city formation.

24 That is lacking any permanent political organs controlling a city as a whole.

25 However, the Meccan polity on the eve of Islam should be rather identified as an early state analogue (see Grinin 2011: 159, 252; 2009a; Grinin and Korotayev 2009b).

26 Larger agglomerations of this type (that organized politically dozens of villages with overall population of dozens thousand, as was the case with some Igbo polities [McIntosh 1999b: 9]) may be regarded as early state analogues (see Grinin 2004b, 2011a).

27 In other contexts larger federations of highland communities may be regarded as early state analogues (see Grinin 2003, 2004b, 2007, 2011b).

28 In some cases particularly large and solid tribal alliances can be regarded as analogues of the early state (see Grinin 2007a, 2007b; 2011b: 254–256 for some concrete examples).

29 In particular, this was observed in some areas of Nigeria since the late 17th century, when the Egbo (Ekpe) secret society coordinated trade and other activities of large merchant houses smoothing down the competition between them. This secret society had a sort of monopoly over the settlement of trading disputes and the control over the debt payments (see Novozhilova 1999: 37).

30 However, titles were inherited through the matriline. As a result the number of people possessing the title of chief exceeded significantly the number of actual leaders having this title.

31 The phenomenon of state fragmentation and return to tribal organizations in the former state's area was well known in Africa (Tymowski 2008: 176), as well as in the Middle East (e.g., Korotayev 2000a, 2000b, 2006). As it is said usually such transformations could hardly be characterized as a mere regression, as they normally involved the change of the type of sociopolitical complexity rather than its straightforward decline (e.g., Korotayev 2000a, 2000b, 2006; Grinin 2011b; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b); note also that, in particular, African states were organizations built over the tribes rather than in place of tribes (Vansina 1962; Southall 1991; Tymowski 1987; 2008: 176). It should be also taken into account that the tribal forms resultant from the state disintegration tended to be more developed than the ones that existed prior to the state formation; a similar phenomenon was observed with respect to local sociopolitical systems that were absorbed by the state structures in the earlier period, but then became independent or semi-independent units as a result of feudal decentralization in the Middle Ages. Such an independence tended to result in the rise of culture of provinces and many towns which became capitals of new duchies, counties, principalities etc.

32 When developing this definition we partially relied on some ideas produced by Irons (2004: 473) and Shnirel'man (1982).

33 The territory of a tribe (especially a nomadic pastoralist tribe) may experience serious changes due to various causes; that is why (in contrast with the state) a permanent territory cannot be regarded as a necessary attribute of the tribe; however, in normal conditions a tribes controls a certain territory, which it regards as its own and defends from the outsiders.

34 That is why we quite agree with Fried's following statement: ‘...An essential element of the concept of tribe [is] transcendence of the in­dividual community and, pari passu, that tribalism [consists] in functions ag­gre­gating otherwise discrete villages into an interacting whole’ (Fried 1975: 39).

35 Service maintains that ‘Leadership is personal ... and for special purposes only in tribal society; there are no political offices containing real power, and a ‘chief’ is merely a man of influence, a sort of adviser. The means of tribal consolidation for collective action are therefore not governmental... Tribe ... is composed of economically self-sufficient residential groups which because of the absence of higher authority take unto themselves the private right to protect themselves. Wrongs to individuals are punished by the corporate group, the “legal person”. Disputes in tribal society tend to generate feuds between groups’ (Service 1971 [1962]: 103). However, we (Korotayev 2000а, 2000b, 2006; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a) believe that, speaking logically, what should be treated as an essential characteristic of tribal organization is not the conflicts between the residential groups (which is completely normal as well for the primitive societies lacking any specifically tribal organization – they are considered by Service to belong to ‘the band level of sociocultural integration’ [Ibid.: 46–98]), but the fact that the tribal organization puts certain limits to such conflicts. For example, feuding parties are constrained to carry out their conflict according to certain rules; and, in other cases, highly developed mechanisms of mediation are provided to the feuding parties by the tribal organization which often effectively block the most disintegrating consequences of such conflicts, without alienating the ‘sovereignty’ of the resident group. Actually, Service speaks about this on the pages which follow this quotation, though, to our mind, without necessary clarity.

36 Claessen's article in the current issue frees us from the necessity to minutely regard the indefiniteness of the ‘chief’ notion and the variety of chief types.

37 Nevertheless, this was not only typical for nomadic pastoralists; a similar situation was observed, for example, among the Saxons of Saxony at the eve of their conquest by Charlemagne. They had no royal power, but the ‘tribal’ sections were headed by ‘dukes’. The general military command was performed by a duke drawn by lot (Kolesnitsky 1963: 186). The overall political organization of the whole territory was executed in a form of a sort of federation of particular areas. Decisions on issues of common interest were made at the meetings of representatives of the Saxony areas in Marklo at the Weser (Ibid.).

38 In this very way he is depicted by, e.g., Carneiro, who accentuates the conquest of political power and territory by the supreme chief. The conquest gives ground for the emergence of a new level of political power.


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