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Political and Legal Systems
Politics, Political Organization and
• Anthropology views politics in a broader sense that
includes- the multifaceted behavior and thought
beyond formal party politics and government.
• Politics refers to the organized use of public power,
instead of the more micro-politics of family and
domestic groups.
• Power, Authority and influence are all related to
politics, power being the strongest basis for action
and decision making – and potentially the least
***Political Organization
• Individual groups that operate within a culture that are
responsible for public decision making and leadership,
maintaining social cohesion and order, protecting group
rights, and ensuring safety from external threats.
Different forms of Political
– The form of political organization of foraging groups, with flexible
membership and minimal leadership. ( Micro vs. Macro-bands)
-- A form of political organization that comprises several bands or
lineage groups, each with a similar language and lifestyle and
occupying a distinct territory.
**Big-Man or Big-Woman Leadership
-- A form of political organization midway between
tribe and chiefdom and invoking reliance on the
leadership of key individuals who develop a political
following through personal ties and redistributive
– A strategy for developing political leadership in
highland New Guinea that involves exchanging
gifts and favors with individuals and sponsoring
large feasts where further gift-giving occurs.
• ***Chiefdom
– A form of political organization in which
permanently allied tribes and villages have one
recognized leader who holds an, “office.”
– Chiefdoms typically have larger populations that
can often number in the thousands and are
significantly larger than tribes or bands.
– Chiefdoms are more centralized and socially
complex. Hereditary systems of social ranking and
economic stratification are central factor of
• A form of political organization in which a centralized
political unit encompasses many communities, a
bureaucratic structure, and leaders who possess
coercive power.
There are many forms of state or state level governments:
Monarchy (constitutional or Divine Right)
Autocracy (Despotism)
Totalitarianism, Military dictatorship, Junta, and stratocracy.
Kritarchy (Found in ancient Israel )
State Powers and Roles
1. States engage in international relations.
2. States monopolize the use of force and the maintenance of law and order
internally through laws, courts and police.
3. States maintain standing armies and police
4. States Define citizenship , its rights and responsibilities. (Throughout history
in many complex societies not all residents were granted equal rights
5. States keep track of the number, age, gender, location, and wealth of their
citizens through census systems that regularly updated.
6. States have the power to extract resources from citizens through taxation.
7. States manipulate information. Information to protect the state and its
leaders can be controlled both directly through (censorship, propaganda,
restriction of access to sensitive information) and indirectly (through
pressure on journalists, tv networks and other forms of media)
Symbols of State Power
• Religious beliefs and symbols are often associated with the
power of state leadership.
• In certain states the ruler may be considered a deity or part
deity, may be from a class of high priests.
• Architectural styles and urban planning remind the populace
of the greatness of the state.
• Clothing styles worn by the ruling or influential classes
• Depending on which culture the state encompasses certain
Animals, colors, geometric patterns and family mottos/crests
can symbolize a state’s power etc.
Gender and Leadership in States
• Most contemporary states are both hierarchical and patriarchal,
excluding members of lower classes and women from equal
participation. Only a few states are less male dominant than others
but none at present are female dominant.
• Some anthropologists assert that male dominance at the
contemporary state level (1) has a basis in male control of
technology production and warfare. (2) some preserve male
dominance through religious beliefs and ideologies. (3) some
preserve authority through “scientific beliefs,” that assert that
women are physically weaker and less dependable than men.
• Women in most cultures have limited access to these areas of
• Socialist states typically attempt to increase women’s political roles
and the proportion of female members in legislative bodies.
In the past 30 years there have been several female
prime ministers and presidents
• A few examples below…
Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime minister of Sri Lanka
Indira Gandhi, Prime minister of India
Golda Meir, Israeli stateswoman
Tarja Halonen, President of Finland.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
Dilma Rousseff, President of Brasil