A term used to describe the political system of societies without centralized state authority—such as, for example, traditional African lineage political systems see J. Middleton and D. Tait, Tribes without Rulers, Authority is wielded at the level of the clan, lineage, or lineage segment. Subjects: Social sciences — Sociology. All Rights Reserved.
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In a acephalous society, collective decisions are made in a variety of ways, including informal gatherings. Acephalous society is also known as egalitarian or non-stratified society.
A hunter-gatherer society is an acephalous society. The Igbo Nation in West Africa is also a an acephalous society or egalitarian society. Related to acephalous society concept are monocephalous, as in a monarchy and polycephalous, where the society operates as a number of independent units, each having a leader but all representing the society as a whole. Many anarchist and libertarian socialist societies that have abolished social inequality are also considered acephalous societies.
Certain nomadic societies are also distinguished as acephalous societies. In an acephalous society there are no hierarchies present because of the absence of a political leader. This might keep all people equal but the society fails to function and coordinate properly because each one tried to take decisions and each has opinions, which makes it difficult to decide upon one good solution.
The non-stratified organization of society of indigenous peoples - Indigenous Peoples in Asia - by Gerald Faschingeder. Although some of these peoples today consist of some million members, indigenous peoples usually are smaller groups that count no more than some hundred thousand members.
Many peoples in an acephalous society are, so to say "politically headless", which does not mean that there is a lack of political concepts, but that they do not know a highest leading person. Rather, they are segmentarily organized, i. So, these societies are not disorganized or without structures, as the former term "primitives" implied. Of course, they know social differentiation and hierarchy , but nevertheless, there is less division of labor to be found than in non-indigenous societies.
Although the acephalous society or segmentary organization cannot be presented as universal principle of all indigenous societies, this comment indicates why most of the indigenous societies were not and are not easily compatible with non-indigenous ones. Indigenous societies do have specific cultural characteristics, but their common features cannot be reduced to a single criterion. Kuppe, for example, mentions three central points of this topic: "a close relationship between these societies and their lebensraum, a lack of organization as state and social stratification , and the dealing with conflicts within a society that is not based on institutional force by the state.
Hawthorne, Walter , The interior past of an acephalous society: Institutional change among the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau c.
Such groups are also known as non-stratified societies. Typically these societies are small-scale,  organized into bands or tribes that make decisions through consensus decision making rather than appointing permanent chiefs or kings. Most foraging or hunter-gatherer societies are acephalous [ citation needed ]. When these societies do not possess distinctions of rank, they are described as egalitarian. In scientific literature covering native African societies and the effect of European colonialism on them the term is often used to describe groups of people living in a settlement with "no government in the sense of a group able to exercise effective control over both the people and their territory". The Igbo Nation in West Africa is alleged to be an acephalous or egalitarian society.
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