Chapter 4: Power and Inequality
There are two subfields of cultural anthropology
1) Political anthropology talks about human behaviour and power-in terms
of who has the power, abuse of power, degree of power and social
2) Legal anthropology finds solutions to resolve conflict
Politics, Political Organization, and Leadership
Power is the ability takes action with the possibility to use force.
o Ex. Police has power to stop people in society. Police tends to abuse their
Authority is the ability to take action based on your status in society.
o Ex. Parents have full authority over their kids
Influence is the ability to take action by displaying social or moral pressure
All three of these terms are relational. Power implies to force and rank
relationships while authority and influences offers more cooperative decision-
Bands (pg. 125)
Bands is a form of political organization that has no formal leaders and flexible
o What is meant by flexible memberships is, if there are disagreements with
another person or spouse, you can leave that band and join another one.
o No formal leaders means you can have a leader, but he is treated the same
as every member in the group
All members of a band are treated as equals. No one is better than anyone else and
that includes the leader. Despite being the leader, the leader is treated the same as
all members of that band. However they may have more authority and influences
in terms of being a respected person. But he has no power. He can’t force people
to believe what he believes. A bands activity involves mainly decision making
about migration, food distribution and resolution of conflicts within the group.
Tribes (pg. 126)
Tribes are more of a formal type of political organization than bands. A tribe
consists of several bands or lineage groups with similar language and lifestyle.
Each tribe has their own territory. Often members of the tribe consists between
100 ~few thousand members. In tribes there are leaders known as tribal
headman that are only secluded to men. They are often needed in tribes to create
order. Order such as solving conflicts, determine when to harvest crops etc. a
tribal leader relies on authority and persuasion rather than power.
Chapter 4: Power and Inequality Big-man system or big-woman system is a form of political organization in
which individuals build a political base and gain prestige, influence and authority
through a system
Chiefdoms (pg. 128)
Chiefdom is a position in which you are sole leader of permanent allied tribes and
villages. In this case, the leader possesses power. The population of a chiefdom
often ranges a few thousand members and up. Once a chief has died or retired, a
new chief must be put in place. However only members of the chief lineages are
able to become the next chief. Commoners are not able to become chiefs nor can
they interbreed with members of a chief descendant. The responsibility of a chief
is to organize everything. This includes when to harvest crops, leads raids, solve
conflicts within the group.
States (pg. 129)
State is the formation of many communities under a bureaucratic structure. The
leaders of the state contain all the power such as the government. Force is used to
keep order within a state. Force such as laws is enforced upon members of that