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What is Anthropology:
Anthropology is the systematic study of humanity, with the goal of understanding our evolutionary
origins, our distinctiveness as a species, and the great diversity in our forms of social existence across
the world and through time. The focus of Anthropology is on understanding both our shared humanity
and diversity, and engaging with diverse ways of being in the world.
Anthropology is divided into many subfields some of them are given below: sociocultural, biological,
archaeology and Political Anthropology.
Sociocultural anthropologists interpret the content of particular cultures, explain variation among
cultures, and study processes of cultural change and social transformation. UC Davis sociocultural
anthropologists conduct research on most areas of the world, focusing on topics that include: human
ecology; gender relations; culture and ideology; demography and family systems; race, class and gender
inequality; resistance movements; colonialism, neocolonialism, and development; and cultural politics in
Biological anthropologists study a variety of aspects of human evolutionary biology. Some examine
fossils and apply their observations to understanding human evolution; others compare morphological,
biochemical genetic, and physiological adaptations of living humans to their environments; still others
observe behavior of human and nonhuman primates (monkeys and apes) to understand the roots of
Archaeologists study the material remains of present and past cultural systems to understand the
technical, social and political organization of those systems and the larger culture cultural evolutionary
process that stand behind them. The UC Davis program in archaeology emphasizes research in California
and the Great Basin, but also supports the study of hunter-gatherer systems in general, and is engaged
in such research in Australia Alaska, Peru, Greenland, Western Europe, North and South Africa, and
Political anthropology is a subfield of sociocultural anthropology, but like anthropology as a whole, it
remains immune to precise delimitation. The core of political anthropology is the comparative,
fieldwork-based examination of politics in a broad range of historical, social, and cultural settings. Today,
it is common to see political anthropologists combine ethnographic work with history. Some analyze the
symbolic forms and practices of a specific state bureaucracy, others a form of political activism, and yet
others the perpetration of terror or torture, or the political effects associated with the everyday and
ritual construction of a particular collective memory. The field of political anthropology has been, and
continues to be, extensive, diverse, and shifting.
Political science is
the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and
the analysis of political activities, political thought, political behavior, and associated constitutions and
Modren Political Science:
According to Robert Adcok Modern Political Science — the first authoritative history of Anglophone
political science — argues that the field's transformation shouldn't be mistaken for a case of simple
progress and increasing scientific precision. (ref: from his book Modern Political Science: AngloAmerican Exchanges since 1880)
Political organization is another common means of classifying societies. Here, too, the first attempts
tried to oppose ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ societies, as the works of Rousseau or Hobbes show. In the
political context, this opposition took the shape of a dichotomy between state and stateless societies.
Anthropologists use a typological system when discussing political organization. Introduced by Elman
Service in 1962, the system uses “…types of leadership, societal integration and cohesion, decisionmaking mechanisms, and degree of control over people” (Bonvillain 2010: 303) to categorize a group’s
political organization. Service identified four types of political organizations: bands, tribes, chiefdoms,
and states that are closely related to subsistence strategies. As with any typological system, these types
are ideals and there is variation within groups. Political organization can be thought of as a continuum
with groups falling in between the ideals. It is important to note that today the various types of political
organizations operate within the modern nation-state system.
TYPES OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Service identified four types of political organizations: bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states that are
closely related to subsistence strategies. As with any typological system, these types are ideals and there
is variation within group.
A band is a “…small, loosely organized [group] of people held together by informal means” (Gezen and
Kottak 2014: 303). Its political organization is concerned with meeting basic needs for survival. Decisionmaking and leadership are focused on how best to meet those needs. Membership can be fluid. Power
can be situational with leadership based on the skills and personality of an individual. Leaders do not
have the power to enforce their will on the group; all members of the group, generally adults, contribute
to the decision-making process. Because of this group decision-making process and the fact that
everyone has access to the resources needed to survive, bands are egalitarian. Just like other members
of the band, leaders are expected to contribute to the economic resources of the group. Authority is
relegated within families, but due to the egalitarian nature of bands, even within families authority may
not be strong.
Bands in the modern world are relegated to marginal environments such as the arctic, deserts, and
dense forests. Examples include the Mbuti and Ju’/hoansi in Africa, the Netsilik and Inuit in Canada, the
Lapp of Scandinavia, the Tiwi in Australia, and the Ainu in Japan.
Ainu bear sacrifice.
The Ainu, meaning “human,” are traditional foraging peoples of the Far East. There are three major
groups named after the islands on which they live, the Hokkaidō, the Sakhalin, and the Kurlie. Hokkaidō
Island currently is part of Japan, while Sakhalin and Kurlie islands are part of Russia.
Religious beliefs permeate all aspects of Ainu life; from the way food scraps are disposed of to
declaration of war have religious overtones. Nature deities reign supreme among the Ainu, with animal
deities taking the form of humans when interacting with the Ainu people. The bear, representing the
supreme deity in disguise, is the most sacred figure. The Ainu have many religious ceremonies, but the
bear ceremony, which takes two years to complete, is the most important. It is a funeral ritual for a
dead bear in which the soul of the bear is sent back to the mountains to be reborn as another bear. This
is to ensure that the deities continue to gift the Ainu with fur and meat. The bear ceremony has political
overtones, as the political leader is responsible for hosting the ceremony. The ceremony acts as a way
for the leader to display their power as they are expected to display their wealth through trade items.
Both men and women can be shamans, or religious leaders. In fact, most shamans are women and
represents a socially acceptable way for a woman to wield, albeit little, power within Ainu culture.
Like bands, tribes’ political organization is focused on meeting basic needs of the group; however, the
structure and organization are more formalized because most are reliant on pastoralism or horticulture.
This leads to concepts of communal ownership of animals or land. Membership in tribes is usually
restricted to descent groups. Tribes generally have more permanent settlements than bands. While still
relatively egalitarian, political leaders have more power than the leaders of bands. However, leaders
who try to exercise too much power can be deposed through socially structured methods. This helps to
prevent over-centralization of power and wealth.
Tribal leaders are reliant on personal skills and charisma to achieve and maintain their power and status.
Status refers to the position an individual has within a society. An individual holds multiple statuses that
can change over time. Some statuses are ascribed in that they are assigned to us without reference to
personal skill, e.g., sex and age. Other statuses are achieved and are based on our skills, choices, and
accomplishments. Tribal leaders have a combination of ascribed status and achieved status. Most tribal
leaders are male (ascribed status) and eloquent (achieved status). Many tribal leaders are leaders solely
of their village. The Yanomami of the Amazon region have a village head with limited authority. In
Papua New Guinea and the Melanesian Islands, the big man is the political leader. While big men have
some similarities to the headman, one difference is that they have regional influence with supporters in
multiple villages. Highly charismatic, the big man uses his powers of persuasion to convince others to
hold feasts and support him during times of conflict. Another difference is that big men are wealthier
than others. In New Guinea, the big man’s wealth resides in the number of pigs that he has; however,
the big man was expected to redistribute his wealth in the form of feasts. Pigs were also used to trade
for support. Sometimes tribes would band together to form a pantribal sodality, “…a nonkin-based
group that exists throughout a tribe…” (Gezen and Kottak 2014: 107). These sodalities span multiple
villages and may form during times of warfare with other tribes.
Examples of tribal cultures include the Cheyenne and Blackfeet of North America, the Berbers and
Amhara of Africa, the Munda of India, the Hmong of Southeast Asia, and the Basseri of Iran.
Basseri of Iran.
The basic social unit was the “tent,” which was basically a nuclear family headed by a man. Each tent
was considered an independent political unit responsible for its own production and consumption. Tents
belonged to camps consisting of the same descent group.
Chiefdoms constitute a political organization characterized by social hierarchies and consolidation of
political power into fulltime specialists who control production and distribution of resources. Sometimes
the prestige of the leader and their family is higher, but not always. The leader, or chief, was a bit like a
big man on steroids; they were reliant on their persuasive skills, but had more control over resources.
Chiefs were often spiritual leaders, which helped to demonstrate their right to lead. They were
responsible for settling disputes among their constituents, but could not always enforce their decisions.
Successive leadership usually fell within a family line, something that contributed to the development of
a hierarchical society; however, leadership was not guaranteed. Chiefs had to continually demonstrate
their ability to lead. Competition for leadership could be fierce. Warfare was frequent, the nature of
which changed; economic gain was a primary motive.
All chiefdoms that have been anthropologically identified were based on horticulture or intensive
agriculture with one notable exception. In the Pacific Northwest of North America, chiefdoms emerged
based on foraging. This was possible because the rich environment was able to produce a surplus.
Having a surplus of food in particular allowed leaders to have enough goods to redistribute and
accumulate in order to maintain power. Members of the chiefdom were required to handover part of
their harvest to the leader (or chief/king) or their appointed representatives. The chief was expected to
redistribute some of this “tax” back to the people through gifting and feasting. Prestige within the
Examples of chiefdoms include the Trobriand and Tongan Islanders in the Pacific, the Maori of New
Zealand, the ancient Olmec of Mexico (only known archaeologically), the Natchez of the Mississippi
Valley, the British Columbia,
and the Zulu and Ashanti in Africa
The Ashanti, Ghana (The National Archives UK)
The Ashanti are one of several Akan groups in southern and central Ghana and the Ivory Coast. In the
eighteenth-century, the Ashanti formed a confederacy of several Akan groups. Over the following
century, the Ashanti expanded their territory through conquest, providing a larger economic base for
the chief or Omanhene. After decades of conflict with the British colonial power, in 1901 the British
prevailed and the Ashanti leaders were exiled.
The basic settlement pattern of the Ashanti chiefdom was a series of villages and towns centered on the
palace of a chief. Kin groups inhabited the villages. Agriculture based on yam, guinea corn, manioc, and
maize formed the backbone of subsistence. Pre-British takeover, slave and servants comprised farm
labor. After, hired laborers and sharecropping are the norm. Craft specialization was an important part
of the Ashanti economy. Weaving, woodcarving, ceramics, and metallurgy were the primary occupations.
While women and men shared in the farming work, women were only allowed to specialize in pottery
making; all of the other craft specialization was the purview of men. The Ashanti engaged in trade with
neighboring societies with gold and slaves forming the commercial basis of the traditional trade
economy (Gilbert et al n.d.).
Clans held ownership of land. It was inherited along matrilines. If a clan failed to work the land,
ownership would resort to the chiefdom itself. While all Ashanti recognize matrilineal descent, power is
restricted to men. The mother’s line determines to which clan an individual belongs, while paternity
determines membership in other groups such as spirit. Membership in the various categories includes
obligations to observe certain rituals and taboos. The Ashanti believe that an individual’s personality is
influenced by membership in the various groups.
A class photo of the 110th United States Senate.
State-level societies are the most complex in terms of social, economic, and political organization, and
have a formal government and social classes. States control or influence many areas of its members lives.
From regulation of social relations like marriage to outlining the rights and obligations of its citizens,
there is little in daily life that is not impacted. States have large populations and share the following
State have power over their domain. They define citizenship and its rights and responsibilities. Inequality
is the norm, with clear social classes defined. States monopolize the use of force and maintenance of
law and order through laws, courts, and police. States maintain standing armies and police forces.States
control population in numerous ways. They regulate marriage and adoption. They create administrative
divisions, e.g., provinces, districts, counties, townships, that help to create loyalties and help to
administer social services and organize law enforcement.
States often uses religious beliefs and symbols to maintain power. State leaders may claim to be a deity
may conscript popular ideology for political purposes. Regalia may be used to create a sense of
pageantry and authority.
Most states are hierarchical and patriarchal. There have been female leaders, e.g., Indira Gandhi (India),
Golda Meir (Israel), Margaret Thatcher (Great Britain), and Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), but no femaledominated states have been documented.
The subsistence base of all states is intensive agriculture. The first states centered production on one
major crop that could be produced in large quantities and was easily storable: wheat, rice, millet, barley,
maize, and tubers (potato, manioc, yams). Wheat, rice, and maize still dominate production today.
Adem, Teferi Abate. “Basseri.” eHraf World Cultures. Accessed April 18, 2015.
Bonvillain, Nancy. Cultural Anthropology, 2nd edition. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010.
Gezen, Lisa, and Conrad Kottak. Culture, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.
Gilbert, Michelle, Robert O. Lagacé, and Ian Skoggard. “Akan.” eHraf World Cultures. Accessed April 21,
Irvine, Dean. “Japan’s Hidden People: Ainu Try to Keep Ancient Traditions Alive.” CNN News. Last update
February 9, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/09/travel/cnngo-travel-hokkaido-ainu/index.html.
Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. “Ainu.” eHraf World Cultures. Accessed April 18, 2015.
O’Neil, Dennis. “Political Organization: An Anthropological View of Political Systems.” Last updated
November 8, 2007.
Reeves, Elaine M. “Political Organizations.” In 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook, Vol. 1,
edited by H. James Birx, p. 182-190. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010.
A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a ((state.
In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive,
and judiciary. Government is a means by which organizational policies are enforced, as well as a
mechanism for determining policy. Each government has a kind of constitution, a statement of its
governing principles and philosophy.
Definitions and etymology
A government is the system to govern a ((state or community.
The word government derives, ultimately, from the Greek verb κυβερνάω [kubernáo] (meaning to steer
with ((gubernaculum (rudder), the metaphorical sense being attested in Plato's Ship of State).
The Columbia Encyclopedia defines government as "a system of social control under which the right to
make laws, and the right to enforce them, is vested in a particular group in society".
While all types of organizations have governance, the word government is often used more specifically
to refer to the approximately 200 independent national governments on Earth, as well as their
Finally, government is also sometimes used in English as a synonym for governance.
An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme ((power is concentrated in the hands of one
person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of
popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d'état or mass insurrection).
Aristocracy (Greek ἀριστοκρατία aristokratía, from ἄριστος aristos "excellent", and κράτος kratos
"((power") is a form of government that places power in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class.
Many monarchies were aristocracies, although in modern constitutional monarchies the monarch
himself or herself has little real power. The term aristocracy could also refer to the non-peasant, nonservant, and non-city classes in the feudal system.
Monarchy. The most common form of government from ancient times to the early part of the 20th
century was monarchy, or rule by a hereditary king or queen. Monarchy passed through three basic
stages, varying according to the nation and the political and economic climate. The first stage was that
of the absolute monarch. In the Christian part of the world during the Middle Ages, a conflict developed
between the pope and the kings who recognized his spiritual authority.
Constitutional Government. Today most governments derive their legitimacy from national constitutions
that provide a legal framework for their rule and specify how power is to be exercised and controlled.
Even one-party states, such as the traditional Communist countries and other nations in Africa, Asia, and
South America, have found it necessary to establish formal constitutions. In democratic countries the
constitution can be amended or replaced by popular vote, either directly or through a system of elected
representatives. In authoritarian one-party systems, however, all political power, including that of
revising the constitution, resides with the leaders of the party. The constitution may thus be only a
paper facade, and in order to understand how the country is governed one must examine the actual
Democracy. Representative government in the modern world is based not only on a constitution that
provides for it but on the actual rule of law - the assurance that provisions of the constitution will be
enforced. It requires that citizens be free to organize competing political parties, engage in political
campaigns, and hold elections according to agreed-upon rules. Democratic governments vary in
structure. Two common forms are the parliamentary and the presidential. In the parliamentary form of
government, as in Australia, Britain, Canada, or India, all political power is concentrated in the
parliament or legislature. The prime minister or premier and the officers of the cabinet are members of
the parliament. They continue in office only as long as parliament supports - or has "confidence" in their policies. In the presidential form of government, as in France and the United States, the voters
elect a powerful chief executive who is independent of the legislature but whose actions are delimited
by constitutional and other legal restraints.
Dictatorship. As a form of government, dictatorship is principally a 20th-century phenomenon. The
dictator, often a military leader, concentrates political power in himself and his clique. There is no
effective rule of law. The regime may or may not have a distinctive political ideology and may or may
not allow token opposition. The main function of a dictatorship is to maintain control of all
governmental operations. There have been some cases - Indira Gandhi in India and several military
dictatorships in Latin America - in which authoritarian rulers have relaxed their control and have even
allowed open elections. In certain Soviet-bloc countries of Eastern Europe dictators were forced from
power in bloodless coups or voluntarily relinquished their authority to popularly elected officials as
Soviet power declined. Examples of 20th-century dictators in addition to those already mentioned
include Idi Amin Dada (Uganda), Kemal AtatÃ¼rk (Turkey), Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro (Cuba),
Francisco Franco (Spain), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Benito Mussolini (Italy),
Juan PerÃ³n (Argentina), and AntÃ³nio Salazar (Portugal).1940
Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance
and power, and the analysis of political activities, political thought, political behavior, and associated
constitution and laws.Modern political science can generally be divided into the three sub disciplines of
comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Other notable sub disciplines are
public policy and administration, domestic politics and government (often studied within comparative
politics), political economy, and political methodology. Furthermore, political science is related to,
and draws upon, the fieldsof economics, law, sociology, history, philosophy, human geography,
journalism, political anthropology, psychology, and social policy.As a social political science,
contemporary political science started to take shape in the latter half of the 19th century. At that time it
began to separate itself from political philosophy, which traces its roots back to the works of Aristotle
and Plato, which were written nearly 2,500 years ago. The term "political science" was not always
distinguished from political philosophy, and the modern discipline has a clear set of antecedents
including also moral philosophy, political economy, political theology, history, and other fields
concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics
and functions of the ideal state.The advent of political science as a university discipline was marked by
the creation of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the late
19th century. In fact, the designation "political scientist" is typically for those with a doctorate in the
field, but can also apply to those with a master's in the subject. Integrating political studies of the
past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for
the growth of both normative and positive political science, with each part of the discipline sharing
some historical predecessors. The American Political Science Association and the American Political
Science Review were founded in 1903 and 1906, respectively, in an effort to distinguish the study of
politics from economics and other social phenomena While the intellectual and methodological roots of
political anthropology can be traced to Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville, who viewed politics and
governance as cultural constructs, Elizabeth Colson dated the modern field of political anthropology to
1940 and the publication of African Political Systems (1940), edited by Meyer Fortes and Edward EvansPritchard. Edmund R. Leach’s Political Systems of Highland Burma (1954) and Michael G. Smith’s
Government in Nassau (1960) were landmark studies that contributed significantly to more refined
conceptual approaches. Max Blackman made a singular contribution to the development of the field
both as the founder of the influential Manchester school and through his focus on the role of conflict,
which provided an explanation for political change within the dominant functionalist paradigm then
prevailing in anthropology. (The functionalist approach conceptualized societies as existing in a state of
equilibrium.) From the traditional study of “stateless” societies to the contemporary analysis of complex
state-society relations in an age of globalization, the central theoretical focus of political anthropology,
as identified by Banner Cohen in Two-Dimensional Man (1974), has been the dialectical relations
between symbolic action and power relationships.Political anthropology has its roots in the 19th century.
At that time, thinkers such as Lewis H. Morgan and Sir Henry Maine tried to trace the evolution of
human society from 'primitive' or 'savage' societies to more 'advanced' ones. These early approaches
were ethnocentric, speculative, and often racist. Nevertheless, they laid the basis for political
anthropology by undertaking a modern study inspired by modern science, and in particular by Charles
Darwin. In a move that would be influential for future anthropology, they focused on kinship as the key
to understanding political organization, and emphasized the role of the 'genes' or lineage as an object of
study. Contemporary political anthropology can be traced back to the 1940 publication African Political
Systems, edited by Meyer Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. They rejected the speculative historical
reconstruction of earlier authors and argued that "a scientific study of political institutions must be
inductive and comparative and aim solely at establishing and explaining the uniformities found among
them and their interdependencies with other features of social organization". Their goal was
taxonomy: to classify societies into a small number of discrete categories, and then compare them in
order to make generalizations about them. The contributors of this book were influenced by
Radcliff Brown and structural functionalism. As a result, they assumed that all societies were welldefined entities which sought to maintain their equilibrium and social order. Although the authors
recognized that "Most of these societies have been conquered or have submitted to European rule from
fear of invasion. They would not acquiesce in it if the threat of force were withdrawn; and this fact
determines the part now played in their political life by European administration" the authors in the
volume tended in practice to examine African political systems in terms of their own internal structures,
and ignored the broader historical and political context of colonialism.Several authors reacted to this
early work. In his work Political Systems of Highland Burma (1954) Edmund Leach argued that it was
necessary to understand how societies changed through time rather than remaining static and in
equilibrium. A special version of conflict oriented political anthropology was developed in the so-called
'Manchester school', started by Max Gluck man. Gluckman focused on social process and an analysis of
structures and systems based on their relative stability. In his view, conflict maintained the stability of
political systems through the establishment and re-establishment of crosscutting ties among social
actors. Gluckman even suggested that a certain degree of conflict was necessary to uphold society, and
that conflict was constitutive of social and political order.By the 1960s this transition work developed
into a full-fledged sub discipline which was canonized in volumes such as Political Anthropology (1966)
edited by VictorTurner and Marc Swartz.By the late 1960s, political anthropology was a flourishing
subfield: in 1969 there were two hundred anthropologists listing the sub discipline as one of their areas
of interests, and a quarter of all British anthropologists listed politics as a topic that they studied.
Political anthropology developed in a very different way in the United States. There, authors such as
Morton Fried,Élan Service, and Eleanor Seacock took a Marxist approach and sought to understand the
origins and development of inequality in human society. Marx and Engel’s had drawn on the
ethnographic work of Morgan, and these authors now extended that tradition. In particular, they were
interested in the evolution of social systems over time.
From the 1960s a ‘process approach’ developed, stressing the role of agents (Bailey 1969; Berth 1969). It
was a meaningful development as anthropologists started to workin situations where the colonial
system was dismantling. The focus on conflict and social reproduction was carried over into Marxist
approaches that came to dominate French political anthropology from the 1960s. Boudreaux’s work on
the Kayla (1977) was strongly inspired by this development, and his early work was a marriage
betweenFrench post-structuralism, Marxism and processapproach.
Interest in anthropology grew in the 1970s. A session on anthropology was organized at the Ninth
International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in 1973, the proceedings of which
were eventually published in 1979 as Political Anthropology: The State of the Art. A newsletter was
created shortly thereafter, which developed over time into the journal Polar: Political and Legal
Historical developmentAncient influences
Analyses of politics appeared in ancient cultures in works by various thinkers, including Confucius (551–
479 BCE) in China and Kautilya (flourished 300 BCE) in India. Writings by the historian Ibn Khaldūn
(1332–1406) in North Africa have greatly influenced the study of politics in the Arabic-speaking world.
But the fullestexplication of politics has been in the West. Some have identified Plato (428/427–348/347
BCE), whose ideal of a stable republic still yields insights and metaphors,as the first political scientist,
though most consider Aristotle (384–322 BCE),who
introduced empirical observation into the study of politics, to be the discipline’s true founder.
Rubbing of Confucius after a design attributed to Wu Tao-hsuan, 19th century. Aristotle’s students
gathered descriptions of 158 Greek city-states,which Aristotle used to formulate his famous sixfold
typology of political systems. He distinguished political systems by the number of persons ruling (one,
few, or many) and by whether the form was legitimate (rulers governing in the interests of all) or
corrupt (rulers governing in their own interests). Legitimate systems included monarchy (rule by
one), aristocracy (rule by the few), and polity (rule by the many), while corresponding corrupt forms
were tyranny,oligarchy,and democracy. Aristotle
considered democracy to be the worst form of government, though in his classification it meant mob
rule. The best form of government, a polity, was, in contemporary terms, akin to an efficient, stable
democracy. Aristotle presciently noted that a polity functions best if the middle class is large, a point
confirmed by modern empirical findings. Aristotle’s classification endured for centuries and is still
helpful in understanding political systems.
Greek alabaster portrait bust of Aristotle (c. 325 BCE); in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano,
Plato and Aristotle focused on perfecting the polis (city-state), a tiny political entity, which for the
Greeks meant both society and political system. The conquest of the Mediterranean world and beyond
by Aristotle’s pupil Alexander the Great (336– 323 BCE) and, after his death, the division of his empire
among his generalsbrought large new political forms, in which society and political system came to be
separate entities. This shift required a new understanding of politics. Hellenistic thinkers, especially the
Stoics,asserted the existence of a natural law that applied to all human beings equally; this idea became
the foundation of Roman legalism and Christian notions of equality (see Stoicism). Thus, the Roman
orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE), who was strongly influenced by the Stoics, was noteworthy
for his belief that all human beings, regardless of their wealth or citizenship, possessed an equal moral
Marcus Tullius Cicero,
Early Christian thinkers, such as St. Augustine (354–430), emphasized the dual loyalty of Christians to
both God and temporal rulers, with the clear implication that the “heavenly city” is more important and
durable than the earthly one. With this came an
otherworldly disdain for politics. For eight centuries knowledge of Aristotle was lost to Europe but
preserved by Arab philosophers such as al-Fārābī (c. 878–c. 950)
and Averroës (1126–1198). Translations of Aristotle in Spain under the Moors revitalized European
thought after about 1200. . Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–1274) Christianized Aristotle’s Politics to lend it
moral purpose. Aquinas took from Aristotle the idea that humans are both rational and social, that
states occur naturally, and that government can improve humans spiritually. Thus, Aquinas favored
monarchy but despised tyranny, arguing that kingly authority should be limited by law and used for the
common good The Italian poet and philosopher Dante (1265–1321) argued in De monarchia (c. 1313; On
Monarchy) for a single world government. At the same time, the
philosopher Marsilius of Padua (c. 1280–c. 1343), in Defensor Pacis (1324; “Defender of the Peace”),
introduced secularization by elevating the state over the church as the originator of laws. For this, as
well as for proposing that legislators be elected, Marsilius ranks as an important modernizer
Early modern developments
The first modern political scientist was the Italian writer Niccolò Machiavelli (1469– 1527). His infamous
work The Prince (1531), a treatise originally dedicated to Florence’s ruler, Lorenzo di Piero de’
Medici,presented amoral advice to actual and would-be princes on the best means of acquiring and
holding on to political power. Machiavelli’s political philosophy,which completed the secularization of
politics begun by Marsilius, was based on reason rather than religion. An early Italian patriot,
Machiavelli believed that Italy could be unified and its foreign occupiers expelled only by ruthless and
single- minded princes who rejected any moral constraints on their power. Machiavelli introduced the
modern idea of power—how to get it and how to use it—as the crux of politics, a viewpoint shared by
today’s international relations “realists,” rational choice theorists, and others. Machiavelli thus ranks
alongside Aristotle as a founder of
19th-century roots of contemporary political science
Contemporary political science traces its roots primarily to the 19th century, when the rapid growth of
the natural sciences stimulated enthusiasm for the creation of a
new social science.Capturing this fervour of scientific optimism was Antoine-LouisClaude, Comte Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836), who in the 1790s coined the
term idéologie (“ideology”) for his “science of ideas,” which, he believed, could perfect society. Also
pivotal to the empirical movement was the French utopian socialist Henride Saint-Simon (1760–1825), a
founder of Christian socialism,who in 1813 suggested that morals and politics could become “positive”
sciences—that is, disciplines whose authority would rest not upon subjective preconceptions but upon
Saint-Simon collaborated with the French mathematician and philosopher AugusteComte (1798–1857),
considered by many to be the founder of sociology,on the publication of the Plan of the Scientific
Operations Necessary for the Reorganization of Society (1822), which claimed that politics would
become a social physics and discover scientific laws of social progress. Although “Comtean positivism,”
with its enthusiasm for the scientific study of society and its emphasis on using the results of such
studies for social improvement, is still very much alive in psychology,contemporary political science
shows only traces of Comte’s optimism.
The scientific approach to politics developed during the 19th century along two distinct lines that still
divide the discipline.In the 1830s the French historian and
politician Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) brilliantly analyzed democracy in America,concluding that it
worked because Americans had developed “the art of association” and were egalitarian group formers.
Tocqueville’s emphasis on cultural values contrasted sharply with the views of the German socialist
theorists Karl Marx (1818–83)
and Friedrich Engels (1820–95), who advanced a materialistic and economic theory of the state as an
instrument of domination by the classes that own the means of production. According to Marx and
Engels, prevailing values and culture simply reflect the tastesand needs of ruling elites; the state, they
charged, is merely “the steering committeeof
the bourgeoisie.” Asserting what they considered to be an immutable
scientific law of history,they argued that the state would soon be overthrown by the industrial working
class (the proletariat), who would institute socialism,a just and egalitarian form of gover.
The Early 20th century Developments in United States:
most important developments in political science since it became a distinct academic discipline have
occurred in the United States. Politics had long been studied in American universities, but usually as part
of the curricula of law, philosophy, or economics.
Political science as a separate discipline in universities in the United States dates from 1880, when John
W. Burgess, after studying at the École Libre in Paris, established a school of political science at
Columbia University in New York City. Although political science faculties grew unevenly after 1900, by
the 1920s most major institutions had established new departments, variously named political science,
government, or politics. Political science in the United States in the last quarter of the 19th century
wasinfluenced by the experience of numerous scholars who had done graduate work at German
universities, where the discipline was taught as Staatswissenschaft (“science of thestate”) in an ordered,
structured, and analytic organization of concepts, definitions, comparisons, and inferences.This highly
formalistic and institutional approach, which focused on constitutions, dominated American political
science until World War II. The work of American political scientists represented an effort to establish an
autonomous discipline, separate from history, moral philosophy,and political economy.Among the new
scholars were Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), who would be elected president of the United States in
1912, and Frank Goodnow,a Columbia University professor of administrativelaw and, later, president of
Johns Hopkins University, who was among the first to study municipal governments. Their writing
showed an awareness of new intellectual currents, such as the theory of evolution. Inspired by the work
of Charles Darwin (1809–82), Wilson and others led a transformation of American political science from
the study of static institutions to the study of social facts, more truly in the positivist temper, less in the
analytic tradition, and more oriented toward realism.
We all know in anthropology we study human, mankind. Its structure and its custom. And in political
science we study government. Since government is one of the ways in which mankind is structured
anthropologist will be interested in describing the political system of a mankind being studies and how it
operates. A political scientist will also be interested in same thing but from a different perspective. We
might say the anthropologist is taking a passive approach whereas the political scientist is taking an
active approach in politics.
In the West, we are used to the idea of government within the framework of the state and through the
medium of specialised political and legal institutions (e.g. parliament, police and law courts). Such forms
are now found world-wide, but this has not always been so, and eveiety's community tensions are
released through the use of ritualised insults (Name-Calling, Unfriendly Suggestions)
Political anthropology examines and compares these diverse systems of social control. It also explores
the power structures of societies, including the extent of consensus (a general agreement) and the
patterns of equality or inequality within them. It examines the ways in which leaders establish or bolster
(support or strengthen) their authority through tradition, force, persuasion, and religion. It asks whether
a society can have a legal system even without formal courts and written laws. It is also interested in the
ways people resist excessive domination, both passively and through Robin Hood-style, banditry and
The Anthropological Perspective and Political Science:
Anthropological perspectives offer unique insights that ultimately complement the knowledges
generated from other social sciences concerned with similar or overlapping issues. political
anthropologists and political scientists study the workings of democracy and citizenship, and both
address the shifting or restructured role of the state in the current context, whose constraints and
opportunities are influenced by the political-economic and cultural logics of neoliberalism and the
related processes of neo-liberalization. (Is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform
policies such as "eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers" and
reducing, especially through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy.)
The geography-trained anthropologist David Harvey characterizes the pervasive application of neoliberal
ideology and common sense in terms of market ―deregulation, privatization, and withdrawal of the
state from many areas of social provision. Neoliberal discourse and economic practices have become
pervasive throughout the world, even in
places like present-day People ‘s Republic of China (Osberg 2013) and, to a lesser extent, Cuba (M. Perry
2016), which have communist governments. Neoliberalism has significant effects on cultural
signification, the reconstitution of personhood, and politics.
The field of political anthropology encompasses the analysis of power, leadership, and influence in all
their social, cultural, symbolic, ritual, and policy dimensions. It includes the examination-in both state
and stateless societies-of forms of authority and domination, the dynamics of political identity, social
and political violence, nationalism, ethnicity, colonialism, war and peace, and modes of political
reconciliation and peace-building.
What can anthropology and political science learn from each other?
The authors (Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik) argue that collaboration, particularly in the area of
concepts and methodologies, is tremendously beneficial for both disciplines, though they also deal with
some troubling aspects of the relationship. Focusing on the influence of anthropology on political
science, the book (A Convergent Approach) examines the basic assumptions the practitioners of each
discipline make about the nature of social and political reality, compares some of the key concepts each
field employs, and provides an extensive review of the basic methods of research that “bridge” both
disciplines: ethnography and case study.
Studying Power and Politics with anthropological tools:
What is power in political anthropology?
Power is commonly seen as the ability to influence the decision making of the other. In Michel
Foucault's term (1983) power is a 'set of actions upon other actions. ... In turn power influences the
behaviour of the other actions. (~ The “Anthropology for Beginners” blog by Suman Nath).
contribution of anthropology to politics:
The anthropology of power is labelled as political anthropology in its distilled form, is a specialty rich in
perspective it brings to our understanding of the working, structure, and multiple modalities of politics,
political process, and power. It is a major source of comparative knowledge. It also offers point of view
that illuminates political phenomena from the vantage point of diverse social actors whose practice,
identities, and embodied experiences are integral to political life. Anthropological analysis approach
politics from both above and below. The perspective zooms in and out to explain from micro, meso and
macro scales of social and political action.
Political anthropology, unlike the mainstream of political science, has tended not to separate what is
political from other interrelated domains of society and culture. Their analyses have highlighted the
ways in which political life can be organized through kinship, caste, ethnicity
and other social categories that political scientists may not feature in their frames of analysis. Many
years ago, political scientist David Easton (1959) criticized what he described as the Non discipline of
political anthropology because of its failure to distinguish or delimit political systems from other
subsystems within society.
Power and inequality:
While most anthropological analyses of power have investigated social stratification and hierarchy,
some have looked at forms of social organization which assure that power is not individually
concentrated, as in the industrial collectives or collectives not organized within state societies. Just as
Marx was preoccupied with the question of how labourers came to give up their labour power,
anthropologists have studied historically, and prehistorically, the question of how individuals might have
come to dominate groups and how one group might have come to dominate another.
Current issues in anthropology of power:
At present anthropology of power has effectively participated in the larger domain power with an
interdisciplinary perspective. There are economists, political scientists, cultural geographer, and
historians working on the cultural backdrop of power, which is indeed very much anthropological in
nature. Following is a list of issues which are both anthropological and have loads of scope for making
· Issues of legitimacy
· Power in rituals and performances
· Power in communication
· Power in cultural formations
The study of political anthropology provides a rich empirical and theoretical grounding for students
planning careers in academia; international development; humanitarian work; international, state and
local governance; international diplomacy; and transnational advocacy, among others.
The federal government is one of the largest employers of anthropologists outside of academia. Possible
career paths include: cultural resource management, the legislative branch, forensic and physical
anthropology, natural resource management, and defence and security sectors.
***In a Robin Hood effect, income is redistributed so that economic inequality is reduced. For example,
a government that collects higher taxes from the rich and lower or no taxes from the poor, and then
uses that tax revenue to provide services for the poor, creates a Robin Hood effect. ***
***Banditry is a type of organized crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of
violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as
extortion, robbery, and murder, either as an individual or in groups. ***
~ANTHROPOLOGY - Anthropology Interrogating Power and Politics - Faye V. Harrison
~A Convergent Approach by Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik
~The “Anthropology for Beginners” blog by Suman Nath.
~The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory and Critique
Vincent, Joan (Ed) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2002)
~Power and its Disguises: Anthropological Perspectives on Politics
By: Gledhill, John (Pluto Press, 2000)
~Lem, W., and Leach, B. (2002). Culture, Economy, Power: Anthropology as Critique and
Albany: State University of New York Press.
~Lewellen, T. C., (2003). Political Anthropology: An Introduction. London: Praeger
Notable Political Anthropologists
When anthropologists began their field studies, many believed that European and American
institutions were the correct form of government, law, and political order (Lavenda and Schultz 2015,
352). These ideas are part of a deep view of human nature which dates to Thomas Hobbes and the “war
of all against all” (in Lavenda and Schultz 2015, 352). Economists eventually promoted Hobbesian ideas
for running economic systems, assuming a free market balances self-interest. And in politics, Hobbes
insisted that state government is necessary to prevent political chaos. One result of the Hobbesian
inheritance is that we commonly assume others are warped, primitive, or lacking, in “state-less”
societies. Such attitudes correspond to contemporary ideas of “spreading democracy,” even if it must be
imposed by military means.
Early anthropologists investigated how people displayed amazing feats of organization, such as Big
Mokas (see film below). Anthropologist spent a lot of time investigating social organization without a
state (Evans-Pritchard with the Azande in Lavenda and Schultz, 352). Anthropologists wondered about
resistance to colonial rule (Evans-Pritchard among the Nuer).
At times, anthropologists assumed forms of kinship were organizing principles without state
government. This went with an assumption that in other societies they mix kinship and politics, whereas
our evolved society is a meritocracy. F. G. Bailey
On July 8, 2020, at the age of 96, the man often recognized as the outstanding political anthropologist of
his generation—F. G. Bailey—passed away. During his long and distinguished career, he published 18
books and more than 40 scholarly articles. His various awards included an Open Scholarship to Oxford
University, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and election as Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Science. In later years he published The Saving Lie (2003), an intellectual treat that summed up his
lifetime of inquiry into politics and illuminated the current state of the discipline at the onset of the
twenty-first century. F G Bailey conducted fieldwork in Bisipara in the highlands of Orissa in the 1950s to
examine the ways in which the state, democracy and new forms of economy were changing the
traditional organisation and apprehension of power and status. At the time, and following the Temple
Entry Act, the former untouchables of the village attempted to gain entry to the Shiva temple. On that
occasion, and as Bailey recounts, they were unsuccessful. A new fieldwork conducted in 2013 in the
same location presents an update of the continuing drama surrounding the Shiva temple, against a
backdrop of the changing polity and economy of the village, and as a manifestation of contested
postcolonial identity politics.
(French: [klastʁ]; 17
May 1934 – 29 July 1977) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist. He is best known for his
contributions to the field of political anthropology, with his fieldwork among the Guayaki in Paraguay
and his theory of stateless societies. An anarchist seeking an alternative to the hierarchized Western
societies, he mostly researched indigenous people in which the power was not considered coercive and
chiefs were powerless.
With a background in literature and philosophy, Clastres started studying anthropology with Claude
Lévi-Strauss and Alfred Métraux in the 1950s. Between 1963 and 1974 he traveled five times to South
America to do fieldwork among the Guaraní, the Chulupi, and the Yanomami. Clastres mostly published
essays and, because of his premature death, his work was unfinished and scattered. His signature work
is the essay collection Society Against the State (1974) and his bibliography also includes Chronicle of the
Guayaki Indians (1972), Le Grand Parler (1974), and Archeology of Violence (1980).
In his most famous work, Society Against the State (1974), Clastres indeed criticizes both the
evolutionist notion that the state would be the ultimate destiny of all societies, and the Rousseauian
notion of man's natural state of innocence (the myth of the noble savage). Knowledge of power is innate
in any society, thus the natural state for humans wanting to preserve autonomy is a society structured
by a complex set of customs which actively avert the rise of despotic power. The state is seen as but a
specific constellation of hierarchical power peculiar only to societies who have failed to maintain these
mechanisms which prevent separation from happening. Thus, in the Guayaki tribes, the leader has only
a representational role, being his people's spokesperson towards other tribes ("international relations").
If he abuses his authority, he may be violently removed by his people, and the institution of
"spokesperson" is never allowed to transform itself into a separate institution of authority. Pierre
Clastres' theory thus was an explicit criticism of vulgar Marxist theories of economic determinism, in
that he considered an autonomous sphere of politics, which existed in stateless societies as the active
conjuration of authority. The essential question which Clastres sought to answer was: why would an
individual in an egalitarian (eg foraging) society chose to subordinate himself to an authority? He
considered the consequent rise of the state to be due to the power disparaties that arise when religion
credits a prophet or other medium with a direct knowledge of divine power which is unattainable by the
bulk of society. It is this upsetting of the balance of power that engendered the inequality to be found in
more highly structured societies, and not an initial economic disparity as argued by the Marxist school of
thought. Clastres's thought resonates with the primitivistic appeal by French “moralists” since the early
modern period to the lifestyle of prehistoric societies; second, it casts light on the history of French
anthropology in the crisis years of structuralism; and third, it reflects the revival of Friedrich Nietzsche in
French thought of the era. Above all, however, the essay explains Clastres's thought as an attempt to
resist and to overcome the well-known communist allegiances of postwar French intellectuals. Early in
rejecting communism, Clastres owed his prominence to the 1970s popularization of the critique of
“totalitarianism.” The so-called “passing of an illusion” of communism, one version of which Clastres
pioneered, is often interpreted as the replacement of confusion with truth. It is more interesting, the
essay suggests, to situate it in its time, as a complex achievement as defective as it was creative, if
Clastres's thought is taken as an example. In closing, the essay suggests some legacies, often
unintentional, Clastres left behind in French political thought of the years since his death. “It is not a
scientific proposition to determine that some cultures lack political power because they show nothing
similar to what is found in our culture. It is instead the sign of a certain conceptual poverty.” ― Pierre
Clastres, Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology
Robert L. Carneiro
(June 4, 1927 –
June 24, 2020) was an American anthropologist and curator of the American Museum of Natural History.
His Circumscription Theory explains how early political states may have formed as a result of
interactions between environmental constraints, population pressures, and warfare.
Travelling the world, however, had fueled his interest in anthropology; so, Carneiro returned to the
University of Michigan. His graduate research took him to Brazil where fieldwork with an indigenous
people, the Kuikuro, revealed large earthworks and ancient trenches. Based on those observations, he
earned a Ph.D. in 1957, and went on to teach at several universities.
Carneiro was an influential cultural evolutionist. He worked toward a general theory, to explain the
emergence of political culture, strongly opposed to humanistic and non-scientific tendencies in
anthropology. His work remains influential, but also has its critics. Bob’s contributions to
anthropology were threefold: South American ethnology, cultural evolution, and political evolution.
Tackling a key question in the study of human societies, he addressed ways in which societies have
evolved from simple, autonomous Neolithic villages into ever-larger and more complex polities, passing
through various stages of development, including the chiefdom, and culminating in the formation of
pre-industrial states and empires, and ascertaining the factors that best account for this transition.
Through this work, he challenged a number of prevailing views about small horticultural societies,
basing his evidence on meticulous research. His “circumscription theory” in relation to the development
of chiefdoms and states became highly influential not only in anthropology, but within the social
sciences more broadly. His findings were derived from fieldwork he conducted among two Amazonian
peoples -- the Kuikuru of central Brazil and the Amahuaca of Peru.
(25 April 1906 – 27 January 1983) was a South African-born
anthropologist, best known for his work among the Tallensi and Ashanti in Ghana.
Originally trained in psychology, Fortes employed the notion of the "person" into his structuralfunctional analyses of kinship, the family, and ancestor worship setting a standard for studies on African
social organization. His celebrated book, Oedipus and Job in West African Religion (1959), fused his two
interests and set a standard for comparative ethnology. He also wrote extensively on issues of the first
born, kingship, and divination.
Fortes’s special interests were the political anthropology and kinship systems of various African peoples,
especially the Tallensi. Most of his studies were conducted in nations along the Guinea coast of Africa.
Among his major works are The Dynamics of Clanship Among the Tallensi (1945), The Web of Kinship
Among the Tallensi (1949), Kinship and Social Order (1969), and Time and Social Structure, and Other
Essays (1970). The consistent focus of his research was kinship and family relations. His major work on
political organization, compara-tive religion and concepts of personhood grew from this central concern.
He saw religion and politics as fused with kinship in relatively homogeneous societies. And though he
recognized that kinship was less significant in the total organization of complex, industrial societies he
argued always the importance of the ‘irreducible facts’ of kinship, by which he meant that ‘kinship
embraces facts of human social life that are ... not consequential upon or merely indicative of the
apparently more palpable facts of economics, politics, ritual etc. let alone linguistics’ (1978:22) The facts
of kinship, derived as they are from the reproduction and succession of cultur-ally defined generations,
he regarded as axiomatic.
Ted C. Lewellen
(June 26, 1940 – April 30, 2006) was Professor of Anthropology at the University of Richmond. He
received his B.A. from Alaska Methodist University, his M.A. from New York University, and his Ph.D.
from the University of Colorado in 1977, with a thesis on "The Aymara in transition : economy and
religion in a Peruvian peasant community".
He has done field work in Peru and Nicaragua and is the author of four books, some of which have been
translated into Korean, French, Spanish, and Italian. and about 20 articles. His best known are The
Anthropology of Globalization (2002), and his textbook, Political Anthropology: an Introduction, which
has gone into three editions.
His indiscriminate generosity—a function of his ambition—had brought in strangers who were
threatening to the conservative villagers. Finally, rivals for headmanship had an obvious vested interest
in accusing Sandombu of sorcery. The result was that the village’s three most powerful lineages united
in opposition to Sandombu. For Turner, the norms and structures that had so interested the generation
of the 1940s have become the social field, the background before which the real action takes place.
Lineage systems, marriage rules, values, and behavioral norms are not unalterable realities, but rather
are social idealizations subject to constant manipulation. For example, the norm regarding succession
within the lineage was applied to Sandombu but not to Kosanda, who later succeeded his mother’s
brother as headman. Accusations of sorcery were used to justify the public consensus that Sandombu
should not be headman; they were only secondarily the basis for such consensus. Thus norms and rules
were not abjectly followed but were emphasized or de-emphasized according to a complex set of
criteria. Such an approach rests on certain underlying assumptions about the nature of society. Society
is viewed as a field of forces in dynamic tension in which centrifugal and centripetal tendencies
constantly pull against each other. When the tension between fission and cohesiveness becomes acute,
a crisis develops, climaxing in the re-establishment of a temporary and unstable equilibrium. There is
seldom a complete resolution of tensions; rather, the result is a readjustment of forces that lends more
strength to one side and depletes the strength of the other. Along with Marc Swartz and Arthur Tuden
(1966), Turner has elaborated this process into a diachronic model of political phase development in
which a period of mobilization of political capital is followed by an encounter or showdown. The latter
involves some sort of breach of the peace in which one party in the conflict attempts to openly
challenge the other. This leads to a crisis—“a momentous juncture or turning point in the relations
between components of a political field”—which in turn brings about counteracting tendencies as the
social group marshals peacemaking forces to avoid complete cleavage of the two sides. A major reason
for focusing on individuals rather than on groups is that in the individual a number of different systems
meet. A group may act out a single role at a particular time, but the individual always embodies
conflicting roles, at once father and son, leader and follower, warrior and peacemaker. The individual
thus expresses the contradictions that may be invisible in studies of groups.
Vol. 2, No. 3 (Summer, 1971), pp. 327-331 (5 pages)
Published By: Springer.
State: Essays in Political Anthropology
Society Against the
Evolutionism In Cultural Anthropology: A Critical History Feb 23, 2018
by Robert L. Carneiro
Parker, John (November 2013). "The dynamics of fieldwork among the Talensi: Meyer Fortes in northern
Ghana, 1934-7'". (Africa. Cambridge University Press. 83 (4): 623–645.
Political Anthropology: An Introduction by
Ted C. Lewellen